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Practices and situations that contribute to division, such as the homogeneous nature of many congregations, will come under scrutiny as well, says Rice. Churches whose members are generally the same in race, political belief or ethnicity are not as likely as more diverse churches to work toward tearing down walls that keep groups apart.


Courtesy of Chris Rice


 Stacked coffins of victims at the Kigali genocide memorial. During 1994, 250,000 were killed in the Rwandan capital.

“Scripture calls on us to form churches with a stranger,” Rice explains. “We must build communities that work beyond boundaries.”

Lobbying those in positions to effect change and making the case for peace are among the group’s strategies: “We must speak prophetically to powerful people and governing authorities about injustice,” Rice says.

Lessons learned from conflicts and divisions around the world can apply anywhere, he adds. Churches in the United States, many of which have congregations that are nearly all white or all black, could learn about racial outreach and harmony.

“Christians live into these historic divisions and separations,” says Rice. “It’s not that we’re hypocrites—it’s more that we don’t see it. Our division has become normal.

“The story of the New Testament is a story of the Holy Spirit seeking to build a community of Jew and gentile, privileged and poor, male and female under the lordship of Christ. This is our story as Christians. We’re supposed to be different.”

Despite the horrors that his group has studied, Rice, author of the book Grace Matters: A True Story of Race, Friendship, and Faith in the Heart of the South, is optimistic.

“Even in the worst conflicts, signs of the quest for reconciliation can be detected in the church,” he says. “This offers hope of our transformation, over time, in the mind and ways of Christ.”

Visit Chris Rice’s Website with stories, photos and other information about war in Rwanda and other issues.

Faithful Evangelism

As many as 2,000 people are expected to attend the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization’s mass forum in Thailand from Sept. 29-Oct. 5.

In addition to reconciliation, approximately 30 other subjects addressed at the meeting will include globalization, the persecuted church, non-traditional families, prayer in evangelism, reaching children and youth, and funding for evangelism and mission.

Groups leading each topic are expected to contribute papers addressing how the church is called to be faithful in thought, life and practice and overcome barriers to evangelization in those specific areas.

For more details about the Lausanne Committee, named for the location in Switzerland where the group was founded in 1974 by an international congress led by the Rev. Billy Graham, visit http://www.gospelcom.net/lcwe/.

 

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Fall 2004 Volume 4 Number 1 Duke Divinity School