Disciples News Service

Reconciliation webinar series explores immigration and criminal justice systems

Last month, Reconciliation Ministry partnered with three other ministries to offer two webinars on issues impacting the Church and the world.

The first webinar, “Embracing the Call: Putting Out the Welcome Mat,” was presented by Reconciliation Ministry, Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, and Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel.

In this discussion, leaders discussed what being a welcoming church really looks like. “It’s a message that people who cross that welcome mat aren’t just guests, but fully welcome members of the group,” Reconciliation Program Minister Rev. Bere Gil Soto says. “That’s the work of Reconciliation.”

The second webinar, “Beyond the Labels…The Humanization of God’s Children,” was presented by Reconciliation Ministry and the Prison and Jail Ministries of the National Benevolent Association.

In this conversation, the panel explored ways that individuals can respond to criminalization and incarceration, such as through the language we use about and with people impacted by those issues. “The way we are Christian is mediated through the language we use,” Gil Soto explains. “If we say we’re Christian, but the language we use doesn’t reflect our call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, then we aren’t embracing that call.”

Gil Soto describes the goal of this webinar series as preparing for the 2018 Reconciliation special offering, by informing the Church about Reconciliation Ministry’s broad work. Immigration and criminal justice were chosen as discussion topics “to educate the Church about what’s happening in our society, but also about how racism is imbedded in these important issues.”

“Reconciliation Ministry can’t do it all,” Gil Soto says. “This webinar series may have been scheduled around our offering, but this work isn’t just happening in our office. Addressing racism and reconciliation is work that our whole Church should be doing.”

The webinar series was a tangible example of the partnerships Reconciliation Ministry has developed with other general ministries around issues of shared concern.

“More and more we believe that transformation comes out of relationships,” Gil Soto explains, “so we try to engage with other ministries as much as possible, so that transformation and reconciliation can happen more effectively and in new ways.”

For example, Director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea participated in a recent meeting of Reconciliation Ministry’s core trainers to talk about immigration, and how those conversations can be included in future anti-racism/pro-reconciliation trainings.

The lesson of these webinars, and other Reconciliation programs, Gil Soto suggests, is to help everyone feel empowered to address these systemic issues in their own lives and communities.

“You don’t have to be a certified trainer to change the world, to break down those walls of racism in our Church,” Gil Soto says. “It takes a transformed heart, and transformation is only learned by experience. You don’t teach transformation – you share it, and hope people will mirror it or share it further.”

To support this and other Reconciliation Ministry Fund programs, you’re invited to give to the 2018 Reconciliation Special Offering, received in many congregations on Oct. 7.