Tuesday Talks with Ken Wytsma.
Today we are chatting with Ken Wystma from Anitoch Church in Oregon America. Ken has been in Melbourne for the launch of the first Justice Conference in Australia 2015 and will return for the launch of SPARC Justice in March 11th Sydney and Melbourne March 12th. Also The Melbourne Justice Conference in October 21-22.
Ken is the founder of The Justice Conference which has been happening since 2010. Ken is a leader, innovator and social entrepreneur respected for his insight and collaborative spirit. He is the president of Kilns College, where he teaches courses on philosophy and justice, church and culture.
Hosted in Chicago (USA), Hong Kong (China) and as of last weekend in Melbourne (Australia), it is one of the largest Biblical and Social Justice Conferences.
Designed to scale the idea of “Living Justice” as a lifestyle for a broad and influential audience. They aspire to frame the biblical and social justice dialogue in the 21st century.
A DIVERSE COMMUNITY
At The Justice Conference, their vision is to serve:
“The discovery of ideas, celebrate the beauty of justice, and foster a community of people who live justice together. Now, more than ever, people of faith need to come together to wrestle with the injustice in our world”.
Ken, thank you for chatting with me today.
What an incredible platform you have birthed from a vision and theology of Justice. I really love the way that you think. I love that the blending of your Masters in Theology and Masters in Philosophy has enabled you to take deep and wide complex issues and break them into profound sound bites so that people like me listening and reading can go “Ahhh haaaa”. Those ‘ahh haa’ moments give us short cuts to comprehension and have the ability to shift ideas and concepts from the head to the heart. They create paradigm shifts when the light goes on and transformation comes.
Ken how did this all start?
Ken: The concept for the Justice conference came from having,
A THEOLOGY OF JUSTICE
Together with Stephan Bauman (World Relief), we founded The JUSTICE CONFERENCE in 2010 with a group of like-minded friends in Bend, Oregon, who dreamed of impacting a generation for justice. The driving value of the conference has always been a theology of justice, that an understanding of God should compel love for others and engagement in justice.
It also came out of deep reflection. What does it mean to think deeply about history, sociology, theology. The idea of justice is just so important and so necessary.
- Justice is ‘What should be’.
- Justice is ‘What ought to be’.
- Justice is a lens through which we look at things.
Lisa: Ken two words you talk about a lot in relation to justice are ‘Shalom’ and ‘flourish’. These are in some ways inseparable, can you tell me a bit more about your thoughts on this?
Ken: We often think of the word Shalom in relation to peace.
Peace is the absence of conflict
It is actually a negative context. Shalom is much more than peace. In the Hebrew context, Shalom is thought of in relationship to the land, the soil and Gods creation. It is the opposite to no conflict. It is what is happening when there is no conflict.
Shalom is when the eco system, the land and life is the way that it should be. It is when everything is flourishing, when everything is working the way that is should be.
Lisa: Ken what issues do you think that the church will need to wrestle with in the next two decades?
Ken: Well, we live in a world of hyper reality. I believe that we are going to need to grapple with increasing issues around anxiety. We don’t have a theology of suffering in the western world. We don’t know how to fit faith and suffering together. Historically the persecuted church grew in faith in proportion to their suffering. Unfortunately consumerism looks for a different life strategy which compels comfort.
Suffering, buffering, winds and trials create robust root systems. Without suffering we fall over.
Our faith needs stressing to develop good root systems and to develop depth and resiliency.
Biblical faith requires obedience and it extends through time.
Faith lives through time. Faith is not by sight but by step, by step by step. It’s a journey.
Lisa: What is breaking your heart at the moment when you look at your nation and the world.
Ken: So many things.
- The main one would be gender inequality.
- Others would be: ISIS, what’s happening in the Muslim world.
- The sexualisation of women and girls.
- I am really concerned about our views about a healthy sexual marriage. Sexuality is so detached today.
I have four daughters and I grieve over how difficult they will find the world.
The other thing that I think we need to look at as a Christian community is ‘lament’.
We don’t know how to sit with pain. We are not good at lament. In fact we rarely have a theology of lament.
Sitting with pain is: intractable and ambiguous.
In other words it is difficult, it’s hard to control and it’s open to interpretation.
Lisa: The idea of lament totally resonates with me.
We are terrible at lament, it makes us nervous. I agree with you, grief, lament is very difficult to control and to interpret, its very messy and most christians don’t do messy very well. I think we have a lot to learn in this area.
Ken, thank you for taking the time today to join us on Sunday Everyday. Its been such a pleasure meeting you and learning from you. I have been so inspired, moved and am in deep reflection over the things that I have learned at The Justice Conference. We are very blessed to have been able to host it this year in Melbourne.
I highly recommend Kens two books ‘The Grand Paradox: The messiness of life, the Mystery of God and the necessity of faith’, which I reviewed last week on Friday Arts Day and ‘Pursuing Justice: The call to live and die for bigger things’.
To order on Amazon, just click on the book.
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