Broken but breaking through: Christians commit to making the wrongs right

Published on Friday, 14 February 2014 22:31 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

For organizers of the upcoming Justice Conference, not addressing issues of the less fortunate isn’t an option.

“Justice isn’t just a stale ethical category,” said Ken Wytsma, founder of the national conference. “When you study justice, you learn about God, and when you study God, you learn about justice. It’s far deeper than we ever thought it was. Justice flows from the heart of God. It’s not just a good thing, it’s an essential thing.”

Ministry leaders from a variety of organizations in East Texas will gather Feb. 21 and 22 for a conference highlighting Christians’ commitment to social justice.

The Justice Conference focuses on creating dialogue and action around justice-related issues, such as hunger, homelessness, racism, human trafficking, slavery, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and human rights.

The local conference, to be held at Glenwood Church of Christ in Tyler, will feature both speakers and musicians from the national conference via simulcast as well as local leaders, the heads of area justice-oriented ministries, and worship leaders from throughout East Texas.

The simulcast speakers include NT Wright, Dr. John Perkins, Bernice King, Donald Miller, Eugene Cho, Noel Castellanos and Jim Wallis.

According to the national website, The Justice Conference has grown since 2010 to become one of the largest international gatherings on social and biblical justice. Several things seem to have spread an interest in social justice — moving away from politicizing the issues and an increase in globalization, Wytsma said.

“There are more passports than ever before,” he said. “The injustices of the world are front and center, and they grip us.”

Christian Men’s Job Corps in Tyler is the main sponsor of the event.

“Our interest in promoting this event is that men sometimes fall between the educational cracks in our school system,” said David George Montalvo, executive director. “Sometimes they pay their due to society for crimes. These men need a place that affirms their identity as children of God while also providing education and training to re-enter society and the workforce.”

Each speaker has a topic that is near to their hearts.

For Pastor Loyce Brooks of The People Center Church at Texas College, the biggest social justice issue of the day is homelessness and broken families, which he says often go hand-in-hand.

“We in the church need to learn to partner with entities that are already involved,” he said. “No one entity can handle all of it, we have to work together.”

Social justice is also especially appealing to young Christians, Montalvo said.

“Social justice empowers them to go out to bring heaven to earth,” he said in an email exchange. “Evangelical churches are experiencing reduced attendance, baptisms, giving, and some say they are in negative-growth. Social justice is becoming a saving grace for the church as it examines the missional/incarnational life of Christ Jesus. Evangelicals are rediscovering that by going into new cultures and subcultures, into our increasingly diverse local communities, they can find a people to love deeply who need the wrongs in their lives made right … as our society grows more diverse religiously, the Christendom conversation must change for it to be understood by those who are unfamiliar with Christ. Social justice helps to present a Christ for all nations, tribes and tongues.”

The conference is free, and donations are being accepted to cover expenses. The Friday sessions will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. and the Saturday sessions will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The church is located at 5210 Hollytree Drive in Tyler.

If you would like to volunteer, contact David George Montalvo at 903-253-4202 or dgm@cmjctyler.org.