'Peacemaking is a gospel imperative' - an interview with Tory Baucum [transcript]
Friday 9th May 2014Read a transcript of an interview with the Revd Dr Tory Baucum on peacemaking and reconciliation
What motivates your longing for reconciliation?
Tory Baucum: "I guess I do believe that reconciliation and peacemaking are at the heart of the gospel. Paul said God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and his given to us the ministry of reconciliation. And I’m one of those who believe that it’s important not to read Paul against Jesus but to understand them together, and it’s very clear to me that Paul was seeing this in Jesus – Jesus is our type, our model for reconciliation.
"Just to give you an example, in the Luke travel narratives, starting at the end of chapter 9 through chapter 19, you have Jesus taking his disciples through enemy territory in and around Samaria. Chapter 9 he says, Look for the men of peace and if you find a man of peace go and lodge with him as you do your mission. And when you get to chapter 19 in Jerusalem and he weeps over Jerusalem because he says, You did not know the things that would make for peace, and therefore desolation is coming to your house. And these two passages are like inclusios, they’re book ends that really help us to focus on what’s going on in this travel narrative as Jesus goes through Samaria. The very first parable Jesus tells in Samaria is the parable of what? The Good Samaritan. And the Samaritans were the central heretics of Jesus’ day. They were syncretistic Jews, they altered the Torah, they altered the temple, and they altered the territory – the three pillars of Judaism. Which is why most rabbis went around Samaria – but Jesus went through it.
"So that’s my warrant for reconciliation and also something of my motive, partly because I’ve seen what God does in reconciling us to others when he truly reconciles us to him…I have a longing for that. I think peacemaking leads to reconciliation, but reconciliation doesn’t always happen, but we should be striving for that. But I think peacemaking is that precondition which allows the gospel to be heard, that makes the gospel plausible. A gospel of reconciliation is hard to hear, understand or believe when Christians are fighting each other.
"That raises a lot of interesting issues about Christian sin and the issues of discipline and I’m in no way trying to marginalize those teachings of the New Testament. B, but I do think it’s important to strive for peace with all people, as Paul says, so that you can have the kind of ministry and the kind of conversations so that reconciliation can be achieved."
What is the relationship between peacemaking and reconciliation?
TB: "I do believe that peacemaking is a precursor to reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile. And that doesn’t always happen, but that’s not a reason not to pursue the things that make for peace; as Jesus says as he approaches Jerusalem he realizes they haven’t done that and therefore desolation is coming to their house – and that’s the whole travel narrative in Luke, it’s built around the things that make for peace. And what I like to say, because I believe it, is that peacemaking is a gospel imperative. We’ve been made ambassadors of reconciliation. I actually say that peacemaking is not adiaphora (‘indifferent things’, non-essentials) and we can just agree to disagree about… to treat peacemaking as adiaphora is in fact itself a false teaching, and creates over time a fictitious gospel. So I feel quite strongly that this is matter of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, and to dismiss it or kind of make it a luxury item, is to fundamentally misunderstand what the gospel is about."
Are there limits to reconciliation?
TB: "I think it takes two to reconcile. I think it takes one to forgive. So the limits of reconciliation are the limits that the two parties put upon themselves. I don’t think you can reconcile unilaterally. I think you can forgive unilaterally. I think in some ways you can do peacemaking almost unilaterally. But until the other side, estranged party, wants to reciprocate, you’re not going to get real far down the road. And I think that’s been the real story of my story with Shannon is that I did reach out in a peacemaking gesture, and he did reciprocate, and that’s why we are walking together in peace at some level."
What is your vision as to how the whole church moves forward beyond a place of hurt?
TB: "I hope I can say this in a way that doesn’t sound arrogant, but… I’d like to see people do what Shannon and I have done. You know, where there’s estrangement; to try to reach out and establish a human relationship based on respect, respect that at the very minimum they are made in the image of God.
"And there’s a lot of examples of this in church history of this being done. At Coventry I cited Augustine’s relationship with one of the Numidian bishops who was a Donatist and how he interacted with him and urged him to stop doing the things that were splitting the church. Sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes the wounds are too deep, too fresh, you know, it’s going to take the next set of leaders to accomplish that.
"One of the things about Shannon and I, we both inherited the lawsuit, so we didn’t quite have the personal baggage, but we walked into the middle of the fight and there was a lot of damage going on, but we didn’t have the personal baggage. So it gave us a leg up, really, in the process. We could get past the some things that other people couldn’t get past because we hadn’t been there when the split occurred. And I also think it was the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding us. But the differences are still big – between us, I mean, the theological differences, I think we both agree that we can’t paper over them and pretend that they’re not that big. We know that these things have actually split the Communion. And we both know they won’t be resolved in our lifetime. But can we shape a different trajectory, can we create a space where honest conversations can happen?"
What other insights can you share from your experience?
TB: "I like the adage of think globally but act locally. Find the place of peacemaking in your own community where there is estrangement and make peace there. And our folks, after we reached out to Muslims – and God bless that endeavor we reached out to Episcopalians [laughs] – and old friendships that had been wounded and estranged were being healed, and I think that just created a deeper sense of love and kindness in the congregation which has really spurred on our evangelism. And those relationships have not all been reconciled, but I think it’s important to pursue peace even when reconciliation is beyond our grasp, and I think that’s what Shannon and I have tried to do – pursue peace; we’re not out to destroy each other, we’re not out to hurt each other’s churches, and when we can legitimately bless one another that’s what we’re gonna try to do. But the issues between us that caused the division are still there – they haven’t been resolved. They’re not gonna be resolved likely in our lifetime, so there’s still a lot of work to do. Reconciliation is way down the road. But peacemaking? We can do that, and we should keep doing that and that eventually will create I think a space where reconciliation might be able to happen. But I think it’ll be in the next generation."