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Uncomfortable Questions

In my first blog piece written on Deacons and Justice, I wrote about the call for Deacons to offer holistic ministries that respect the dignity of all people found in their mandate. In today’s blog, we will look at the call to change exploitative structures. 

Though the mandate speaks directly to those called and ordained into the office of Deacon, the work of biblical justice is for all of us who are Christ-followers. Deacons model and demonstrate compassion, hope and encouragement to those who are hurting. Deacons also lead and encourage the church to be advocates for and with the marginalized and vulnerable people in their local community.

An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. A good advocate is not afraid to ask difficult or uncomfortable questions.

Deacons can provide many opportunities for their church to dig deeper into a cause that the church feels connected to.

This is the starting place for Deacons looking for ways to lead their church in advocating for those who experience injustice.

Why is it that there are 11 First Nations communities in BC still struggling with water restrictions that force them to boil or buy water to drink? When I shop online from stores like Zara, H&M and the GAP, where do they make their clothes and why is it so cheap? When I see migrant workers out in the fields, what is the state of their housing?

Deacons can provide many opportunities for their church to dig deeper into a cause that the church feels connected to. This past Fall, Willoughby CRC in Langley invited me to lead the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, an experiential way to learn more about Canada’s history with its Indigenous peoples. Leading with me was Patti Victor, Cheam Nation Siya:m at Trinity Western University and co-Pastor of the Chilliwack Native Pentecostal church. Patti shared about the season of grieving her Nation was in, as they wrestled with the ongoing discovery of graves being found at Residential schools in Canada and British Columbia. 

Sometimes, the call to advocate, is the call to listen and be still before God in repentance for the injustices done.

Members of that community who were once unified become divided because of how power and privilege are at play within the community. 

Other times, the call to advocate is to act. In 2021 during the difficult Covid pandemic days, Dena Nicolai, Refugee Support Chaplain for the two BC Classis organized participants in a Biblical Advocacy workshop to write letters to our Member of Parliament expressing our support for extending the exemption from travel restrictions to all refugees that are and will be approved for permanent residence in Canada, regardless of their approval date.

In God’s Diverse and Unified Family, the CRCNA declares that the world was created in diversity, and that the unity of that diverse creation reflects and glorifies God’s triune nature. However, one of the fundamental effects of sin is the breakdown of our communities of shalom; the breakdown of this unity in our diversity.

This sinful breakdown of community often occurs because injustice has crept in, and members of that community who were once unified become divided because of how power and privilege are at play within the community. 

Having power and privilege are not necessarily sinful, they can be neutral realities in all of our lives in one way or another (i.e., a parent has more power and privilege than their child). They are also often unearned and invisible to those who hold them. However, when power and privilege are used to break apart communities and perpetuate division and marginalization, they contribute to systemic injustice. 

Here are a couple of questions Deacons can consider as they look to encourage their church to be advocates of those suffering injustice:
  1. What structures of power and privilege are obstacles to creating justice and peace in your communities?

  2. What are some ideas you have that could reduce unjust divisions in your communities? (i.e., writing advocacy letters, serving fair/direct trade coffee, purchasing items that empower marginalized communities, getting involved in affordable housing organizing, etc.)

The Deacon’s mandate and the call to change exploitative structures seems daunting. What can one person or church do? However, the change starts within each of us recognizing where we have power and privilege that can be leveraged to champion those with less. As we look to the life of Jesus and the mandate given to use throughout Scripture, it is incumbent upon Christ followers to pursue physical and spiritual freedom for the oppressed so others can also become what God created them to be. If we have experienced freedom, how can we not pursue freedom on behalf of others?

Photo provided by the author.


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