Roadmap to Reconciliation | Reflections & Notes

Brenda Salter McNeil. Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice. InterVarsity Press, 2015. (135 pages)

Igniting Reconciliation (


In short, the topic, thrust, ethic, and aim of this book is brilliant, compelling, and extremely valuable. The style is, however, full of sermonizing and exhortations; a lot of “oughts,” “shoulds,” “needs,” and “musts.” In my humble opinion, that kind of style lacks. Not only does it make for repetitive reading, but it leads to abstract “steps,” (that make for good outlining) without going deep enough to set down good theological or philosophical roots. Regardless of my sensibilities, this book is worthy of consideration, and if more people heeded Salter McNeil’s work, this world would absolutely be a better place.


Foreword by Eugene Cho

Introduction: A Prophetic Journey

The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. …

The atlernative consciousness to be nurtured, on the one hand, serves to criticize in dismantling the dominant consciousness. … On the other hand, that alternative consciousness to be nurtured serves to energize persons and communities by its promise of another time and situation toward which the community of faith may move.

– Walter Brueggemann

Where have you been, and why have you been so indifferent to the suffering of God’s people? (14)

1 What Is Reconciliation?

[Reconciliation] is God’s language for a broken world. – Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice

While many of us care about reconciliation and feel called to pursue it as part of our discipleship, there is no clear understanding of what it means to do so! (20)


We are called to go beyond simply making peace or getting enemies to stop fighting–beyond repentance, justice and forgiveness. The Bible invites us further. (21)

| Reconciliation is about how to relate even after forgiveness and justice have occurred. It’s about how to delve even deeper into relationship with one another. An absence of hostility is possible without a spiritual dimension, but reconciliation is not. Reconciliation is possible only if we approach it primarily as a spiritual process that requires a posture of hope in the reconciling work of (21) Christ and a commitment from the church to both be and proclaim this type of reconciled community. (22)


Reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God’s original intention for all creation to flourish. (22)


Did you know that apartheid in South Africa was based in large part on theological doctrines that were formed at Stellenbosch University in the 1930s and 1940s? (22)

Our theology informs our anthropology, which in turn informs our sociology. That is to say, what we believe about God will tell us what we believe about people; and what we believe about people will tell us what kinds of communities and societies we believe we should strive to create. (23)

[via: See also Divided by Faith]


When God commanded the first human beings to “fill the earth,” it was a decree to create cultures, because no one culture, people or language can adequately reflect the splendor of God. (24)



We need our differences in order to reflect the glory of God, which is our mission and human calling. This was God’s original intent in the beginning, and it is still God’s will for the human family today.

[via: But “sameness” may be more the driving theme of the text, מן האדמה]




cf. Belhar Confession, South Africa, 1986

2 Landmarks of Reconciliation

I discovered that a journey with landmarks and distinctive phases is the best way to think about the reconciliation process. … Transformation is rarely linear. It’s usually more of a winding process. (33)


…Contact Theory…suggests that relationships between conflicting groups will improve if they have meaningful contact with one another over an extended period of time. This contact must occur in a mutually beneficially learning environment and involve multiple opportunities for the participants to have cooperative interactions with one another. According to the theory, this type of contact will likely decrease the hostility between groups because the animosity is typically fueled by stereotypes that result from limited exposure. (33)

Cultural transformation in a church or organization must go beyond interpersonal models of changing “one person at a time,” which dominates Western evangelical thinking. The goals of reconciliation need to shift from interpersonal acceptance to building reconciling communities of racial, ethnic, class and gender diversity. (35)


  • catalytic events
  • realization
  • identification
  • preparation
  • activation

3 Shake It Up!
The Power of Catalytic Events

…when we hold too tightly and refuse to interact with others outside our circle, this is what I call being in a state of preservation before the catalytic event pushes into our lives. (43)

Neutrality is a myth (44) when it comes to reconciliation. (45)


The word catalyst comes from the Greek words katalysis and katalyein, which literally mean to dissolve and loosen. Considering these terms scientifically, if we want to bring about the chemical reaction required for dissolution, it is necessary to decrease or “loosen” the strength of a chemical bond, or to increase the energy to overcome that bond. (46)

…catalytic events…force a shift. They push us out of our old framework and into a new way of seeing. This is both cognitive and affective, and it can be incredibly disruptive to the status quo, as we saw in the case of Paul. … This will be true in our pursuit of reconciliation, and we must learn to see the confusion and discomfort as part of the change process that will eventually move us toward transformation. (48)

cf. Brain and Culture, by Bruce Wexler

Wexler explains that the developing human brain shapes itself to the cultural environment. As a result, our outside world becomes the orientation for our inside world. Wexler calls this inner-outer world congruence the “principle of internal-external consonance.”

[via: Why a “change of scene” is so helpful for people.]



‘Edgar Schein, an organizational change specialist, posits that groups and organizations resist learning new patterns because it creates anxiety,… “Anxiety inhibits learning, but anxiety is also necessary if learning is going to happen at all.” (51)

Chaos is a necessary stage in the community-building process. It won’t last forever, but we can’t skip this part no matter how much we might like to pass over it. Chaos is counterintuitive and problematic because our human nature craves equilibrium and a sense of stability. This is normal. However, we can value equilibrium too highly. Human beings actually need disorder and a sense of disequilibrium in order to grow and change. We need chaos in order for transformation to take place. There is no new life without the disruption of chaos. (52)

A catalytic event will either push us forward toward transformation or tighten our tether to preservation. (52)

4 A Shift in Perspective
The Realization Phase

“The Planetarium Story”



It requires us to grapple with facts in a way that makes us acknowledge that we and our people have played a part in the problem. (59)


  • The person or group must see a need for change.
  • The person or group must see the benefit of change.
  • The person or group must take stock. (59)


…when we begin to identify things to do. (60)

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation: and this means we must develop a world perspective. – MLK


5 A Group Effort
The Identification Phase


The identification phase is about working together with the people in this particular group to change the way you interact with one another. The ways that people interact, or the ways they think they should interact, usually need to be renegotiated in order for true reconciliation to come about. In other words, the ethos of the group as a whole undergoes transformation during the identification portion of the journey. Automatic perceptions and stereotypes will need to be confronted and worked through, empathy needs room to grow, and m mutual understanding must have space to develop. (69)

| In order for this to happen, the leaders of the group must recognize the unwritten rules, assumptions and beliefs that shape the culture o the group. (69)

…to participate fully in this process individuals need to have a clear sense of self on a personal level. This is called identity security, and it is much more than personal identity. It is a sense of connection with people that you believe are like you. It is also an appreciation of your own ethnic and cultural heritage that does not lapse into (70) ethnocentrism. This firmly rooted self-identity allows you to identify and empathize with others without assimilation or having your identity subsumed into another’s. (71)

| It’s also imperative that people have a social awareness that allows them to question their own cultural assumptions and traditions, search for new meaning and purpose, and reclaim aspects of their racial and ethnic heritage to nurture that sense of self. In this new community people should embrace their culture, their ethnicity, their personality and their gender as part of what it means for them to be made in the image of God. (71)


Use “I” statements. (71)

Don’t interrupt. Social Interactions 101. (72)

Maintain confidentiality. (72)

Be Present. (72)


Two vital components of the identification landmark are embracing the stories of other sand building empathy. (73)

Sankofa, from the Akan language of Ghana, translates in English as to “reach back and get it. (73)

It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten. – African proverb

…taking “bids.” [John Gottman] It’s putting out feelers to see if someone will take me instead of rejecting me. It’s reaching out and taking a risk to share our story with others. (75)


One of the most helpful ways for members of a group to expand their understanding of who they are is to look at their stories and metaphors. (75)


It is simply this: fellowship springs from a shared mission. (76)

6 Planning for Action
The Preparation Phase

For it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken. – Audre Lorde


relational connections cannot be sustained without structural intentionality. Structures to support our efforts toward long-term reconciliation have to be established, and it happens here, in the preparation phase. (83)


The work of the preparation phase begins with capacity building. (84)


It’s no longer only about completing short-term measurable transactions but about long-term sustainability and the ability to truly thrive. (87)


We all crave stability and equilibrium. We crave strong structures to support us. But when we enter this transitional phase we must be willing to accept the paradoxical truth that we have to go through chaos to get to a more stable place. Basically, if we want stability we have to go through instability to get it! (89)


Ultimately, I believe that reconciliation is a spiritual process. (90)


7 Doing Justice
The Activation Phase

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Justice is what love looks like in public. – Cornel West



Justice means equal distribution of power and privilege among all people.

The perception of personal power is our own understanding of our ability to change our environment.

– Eric H. F. Law, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community

In other words, some people are socialized to believe that they have power to change the status quo and make a difference in the world. However, those who perceive themselves as powerless will accept injustice as something they have to endure because that’s “just the way it is.” Understanding this discrepancy in the power differential is vital to fruitful caring. (97)

First, we must develop a communication strategy that enables us to amplify the message and voices of others, especially those who are not being heard. (98)

Second, as we seek to communicate we can use our social media platforms to raise greater awareness about the problem. (98)



…relating involves building partnerships. (100)


…sometimes educating means that we are teaching others how to activate. (101)

  • Determine your circle of influence versus circle of concern.


8 Staying the Course
Living Out Holistic Transformation

How will you know when you’ve been successful? (106)

…you will know you are on a true reconciliation journey if t is messy and complicated and beautiful and transformational. (107)


What are the outside pressures? What are the anomalies that are forcing us to recognize that we need to lower productivity for the long-term health and growth of the organization? (109)


  • information gathering
  • reflective thinking
  • strategic storytelling
  • community building
  • inductive learning skills
  • conflict resolution
  • problem solving (111)

The ability to self-disclose and listen emphatically is an essential aspect of strategic storytelling and is also the core skill of intercultural communication. (112)


Conclusion: A vision of a Flourishing Future

What people encounter at Urban a gives them a model for what can be replicated in their own contexts around the world. It’s transformational! And it’s a small example of what is possible on the road to reconciliation. (119)

[via:  But what about Michelle Higgins?]

cf. Isaiah 11:6-9; 2:4

We’re going to keep our skin color. We’re going to keep our language, our lingo and our culture. The world as God intended it is a multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic and multinational place! (121)

| Can you imagine? Think about it for a moment. What will it look like? What will it smell like? sound like? When I imagine it, I can (121) see saris and sombreros, yarmulkes and backward ball caps. I can see gorgeous neck coils and colorful turbans. I can see conical hats and kimonos and COnverse. I can smell poi from Hawaii, pirozhki from Russia, arepas from Venezuela, gyros from Greece, congee from Taiwan and curries from Jamaica and India. I can hear English, Spanish, Swahili, Japanese. Italian, French, Hebrew, Turkish and Mandarin. I hear Native American drums, and I see Hawaiian and Polynesian dancers. That’s a glimpse of the kingdom of God! (122)



My hope isn’t that we change the social order but instead that, like Jesus and his disciples, we build small cadres of the Beloved Community that can infiltrate society and change it from the inside out over time. Our collective calling is to make the kingdom of God visible on earth. Every time we bridge racial, ethnic, gender and (124) socioeconomic divides, we become prophetic witnesses to the reality of the kingdom of God. (125)


Most people are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society. – MLK

The Reconciliation Roadmap allows us the chance to be thermostats instead of thermometers. (127)

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  1. Pingback: Be The Bridge | Reflections & Notes | vialogue

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