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Spring 2006 | Volume 29, Number 2 | Campus

Shout of Reconciliation

Perkins helps lead national discussion on Christian community development

John Perkins resides in Mississippi, but his trip to Seattle Pacific University February 28–March 3 was a much-anticipated “homecoming” for the renowned Christian leader. Spanning four days, his visit marked the first Perkins Lecture Series, an annual event sponsored by the John Perkins Center at Seattle Pacific University. The Center was founded in 2004 to facilitate reconciliation, leadership training, and community development in urban Seattle and beyond.

John Perkins was SPU’s guest for the first Perkins Lecture Series. His lecture topics were “Reconciling Leadership in the Wake of Tragedy” and “What Is Christian Community Development?”

“Though Dr. Perkins has been to Seattle Pacific several times, this visit brought new stories of lives changed, hearts encouraged, and leadership birthed,” says Perkins Center Director Tali Hairston. In its inaugural year, the lecture series was held in conjunction with the annual institute of the Christian Community Development Association, a national organization co-founded by Perkins.

During the week’s events, SPU students, staff, and faculty; the local church community; and members of the Christian Community Development Association heard Perkins — whose foundation is headquartered in an area where Hurricane Katrina wreaked its havoc — address how leaders can guide those in crisis to reconciliation and restoration.

Two Seattle church leaders impacted by Perkins also spoke during the week: Harvey Drake, senior pastor of Emerald City Fellowship, and Paul Olver, senior pastor of Rainier Avenue Church. In Seattle Pacific’s second Church Leaders Forum of the academic year, they addressed a large audience on the topic of “Building Sustainable Partnerships in the Ministry of Radical Reconciliation.”

After years of regular prayer time together, Drake and Olver merged their two organizations, Emerald City Outreach and Northwest Urban Ministries. Since the 1980s, both organizations had worked separately to strengthen urban Seattle-area families through youth and adult ministries that focused on education and other aspects of community development. Today, they lead a new organization named Urban Impact — together. Both men credit the influence of John Perkins for their inspiration.

Olver’s wife, SPU Associate Professor of Global and Urban Ministries Delia Nüesch- Olver, had a firsthand view as the unique partnership took shape. “Two churches of different denominations and two effective pastors — one African American and one Caucasian — were willing to merge their Christian community development organizations because it is better for the building of the kingdom of God in our city,” she says. “This is an unbelievable shout of reconciliation.”

In Perkins’ last address of the lecture series, he spoke about the power of Christian community development, which he has long said is the way to real reconciliation. “Through years of experience among the poor,” he wrote in Restoring At-Risk Communities, “I have come to see these desperate problems cannot be solved without strong commitment and risky actions on the part of ordinary Christians with heroic faith.”

— BY Hope McPherson
photo by daniel sheehan

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