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Winter 2009 | Volume 32, Number 1 | Features

Building Your Library: More Readings on Reconciliation

By Tali Hairston, Director of SPU's John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development

Moral Imagination by John Paul Lederach
The Moral Imagination: The Art and Science of Peace Building, by John Paul Lederach

Each year, I research both historic and contemporary readings to add to the Perkins Center reading list on the topic of reconciliation. Equipping current and emerging leaders in reconciliation requires thoughtful, accessible, and practical texts.

There are a number of seminal books representing the breadth and depth of the reconciliation “library.” Here are a few I enjoyed last year — new additions to my “favorites” list.

John Paul Lederach. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Science of Peace Building (Oxford University Press, 2005).

In this book, Lederach integrates practical experience and scholarship in a refreshing new way. I enjoyed his use of story throughout the volume, and his internationally recognized work in the field of peace-building provides a wealth of experiences from which he is able to draw. But what Lederach calls our attention to in these stories is that it is necessary to move beyond the science of peace-building. He takes the time to articulate what disciplines we can practice that will lead to an artistic imagination for peace-building in a world of paradoxical ideologies and belief systems.

Brenda Salter McNeil. A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race (IVP Books, 2008).

McNeil uses her effective ability to preach the gospel as an evangelist to call us to a more deeply profound relationship with the biblical text. She is masterful in this way. Presented as a set of reflections, McNeil’s book looks closely at Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, exposing critical teachings in cross-cultural competence, gender issues, and many other topics within the sphere of biblical reconciliation. Ultimately, we are drawn to ask ourselves what would make us a more effective and authentic church for the world.

Edward Gilbreath. Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity (IVP Books, 2008).

For many, the title of this book may sound intimidating. Yet Gilbreath’s ability to articulate a very difficult subject in an inspiring and teachable way is brilliant and much-needed today. Gilbreath is an experienced writer and well-respected within the Christian evangelical community. His style and use of story makes it easier for readers new to the topic of reconciliation to grasp a rarely discussed reality.

Raymond G. Helmick and Rodney L. Petersen, Ed. Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Religion, Public Policy and Conflict Transformation (Templeton Foundation Press, 2002).

Reconciliation is an interdisciplinary work, and very few books address reconciliation with this in mind. When I read this somewhat weighty academic project, I was overwhelmed — and inspired. I was overwhelmed by the different areas of study needed to address the study of reconciliation comprehensively. Alternatively, I was inspired by how synergistically these often-disparate concepts of religion, public policy, and conflict transformation are integrated under the rubric of reconciliation. For those looking to understand the work of higher education in contributing to a peaceful society, this book is for you.

Tali Hairston is the director of SPU’s John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development

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