Following are details on the Plenary Sessions, these will be interspersed with elective and panel content from around the globe. There are of course many more details to come!
FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH (VOLUNTARY RELOCATION)
At the center of our Christian story is the incarnation, as Jesus ‘relocates’ himself from heaven to earth. This movement is infused with God’s heart for justice as a humble response in compassion and action to a broken and weary world. Jesus moves from a position of glorious power to a position of profound vulnerability. His very first breaths are in solidarity with those on the margins, being born into poverty to a family rejected and shamed by its own community, against a backdrop of oppression and Empire. This is the place Jesus intentionally chooses to begin his story of redemption and flourishing.
In this session we will ask ourselves what crossing boundaries might look like for us in a world still intent on creating walls and not bridges. What is the role of incarnation and relocation in our work of justice today? What does it mean to intentionally step into the spheres of others? How does the present context of a pandemic and its heavy toll on those already marginalised present new opportunities for us to find ourselves moving from places of power to places of vulnerability?
FROM ISRAEL TO EGYPT (FORCED MIGRATION)
Under the oppression of Empire, Jesus and his family are forced to relocate from Israel to Egypt to flee genocide. The narrative drips with symbolic irony – God’s own son seeking safety in the very land that so deeply enslaved his ancestors. Jesus becomes a refugee, and in so doing experiences what it is like to rely upon the mercy of those who so often withhold it. At the beginning of his story he encounters the darkness of displacement and the reality of being helpless under the power of another. The justice journey is never a straight path. It is rarely clear cut.
In this session we will take a look at stories of migration and forced relocation, at the power dynamics encountered, and the complex issues that surface. What is it about our broken human identity that brings us into conflict with those not like us? In a time when nationalism and xenophobia is on the rise, how might we practise a new level of radical hospitality? What opportunities are before us in this critical hour to move the church more consistently from the platform to the table?
INTO THE WILDERNESS (LIMINALITY)
The story of Israel has always been a story of God moving with his people in and out of the wilderness. It was a place that took them out of the ordinary of their lives and brought them into a space where everything was stripped away. A place where they were able to look at themselves soberly and afresh. In this way, the wilderness represented for them a place of ‘liminality’. Liminality is when what is old has come to an end, but what is new has yet to start. While often uncomfortable, this liminal space can be one of shifting identities, of letting go of hurt and pain, and through that discovering new dreams. And as for Israel, so for Jesus. After his baptism, the spirit of God leads him intentionally into the wilderness for a time of testing, preparation, emptying and encounter with God. Our justice journey so often involves the need for similar spaces of liminality, of time to process what has been lost and broken, and prepare in hope for what lies ahead.
In this session we will explore the unique time our world is in right now and the opportunity it presents to us as a space of liminality. What would it look like for us to embrace this liminal time and relocate ourselves into this point of ‘wilderness’ to re-focus on God and rid ourselves of our corrupted hearts? What do we need to acknowledge that we have lost? What is it that we must lament and mourn over? What does self-emptying look like in this time? What does it mean to radically resist the temptations of this world through God’s power and not our own? And how does all of this reset us as new justice advocates for a time such as this?
FROM THE PLACES OF POWER
The Gospel of John records for us the intentional movement of Jesus at the start of his ministry from the location of power in the temple to the places of greatest suffering in Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Jesus intentionally shifts the focus of power away from the established structures and towards the forgotten and hurting. In so doing, Jesus drives a stake deep in the justice ground – power must be subverted and redirected if shalom is to come. People and places considered ‘unclean’ under the old system now become the very dwelling place of God. Jesus models an outworking of justice where simply meeting felt need is not enough. His justice requires a radical reworking of the direction of power – as the ‘weakness’ of the cross will so beautifully demonstrate. Jesus consciously and prophetically relocates himself into places that have been dislocated. Are we willing to do the same?
In this session we will ask ourselves the hard questions of where unjust power exists today, and how our own practices and choices may contribute to this imbalance of power. Both historically and presently, we will examine the ways in which the church continues to keep power in Jerusalem and not Samaria. How has this current pandemic enabled us to see a shift in power structures globally? What can we learn from Jesus for this shift in power in our own leadership journeys?
TOWARDS RESURRECTION (A NEW HOME)
Jesus’ death and resurrection presents for us a critical turning point in our understanding of justice and the work of restoring shalom. There is an intentional relocation from the old ‘home’ of death into a new ‘home’ of hope and life. Resurrection meant the old story did not have the last say, but a new story was beginning that would have eternal and cosmic significance. As for Jesus, so too for us. We as people of justice must remember that we are also people of resurrection, and this means we too must shift from our old homes to new ones. As the church we have made a home in many unjust realities – colonised readings of Scripture, patriarchy, exploitative relationships with land, partisan politics, racial hierarchy, and so on. These homes must die in order for new ones to live. The end of our story gives us this hope – a new city, a new home, coming to earth for all to live in through peace, provided for by the victory of Jesus.
In this final session we will commit ourselves to disrupting current practices that keep us locked into old structures of injustice. We will dream together for new rhythms of life and new homes of shalom. We will prophesy hope through new expressions of the spirit, and celebrate the beauty of resurrection as our model for justice and joy.