Purpose: To inspire and promote just-development and peace-building among the Multnomah Global Development and Justice (MAGDJ) community, prospective students and industry leaders.
Mission: To highlight our unique, faith-based understanding of development and justice as seen in the approach and lives of graduates and partners of MAGDJ.
Audience: MAGDJ students, graduates, prospective students and Christian community development community.
Frequency: Once a month (with an occasional bi-weekly series)
Our first episode seeks to set the stage for our podcast by looking at some key terms and perspectives that really provide the context for what we plan to focus on in this podcast in the months and years to come.
Featured are Dr. Greg Burch and Dr. Karen Fancher.
Greg Burch: Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of the development and justice podcast from the studios at Multnomah University in the beautiful and, I might add, spirited city of Portland Oregon My name is Dr Greg burch and I have the honor of hosting this unique podcast where we engage in faith based discussions with thought leaders, practitioners and others who are wrestling with complexities in this whole area of holistic mission justice, development and peace building, where we include theology with Community development and social justice with biblical thinking. My role here at Multnomah is directing the graduate program in global development and justice thus the name of the podcast and you can find out more about our program by visiting at Multnomah.edu/magdj I know that’s a mouthful but that’s what we got right. Just a quick disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed on this podcast do not necessarily represent our host institution multnomah university, we should say that, at the start of the podcast here but um hey I am so excited I have invited Dr. Karen Fancher to join the show today. Welcome Karen to the very first episode of development and justice, and I should mention I hope Karen will be a frequent co-host for many years to come, now.
Karen Fancher: Thanks Greg I’m excited I think this is gonna be a great opportunity to engage in issues that we care so deeply about and to hear from various voices and to build connections so thanks for having me
Greg Burch: Hey of course I can’t wait to jump into some of these concepts and conversations we’re going to have today on development and justice and mission and peacebuilding really, but let me just briefly introduce you to Karen and then I’ll give you some space to share a little bit more on your background with everybody, but Dr. Fancher is an assistant professor of global studies and teaches in the undergrad global studies Program with the majority of your classes graduate program in development and justice right?
Karen Fancher: right
Greg Burch: keeps you busy within that area
Karen Fancher: I keep busy but it’s a lot of fun.
Greg Burch: And you recently took on a new role, a big role here at the university as interim academic Dean, for the school of undergraduate studies congratulations.
Karen Fancher: Thank you, I think congratulations are in order, I’m not sure
Greg Burch:I know that’s keeping you even more busy right
Karen Fancher: for sure.
Greg Burch: But you’re a professional counselor focusing on, especially on the trauma and humanitarian context and the hard work of peacebuilding and reconciliation initiatives. Karen, would you mind sharing a little bit on your background and schooling and perhaps different places where you’ve worked around the world.
Karen Fancher: Sure I’d love to. Well, first of all, and I love being a part of this program because it so epitomizes so many of the passions that I care deeply about so as a child, I came to know God and I wanted to be a part of his work in this world, but I had no idea what that would look like. I’ve always been drawn to culture, I studied Russian in high school and in college and became a bilingual teacher working. In the public schools and, as I did so, it was some of my first exposure to injustice seeing families who had very little access to services and who were living in really challenging situations as they were working as migrant laborers working in various contexts and and seeing parents who wanted the best for their children. And so, as I was working in the public schools, I thought I wanted to be more involved in ensuring the hope of Jesus and working with the Church in the world, and so, eventually, I had an opportunity to work with a church in northern Argentina and they were developing a school for children in their locality, and in some of the barrios. And I want to say that when I went to Argentina that was some of my deepest training and understanding development, this was a church that reached out to the Community that developed schools that have programs to invite children to not only have education but to learn about their value and the love of God for them, and as I came back I realized that I wanted to continue to grow I studied counseling and Bible. And, as I was thinking about the next steps, I was invited to come back to Multnomah and work as a dean of students. And there I realized that it was such a privilege to work with students who wanted to live out their faith in a variety of ways in this world. And so I was working at Multnomah, enjoying it, and there was still this passion for engaging in the broader work of God in this world and engaging with the complexities of this world, and I had an opportunity to travel with one of my pastors to South Sudan, he was working with world relief at the time and I met fellow followers of Jesus and South Sudan who were living in incredibly challenging situations in the midst of a civil war and they said, where is the body of Christ. And I realized that I wanted to walk well with them, but I had so much to learn, and I also realized that I had much to learn from them about persevering faith and about trusting God, in the midst of this complex world, so I came back and I studied the impact of trauma in South Sudan and, as I did so and finished my doctorate degree in intercultural studies, you were starting this program at Multnomah in global development and justice, and as I had the opportunity to participate in this I just saw how God has woven together this heart for restoration for teaching for cultural engagement and for holistic development and I continue to learn from our students, from other professors in the program or partnerships that we’ve formed so I’m so grateful to be here
Greg Burch: yeah that’s awesome I am too I’m grateful for you being here as well, and being part of this program and supporting our students.
Karen Fancher: hey hey tell us about yourself
Greg Burch: Sure um yeah you know, I have the honor of being married to my wife Christina for 22 years now, together, we have two kids to young adults, I should say. We’ve lived here in Oregon for 10 years now since I took the job here at Multnomah and prior to moving here and working at Multnomah we lived in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, where I taught at a Christian university called Esepa for a number of years and even going back before that we lived in the capital city of Caracas Venezuela where I worked with a small organization called niños de la luz, which means children of the light for those who maybe need that that translation. Our kids were born in Venezuela and Oh, and I forgot to mention that my wife was born in Vienna, Austria, so I usually introduce myself as the abnormal one in the family as I’m a native Californian and yeah okay I’ll stop there. But somewhere in between all of that, you know the work in Venezuela, the work in Costa Rica and graduating from college before that. I pursued a graduate degree at fuller theological seminary in intercultural studies and urban ministry and then went on to pursue a PhD there at fuller as well, looking at specifically doing my research on church based responses to empowering children living and working on the streets.And most of my research during those years took place on on the ground in Cochabamba Bolivia so really you know I’m a product of my time living and working in Costa Rica and Venezuela.Spending some time in Bolivia and other parts and have been deeply influenced by my friends there and the context of of Mission in Latin America. You know, during my free time I enjoy surfing, even here in Oregon where the water is cold and the sharks are big but you know that’s just what I do and love it and keeps me sane so thanks for asking Karen
Karen Fancher: yeah you are braver than I am good for you for taking on that surfing,
Greg Burch: I think, what do you do in your free time? Do you have free time these days, and if you do, what do you do
Karen Fancher: well y’all keep me pretty busy but yes, I do I love to be out and busy, so one of my favorite things to do is to go snow skiing I don’t get to do, very often, but I don’t know who invented putting two pieces of wood on your feet and sliding down a mountain, but I love that person. And then I love hiking in the beautiful Northwest and, of course, travel and anything that’s cross cultural so food cards in portland and experiencing different cuisine and cultural expressions just brings me joy
Greg Burch: That’s awesome. So as I mentioned in the intro you know our hopes for the show really include a focus on engaging in faith based discussions with thought leaders including theologians, scholars and practitioners, who are wrestling with these complexities and, I might add, the messiness of these complexities In the areas of holistic mission justice, development and peace building. This podcast is really an opportunity to think critically about the role of justice in our Community development work and in the work of social justice through a biblical framework, through a biblical lens that really leads us to a deeper transformational approach in the communities where we work. Some would call the work that we’re discussing just development or, perhaps, development, justice, with theology. We just call it, development and justice and we’ll be diving into some of these terms that we use frequently on this show and really the reason behind this podcast and the purpose is to inspire and promote just development among the magdj community, alumni, students, professors, prospective students and even industry leaders and others that are concerned with these topics. We thought, a good way to start to really begin to set the stage for this would be to look at some key terms and perspectives that really provide the context for what we hope to dial down on In this podcast in the months and years to come, so let’s start off with kind of a game show does that sound okay?
Karen Fancher: Oh yeah
Greg Burch: Why not right let’s call it define that term. So I thought we would take some time and throw out some terms to each other and how we understand them and what they mean to us personally and as a program so Karen are you ready for the first word?
Karen Fancher: I’m ready
Greg Burch: Here you go okay for sure
Karen Fancher: I’m not sure but I’ll give it my best shot
Greg Burch: You got it, mission
Karen Fancher: You know I love this word, because I think we’re all longing to live a life of purpose and really that’s what mission is it’s what our lives are about as followers of Jesus that we want to represent his love and his restoration in this world and it’s something that we’re learning to walk in I don’t think it’s as much what we do, but a reflection of who were living for in in light of Jesus kingdom principles it’s an aspect of our discipleship and when I think about mission I always am reminded that it’s ultimately God’s work. That concept of missio Dei that God is a missionary God that he is redemptive that he has from the creation of the world and to when he returns again he’s at work to draw people to himself and to fulfill his redemptive purposes so it’s not about us going out and trying to fix the world it’s about us trying to join in, where God is working. And in that process learning more about who he’s made us to be. And so, when I think of mission I think of living fully in word and deed, in light of the Gospel and I love first Peter 3:15 it says, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within you and I think this world is longing for hope. And if we live as people of hope than I think and in faithfully loving those around us, I think mission will flow. So much of this world today is living in fear and defensiveness and I think the marker of the people of God is living in light of hope and reaching out to reflect the love of God.
Greg Burch: yeah you know I I appreciate what your emphasis on the restoration and the hope that’s found in mission
Karen Fancher: yeah
Greg Burch: and we can certainly point to some some historical efforts in mission that were contrary to to what you’ve been describing already today, yeah save that for another conversation but when I think of mission as well, I think of the definition that Scott Moreau uses he’s out of wheaton he says mission is basically you know the church partnering with God to extend the Kingdom of God around the world and it’s just it’s a partnership, it certainly begins with who God is not not necessarily with the Church. I also think of holistic mission this idea that mission goes beyond just engaging with people’s souls, but also incorporates their whole self. Their bodies in their communities and their minds and certainly their soul and their spirit as well, but anyone who has lived and worked alongside those who face oppression and understand the immense complexities and seeing trends seeing transformation realized understands that that holistic mission is critical to the work that we do in development work. systemic injustices, political chaos, economic woes and even religious abuse can all play a part in creating these complex humanitarian situations around the world and you know I’m reminded by what David Bosch once said, the great missiologist mission has its origin in the fatherly heart of God. And I think that’s critical for this discussion as well that it begins with who God is and it’s really an opportunity that we have as followers of Christ to enter into this conversation with or enter into this work of extending his Kingdom in partnership with God, so all right I’ll leave it there.
Karen Fancher: Yeah that was profoundly stated okay you ready to define another term?
Greg Burch: Yeah
Karen Fancher: okay well talk to me about development and maybe holistic development How does that fit in with our understanding of mission?
Greg Burch: yeah that’s that’s a great that’s a great question it’s a loaded word, of course, you know, but when it comes to this word development we oftentimes see it, especially in the United States in reference to fundraising so we have development officers within organizations or advancement departments, but we also see a deeply connected to the concept of international development to global development to Community development it’s often thought of as a macro development kind of theory that’s connected to global economic development or even sustainable development but it can also be understood, through a micro development lens and, to be honest, I spend most of my time and I think you probably do as well Karen I’m thinking on micro development, what does development look like on the ground in communities where there is both great resources and capacity, but where there’s also great need. So, like I mentioned, you know it’s it’s it’s a word that needs to be defined, especially for our mission development as an emotional sense really seeks to bring restoration to those who have fallen outside of God’s purposes. I think we need to really start there when we think about mission and develop next right And as we enter into solidarity with those who are marginalized, those who are facing daily crises, and you know, in many parts of the world. In part, our tasks consist of animating their capacity, they you know we’re not giving them something we talked a lot about empowerment, but we’re not empowering people they already have that power that God given ability and capacity but our role is to really animate that capacity and define what it means to flourish under God’s purposes in their community and in their context so dialing down a little bit more into what Community development is it’s a participatory capacity building focus it’s not focused on handouts and charity, even though they might those have their place in the work of relief and the work of you know, except situations where people are are desperately in need and need to be cared for immediately but Community development focuses in on long term Community development where we’re we are animating the capacity and the resources that are already in the Community to where we are working. I love what Dr. Brian Meyers, one of my professors at Fuller, writes in his book walking with for that the term should really be understood as transformational development, he says, the most appropriate term for the work Christians do in this area. He describes it as positive change in the whole of human life, materially, socially, and spiritually and that’s where we get that holistic you know emphasis there so it’s positive change in the whole of human life, materially, socially and spiritually to recover our true identity as human beings created in the image of God and to discover our true vocation as productive stewart’s and I love that definition, I think that kind of really plays into this conversation of mission and development. Alright, well, we could say more about that for sure when we will in weeks and months and years to come, but let me throw out another word for you Karen, Justice.
Karen Fancher: Man what a profound concept, many are reacting against this term now or very much politicizing it but God is the author of justice, this is something that should be a hallmark of the church micah 6:8 says, you know what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God and, of course, all three of those together is the reflection of godliness that we stand for, that which is just and we do it in a way that reflects the mercy and redemptive purposes of God and humbly when I think of engagement in our world today if we could weave those words together how different some of our engagement might look in the world’s terms, we often think of justice as the meeting out of merited rewards or punishment or holding people accountable, correctness, and yet God is so much more holistic and redemptive as we understand the concept of justice that this justice actually sets things right so God held Israel accountable to how they treated the foreigner, the poor, the widows. Isaiah 58: 6-7 says, is this not the kind of fasting that I have chosen? To loose the chains of injustice to untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free to break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wander with shelter when you see the naked to clothe them and not turn away from your own flesh and blood. And so he’s saying this is fasting that we are to see those who have been oppressed and marginalized and to realize that God the God of compassion, the God of redemption goes to those who are marginalized also we were lost in our sin this brokenness is pervasive across the world that there’s a God who seeks to set things right. That we walk in relationships that are redemptive and that allow for human flourishing, and I think in our development context as well that we are learning more about how to do development through this lens of justice that development isn’t a person coming with a lot of training or finances or from a place of power to the powerless, but it’s actually walking in this mutuality with one another, recognizing the voice the agency that strength of those we walk with and how we need one another that right relationship is established when there is accountability and there is also restoration, and this is where I think the beauty of the Gospel comes in that we talked about where we’re loving faithfulness meet where righteousness and peace kiss each other right where God pulls us to righteousness and yet brings us this piece, and this mercy that invites restoration so boy there’s a lot to talk about, but I love to think about what it means to be people who represent the just heart of God in this world.
Greg Burch: Yeah I love what you mentioned, that term mutuality. And in our recognition that as broken people ourselves that go to interviews marginalized communities and work, you know we’re all in need of this restoration together sometimes we get caught up in this messianic complex where we go in thinking that, you know we’re there to provide hope, and I certainly did that my early years and working with street youth in Caracas Venezuela and have since learned that you know we’re not the Messiah and we do have to go into these communities, recognize our own brokenness, and that we are mutually connected to those that the Lord calls us to.
Karen Fancher: I think that’s where that humility comes in, to realize the pervasiveness of sin that we all can walk in pride and self protection and not honoring or recognizing the other and God is continuing to teach us. That we participate in the brokenness of this world, and then we need to recognize the dignity and agency of all that we work with and so, may God continue to teach us.
Greg Burch; absolutely you know I think it’s important to add to that when we think of biblical justice, we need to recognize that biblical justice is social. It has implications for society it so, so we are talking about a social justice, that is, that is understood through a biblical lens and a biblical framework, but it has significant ramifications for society and that’s what’s at the heart of the gospel of God, bringing restoration to human beings, bringing in and thus, bringing restoration to communities where these human beings live, and so I just wanted to add that, as we’re getting into that, as I know that comes off comes up often. I really like what Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu in their book our global families discuss they say biblical justice involves restoring something broken to what it ought to be, restoring something broken to what it ought to be to the way that God intended. And I love that emphasis on restoration, as part of justice, you know. Several years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to go back to her hometown of Vienna Austria city, I should mention and we, as we were walking around kind of the central zone of Vienna we came, you know we’re at the St stephen’s Cathedral and visiting and in visiting the Plaza they’re out in front and I noticed, you know I saw two bars that were on the side of the cathedral door, these too long old bars that seemed to be there for measuring something, and so, as I did some investigation and looked into and I learned that those two iron bars were designed to ensure that all linear measurements were accurate and fair. This idea of fairness in standard sizing was on the hearts and minds of those people building that cathedral in you know 1147 80. So cloth and other material could be measured here to ensure that the business dealings, and the purchases were based on just and fair arrangements and I think that’s what we see in scripture the highlighting of fairness and equity and as that’s distributed in society its central to the scripture to the biblical message of justice as well.
Karen Fancher: absolutely faith without works is dead, it says in James and when I see people who advocate for those who have been, we mentioned marginalized, but for seeking for restoration for people who have been trafficked or who have been exploited and that’s what a reflection of God’s heart in the Gospel, and these are issues that permeate all societies, this is not a localized issue this isn’t, this is an issue of human restoration and in biblical justice.
Greg Burch: Absolutely all right let’s go, are you ready?
Karen Fancher: yeah
Greg Burch: Peace Building and Shalom
Karen Fancher: You know Jesus is the Prince of peace and why our world is so longing for peace, right now, and in Matthew 5:9 it says “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” and I think when we think about this biblical concept of Shalom its wholeness, its health, its prosperity, its wholeness and it starts with peace with God, if I want to be a person of peace, I need to know that I am loved and forgiven and that I can accept the other, that my sense of worth and value is not contingent upon the other, that we are all fallen, and so I need to be at peace with God and peace with myself that I am forgiven, that I am loved and then I can start to open myself, to seek, to find wholeness and restoration with others, and so this concept of peace is not it’s not the absence of conflict, although that’s definitely a goal for avoiding strife. But it’s actually very closely tied to justice, in that we want to be able to address that which disrupts the right relationship with one another, so that we can find peace with one another, that peace and justice are partners together and yet together they work towards holistic restoration so to be people of peace is to be people who are open to see the other also as more than their offense. As more than what they’ve done against me, although we hold to account and we address issues that are important within our society, this is where I think we’ve failed so many times as the Church. We think that peacebuilding is avoidance of anything that brings tension, but restoration requires truth but truth spoken in love,it’s not about shaming, it’s not about power, it’s about seeking to make things right and accountability that seeks restoration can lead to peace, and so the scripture say as much as possible, be at peace with all men. Sometimes it’s not possible, but we seek to represent that restoration of relationship and Shalom it’s peace with, as I mentioned before, with God, with myself, with others and with God’s creation. That we want great relationship to be restored, so that there can be holistic human flourishing.
Greg Burch: Amen. Well, just to wrap things up on this conversation I want to quote René Padilla. Many of our listeners might be familiar with Pastor René Padilla. He says this about these topics that we’ve been talking about today, he says, “our emotional approach should include a transformational development that goes beyond felt needs to Shalom” this concept of Shalom again beyond charity to justice, beyond technology and money, to be empowerment of people, especially the poor, so I deeply appreciate what Pastor Padilla says about that topic and kind of wrapping up do you have any final comments or any final thoughts on this conversation?
Karen Fancher: Sure, first of all, these are the issues of life we’re going to continue to process them and we’re going to continue to learn, because they’re complex and they’re also beautiful we’re trying to truly live out our faith and I would say that again some of my greatest teachers have been those who are part of the global church and that’s a privilege of being part of this global development and justice program. in South Sudan, I saw pastors from opposing parties in the civil war asking forgiveness of one another, praying for one another and seeing that the Church, who has an identity as first as followers of Jesus can be catalysts of peace, and I want to learn from them, I want to think about God’s work in this world and join in fully so I look forward to further conversations.
Greg Burch: Awesome. Thank you so much Karen. Hey we’re so grateful to have had this chance to talk about these key terms as part of our first episode of this podcast development and justice, we will have months and years to continue to dig into these topics and many others but we wanted to provide you with an introduction into who we are and where we’re headed. We are also setting the stage for conversations with a variety of actors who are engaged in these fields and look forward to future conversations. Thank you for joining us in a shout out to Multnomah University for access to the recording studio here and a platform to dialogue on the tensions in areas of convergence, when it comes to thinking missionally about development, justice and peacebuilding. All right. Thank you so much, take care.