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Living Restoratively

It is one thing to embrace the idea of restorative justice and another to live it. The following articles explore this problem and suggest ways to do both.

Van Ness, Daniel W. The Role of the Church in Criminal Justice Reform
Addressing a forum on restorative justice with participants from diverse perspectives, Daniel Van Ness focuses on the role of the Christian Church in criminal justice reform, particularly reform oriented around restorative justice. Asserting that any successful reform movement in a democracy must be presented in terms that will include people from a wide variety of belief systems, he poses two questions. Why should the Church play a role in the restorative justice movement? If the Church should play a role, what role can it play? To answer these questions, Van Ness explores the past record of the Church with respect to criminal justice and criminal justice reform, reasons why many Christians oppose criminal justice reform, reasons why Christians should support criminal justice reform, and ways in which the Church can play a vital role in reform.
Oxford Youth Works. Restoring justice
In discussing restorative justice, this article begins with the claim that for Christians their relationship with God -characterized by repentance and forgiveness- should be the model for their relationships with others. Yet this is often not the case, especially in relation to people who commit crimes. With this in view, and to develop an argument for restoring justice, the writer of the article looks at crime and punishment, Biblical justice and a Biblical model for a justice system, and the practical work of Oxford Youth Works, a Christian youth work organization in England.
Oxford Youth Works. Oxford Youth Works and restorative justice
Oxford Youth Works is a Christian organization that works with youth in the Oxford area. This document presents an overview of a contemporary plan and budget for the organization. The document includes an introduction to the organization’s work, restorative justice, and the Thames Valley Police model for restorative conferences. It also includes a proposed three year plan with goals and budget.
Churches' Criminal Justice Forum. Restorative justice- What’s it all about?
This collection consists of papers and workshops presented at a conference, Restorative justice – What’s it all about? The conference was organized by the Churches’ Criminal Justice Forum (CCJF). The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for people who want to know more about restorative justice and its relevance for Christians. CCJF grew out of initiatives in the late 1990s in which various Christian denominations collaborated in a forum to address issues pertaining to women in prison. In 2001 this forum became the Churches’ Criminal Justice Forum, the official British ecumenical church body in criminal justice matters. CCJF sees restorative justice as offering potential for changing sentencing practice – and, more expansively, as the way whereby society can right the harm caused by crime. Conference papers and workshops cover restorative justice in relation to the adult criminal justice system, prisons, youth justice, and the community.
McElrea, F W M. A Christian approach to conflict resolution.
In this address, Judge F. W. M. McElrea looks specifically at mediation and at restorative justice as a New Testament or Christian approach to conflict resolution. He provides several reasons for this characterization of restorative justice: (1) its rejection of legalism and formalism is akin to the thought and spirit of the New Testament; (2) it allows a place for grace; (3) it expresses other Christian values or makes possible their expression; (4) it reflects a partnership model rather than a dominator model; and (5) Christians are called to avoid revenge, thus leaving judgment to God.
Hinton, Annette. Restorative justice in a Christian context
In this paper, Annette Hinton locates restorative justice in the context of specific principles of Christian theology, ethics, and spirituality: respect; justice; healing; restoration; and forgiveness. From her perspective, mediation has a theological foundation and imperative in the Gospel – in the mediating, restoring work of Jesus Christ between fallen humanity and God. Hinton takes these theological principles and connects them with principles and practices of restorative justice that address the harm caused by crime in relation to victims, offenders, and communities.
Snyder, T. Richard. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of punishment
In this book, T. Richard Snyder, a seminary dean and professor, investigates the connection between Christianity and the spirit of punishment that he believes characterizes American society and, consequently, American criminal justice. While other factors also contribute to this spirit, he contends that Christian theology and ethics – a distortion of grace in Protestant theology and ethics in particular – have played a significant role in the development and continuing force of this punitive ethos. The elements of this distortion involve an absence of creation grace; and an interpretation of grace in individualistic, interior, and non-historical ways. On this basis, Snyder searches for a truer understanding of grace and alternatives to the ethos of punishment. He points to restorative justice alternatives (e.g., the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, New Zealand’s juvenile justice, Native American sentencing circles, and victim offender reconciliation), to spiritual foundations for restorative justice, and to the responsibility of Christians to be involved restoratively in criminal justice.
Ortega, Ofelia.. "Conversion as a way of life in cultures of violence."
Ortega begins her reflections on cultures of violence by recalling a critical episode in her own life – she was leading a group Bible study on the Book of Judith – when she was challenged to rethink her own perspectives on violence and peacemaking. With this in mind, she touches upon several matters: the roots of violence in complex cultural realities; challenges in fostering a true culture of life characterized by nonviolence in personal, social, and international terms; a call for churches to seek reconciliation and peace; and the development of a culture of solidarity in contrast to a culture of anti-life.
Northey, Wayne and Allard, Pierre. Christianity: The rediscovery of restorative justice
Allard and Northey contend that a Christian reading of the Hebrew scriptures, the life and ministry of Jesus, and the overall witness of the New Testament point to what can be called a restorative justice model for understanding and responding to crime. The essence of this consists in God’s love for humankind, such that he came to humanity in the person of Jesus (i.e., the incarnation). Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrated his merciful and suffering love in response to our wrongdoing, thus making forgiveness and restoration fundamental to how we should respond to human wrongdoing. Allard and Northey see the background to this understanding of Jesus in the Hebrew concept of shalom ("the Bible’s word for salvation, justice, and peace"), and in the ethical and messianic insights of the Hebrew prophets. However, the authors maintain that in general the Christian Church has profoundly deviated from the truths of that good news. They discuss various elements that contributed to this deviation, including the following: the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire under the Emperor Constantine; and the development of the satisfaction theory of the atonement by Anselm, which significantly influenced theology, social thought, and popular piety. While there have been exceptions, the Church often became an apologist for and even an agent of violent, retributive responses to crime. The authors then observe that in the last generation there have been a number of initiatives from many sources promoting restorative responses to crime. Citing specific initiatives among Christians, they express hope that the Christian Church, in its engagement with criminal justice issues and practices, is beginning to reclaim its spiritual and theological foundations in God’s restoration and reconciliation in Jesus.
New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.. "New Zealand Bishops on Justice."
This pastoral letter from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference is a statement of the Christian principles underlying restorative justice and is a call for Christians to support a more restorative criminal justice system. They conclude that restorative justice would guarantee a healthier, fairer and more positive form of criminal justice.
Harder, Helmut. "What Anabaptist-Mennonite confessions of faith say about violence and nonviolence."
Harder examines the historical legacy of the Anabaptist-Mennonite peace tradition as affirmed in confessions of faith from the beginning of the movement to the present. He surveys a number of significant confessional statements, including the following: the Schleithem Confession; a Hutterite confession of faith; the Dortrecht Confession; confessions of faith in Prussia, Russia, and Canada; and modern Mennonite confessions. In the course of his examination he compares the various confessional teachings on violence and nonviolence to identify commonalities and to reflect on implications for initiatives among churches to overcome violence.
Riggs, Ann K.. "Theology and culture: The claim of ethnicity and gender on faith and understanding."
Noting the perspective of some theological traditions that the Church suffered from inculturation following its establishment in the Constantinian era, Riggs observes that inculturation is inescapable. The question is which cultural patterns are more conducive to God’s purposes for humankind. In this regard, Riggs examines concepts of culture, ethnicity, and gender, with particular attention to the inculturation of seventeenth and eighteenth century Quaker thought – for example, the eighteenth century Quaker John Woolman. This examination includes a consideration of Woolman’s analysis of the connections among culture, custom, well-being, and violence. Riggs then reflects on the potential and the limits of Woolman’s thought and witness as theological resources for contemporary peace activism.
Church Council on Justice and Corrections. Is crime a faith issue?
Some people may consider crime to be essentially a socio-political issue, with faith having little role to play in understanding it or devising a response to it. In this short piece, the Church Council on Justice and Corrections states fundamental reasons why crime is truly a faith issue. Those reasons primarily have to do with the harm caused by crime to people, relationships, and communities, with the subsequent need for people and communities to experience healing and restoration, spiritually and materially
Consedine, Jim. An Irish way forward
Consedine argues that retributive justice, which has dominated criminal justice in Western countries for centuries, is ineffective, expensive, and pernicious. In contrast, ancient Celtic traditions of restorative justice, according to Consedine, have much to offer for a more productive approach to criminal justice. to make his points, Consedine sketches traditional Irish justice, Biblical justice (shalom and covenant, and justice in the New Testament), and restorative justice itself.
Mackey, V. Doing justice
To assist churches and church people to respond faithfully to those hurt by crime and those who perpetrate crime, Mackey explores the Jewish and Christian faith traditions. In particular she reflects on Scriptural perspectives of justice in terms of certain visual images – scales, rods, compassionate intervention, and prevention of violence. She continues by discussing Scriptural perspectives on justice and restorative values. This leads to comments on restorative justice and the roles of people of faith, with specific attention to basic criminal justice issues such as the death penalty, victims’ issues, expansion of prison, and sentencing issues.
Ruth-Heffelbower, Duane. Toward a Christian Theology of Church and Society as It Relates to Restorative Justice
In this presentation made to a Restorative Justice Conference in Fresno, CA, the author observes that the influence of the Church on the larger society is declining in most European and North American countries. In response he asks what the role of the Church is in modern society and what the theological basis is for its role. He considers three chief aspects of the Church's role: witness to God's love and power; voice calling society to peace, justice, and compassion; and agent to work for the welfare of all in society. He relates these three aspects to the Church's activity in advocating for restorative justice.

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