Faith Communities

  • Here's a sneak peak, so to speak, of a forthcoming eForum article I've written about FaithCARE – Faith Communities Affirming Restorative Experience –  a project of Shalem Mental Health Network in Ontario, Canada. This restorative practices program helps congregations heal from and resolve conflicts in their churches, and also proactively build community and use restorative practices to transform the way people in the church relate and do business.

    This podcast interview with Mark Vander Vennen, director of Shalem, begins around minute 1:45, and is a production of Crossroads Connection with host David Schuringa.

    Note, too, that Bruce Schenk, of IIRP Canada, is a member of the FaithCARE team. He was involved in developing the use of restorative practices in his own congregation even before FaithCARE was founded and continues to do this work, which will be described in more detail in that forthcoming eForum I mentioned.

  • Update: Seminary students are eligible for a $550 discount on this event. To register call 1-610-807-9221.

    Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, attended FaithCARE event in Ontario, Canada Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, attended the FaithCARE event in Ontario, Canada[/caption]"If restorative practices were more widely known, and its structures and processes more widely put into place, churches would be far better equipped to deal with conflict, harm, or trauma in a healthy manner." -Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

    To this end, the IIRP is offering a 4-day retreat at Kirkridge Retreat Center in eastern Pennsylvania, September 23-26, 2013, titled "Strengthening Faith Communities Through Restorative Practices." The event will be co-facilitated by Bruce Schenk, director of IIRP Canada, and Anne Martin, director of FaithCARE Services, Shalem Mental Health Network, Ontario, Canada.

  • Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 11.50.19 AMMartin Wright is a former director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, policy officer of Victim Support and a founder member of the UK's Restorative Justice Council. Restorative Justice Online describes him as "an early advocate for restorative justice in the UK and Europe." In this guest blog, originally posted in the Church Times, he argues that Restorative justice has been tried and tested but needs to be applied. He offers a critique of UK government policy and a suggestion that faith groups could play an important role in RJ implementation across the country.

  • This video includes the entire plenary session from day three of the IIRP’s 16th World Conference on the topic of restorative practices in faith communities. Bruce Schenk, director of IIRP Canada, moderated the panel. The panelists included:

  • In the following video, filmed at the IIRP's 16th World Conference in October 2013 during a plenary panel on Restorative Practices in the Faith Community, IIRP master's candidate Tom Albright discusses Ripple, the ministry he has helped create based on restorative practices and principles.

    View a video of Tom Albright wearing another hat, a teacher working in a school-to-work transition program at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's, Freedom High School.

  • faith communitiesIn "Restoring Relationships: What churches can learn from restorative justice," Paul Pastor for Christianity Today writes:

    Bruce Schenk is a Lutheran pastor and the director of Canada's International Institute for Restorative Practices. The IIRP is an internationally affiliated organization dedicated to education and research in restorative justice — an approach to community conflict that emphasizes relationships. Bruce has worked in the area for the past 15 years, using his skills in contexts ranging from incarcerated juvenile offenders to church congregational decisions.Now, he's bringing what he's learned to a wider audience. His trainings have been sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada to better equip clergy and laity to foster healthy relationships and manage conflict.

    I asked Tom Albright of Ripple Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania how Schenk's philosophy has impacted his congregation. "Shalom and reconciliation are the heart of the gospel," Albright said. "Restorative practices give us the tools to enact peace, redemption, reconciliation, and healthy relationships." Ripple's pastoral staff are all trained in restorative practices—a story for another day, but one worth telling.

    Schenk and I sat down for a phone conversation on restorative justice in church settings. He thinks Christian leaders need to rethink decision-making—and conflict—in their congregations, and why "thinking restoratively" is at the heart of the gospel.

    Read Restoring Relationships: What churches can learn from restorative justice.

  • In this short video segment, Les Davey, chief executive of IIRP Europe, discusses work his organization has done in Ireland with victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Sexual abuse cases require careful handling, but they can be powerful experiences, especially for victims. In this video Davey describes one example of the positive effects a conference had for a victim of abuse, who was finally able to sleep well after the restorative meeting. Davey has recently been approached to run a restorative conference for a child in England who was abused in her home at a young age by an ex-boyfriend of her mother.

    Watch the short video, "Restorative responses to sexual abuse by clergy," at youtube.


  • The following is a guest post by Anne Martin, Director of Restorative Practices, Shalem Mental Health Network, Ontario, Canada.


    Thousands of dollars disappear from a congregation’s safe. The Council’s executive informs the police. A police investigation discovers the pastor stole the money. He’s arrested. FaithCARE facilitates restorative conversations for church members to talk about the impact of the situation on them and others. The conversations form the basis of a victim impact statement.