Fuller’s Professor of Theology and Ethics Illustrates Reconciliation at All-Seminary Chapel
At the All-Seminary Chapel second Lenten service on February 27, Professor of Theology and Ethics Hak Joon Lee continued on the theme of reconciliation. He noted, specifically, the
ways in which Jesus’ reconciliation with those around him is inseparable from
our reconciliation with others.
“Jesus was accused of being with sinners by the Pharisees,”
said Lee. “He intentionally broke social
norms in order to reconcile those around him.”
He went on to say God’s grace compels us to take risks in
reconciling with others, and we should be motivated by God’s grace and by our
gratitude rather than by guilt or shame.
According to Lee, guilt and shame cannot move us forward, because they
make us hide and feel paralyzed. He said
only grace helps us move past mistakes and move forward to reconciliation and a
Lee then gave an illustration of reconciliation by telling
the story of Katrina Browne, who was a theology student at
the Pacific School of Religion. He said that
through one of her seminary courses on reconciliation, she was challenged to
think about her own ancestors’ involvement with the slave trade.
“She had never done
much about it, but this time was different,” said Lee.
He said she began to dig deeply into her family history by
studying letters, family diaries, and other documents. She discovered that her ancestors had run the largest slave trading business in American history. Over three generations from 1769 to 1820, her
relatives aided in bringing over 10,000 slaves across the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, they accumulated enormous
wealth, and for 200 years produced many distinguished public servants,
educators, respected businessmen, and prominent Episcopal clerics. One of them even became a U.S. Senator and
was the second richest man in the nation at the time.
“What do you do with this kind of secret?” asked Lee. “Hide and move on as if it had never
happened, or even though it is troubling, forget about it because you
personally had nothing to do with the slave trade?”
He went on to say that Browne chose a difficult route. She decided to share her family’s shameful
history with the public. She invited 200
of her family descendants to join her in a journey to explore her family’s
past. And out of 200, only 9 came.
“Many are invited, but few are chosen,” joked Lee.
He said that together they retraced the slave trade route on foot through Rhode Island, Ghana and Cuba, and Browne wrote and directed the
documentary, “Traces of Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” based on their
“I imagine there would have been much hostility and
alienation Katrina experienced from her family members and her community,” said
He concluded by saying Browne’s story offers us hope
regarding racial reconciliation in our country.
He said it’s important because genuine reconciliation is impossible
without restoration of trust--and trust comes from the truth, including the
acknowledgment and confession of past wrongs.
“Jesus accomplished reconciliation through his atoning death
on the cross,” said Lee. “If we are reconciled with God, we are reconciled with
To see a preview
of the documentary, click here.