Janice Kathleen Harder, Ph.D.
While on a music mission tour in Northern Ireland a few years ago, I was struck by the numbers of Protestant pentecostals and Catholic charismatics who worship together in many independent churches and fellowship groups. When I asked how this came to be, the answer was often something like: “Well, the Holy Spirit brings us together!” At a thriving independent charismatic church in Belfast’s Shankill Road area, a strongly Protestant community, a number of Catholic charismatics and former IRA soldiers, worship and fellowship with their families. The pastor pointed out several of these people to me during a reception time, and assured me that they were fully integrated into church life.
Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the conflict in Northern Ireland in recent decades should find this new development amazing. I resolved on that tour that I would be back and find out how this wonderful thing came about. After two research trips and countless hours spent with pastors and leaders in both the Protestant and Catholic communities, I have an answer. It is indeed the Holy Spirit who brings the people together! But the Holy Spirit uses people, people who are willing to give up their lives to bring the peace of Jesus Christ into a difficult area.
In Northern Ireland, one name kept popping up as I talked with folks about their spiritual journeys through the time of “The Troubles”: Keith Gerner. I met with Keith and his gracious wife Elsie several times and learned their remarkable story, our first for this project.
But there are more stories to be told. In the coming months we will post them here to inspire, inform and illustrate how faith and peace work together in the Kingdom of God.
By the way, my PhD is in Political Science from the University of Maryland, and while I teach government at a local college, I am also actively researching issues that involve faith and politics internationally. My paper on the Northern Ireland phenomenon was presented at the 2013 Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting.
I'm the project's techie. My education is in physics, management, and meteorology, and I work as a Senior Software Engineer in a weather and aviation activity of a major aerospace company. I have also taught statistics, science, and information technology, part time, for a couple of universities.
But that's not the definition of me. I'm first and foremost a Christian and an avid supporter of Janice Kathleen Harder, my wife. So I'm helping out with this project wherever I can. I maintain the website, but I'll be writing some of the stories as well.
One of the courses I have taught is called "Environmental Issues and Ethics". I am very concerned about this planet's environmental problems, particularly global climate change. So don't be surprised if some of the stories here turn out to be about people who are addressing those problems. A great many people do not realize that this is -- or should be -- an evangelical issue.
Genesis 2:15 (NLT) says, "The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it." Do we believe that? If so, then we should be watching over God's creation. In particular, as Colossians 1:20 points out, "and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross." Christ's work of reconciliation is supposed to be our work. That includes not only reconciliation of humanity, but all of creation.