Feed aggregator

A 'Just Peace' future: Part 3

United Church of Christ - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 3:49pm

Each year on September 21 the World Council of Churches (WCC) calls churches and parishes to observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace. September 21 is also the United Nations-sponsored International Day of Peace. The United Church of Christ is one of the WCC's 349 member churches.

Michael Neuroth, the UCC's policy advocate for international issues, has authored this third article (of a three part series) in response to national and international efforts at creating renewed interest in the tenets of "Just Peace" within faith communities.

Parts one and two in the series were authored by Susan Thistlethwaite.


In March of this year, the central committee of the World Council of Churches commended for study, reflection, and common action a new “Ecumenical Call to Just Peace.” The document calls on Christians around the world to “commit themselves to the Way of Just Peace.” 

The document was affirmed by the participants of the recent International Ecumenical Peace Convocation which took place in May, 2011 in Kingston Jamaica under the theme “Glory to God and Peace on Earth.”

Several UCC members attended the event reflecting various aspects of the church. Michael Neuroth, Justice and Witness Ministries’ Policy Advocate on International Issues, helped to coordinate the delegation and was asked to reflect on the future of Just Peace in the context of this event and hopes for the continuing work of Just Peace in the United Church of Christ.

A Prophetic Past – A Promising Future

Since returning in May from the first ever International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Kingston Jamaica, I have become even more convinced of two things:

First, I am convinced that Susan Thistlethwaite and the rest of the Peace Theology Development Team were way ahead of their time in advocating for the concept of Just Peace as a fourth way beyond the paradigms of Crusade, Just War, and Pacifism. I am thankful for the work of these and other leaders in the UCC who helped shape the UCC’s legacy as a Just Peace church and who have continued this work in various forms since then.

Not surprisingly The Just Peace Companion document, released by the WCC to accompany the “Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” statement, recognizes the contribution of the UCC to Just Peace by bookending its document with reference to the 1985 UCC synod pronouncement in its first paragraph and as its final appendix. For the past twenty-seven years, the Just Peace identity of the United Church of Christ has helped inspire what is now becoming an ecumenical consensus and affirmation of a way of addressing peace and justice by churches worldwide.

Second, I am convinced that both as a tradition and set of practices, Just Peace contains incredible promise for both the UCC, and the future of the ecumenical movement. In a second part to this article, I will develop more on way in which I currently see (and also hope to see) Just Peace being rekindled in the UCC. I think it is important also draw attention to the importance of the recent IEPC conference, its affirmation of Just Peace, and what this means for the future of the ecumenical movement.

The Decade to Overcome Violence

 The WCC’s work on peacemaking over the past decade was centered in the “Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV)” program. This effort began in 2001 and was intended as a way of strengthening and connecting existing work for preventing and overcoming violence, as well as a vehicle for inspiring new ones. Its goal was to shift concern for peace and justice from the margins to the center of the church and ecumenical movement and draw attention to the many interconnected forms of violence that must be identified and ended as a precursor to peace.

During a decade in which by most indicators the world took a sharp turn toward becoming an even more violent place (9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocide in Darfur, ballooning military budgets, desecration of the Earth, etc.) the achievements of the Decade to Overcome Violence are especially worth noting to show alternative facts on the ground.

Because of the work of the DOV, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was founded, an annual International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDOPP) tradition began, and “Living Letter” delegations of church leaders from regions plagued by violence shared stories of hope with the world, among other efforts. In addition to these programs, increasing networks and continued witness to the need for churches to bring peace and justice more into focus will be part of the DOV’s legacy.

This renewed emphasis on the interconnection between justice and peace on the part of the DOV was one of many factors that inspired the vision for an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) and identification of Just Peace as the way forward.

An Ecumenical Consensus

Peace has been central to the ecumenical movement from its very beginning. At the WCC’s founding Assembly following WWII in 1948, participants affirmed unapologetically, “War is Contrary to the will of God.” Since 1948 churches have sought to continue this commitment in various assemblies and programs, such as the DOV or the earlier focus on “Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation” which was affirmed at the 1983 Vancouver Assembly.

At the IEPC conference in Jamaica, participants issued a very similar statement to the one issued in 1948. In the outcome document for the conference, participants affirmed, “We are unified in ouraspiration that war should become illegal." For some this aspirational statement may seem unrealistic, even unhelpful. Yet it is a statement that is consistent with the history and values of the ecumenical movement- a movement which at its heart calls for unity among churches for the purpose of a more peaceful world.

The “Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” remains a call, an invitation for churches to consider the principles and practices of Just Peace as a way to collectively bring about the world God calls us to create. According to the Just Peace vision, that peace is contingent upon seeking peace in all areas of life including:

  • Peace in the Community- so that all may live free from fear
  • Peace with the Earth - so that life is sustained
  • Peace in the Marketplace–so that all may live with dignity
  • Peace among the Peoples–so that human lives protected

It is hoped that at its next Assembly in 2013, the 349 member churches of the WCC gathered in Korea under the theme “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace”, will issue a declaration on Just Peace and outline steps for collaboration and practice. However, a WCC Declaration on Just Peace, like so many other declarations or pronouncements, is only as important or valued as the commitments made because of it and efforts that follow to live it out.

A Way Forward

For some denominations, the call to Just Peace will be new and challenging as they stretch their theological understanding beyond the paradigms of Just War and Pacifism. For the United Church of Christ, however, the way of Just Peace is a path familiar to us.

We have over twenty-five years exploring theologically and in practice the intersection of justice concerns such as racism, poverty, environmental devastation, discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, and other issues and their relationship to peace

 For the UCC, our challenge will be to go beyond simply affirming such a direction taken up by the WCC and partner churches, and take a closer look at at the way in which a rekindling of Just Peace is needed in our own churches and throughout the denomination as a whole. The UCC has much to contribute to this effort, and much to gain in terms of global partnerships in our shared calling and work to create a world of Just Peace.

Fortunately, I believe that the increased interest in and affirmation of Just Peace is not only on the part of the international ecumenical community. I see signs of increased interest emanating from within the UCC as well. Reflecting on these signs will be the focus of a forthcoming article for this series on Just Peace. Although the UCC has walked a distance down the path of Just Peace, the Ecumenical Call to Just Peace invites us to anew to walk in step with the global church, asking God to “Guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)


UCC Daily Devotional - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 11:00pm

Quinn G. Caldwell

Esther is a Jewish woman living in the Persian Empire.

Commentary: Not This Tax Reform

United Church of Christ - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 12:00pm

As Congress takes up a long-promised bill to reform our federal taxes, we are once again thrust into a very loud, very confusing conversation that will undoubtedly produce more heat than light.

Old and New

UCC Daily Devotional - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 11:00pm

Mary Luti

Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) was a Congregational minister, entrepreneur, and antiquarian. Appalled by the shoddiness of machine-made things, he championed old things made by hand. 


Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:51pm
This report brings together analysis of survey and demographic data from various previously published Pew Research Center reports. It also includes new analysis of the religious beliefs and practices of Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia and historical data on the distribution of Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants around the world. Attitudinal data was collected through nationally […]


Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:51pm
This report was produced by Pew Research Center as part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Future project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world. Funding for the Global Religious Futures project comes from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation. This report is a collaborative effort based on […]

4. Orthodox take socially conservative views on gender issues, homosexuality

Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:51pm
On environmentalism and homosexuality, Orthodox Christians are largely united in their views. Most Eastern Orthodox Christians – whose spiritual leader, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, has been called the “Green Patriarch” – favor environmental protection, even at the expense of economic growth. And the vast majority of Orthodox Christians say homosexuality should be discouraged by society, though […]

3. Orthodox Christians support key church policies, are lukewarm toward reconciling with Roman Catholic Church

Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:51pm
A host of disputes – ranging from theological to political – have divided Orthodoxy from Catholicism for nearly 1,000 years. But while some leaders on both sides have tried to resolve them, fewer than four-in-ten Orthodox Christians in the vast majority of countries surveyed say they favor their church reconciling with the Roman Catholic Church. […]

2. Orthodox Christians are highly religious in Ethiopia, much less so in former Soviet Union

Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:51pm
Orthodox Christians around the world display widely varying levels of religious observance. For example, while just 6% of Orthodox Christians in Russia say they attend church on a weekly basis, a large majority of Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia (78%) say they do this. Indeed, by several standard measures of religious observance, Orthodox Christians living in […]

1. Orthodox Christianity’s geographic center remains in Central and Eastern Europe

Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:51pm
While the worldwide population of all non-Orthodox Christians has virtually quadrupled since 1910, the Orthodox population has merely doubled, from approximately 124 million to 260 million. And as the geographical center of the overall Christian population has shifted since 1910 from its centuries-old European base into developing nations in the Southern Hemisphere, most Orthodox Christians […]

Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century

Pew Forum Religious News Headlines - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:50pm
Concentrated in Europe, Orthodox Christians have declined as share of the global Christian population, from 20% in 1910 to 12% today. But the Ethiopian community is highly observant and growing.

Truth and Tradition

UCC Daily Devotional - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:00pm

Kenneth L. Samuel

My Pentecostal/Holiness upbringing was full of religious traditions and restrictions.

Commentary: Mourning the Lives Lost at Sutherland Springs

United Church of Christ - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 6:38am

As we learned of the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we mourned with this body of believers, this town, and our nation. 

Just Like Us

UCC Daily Devotional - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:00pm

Bob Thompson

Elijah is one of the most theatrical and mysterious figures in the Bible. 

Broken Hearts

UCC Daily Devotional - Sun, 11/05/2017 - 11:00pm

William H. Armstrong

Like an old broken record that keeps playing the same tune, the verse about the brokenhearted is constantly replaying in my mind.

November 5, 2017: Proper 26 (31) (Year A)

Lectionary Readings - Sun, 11/05/2017 - 12:00am
Joshua 3:7-17 and Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 * Micah 3:5-12 and Psalm 43 * 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 * Matthew 23:1-12


UCC Daily Devotional - Sat, 11/04/2017 - 11:00pm

Tony Robinson

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The Weightier Matters

UCC Daily Devotional - Fri, 11/03/2017 - 10:00pm

Richard L. Floyd

Jesus was quick to spot religious hypocrisy.

Rethinking Veterans Day a way better to articulate love of neighbors with military service

United Church of Christ - Fri, 11/03/2017 - 1:00pm

Three ministers with military ties, noting the upcoming Nov. 11 holiday, are encouraging congregations to 'Rethink Veterans Day,' and find ways as a faith community to care for our service members on Veterans Day and every day. 

Harlot or Hotel Owner: What's in a Name?

UCC Daily Devotional - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 10:00pm

Talitha Arnold

"Rahab the Harlot." That's what I first learned about the woman of Jericho who saved the lives of the two Israelite spies. Perhaps you did, too. 

Syndicate content