Turning the Church Toward Peace

What can the church do about violence in the homes, schools, and communities of America and about war in the world? Are we doomed to descend ever-deeper into rage on the road, revenge in the workplace, and ruin in the home? A new church-based initiative believes that the time has come for Christians in the United States and around the world to unite in search of a creative response to the problem of violence.

Every Church A Peace Church is a movement to nurture and organize the church's response to the global problem of violence. It is a call to Christians not only to believe in Jesus, but to believe Jesus when he says "blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see justice prevail"; "blessed are the peacemakers"; and "love your enemies." It is a call to action based on this simple proposition: The church could turn the world toward peace if every congregation lived and taught as Jesus lived and taught.

Looking at the church's historical record and present performance, one could ask, Does anyone really believe that the church could turn the world toward peace? Every Church A Peace Church aims to give voice to those Christians who do believe that the church could turn the world toward peace. It structures a broad and energizing conversation with Christians and churches open to the possibility of uniting belief and action. It is a vision of transforming cultures of violence into cultures of peace through the power of nonviolence.

Every Church A Peace Church is an initiative of the historic peace churches, numerous denominations, and peace fellowships to develop a global network of creative nonviolence across the entire Christian spectrum. It taps underutilized resources such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of active nonviolence, moving that legacy in Christian thinking from a museum piece to a plan of action.

THE PLAGUE OF VIOLENCE that afflicts the world at the beginning of the third millennium poses a challenge of survival to humanity and a test of authenticity to Christians. The church tends to observe rather than act, too often relying on old formulas about just war, or violence as a last resort. Meanwhile, a wide range of resorts other than violence are not sought, understood, or implemented.

Every Church A Peace Church asks the questions that are usually avoided and opens a path to resources that too often remain hidden. ECAPC is less an organization than an idea; more a vision than a campaign. It is a way of being church that can begin today and continue indefinitely, accessible to anyone ready to begin.

Regional briefing meetings have been held in the Bronx, Chicago, and Akron, Pennsylvania. Additional briefings will be held this year where there are interested hosts in different regions of the county. A national conference in Minnesota this spring introduced the idea to diverse denominations, peace fellowships, theological schools, and individuals.

The movement uses a Web site (www. ecapc.org), two-person partnerships, and small groups to explore the meaning of "peace church" in a culture of violence. The Web site presents materials for individuals to take steps toward making the church a model culture of peace. The approach is highly grassroots and democratic, using Jesus' question: "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4).

A simple relationship called Peace Church Partners is the key structure of the vision. Individuals who are interested in ECAPC are invited to acknowledge that they cannot do it alone-they need help-and to find one other person to share their intention to imitate Jesus' way of being in the world. In a process of conversation and deepening relationship, these two people begin to discern the implications of Every Church A Peace Church for their lives, their church, and the global church. Mary's visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1, two pregnant women together, is suggested as the biblical model.

Small groups, some modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program, are the second recommended action step. Acknowledging debilitating addiction to a culture of consumerism, racism, and militarism, individuals find resources to form small groups for discernment, prayer, action, and accountability. Small groups, like Jesus' 12 apostles, will address the prevailing addiction to what Walter Wink has called "the Domination System."

John K. Stoner, coordinator of New Call to Peacemaking, promotes Every Church A Peace Church from his home in Akron, Pennsylvania.

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