Today the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly was all about peace.
Our general secretary Stan Noffsinger represented the peace churches in the plenary session. When he stood on the plenary stage with an Iranian Christian, as an American church leader, he bridged the divide between our two countries. The Iranian woman spoke of the suffering of the ordinary people because of the sanctions against Iran, which are supported by the US. In reply, Stan said, “What courage to speak truth to power,” and he added a personal expression of confession: “May God have mercy on our souls.” It was an emotional and powerful moment.
Then Brethren staff–Stan and Nate Hosler from the Office of Public Witness–joined colleagues in other US churches who are working on peacemaking to lead a “madang” workshop. Yet more powerful moments, as they talked about the foundations of being just peacemakers in the American context, and answered questions about the peace churches’ theological foundations.
The afternoon business session brought a statement on just peace to the floor. Nate, who has been working on the Public Issues Committee, was chosen to introduce the document and read aloud the introduction and recommendations. There was not time to finalize it in today’s business session but the delegate body gave great affirmation to the recommendations. It is expected to be adopted tomorrow.
The peace churches met together this evening, with the primary topic of how to support conscientious objectors in South Korea, who face an 18 month prison sentence when they refuse to go into the military. A young Korean CO came to the meeting and spoke fervently, requesting the help of international brothers and sisters to change the situation. Mennonites report that there are some 700 conscientious objectors in prison in South Korea. The group signaled their support and commitment to work on the issue with Koreans.
Peace church delegates also wrote a dissent for the official record, made necessary when an amendment to include the plight of COs in a statement on peace in the Korean peninsula was rejected in the business session.
These kinds of meetings seem so valuable and important that a discussion has started about creating an international gathering of peace church representatives.
Peace for a day, but a WCC Assembly happens only once every seven or eight years. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do this more often!
— Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren