Hourly Prayers for Peace

Brothers and sisters, my apologies for not getting these on the blog in a more timely manner. Below are the first set of hourly prayer updates on this International Day of Prayer for Peace. May the peace of Christ be with you.

8pm EST – As you close the day, pray that the peace that started in these prayers today is only the start, laying the foundation for a peaceful world.

7pm EST – Pray for our mission workers around the world, that they might carry the peace of Christ w/ them, helping build a world of peace.

6pm EST – Pray for the peace of the church-for your church, for your communion, for the body of Christ-that we might walk in the way of Christ.

5pm EST – Pray for all of those who have been impacted by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as by terrorism and the war on terrorism globally.

4pm EST – Pray for the influence of violence on our children and youth. Be an example for them, that they might know another way of living.

3pm EST – In this hour, pray for those who continue to suffer from domestic violence and the violence of sexual exploitation.

2pm EST – As millions are impacted by disaster-man made & natural-pray & act to seek sustainable living w/ God’s creation. http://t.co/BkLNxtt4

1pm EST – As millions go jobless & live in a life of systematic poverty & hunger, pray that we might transform systems of injustice around us.

12pm EST – This hour, say a prayer for #TroyDavis, all of those on death row, & this country that continues to seek vengeance through violence.

11am EST – Pray for #Obama, as he speaks at the UN & meets w/ Israeli and Palestinian leadership. And seek mid-east peace – http://t.co/CTB79IiJ

10am EST – This hour, pray for the peace of your family-whoever that is. Pray that they may find the peace they each need, and peace with one another.

9am EST – Move from the peace within, to extend it to your immediate surroundings. Pray for the peace of the person standing next to you.

8am EST – Start this #IDOPP by seeking your own peace. Begin by praying for the peace you need within. Loving your enemies begins with loving yourself.

A Word on Peace and Advocacy

I shared this reflection this morning as a part of the peacemaking reports at Annual Conference, and thought it would be appropriate to share it here, too.

Sisters and brothers, it is truly a honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to address you this morning. There has been an awful lot of referencing of past Annual Conference statements throughout the course of our time together – a practice I would very much like to affirm, and add my voice to. I want you to hear these words from our 1977 Statement, “Justice and Nonviolence”:

“We cannot retreat from the world. We are to move from where we are to where God’s power and purpose have begun to define new possibilities and new necessities. We must become aware of the rampant injustice and subtle hidden violence in today’s world, examine our own involvement, and identify non-violently with the oppressed and suffering.

We must develop a theology of living here and now in the spirit of the kingdom. We look toward a future that will be more peaceful, just, and respectful of God’s creation. We who are of the body of Christ, an incarnation of God’s reconciling and redeeming love in the world; are called to be a channel of God’s loving justice. Wherever brokenness among people exists, we are called to participate in God’s work of healing; wherever people suffer from oppression, we are to work for God’s act of liberation; and wherever people are deprived of basic human needs and opportunities we are called to God’s work of humanization. We are called to live the life of God’s agape in the world because Christ is our Lord.”

I start with these words because in my mind, they are the foundation of the work that comes out of the Peace Witness Ministry office in Washington, DC. Sisters and brothers, we have heard, particularly yesterday, of the witness that we as the Church of the Brethren bring to the ecumenical community on issues relating to peace – in the affirmation of our witness by the World Council of Churches in calling violence contrary to the will of God, in the National Council of Churches seeking our guidance on the issuance of a statement on the war in Afghanistan, and in Sister Ruth’s report in our deep input in the Decade to Overcome Violence.

But I also start with these words because they represent the challenge that the ecumenical community’s witness brings before us – a new challenge for us in how we approach the gospel of peace – a push and a challenge to not only witness against war and violence, but to better preach what we are for.Are we willing to hear not only the acceptance of our message of peace by the ecumenical community, but the challenge they bring to us in the midst of their acceptance? Are we ready to more actively seek a just peace – even when it might make us a bit uncomfortable? When it might challenge the standards and the reality that we have gotten used to?

We are indeed a historic peace church, and a living peace church. One that has effectively, and continually, provided a witness against war – both in general and in the specific. Often, this has taken the form of a witness of conscientious objection – standing before our fellow citizens and publically saying, no. We will not fight. It is not the way of Christ or the will of God. It has been a powerful witness to the world – especially as we have engaged in alternative forms of service, a practice that continues today.

But what I believe our 1977 statement, and the witness of the ecumenical community is pushing us toward is to reconsider what it means to be a conscientious objector to war and violence, publically, in our world today. What does it really mean to be a living, breathing, just peace church? I think we see this in the 4 areas that the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation addressed.  Peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace with the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. This is also why our presence in Washington, DC, is called Peace Witness Ministry.

Because, sisters and brothers, when we speak on issues pertaining to justice, we are being conscientious objectors to the violence in our world today, and doing the work of peace. When we engage in the federal budget conversation currently going on, as we did recently in a letter that read, in part, “The unprecedented and dangerous cuts to discretionary domestic programs and poverty-focused foreign assistance will jeopardize the lives and well-being of millions now and into the future. These deep and unwise spending cuts are a betrayal of our call to love our neighbor. Our faith points our nation to “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) that bears one another’s burdens, acknowledges our interdependence, and compels sacrifice and love for our neighbors in need. We therefore urge you to reject proposed cuts that would undermine domestic and international efforts to help those who are struggling to overcome poverty”, we are conscientiously speaking words of peace in the community and the marketplace.

When we address issues relating to crises in Creation – such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as we did in a letter that read in part, “Communities of faith will continue to work to fulfill the commitment we made following Katrina: to stand with others for the common good, to engage in acts of philanthropic justice and loving kindness, and to embody the belief that we share a responsibility for ensuring we leave our nation and our world better for our children. We urge you to follow through on your commitment to the Gulf Coast by doing all you can to guarantee that the oil spill response effort is comprehensive, effective, and just, meeting the needs of those suffering today while laying a foundation for long-term restoration and renewal”, we are speaking words of peace to the entirety of Creation.

When we speak out on issues relating to the Middle East, as we did in both a visit to the White House, and a letter to the Obama Administration that read, “Like Jesus’ parable about the persistent widow who kept on demanding justice over and again until justice was received (Luke 18:1-8), we hope that you will keep insisting over and again that all parties keep up the hard work of reconciliation until a just and lasting peace is achieved”, we are speaking words of peace among the peoples.

However, this is not just a challenge for our broad, public statements as a denomination to members of Congress or the Administration. Both myself and Brother Stan have taken meetings with Members of Congress and the Administration, and signed letters on behalf of the Church of the Brethren. However, those words, meetings, and letters bear only as much weight as our collective body is willing to put behind it. To be frank, no member of Congress cares what I have to say when I step into their office unless you are also willing to contact them. Sisters and brothers, this is the challenge that is before us as we consider what it means to be a body that actively seeks to publically live peace in our world today. Are we willing to take stands together against violence as it is perpetuated around us?

Are we willing to speak out against the systems of economic violence that keep so many embroiled in a reality of hunger and poverty – even when it may challenge the relative comfort in which so many of us live? Are we willing to speak out against the systems of environmental violence that are wreaking havoc on God’s people and God’s Creation around the world – even if it might mean life might be a bit less convenient for all of us? I pray that we are. It is why the largest part of what Peace Witness Ministries is is not about doing ministry on your behalf – but by entering into the ministry of peace witness with you. It is why an action alert is sent out every week – encouraging you to speak to your government the vision of peace that God has for this world. It is why fact sheets, worship resources, and, well, myself (I do love to get out of DC) are being made available to make considering a new way of being a conscientious objector is integral to the life of you as a Christian and your church. And it is why opportunities to come to DC and provide personal witness are consistently being promoted.

I want to close with more words from the 1977 paper:

“Our understanding of the mind of Christ demands of us vigorous non-violent involvement and identification with the poor and the oppressed, all the while acknowledging our limitation and confessing our complicity in the evils addressed. We also recognize that these problems (evils) are massive, complex, and ambiguous and that we lack perfect knowledge. We believe, however, that Christian discipleship demands decision and action to help achieve greater justice and peace in our time.

We must face the risks and vigorously implement the love of God in our political, economic, and social relations. The consequences of our decisions and actions may be as costly as when Jesus was accused of political subversion and was executed. We need faith, moral courage, and love as revealed in Jesus Christ and lived out in the faith community.

Our own faith community cannot escape its responsibility to act for justice, liberation, and peace. It is imperative for us as a church to pursue further biblical and theological reflection and study about the meaning of God’s justice for concrete action in our homes, churches, communities, and nation. Brethren ought to assume leadership in their communities to bring concerned persons together from other churches and secular agencies for study, action, and reflection around these concerns. District boards and executives should lift up the vision and develop projects for both district and local programs. Placement of leadership should be influenced by criteria related to the commitment of candidates to justice, liberation, and peace. In order to help generate wider support for needed change in systems we should use all available communications media to expose problems, raise awareness, and suggest transforming action.”

It is my hope, and my prayer, that you will join the Peace Witness Ministry Office in this work, and with each step of conscience we take together, that we may bring God’s vision for this world into slightly better focus. Thank you, sisters and brothers.

A Challenge for Us

Last night, we had a 2nd gathering of the Historic Peace Churches here in Kingston – to talk about what we had heard, what we were taking back, and what our next steps were as people following the Prince of Peace.

There was lots of affirmation for our acceptance and large presence within this ecumenical gathering. In fact, I don’t think a day passed without a member of the Historic Peace Churches on the plenary stage – bringing our voice of pacifism and active nonviolence. It was a powerful thing to witness and see.  It was also named that we are a voice that has often been on the side of the ecumenical movement – speaking to it, but not often being heard. It has certainly felt good to be heard.

However, it is more than that for us now. For this ecumenical gathering marks not only an acceptance of the message the peace churches have been preaching, but a new challenge for us in how we approach the gospel of peace – a push and a challenge to not only witness against war and violence, but to better preach what we are for.

Are we willing to hear not only the acceptance of our message of peace by the ecumenical community, but the challenge they bring to us in the midst of their acceptance? Are we ready to more actively seek a just peace – even when it might make us a bit uncomfortable? When it might challenge the standards and the reality that we have gotten used to?

I certainly hope so. It is the way of peace. It is the work of following Jesus. It is the embodiment of another way of living.

Unity for Peace Sake

This is a phrase I will be taking home from this place. I have heard it a couple of times, and then got into a couple of good conversations around it yesterday, as we considered the concept of peace among the peoples, and how that plays out in our global community of nations.

For so long, the ecumenical movement has been about making manifest the unity we find in Christ. We have been about unity for, well, unity’s sake. But the question was raised here, what exactly are we seeking to live out our given unity for? And the reminder that we have been given is that it is so that the world will know.

We are called to be one in Christ, to seek our given unity as a Christian community, to offer a different example of life to the world, a different model of community and living with one another. We are called to seek unity for peace’s sake. That we can show to the world what it means like to live “God’s Security Strategy”. That is what is truly at the heart of the ecumenical movement. To be a body seeking to live out our unity so that we are a witness to the world of the vision God has.

And this gets made manifest in a number of different ways that we heard here yesterday. It is made manifest in the church serving as an early warning mechanism in places where violence is beginning – being connected to the community in ways the government just isn’t. It is made manifest through delegations of church leaders speaking to our governments, and laying out the alternative vision of security that we find in Christ.

But it is also in being willing to ask tough questions, like the one I am going to leave you with here. What does relying on the ability to kill millions of others for our security do to our souls?

Lets seek to live out our unity for the sake of peace in our world.

Household of God

Our theme for today is Peace Among the Peoples, and we once again started with bible study and worship.  For bible study, we focused on Ephesians 2:11-22. Below are some excerpts:

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace  […] so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God […] in him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; into whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”

Bible study this morning offered the church an interesting challenge – why do we always carry ministry to those on the margins of society – when often it is those who have, who are deeply  imbedded in our society the most, who need the voice of the gospel the most.  As we think the church as an example of the alternative community –  a beacon of the world God desires  and united in our common citizenship in the household of God – how do we witness in the different places in which we find ourselves?

In the United States, and for the Church of the Brethren, this strikes me as meaning that the mission fields are not in the global south, or with those communities are struggling (mission field in the sense of conversion – doing service in partnership with them is still vital), but rather with those around us who are so deeply embedded in a society that keeps people hungry and in poverty, which perpetuates the structures of economic colonialism, and which has so much while so many have so little. Brothers and sisters – how do we witness to them? To our neighbors? It is harder to do this work when the mission field, the people needing conversion, might be those who live right next door, instead of an “other” halfway around the world.

Peace in the Marketplace

“While refugees go homless
and die before they live,
while children have no future –
our apathy forgive!
Where hope fades to drperession,
despair erodes the soul,
restore in us a passion
to make the broken whole.”

– From Great God of Earth and Heaven

Those words were part of a hymn we sang during closing prayers yesterday – marking the end of a day that may see the most difficult conversations for US participants – peace in the marketplace. To hear stories of what our economic vitality has brought to the rest of the world – environmental degradation, exploitation of workers, and colonialist economics … it is hard to hear that the way in which we live, the products which we choose to buy, the stocks our pension funds invest in – pretty much everything which economically sustains our lives – wreaks havoc on the rest of the world.

If we are to be a church that seeks peace, we must address the way in which we interact with the world in the marketplace. And not just our governments – it is about the individual decisions we all make. It might be a little more expensive, it might take a little more time and research, but we can make good decisions in the consumer marketplace that support fair wages and treatment of workers around the world, that support not exploiting resources, and more. And when we start to speak through our decisions, the government will start to take notice.

We prayed these words last night:

“This evening we remember before God the people of the world who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, for bread and dignity. And we hold up before God the peacemakers who build harmony and right relationships after the pattern of The One who has made peace by the blood of His cross, even Jesus our Liberator and Redeemer.”

May we be those peacemakers.

Dancing for Peace

I have to say, I was grabbed by the energy in this space – especially yesterday afternoon and evening. I attended two workshops – one was on the future of the global ecumenical peace conversation once we leave Jamaica. And, well, once the organizing structure of the Decade to Overcome Violence ends. Friends, we have work to do. We have named over the past 10 years – as a united church, the problems of various kinds of violence in different corners of our globe. We have also named what it would look like to be a church that is seeking a Just Peace. Now the question is – do we have the prophetic voice and action to actually live into it? To continue these conversations and see them produce fruitful action, that can further the inbreaking of God’s kin-dom all over this world?  From the gist of this conversation – from friends in the Mennonite Church, the ELCA, the WCC, from a Bishop in Europe and a pastor in Africa …. the energy, the passion, the drive is there. Are we ready to join that dance as the Church of the Brethren? To offer our mouths, our hands, and our feet to actually seeking to build a world of just peace?

And then last night, dance is exactly what we did. Kingston treated us to a night of live music in Emancipation Park – called a concert for peace. We had everything from soul style gospel music, to reggae, to folk, to amazing dancing. And the folks at the IEPC were dancing in the isles – for hours on end. Friends, there is an energy here – an energy that this kind of work, this kind of work seeking peace in our world, is exactly the kind of witness the church needs to bring. That the church needs to be about. That is no longer just the domain of the historic peace churches, but that the rest of our brothers and sisters in Christ are dancing right along with us. So, the question that is before us – how will we join the dance?

Peace With Creation

This one seems pretty straight forward at first glance – as the IEPC moves into its day that focuses on peace with all of God’s Creation, or peace with the earth. We need to care for the creation God has blessed us with, right? We need to be caretakers of the garden.

But this gets a bit harder when it gets into the weeds, particularly for those of us from the West. This summer, the CoB will entertain an Annual Conference Resolution on Climate Change – which is a good first step. But living in partnership with creation means so much more than just installing some solar panels, recycling more, or driving a Prius. It is about the totality of the way in which we live.

Are we willing to consider that we need to radically change the way we live? That in order to really bring peace to this world, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror, and consider that the standard of living to which we are accustom is not sustainable? That we should not support companies from the United States buying water rights in India, and charging people there for access? That we shouldn’t allow companies to set up factories in the United States and around the world in poor communities, communities that have no voice, and destroy their environment – bringing them poor health?

As the handbook says for today, “violence against the earth is violence against life, the future of life.” Are we ready, as the Church of the Brethren, to own this part of our responsibility for peace?  Or, as a friend of mine once said, can you really be a pacifist and drive a Hummer?

Seeking Peace in the Community

Our day today began with prayer – and then moved into a radical bible study. Looking at 2nd Samuel 13:1-22, we considered what this text means for seeking peace in the community? What kind of example does it lay out? What is the context in which we should read it?  What does it say to us about the violence that exists within our communities today?

Our opening plenary moved to develop that question even more – as we heard from a Palestinian Christian, a woman from the Indian Dalit community, and other human rights activists about the struggles of their communities.  What does it say about us as a church that we allow these, and other, forms of discrimination to exist within our midst?

Today, from the bible study to the plenary, was a stark reminder that if we are going to be a church that seeks a Just Peace, we must address the violence that is hidden within our own walls – violence against those we label “other”, and those who are marginalized by the systems in which we exits. As the Just Peace Handbook phrased the question, “The challenge, therefore, is: what do we, as churches, peace activists, and movements, have to offer as alternative models of community? How do we encourage and ensure our communities to be open, just, and inclusive?”

For me, it starts with being willing to preach the rape of Tamar, and listen to its implications. What about you?

Live from the IEPC

Greetings from Kingston, and the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation! There are 6 Brethren here, gathered with almost 700 of our ecumenical friends from around the world. I will be getting online as often as I can, and offering updates during the week. Today, we recieved a recap of the decade, and a call for work to be done. But what I want to point your attention to today comes from the Just Peace companion – a document given to us to study before we arrived.

In this document, they list 7 commitments all people in a society should make so all can enjoy a good life. There are:

  1. I commit myself to cultivate a personal and family spirituality of love and nonviolence
  2. I commit myself to respect and protect the dignity of human life in all its forms as well as to the care of creation
  3. I commit myself to practice nonviolence in all my family relations, rejecting physical, verbal, and psychological mistreatment
  4. I commit myself, in love toward my neighbor, to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent fashion
  5. I commit myself to build solidarity and to work towards an alternative economy that promotes holisitic and sustainable human development
  6. I commit myself to not carry arms nor participate in militaristic projects
  7. I commit myself to place my gifts, talents, abilities, time and resources at the service of constructing a society of life, justice and peace through nonviolent action

Are you ready to make those commitments? As the journey continues here this week, be sure to follow along – there will be live streaming at www.oikumene.org, and join us in prayer on Sunday, during World Peace Sunday.