Synod proposal: ‘Just Peace’ program needs a facelift

That’s the view of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries, which is suggesting a new course for the congregation-based Just Peace Program, a now-meandering movement that owes its birth to a 1985 General Synod resolution that, at the height of the U.S.-Soviet arms race, declared the UCC to be a “Just Peace Church” and called upon every setting of the church to do the same.

We live in a much different world than we did 20 years ago, the proposal claims.

“No true peace is possible without the presence of justice,” reads the proposed resolution. “… A more wholistic response to an increasingly complex world is required.”

“Another World is Possible: Building a Peace With Justice Movement” asks General Synod delegates, who will convene July 1-5 in Atlanta, to begin to understand the church’s many distinctive identity labels – “just peace,” “multiracial and multicultural,” “anti-racist,” “open and affirming,” “whole earth,” “accessible to all,” etc. – as part of a multi-issue “peace with justice movement.” The resolution also makes clear that even those churches and Conferences that have not adopted such identities should be viewed as “full and active partners in a peace with justice movement.”

In other words, the resolution implies, each piece of the UCC cloth is cut from a similar justice-oriented fabric – no matter what labels congregations choose or choose not to use when defining themselves.

All settings of the church need to “connect our historical justice-oriented identities into a multi-issue, multiracial and multicultural peace with justice movement,” the proposal states. It also seeks to align more closely the word “justice” with the peacemaking movement.

“We affirm the reality that peace cannot be possible if injustice of any kind exists,” it reads. “… Every effort to transform unjust conditions and social inequities contributes to the creation of a culture of non-violence and peace.”

Despite good intentions, the Just Peace program never became a multiracial, multicultural movement, says the Rev. Loey Powell of Justice and Witness Ministries, and it was often misunderstood, even criticized at times, for being a movement of liberal white churches, not the entire church.

If approved, the resolution would charge Justice and Witness Ministries with resourcing a revamped “Peace With Justice Movement” – one that builds bridges across existing constituency groups in the church in order to build a more-collaborative, multi-issue approach to justice and peace advocacy.

Powell said that, just last month, she received a call from the Rev. Sarah Campbell, pastor of Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis, who said her church wanted to inquire about becoming a “Just Peace Church.”

“They were about to vote on becoming ‘Just Peace’ but had become aware of our new emphasis on ‘Peace with Justice,” Powell said, “so she asked if it was alright if they voted to become a ‘Peace With Justice Church.'”

“I enthusiastically said ‘Yes!'” Powell said, “and so, in May, Mayflower UCC became the first ‘Peace With Justice Church.'”

Already, a new resource guide from JWM – “Another World is Possible: A Resource Guide for the Peace With Justice Movement in the UCC” – will be available through United Church Resources by early July. Regional gatherings are envisioned to bring UCC members together for “training, connecting and inspiration,” and an interactive website is being developed “so local churches can share with each other ideas, worship resources, models of advocacy and support,” the resolution states.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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