The Just Peace Church vision is a hallmark of United Church of Christ theological identity. For 30 years, the Just Peace Church pronouncement has inspired a grassroots movement of UCC congregations committed to corporately naming and boldly proclaiming a public identity as a justice-doing, peace-seeking church. The Just Peace pronouncement articulated the UCC position on war and peace distinct from other approaches such as crusade, pacifism, or “just war.” Grounded in UCC polity and covenantal theology, the position focuses attention on alleviating systemic injustice of all types using non-violence and calls us to offer the message, grounded in the hope of reconciliation in Jesus, that “Peace is possible.”
Justice and Witness Ministries is committed to a revitalized Just Peace Church movement and to empowering and resourcing congregations to create a stronger justice and peace witness. Now is the time to rekindle our commitment to Just Peace and make visible our longstanding witness to this approach. To do so, we will be working to update the list of Just Peace Churches in the UCC and will keep this site up to date with educational resources.
Does your church consider itself to be a Just Peace congregation? What is your church doing to live out its calling to be a Just Peace church? What does it mean to be a Just Peace Church in times like these? I hope you will take the time to update your church’s information on our site and offer your responses to these questions. Your energy and voice is needed to reinvigorate and shape the direction of our collective movement.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org and join us in conversation via Facebook and Twitter @JustPeaceUCC.
Just Peace Sunday - September 15, 2019
Just Peace Sunday 2019 is a call for lament. It is a call to mourn in the face of crisis and catastrophe. Only through genuine mourning and repentance in the face of our complicity in environmental degradation, can we as a global population ever be catalyzed into action. We must join with the prophet in Jeremiah chapter 4 in calling for contrition and transformation for both our actions and ignorance that have led to such a watershed moment in history.
Nonviolent Direct Action and Just Peace
Nonviolent action and civil resistance is effective. Nonviolent approaches include protests and boycotts, non-cooperation and direct intervention (civil disobedience), and other creative campaigns. All of these techniques require significant spiritual and practical preparation and training to be effective. Learn more about how nonviolent direction actions relate to our history as a Just Peace Church and find resources.
A Just Peace Handbook
In 2015, the 30th General Synod held in Cleveland, OH marked the UCC’s 30th anniversary as a Just Peace Church and called for a renewal of the UCC’s Just Peace witness. This booklet is intended to accompany this resolution and be a resource for all levels and areas of the church for further work and witness, especially to local congregations declaring or recommitting themselves as “Just Peace Churches.” This resource includes a summary of the historical and theological uniqueness of the Just Peace vision; the biblical and theological grounding for Just Peace values; and recommended steps for how to become a Just Peace Church. (Download.)
Download this document that summarizes the 10 step process for guiding a congregation through the Just Peace discernment process. Use this alongside the handbook and other resources that offer a deeper understanding of the history and practice of Just Peacemaking.
Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare
Shortly after 9/11, the U.S. began using armed drones, catching the attention of many people of faith and conscience concerned with Just Peace. The UCC has been part of an interfaith effort to raise awareness about this important issue through the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare. Now is the time for for you and your congregation to learn more about this issue and speak out with your members of congress about this abuse of technology.
Find video and study resources here: https://interfaithdronenetwork.org/
Destroyers or Healers? A look at American Drone Warfare
“Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word and my servant will be healed” - Matthew 8:5-13
During the Roman occupation, arguably no nation was more vile and threatening than the Romans who crucified thousands of innocent people for the sake of dominance. As a centurion in the Roman army the soldier in Matthew was directly responsible for reinforcing the idolatrous, oppressive, and murderous laws of the empire. By modern standards this centurion posed a clear and imminent threat to the Jewish people, but instead of calling in a heavenly strike against the centurion Jesus performed a distant healing. Such compassion from Jesus demonstrates that God’s policy is not that of a distant destroyer, but a distant healer. (Read more.)
Connect to the Just Peace Movement
Promoting a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel: A Guide for United Church of Christ Faith Leaders
To help local churches and conferences of the United Church of Christ live into the General Synod call to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the UCC Palestine/Israel Network has introduced a new resource guide that will help church leaders and ecumenical partners implement the 2015 resolution. Learn more and download the resource.
A tribute by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite on the Life and Witness of Glen H. Stassen
Glen H. Stassen, friend of Jesus and peacemaker, died on April 26, 2014. Glen was a well-known and beloved Christian Ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, and one of the primary architects of the paradigm of Just Peacemaking, as can be seen in the video clip above from a forthcoming documentary on this crucial fourth paradigm beyond Pacifism, Just War and Crusade. (Read more.)
What You Need To Know
In 1982, the State of North Carolina chose a poor predominantly African American community for the placement of a toxic waste landfill to dispose of PCBs illegally dumped along the roadway of fourteen counties. Residents of Warren County, North Carolina enlisted the support of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice (CRJ) to engage in a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.
In response to this experience, and from others across the nation, the CRJ commissioned a study to examine what was perceived at the time to be the intentional placement of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in communities inhabited mainly by African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, farm workers and the working poor. These groups were, and still are, particularly vulnerable because they are perceived as weak and passive citizens who will not fight back against the poisoning of their neighborhoods in fear that it may jeopardize jobs and economic survival.
In releasing the findings of the 1987 study written by Charles Lee, the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, CRJ Executive Director, referred to intentionally selecting communities of color for wastes disposal sites and polluting industrial facilities – essentially condemning them to contamination – as “environmental racism.” He called on the United Church of Christ to be a champion working for environmental justice across the nation and across the world.
Why Is Environmental Racism an Issue of Faith?
People of faith are called to care for all of our neighbors, regardless of their race, their income level, or their life circumstances. Jesus taught us this behavior in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was also a student of the Hebrew Scriptures where he learned to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Jesus did not discriminate or separate people into artificial groups, but rather declared that the Kingdom of God is available to all of God’s children.
Racism divides people and alienates them against each other based on ethnic origin or color, and environmental racism adds an additional degree of injustice upon people or communities. Since 1987, the environmental justice movement has been trying to address inequalities that are the result of human settlement, industrial contamination and unsustainable development. Through the Environmental Justice Office, the United Church of Christ seeks to educate congregations and communities and to assist groups in organizing, mobilizing and empowering themselves to take charge of their lives, their communities and their surroundings. We also seek to address the issues of power imbalances, political disfranchisement and lack of resources in order to facilitate the creation and maintenance of healthy, livable and sustainable communities.
In the conclusions of the landmark report Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987-2007, you will read that “people of color are found to be more concentrated around hazardous waste facilities than previously shown.” You will see that race matters. Place matters too. Unequal protection places communities of color at special risk. And polluting industries still follow the path of least resistance.
Climate change and global warming bring an additional peril to communities of color or poor communities all over the world. Many who live near the coasts or in lower-lying areas will be the first to feel the effects of rising temperatures and oceans. They will not have the resources to make choices that others can make and may lose their homes and their livelihoods and will be displaced as environmental refugees. Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf coast in 2005 was one of the most dramatic examples of what may occur in the future, as those who had no transportation or means of escaping the rising waters became refugees in their own city.
What You Can Do
The environmental justice movement is as much concerned about the environment as any of the traditional environmental groups. There is only one environment. The environmental justice movement is concerned about wetlands, birds and wilderness areas. It is also concerned, however, about urban habitats, about reservations, about the things that are happening on the US Mexican border, about children poisoned by lead in their own homes and about children playing in contaminated parks and playgrounds. The UCC is committed to keep bringing these issues to the attention of environmental groups, communities of faith, and the broader society. Here are a few suggestions about how you can become more aware of environmental racism and work for environmental justice:
- Organize a group from your faith community to take a tour of your city and map the neighborhoods, commercial areas, industrial sites, and environmental hazards. Get familiar with zoning laws and urban planning, and see if your community practices any forms of environmental racism.
- Organize a study group in your congregation that looks at the historic and current forms of environmental racism. Understand that discrimination is not always obvious and that it is present in social structures and local customs as much as it is present in individuals or organizations.
- Attend an Environmental Justice workshop sponsored by the UCC and take what you have learned back to your community.
- Join and support national or local organizations that seek to address environmental racism. If you belong to an organization that works to enhance the environment, help to make its members more aware of the issues and effects of environmental racism.
Links and Resources
What does Our Church’s Wider Mission Support?
Great for new board and mission committee members! This resource highlights work being done in the national setting which is supported by Our Church’s Wider Mission. Print and post for church bulletin boards, use in newsletters or on websites. Also great for stewardship and mission committees!
OCWM Brochure - Great for church members and church leaders. Order copies. Free.
OCWM Infographic – Great tool to share at Annual Meetings and Churches. Order copies. Free.
Take the UCC Environmental Justice Quiz!
1. Did you know that UCC ministers coined the phrase “environmental racism” and played a leading role in giving birth to the environmental justice movement in the 1980s?
During a six week campaign of civil disobedience in 1982, a movement was born that made national headlines and introduced the world to the issue of environmental racism. Learn more about this inspiring movement in which the UCC became the driving organizational force.
2. Did you know that the UCC has formed a special partnership with a leading climate organization called 350.org, so that church green teams are now becoming 350 affiliates?
Members of the United Church of Christ have often worked with 350.org in the pursuit of justice and shared goals. This informal, longstanding relationship is now being deepened through a pilot endeavor that encourages and invites UCC green teams to affiliate with 350. Read about this exciting undertaking.
3. Did you know that in places like Flint and Standing Rock the UCC has been actively involved in standing alongside those struggling for justice?
Solidarity is one form that love takes in the ministry of environmental justice. The goal is to find ways that local churches and members can actively support others who are facing environmental injustices. Read more about this important part of our work together.
4. Did you know that the UCC is building a powerful environmental network that stays connected through a blog and e-newsletter called The Pollinator?
The Pollinator is a digital platform of the UCC for the sharing of ideas and inspiration, so that we might become more fruitful in the pursuit of environmental justice. Its focus is the building of a faith-filled and faith-rooted movement for the care of creation. Read the Pollinator blog and sign-up for its newsletter.
5. Did you know that UCC churches are deepening and expanding their commitment to the environment by becoming Creation Justice Churches?
Whether it is taking on climate change or addressing the lead poisoning of children, environmental justice ministries could not have a higher purpose or calling than they do now. Join the movement and become a Creation Justice Church. Learn about the six steps for doing just that.
The United Church of Christ coin symbolizes the covenant relationship between the church and its chaplains serving in the Armed Forces, Department of Veterans Affairs and Federal Bureau of Prisons. It is presented as a mark of trust and an expression of gratitude.
The seal of the UCC is imprinted on one side of the coin. Around the seal is a sunburst, signifying that our church's inclusive expression of the Gospel is to "shine forth" in the chaplain's ministry. The words called, chosen, and sent forth to serve remind a chaplain that (s)he is called by God to this specialized ministry, chosen to represent the United Church of Christ, and sent forth to be God's servant in the service of others.
The reverse side of the coin bears the seals of the government entities to which the UCC chaplains are endorsed. In the center of the coin is a globe, surrounded by compass points, symbolizing that these ministries are provided in the U.S. and abroad. The words of appreciation on the outer ring acknowledge that government chaplains serve both God and country, creating a relationship that must always be held in dynamic tension.
Stillspeaking. It's the shorter form of "God is still speaking," a campaign by the United Church of Christ to remind us that God still has a lot more to say. Since 2004, Stillspeaking has worked with thousands of UCC churches and individuals across the country to make religion relevant again and to extend an extravagant welcome to all—because no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here. Here at the United Church of Christ.
In 2004, it was concluded that there was a present and real need for the United Church of Christ to spread its message of extravagant welcome which continues to historically re-shape our understanding of the Christian faith and proclamation. The UCC responded to this call and challenge with a new identity and marketing campaign to let all others know that anyone could find a spiritual home in the United Church of Christ, be strengthened and nurtured in their faith and be blessed to reach out to others with their God-given gifts and talents.
Today, under one collective identity, we can enthusiastically lift up that the UCC is a welcoming, justice-minded Christian community. At a time when religion is too often portrayed as narrow-minded and exclusive, many are raising their VOICES for an alternate vision:
- Where God is all-loving and inclusive
- Where the Church of Jesus Christ welcomes and accepts everyone as they are
- Where your mind is nourished as much as your soul
- Where Jesus the healer meets Jesus the revolutionary
- Where together we grow a just and peaceful world
The first Sunday in May has been designated Immigrant Rights Sunday within the United Church of Christ. Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries are urging congregations to lift up immigrants on this day: to learn about their concerns, honor their contributions to our country and communities, hear their pain, pray for their well-being, and listen to hear where God is leading us regarding issues of immigration.
Welcoming the stranger among us as native born is part of our faith tradition, for we too were once strangers (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33, Deuteronomy 10:17-19). However, too often the immigrants among us are rejected, treated as outcasts and placed on the margins of society.
May 1st is international Labor Day and has become a day in which we recognize the value and labor of immigrants in the U.S. On the first Sunday in May, congregations are encouraged to include stories about immigrants in their worship service and explore avenues to advocate for immigrant justice. Below are the most current issues this year on immigration with potential ways to get involved to limit deportations and unnecessary detention of immigrants.
Building Sanctuary For All... All of Us
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
- Explore our worship worship and prayer resources and start planning your congregations Immigrant Rights Sunday observances.
*If your congregation would like to get more involved on immigrants' rights advocacy and organizing efforts please contact Rev. Noel Andersen - mailto:email@example.com.
The Rev. Noel Andersen serves as UCC & CWS Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants' Rights in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the worship resources you find below, we have prepared and compiled sources Immigrant Rights Sunday which are useful anytime. They include sermons and reflections, prayers, orders of worship, and other worship elements.
- Biblical References to Immigration: A comprehensive listing of all Bible references to immigrants and refugees.
- Faith and Immigration (with Reflection Questions): A theological exploration of immigration and overview of the UCC’s General Synod’s thinking on this issue.
- And Who Do We Say We Are? sermon by Rev. Loey Powell, Aisnworth UCC, Portland OR
- "An Immigrant Rights Sunday sermon by Rev. Chuck Currie, First Congregational, Salem, Oregon
- Hearts that Long for Justice By Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas
- God’s Extravagant Welcome: Extending Citizenship by the Rev. John Thomas
- Our Response to Fear by the Rev. Daniel Romero
Theology of Immigration
Theological Reflections on Immigration by Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C. including:
- Dying to Live: Theology, Migration and the Human Journey
- Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees
- Dying to Live: Theology, Migration, and the Human Journey
The Rev. Alice Hunt: Love thy immigrant, column in Chicago Tribune
All hymns are from the New Century Hymnal
Tu has venido a la orilla (You have come down to the Lakeshore), #173
De Colores (Sing of Colors), #402
We are Marching in the Light of God, #526
We Are Not Our Own, #564
Lead Us From Death to Life, #581
Through all the world a hungry Christ, # 587