Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peacemaking and the unity of the church

In a pair of 2009 posts on this blog I gave attention to aspects of the ecumenical theology of the late Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder (see "John Howard Yoder on the ecumenical potential of 'gathered church' ecclesiologies" and "A non-Baptist (though a McClendon lower-case 'b' 'baptist') perspective on Baptists and ecumenism"). One of Yoder's contributions to the worldwide ecumenical movement as a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches was his insistence that the church's stance on violence and peace cannot be overlooked as a matter that must be addressed before the divided churches can move toward full visible unity. The Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, India in 1961 issued what is now regarded as the classic definition of the visible unity sought by the ecumenical movement. Drafted by Methodist theologian Albert Outler (1908-1989), the statement reads:

We believe that the unity which is both God’s will and his gift to his Church is being made visible as all in each place who are baptized into Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord and Savior are brought by the Holy Spirit into one fully-committed fellowship, holding the one apostolic faith, preaching the one Gospel, breaking the one bread, joining in common prayer, and having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all and who at the same time are united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages, in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all, and that all can act and speak together as occasion requires for the tasks to which God calls his people [emphasis added].

It goes without saying that the church is not currently ready to act and speak together regarding issues of violence. The Baptist World Alliance, however, took a small step in that direction during its annual gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week in adopting a resolution encouraging Baptists to learn the “ten practices of ‘just peacemaking’” and “to incorporate them … in our congregations and institutions.” The BWA press release follows:

BWA endorses 10-point peace plan

The Baptist World Alliance is encouraging its member conventions and unions, churches and Baptist individuals to learn the “ten practices of ‘just peacemaking’” and “to incorporate them … in our congregations and institutions.”

In a resolution passed during its Annual Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 4-9, the BWA also urged governments to pursue the ten practices “in their leadership, policies and actions.”

The “just peacemaking” formula was developed by scholars led by Glen Stassen, a Baptist and professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, in the United States. The peace plan includes support for nonviolent action; cooperative conflict resolution; the promotion of human rights, religious liberty and democracy; economic development that is just and sustainable; a reduction in offensive weapons and weapons trade; the support of grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations; and the strengthening of the United Nations and other international organizations.

The BWA recalled Jesus’ cry over Jerusalem in Luke 19:42, when he bewailed ignorance of “those things that make for peace.” We, the BWA said, “envision Jesus weeping over many cities and nations of our world because we do not know those things that make for peace.”

In a separate resolution, the BWA endorsed the peace agreement signed by three Naga factions in the Northeast Indian state of Nagaland in 2009.

“We give thanks to God for the remarkable efforts of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation under the leadership of Wati Aier to bring peace to the Naga people,” the resolution states. “We commend those parties who signed the 2009 Covenant of Reconciliation and urge them to fulfill its promise.”

The 2009 covenant was further endorsed at a “high level” meeting of Naga leaders on September 18, 2010.

For decades, several Naga groups have been in conflict with each other and with the Indian government over issues of autonomy and sovereignty for Nagaland state and the Naga people. Between 1992 and 2009, more than 2,330 insurgency related fatalities have been recorded in Nagaland.

At the meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Aier was presented with the BWA Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award for his role in brokering peace among the Nagas, a group that is predominantly Christian with a large Baptist population.

© Baptist World Alliance
July 13, 2011


  1. Very good news for the church and to this Baptist-turned-Mennonite-advocate-for-just-peacemaking. Was there BWA or other Baptist participation and the closing convocation on the Decade to Overcome Violence in Jamaica in May? We had reports at the Mennonite Church USA assembly this month from a couple of Mennonites who were present there.

  2. Spencer, there was some Baptist (and in particular, BWA-connected) participation. Here's a press release to that effect from the BWA: