Thursday, January 29, 2009

NCC leader tells peace church gathering, ‘Peace is the message of the church.’

National Council of Churches (NCC) general secretary Michael Kinnamon brought greetings Jan. 13 to the opening session of "Heeding God’s Call." The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and the Church of the Brethren, both member communions of the NCC, joined with the Mennonite Church USA to bring together an ecumenical group with peacemaking as its aim. In his remarks, Kinnamon said peacemaking is the role not only of historic peace churches, but of the church ecumenical:

"Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And greetings from the 35 member communions of the National Council of Churches. With violence the order of the day in such places as Gaza, Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia, Darfur, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, it is imperative that the followers of Christ proclaim a different vision of life in human community-- which is why I am so grateful to Thomas and the other organizers of this historic conference. May God grant that our time together be a visible and vital witness to God’s gift of Shalom.

"In this brief welcome, I want to emphasize one point: the ecumenical movement, of which the NCC is an instrument, is most essentially a movement of peace. Part of the point is sociological: Christian divisions (which ecumenism seeks to overcome) often exacerbate political conflicts and hinder effective peacemaking. War is too massive an evil to be responded to denominationally.

"The real point, however, is more theological. God’s gift of reconciliation is for the world; but the church is entrusted with this message of reconciliation--and the church delivers the message not just by what it says or, even, by what it does, but by what it is, by the way we live with one another. The church’s calling is to be a demonstration project of God’s gift of peace, and the fact that Christians are so obviously fragmented and co-opted by the powers of the world is what drives the ecumenical movement.

"Ecumenical conferences have declared all of this unambiguously for the past 100 years, perhaps never more so than at the first Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1948. ‘War,’ said the delegates, ‘is contrary to the will of God.’ This has been repeated at various ecumenical conferences and I am going to repeat it here: War is contrary to the will of God. It is true that many Christians still see war as a last resort. But there is now broad agreement that war is ‘inherently evil’ (WCC)--which means that Christians should never identify human violence with God’s purposes. Contrary to political leaders and old Hollywood movies, it is never redemptive.

"You see why it is so important to remember this at the beginning of our conference. Radical peacemaking is usually associated with one segment of the Christian community: the Historic Peace Churches. ‘Another peace protest? It must be the Quakers and Mennonites and Brethren.’ What I am stressing, however, is that radical, costly, insistent peacemaking is not simply your witness. Peace is the message of the church ecumenical!

"This is not to be taken for granted. In the history of the church, those who emphasized peacemaking have often feared that unity would weaken the prophetic edge of their proclamation, while those who have emphasized unity have often feared that peacemaking would prove divisive. That’s why the historic peace churches have, at times, been sectarian, while churches more inclined to collaboration have generally left matters of war and peace to the individual conscience.

"But the modern ecumenical movement has rejected this dichotomy--and I hope we will as well. We are Christians: recipients of the gift of peace. We are Christians: called to be ambassadors of reconciliation by the way we live with one another. May it be so, even here, even now."

-- This report was taken from a press release from the National Council of Churches USA.

Source: 1/28/2009 Newsline Special

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