* Peace with Justice Sunday and Special Offering (deleted or expired 2012)
Background: From Despair to Hope
The world today has seen unprecedented worsening of economic conditions all over the world. Economically debilitating conditions have sunk the poor of the world further in the quagmire of exploitation and despair. While we have seen the globalization of financial capital that has made possible the unprecedented creation of wealth, we have not seen the globalization of economic justice that would have spread this wealth equitably and sustainably. While there has been increased movement of capital in the world, unemployment and labor conditions remain appalling.
The world, also, has seen unprecedented worsening of political conditions that have mired many countries in ever escalating political tensions, especially those brought about by conflict and wars, genocide and terrorism, and political repression. The wanton disrespect for basic modicums of international cooperation has led to violations of already agreed principles of international law. Human rights continue to be violated and disregarded. Changes taking place in our global community diminish our hope for potential future reductions in military expenditures. These military expenditures drain resources of money and talent to be used for meeting urgent social needs.
Living together on this planet, we have realized that the many threads that connect both fragile and solid foundations of human life and of God's whole creation are endangered. The cultural conditions under which we undergird our citizenship on planet earth continue to be challenged by acts of intolerance and aggression, by acts of racism and xenophobia, by acts of classism, sexism, ageism, and gender discrimination. God's beautiful universe, and all that was good in creation, is in danger of extinction by the unsafe and unsound environmental practices that all too daily governments and peoples around the world inflict upon it. HIV/AIDS continues to escalate to pandemic proportions.
We must renew our call for a social transformation, for the quest to open the doors of opportunity for all, to distribute resources more equitably, and to provide better care for persons in need.
Biblical Basis for Response
The United Methodist Church, with its historic commitment to peace and justice, can and should provide leadership to this social transformation. This heritage is expressed in the Social Principles and the Social Creed. It gained eloquent articulation by the United Methodist Council of Bishops in the foundation document In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace, which offers a well-grounded biblical analysis for peace with justice. The bishops wrote:
At the heart of the Old Testament is the testimony to shalom, that marvelous Hebrew word that means peace. But the peace that is shalom is not negative or one-dimensional. It is much more than the absence of war. Shalom is positive peace: harmony, wholeness, health, and well-being in all human relationships. It is the natural state of humanity as birthed by God. It is harmony between humanity and all of God's good creation. All of creation is interrelated. Every creature, every element, every force of nature participates in the whole of creation. If any person is denied shalom, all are thereby diminished. . . .
The Old Testament speaks of God's sovereignty in terms of covenant, more particularly the "covenant of peace" with Israel, which binds that people to God's shalom (Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 37:26). In the covenant of shalom, there is no contradiction between justice and peace or between peace and security or between love and justice (Jeremiah 29:7). In Isaiah's prophecy, when "the Spirit is poured upon us from on high," we will know that these laws of God are one and indivisible:
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places (Isaiah 32:16-18).
Shalom, then, is the sum total of moral and spiritual qualities in a community whose life is in harmony with God's good creation. . . .(In Defense of Creation, pp. 24, 25-26)
In their analysis, the United Methodist bishops pointed out that when the elders of Israel forsook their moral covenant for warrior-kings, the nation descended into generations of exploitation, repression, and aggression-then into chaos, captivity, and exile in Babylon. Yet we must look to the great prophets of that bitter period of Exile for the renewed vision of shalom. If Exodus is liberation, Exile is renewal. Ezekiel and Isaiah (40-66) reaffirm God's creation and redemption as universal in scope. Narrow nationalism is repudiated. Servanthood is exalted as the hopeful path to shalom (page 27).
And the prophets' images-swords into plowshares, peaceable kingdoms, new covenants written on the heart-forecast the coming of One who will be the Prince of Peace."
And so he comes. He comes heralded by angels who sing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace!" He invokes the most special blessings upon peacemakers. He exalts the humanity of aliens. He commands us to love our enemies; for he knows, even if we do not, that if we hate our enemies, we blind and destroy ourselves. Shalom, after all, is the heart of God and the law of creation. It cannot be broken with impunity.
New Testament faith presupposes a radical break between the follies, or much so-called conventional wisdom about power and security, on the one hand, and the transcendent wisdom of shalom, on the other. Ultimately, New Testament faith is a message of hope about God's plan and purpose for human destiny. It is a redemptive vision that refuses to wallow in doom.
Paul's letters announce that Jesus Christ is "our peace." It is Christ who has "broken down the dividing wall of hostility," creating one humanity, overcoming enmity, so making peace (Ephesians 2:14-19). It is Christ who ordains a ministry of reconciliation. Repentance prepares us for reconciliation. Then we shall open ourselves to the transforming power of God's grace in Christ. Then we shall know what it means to be "in Christ." Then we are to become ambassadors of a new creation, a new Kingdom, a new order of love and justice (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).
The promise of peace envisioned by Israel's prophets of the Exile at the climax of the Old Testament is celebrated once more at the climax of the New Testament. The Revelation of John, in the darkest night of despair, sings of a new earth, radiant with infinite love and compassion, in which all nations and peoples come together peaceably before the Lord God and in which hunger and hurt and sorrow are no more (Revelation 7) (pp. 27-30).
This is the foundation of faith that enables us in The United Methodist Church to offer hope to those who despair and to bring forth joy to replace sadness. As Saint Francis of Assisi prayed to act in the spirit of Christ, so we too can sow love where there is hatred; where injury, pardon; where darkness, light. As instruments of peace and justice, we can seek to replace discord with harmony and to repair the brokenness that shatters the wholeness of shalom.
The General Board of Church and Society will carry out the following "Peace with Justice" activities:
- implement "Policies for a Just Peace" as specified in the Council of Bishops' Foundation Document, The United Methodist Church and Peace, Globalization and Its Impact on Human Dignity and Human Rights, and other resolutions on war, peace, disarmament, and terrorism;
- implement the process of "Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation" as adopted by the 1990 World Convocation for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation in Seoul, Republic of Korea;
- work for social-justice policies and programs that seek the wholeness of shalom for all of God's people, and
- work to eradicate attitudinal and systemic behavior patterns that perpetuate the sin of racism as it is lived out in the areas of peace, justice, and the integrity of creation.
To achieve these objectives, the General Board of Church and Society may:
- assist annual conferences, districts, and local churches to organize and carry out peace with justice activities, and to promote the Peace with Justice Special Sunday Offering;
- provide a regular flow of information on public issues to local churches, districts, and annual conferences;
- strengthen its capacity to act as a public-policy advocate of measures that improve global relations and move toward nuclear disarmament and measures that provide jobs, housing, education, food, health care, income support, and clean water to all;
- assist annual conferences and/or local churches to assess and respond to the disproportionate effect of injustices on racial and ethnic persons in the United States, and that of people around the world; and
- assist annual conference Peace with Justice coordinators to carry out their duties.
For the purpose of financing activities (a) to achieve the "Policies for a Just Peace" contained in the Council of Bishops' Foundation Document In Defense of Creation, and (b) to pursue other justice and peace objectives contained within the vision of shalom in this same document, revenue shall come from the Peace with Justice offering and other possible sources in accordance with the 2004 Book of Discipline ¶ 264.5 and World Service Special gifts.
The Peace with Justice Sunday and Special Offering shall be assigned to the General Board of Church and Society.
AMENDED AND READOPTED 2004
Resolution #332, 2004 Book of Resolutions
Resolution #313, 2000 Book of Resolutions
See Social Principles, ¶ 165C.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.