Background: From Despair to Hope
Today our world is facing crises on an unprecedented scale: war, genocide, poverty, hunger, disease, and global warming. Saddened by the state of the world, overwhelmed by the scope of these problems, and anxious about the future, we believe God calls us and equips us to respond.
Harsh economic conditions have made it impossible for the world’s poor to break the ongoing cycle of despair and exploitation. The disparity between rich and poor has grown. Global financial improvement has not affected many of those living on the margins of society.
Ongoing wars and intractable conflicts and political strife and repressive conditions have led to the disregard for international law and the breakdown of international cooperation. Human rights continue to be violated and disregarded. These and related changes taking place in our global community diminish our hope for potential future reductions in military expenditures. Global military spending, totaling $1.75 trillion in 2013 (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook), drains resources of money and talent that might be used for meeting urgent social needs, long-term sustainable social and human development, and protecting God’s creation.
We have realized that we live in a broken world. We are 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 are in danger of extinction by unsafe and unsound environmental practices. HIV/AIDS continues to escalate to pandemic proportions. Malaria and tuberculosis remain urgent concerns, even as new and deadly viruses like Ebola ravage communities around the world.
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.
Peace with Justice is a faithful expression of shalom in the Bible. It calls the church to strengthen its capacity to advocate publicly in communities and nations throughout the world. It aims to make shalom visible and active in people’s lives and communities by setting people free from bondage. We will celebrate Peace with Justice when all people have access to adequate jobs, housing, education, food, health care, income support, and clean water. We will further celebrate when there is no more economic exploitation, war, political oppression, and cultural domination.
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 was articulated by the United Methodist Council of Bishops 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 righteousness abide in the fruitful field. 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).
Paul’s letters announce that Jesus Christ is “our peace.” It is Christ who “broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us,” 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).
“No matter how bad things are, God’s creative work continues. Christ’s resurrection assures us that death and destruction do not have the last word. Paul taught that through Jesus Christ, God offers redemption to all of creation and reconciles all things, ‘whether on earth or in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20). God’s Spirit is always and everywhere at work in the world fighting poverty, restoring health, renewing creation, and reconciling peoples.”
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. We can join hearts in the traditional prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi that we act in the spirit of Christ, so we too can sow love where there is hatred, can dispense pardon where there is injury, can cast light where there is darkness. 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:
1. implement the “Policies for a Just Peace” as specified in the Council of Bishops’ “In Defense of Creation,” the Council’s “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action,” and the resolutions on “The United Methodist Church and Peace,” “Globalization and Its Impact on Human Dignity and Human Rights,” as well as other resolutions on war, peace, disarmament, and terrorism;
3. work with the World Council of Churches, interfaith and ecumenical bodies, and secular organizations for social-justice policies and programs that seek the wholeness of shalom for all of God’s people, and
4. work to eradicate attitudinal and systemic behavior patterns that perpetuate the sin of racism and gender discrimination 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:
a. 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 in coordination with United Methodist Communications;
b. provide a regular flow of information on public issues to local churches, districts, and annual and central conferences;
c. strengthen its capacity to act as a public-policy advocate of measures that improve global relations and move toward just peacemaking and measures that provide jobs, housing, education, food, health care, income support, and clean water to all;
d. assist annual and central conferences and/or local churches to assess and respond to the disproportionate effect of injustices on racial and ethnic persons in the world; and
e. 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’ “In Defense of Creation” and “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action,” 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 Special Sunday offering and other possible sources in accordance with the 2012 Book of Discipline ¶ 263.5 and World Service Special gifts.
The Peace with Justice Sunday and Special Offering shall be assigned to the General Board of Church and Society.
See Social Principles, ¶ 165C, D.
* The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. New Translation and Commentary by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar [also known as the Scholars Version]; Robert W. Funk, et al. (New York: Macmillan, 1993).
1. Elisabeth Bumiller, “Troops in Afghanistan Now Outnumber Those in Iraq,” New York Times, May 25, 2010, available: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/troops-in-afghanistan-now-outnumber-those-in-iraq/. The total number of NATO troops as of November 2010 is 130,930—BBC News, “Afghan Troop Map: U.S. and NATO Deployments,” November 19, 2010, available www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11795066. The total number of NATO trips in 2009 was 55,100—International Security Assistance Force, North American Treaty Organization, “ISAF Regional Commands and PRT Locations,” January 12, 2009, available: www.nato.int/isaf/docu/epub/pdf/placemat_archive/isaf_placemat_090112.pdf.
2. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision, New York: United Nations, 2007, available: www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2006/WPP2006_Highlights_rev.pdf, see Table A.18.
3. World Health Organization, Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008, Geneva, Switzerland: WHO, 2010, available: <http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2010/9789241500265_eng.pdf>, see Annex 1.
4. Amy Belasco, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2011, available: www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf, see Table 1, p. 3.
5. World Population Prospects, see Table A.19.
6. Christopher Hellman and Travis Sharp, “The FY 2009 Pentagon Spending Request,” Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, February 22, 2008, available: http://armscontrolcenter.org/policy/securityspending/articles/fy09_dod_request_global.
7. Abby Sugrue, “Afghan Mothers Delivered into Good Hands,” USAID Frontlines, January 2011, available: www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_jan11/FL_jan11_AFmothers.html.
8, Christopher Drew, “High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War,” New York Times, November 14, 2009, available: www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/us/politics/15cost.html.)