Today’s peace churches

An exclusive club should welcome converts

May 27, 2019 by

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Historic Peace Churches are an exclusive club. Beginning with a 1935 conference bringing together Mennonite, Quaker and Church of the Brethren representatives, the “big three” have never added a fourth.

Although the distinction has lost some of its practical worth in the absence of military drafts in the U.S. and Canada, the wars that sparked the need for such identification persist. In an era that invites pacifist complacency, Historic Peace Churches should shake free from fixation on the rearview mirror and welcome other denominations deciding to agree that Jesus advocated nonviolence.

Seventh-day Adventists sought conscientious objector status since the Civil War, and their church’s official position prioritizes non­violence. Mennonite World Conference did well to enter into dialogue with the Adventists in 2011, giving opportunities to learn from each other.

There have been other such groups — such as the tiny Christadelphians and Doukhobors. But in April a much larger group emerged.

The Community of Christ — formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — came close to aligning with other peace churches in actions last month at its world conference in Independence, Mo.

The Community of Christ already holds doctrinal statements declaring that “because of our commitment to Christ and belief in the worth of all people and the value of community building, we dedicate our lives to the pursuit of peace and justice for all people.”

Of nearly 2,000 delegates representing 197,000 global members in 60 nations, 67 percent indicated tentative, significant or full support for a resolution identifying the denomination as a peace church. Though the resolution did not pass, the denomination has started a three-year process of peace education to culminate in a vote in 2022.

“Historic” Peace Churches made sense in the 20th century. Actions today speak louder than dusty texts. Is now the time for another conference uniting churches that believe Jesus actually meant what he said?

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