Last fall, we had a visit from Rev. Mike Neuroth, who works in the DC offices of the United Church of Christ. Below, Mike shares a vision of what it means for a congregation to be Just Peace. May this be just the beginning of a much longer conversation on what it means to be Just Peace.
In 1985, the UCC declared itself a “Just Peace” church, moving away from historic ethical concepts of crusade, pacifism, and just war. The paradigm of Just Peace was a holistic vision consistent with the UCC’s legacy of prophetic justice work, pointing to the root causes of violence stemming from social, economic, environmental, and racial injustice.
Emphasizing the inseparability of justice and peace, the UCC defined Just Peace as the “interrelation of friendship, justice, and common security from violence” and “the vision of shalom, linking peace, and justice.”
Over the past three decades, many UCC churches have engaged in just peace initiatives in their local communities and with international partners. Rev. Chip Jahn, for example, credits much of his Indiana congregation’s efforts to end conflict in Sri Lanka to the inspiration of the UCC’s witness as a Just Peace church and the 10 practices developed by theologians and scholars, including the UCC’s Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, which put just peace theory into action. Over the past several years, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and several other Christian traditions have adopted the concept of just peace or begun to incorporate its principles into their approaches to peacemaking.
For the UCC, the Just Peace pronouncement remains a powerful witness to a weary world that peace is in fact possible. It offered the audacious claim that “war can and must be eliminated.” To some, this hope may seem foolish, but to us it remains a distant goal, a North Star, that draws us beyond what we can see.
The 2015 UCC General Synod in Cleveland will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Just Peace pronouncement. It will be a time to celebrate this legacy and the efforts it has inspired. It will also be a time to recommit ourselves to the vision and practices of just peacemaking which are needed now more than ever. At a time when our world seems so far from the holistic vision of shalom, God’s peace as depicted in the Bible, we are called to remain Advent people.
We remain Advent people yearning for a world in which peace, a Just Peace, might swathe all our communities from Ferguson to Palestine. For that, we must continue to journey through the darkness, seeking to find the Christ-child, the Prince of Peace, and the promised shalom desperately needed by ourselves and our weary world.