A Report on Evangelicals for Peace: What Happened and Where are We Headed?
I have been on a high ever since the Evangelicals for Peace Summit! I want to thank Peter Sensenig, David Johnston, Greg Metzger, and Byron Borger for their excellent blogs about the summit. I am humbled by the phone calls and emails I have received congratulating me and calling the summit a success. (Here are the blogs describing the summit:
Evangelicals for Peace: Jesus at the Center of Peacemaking by Peter M. Sensenig
Evangelicals for Peace: An Oxymoron? by David Johnston
David Shenk, Mennonite Friend of Jesus and Muslims by Greg Metzger
Just War, Pacifism, and Evangelicals for Peace by Byron Borger
It was a great start … but where do we go from here? Here’s my read on the summit and where I think we are headed.
1. Evangelicals for Peace demonstrated Jesus-centered peacemaking
Peter Sensenig says it well: “Rick Love, convener of 'Evangelicals for Peace: A Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility in the 21st Century,' wanted to see Jesus show up. Jesus did indeed show himself at the September 14 gathering at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.”
“What do evangelicals have to offer to the theory and practice of peacemaking?” Sensenig continues. “The answer, says Love, is the absolute commitment to the lordship of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Jesus at the center of peacemaking was the resounding theme of the conference.”
So how was Jesus central? First, Jesus’ teaching and example provided an intellectual foundation for the ethics of peacemaking. In his fifteen minute presentation on Just Peacemaking, Glen Stassen referenced Jesus nine times. A major theme of Just Peacemaking is obedience to Jesus’ teaching about taking the initiative in peacemaking: "Make friends quickly with your opponent…” (Matthew 5:25).
Second, a warm devotion toward Jesus pervaded the presentations and conversations. The evangelical heart shone brightly, especially through Governor David Beasley, who urged us repeatedly to model the love of Jesus. Attorney Lisa Gibson, who lost her brother in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie Scotland, told the story of how she forgave the late Libyan strong man Muammar Gaddafi. You can read her amazing story in her book, Life in Death: A Journey From Terrorism to Triumph.
Third, evangelical peacemakers believe we can be both authentic witnesses of Christ and active peacemakers. Southern Baptist pastor Bob Roberts and Mennonite David Shenk illustrated how we can pursue peace and share the gospel of peace. We can and must be both-and doers and thinkers as evangelical peacemakers.
2. Evangelicals for Peace reflected a diversity of perspectives
Over one hundred scholars, pastors, missionaries, development workers, activists and even one politician crammed into Copley Hall at Georgetown University. Three main viewpoints were shared:
Just War and Pacifism address the issue of whether or not it is okay to go to war. By contrast, the Just Peacemaking theory shifts the question. Just Peacemaking asks, "How can we proactively obey the teachings of Jesus to make peace?" and, "What steps can we take to prevent violence?"
The majority of the people present would probably consider themselves from the Evangelical center or left, but as Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance (representing over 600 million evangelicals) reminded us, “the evangelical left in America is the evangelical middle everywhere else in the world” - an important insight from a global perspective.
3. Evangelicals for Peace demonstrated some new ways forward in conflict zones between Christians and Muslims
David Shenk’s broad overview of Christian-Muslim relationships in conflict zones (Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines) reminded us that we’ve got lots of work to do. He also enthralled us with his personal peacemaking stories in Iran, Kosovo and Indonesia. Douglas Johnston showed us that U.S. Foreign Policy must take religion into consideration. The “Father of Faith-based Diplomacy,” he pointed out that one of the keys to thwarting terrorism is empowering mainstream Muslims. Finally, Joseph Cumming, Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture’s Reconciliation Program, told thrilling stories of informal, behind-the-scenes diplomacy with high level Muslim leaders.
4. Evangelicals for Peace was a great start, but …
This peace summit laid a strong foundation for the future, both relationally and intellectually. New friendships were made and important organizational ties developed. God willing, the presentations will be edited and collated into a book, which will help spread the vision.
But this is just a start. Where is Evangelicals for Peace headed? Only the Prince of Peace knows for sure! But two statements during the summit illustrate a few of the challenges ahead and provide important guidance for our future.
Geoff Tunnicliffe described a recent press conference he had at the United Nations on the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations. “Why is illegal arms trade an important topic for Evangelicals?” he was asked. His response: “As a global community of 600 million Christians, our churches are confronted daily with the impact of illegal weapons.
- Our hospitals treat the victims of violence.
- Our church leaders counsel the traumatized.
- All forms of conflict negatively impact our development programs.
- Our Aid agencies seek to care for and rehabilitate child soldiers.
- Our inner city communities are confronted with the outcomes of gang-warfare.
"Sisters and brothers, this is a call to wage peace against the arms industry!"
Perhaps the most humbling and haunting statement during the summit was made by David Gushee. During his presentation, he said, “This slide shows the impact Evangelicals have on U.S. Foreign Policy.” The slide was blank.
What a powerful way of highlighting the lack of influence evangelicals have had in public policy. But this is one of the major reasons that God led us to put on the Evangelicals for Peace summit in the first place. Sisters and brothers, this is a call to work together and to leverage our influence as evangelicals for peace!
Jennifer Crumpton’s presentation at the end of the summit provides an apt conclusion: “We have a ‘moral responsibility’ to use social media to share our message of peace.”
So share this blog with your friends (and enemies!). Get on facebook, start tweeting, and begin blogging. And please pray about the next steps Evangelicals for Peace should take.