Transforming Cultures of Violence into Communities of Peace
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, a mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a program of Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministries, in urgent response to the overwhelming culture of violence in our world is:
Transforming cultures of violence into communities of peace.
Responding with the community to…
- Inspire new approaches to active peacemaking.
- Equip God’s people to be compassionate and prophetic peacemakers.
- Connect communities of peace to learn from each other in shared accompaniment and take action together for the transformation of the world.
The Peacemaking Project Virtual Choir: “This is My Song”
In light of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program embarked on this project to bring together a global virtual choir of peacemakers, including past International Peacemakers and their hosts, participants in our Travel Study Seminars and Mosaic of Peace Conferences in Israel and Palestine, and friends and colleagues of our Program. As we join our voices in song, we join our hearts and efforts in a continuing and resolute desire for peace in and between every land. “So hear my song, o God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.”
The peace of Christ be with you!
Download the video or contact the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program for download information.
“Peace at all times in all ways.”
—2 Thessalonians 3:16
Our cover art is a detail from a mural at the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, painted by Nahun Pérez and Marcio Arteaga. The mural was painted to honor the memory of Dionisio Díaz García, a Honduran AJS lawyer who courageously defended Hondurans’ labor rights. He was assassinated in 2006 and is survived by his wife, Lourdes, and son, Mauricio. It is used here with the permission of the artists.
CARL E. HORTON
Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Phone: 800-728-7228, ext. 5200
As Coordinator, Carl oversees the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. He also facilitates opportunities to engage peacemakers through the International Peacemakers Program, Peacemaking Conferences and Travel Study Seminars. Carl is highly committed to equipping peacemakers and strengthening the church at all levels for its engagement in peacemaking.
Mission Specialist, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Phone: 800-728-7228, ext. 5805
Rachel connects Presbyterians, congregations, and mid-councils with opportunities to learn and live peace through the Commitment to Peace pledge, Peacemaking Conferences and Travel Study Seminars, providing resources, and more.
Associate, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Simon oversees the development and updating of select congregational resources, both print and digital. He coordinated the webinar series on how faith communities can address gun violence, Standing Our Holy Ground, oversaw the development of the Companion Guide to the Commitment to Peacemaking, co-hosts A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast, and interfaces with Presbyterians on specific topics such as gun violence and peace church discernment.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, originally called the Peacemaking Project, at the 192nd General Assembly (1980) of the United Presbyterian Church (UPC) adopted its founding document, Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling, as did the Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUS) in 1981. It was poignant that in 1983 when reuniting the two branches of Presbyterianism resolving and transforming two entities into one church, recommended that the session of each congregation adopt a Commitment to Peacemaking. To this day, there are over 4,300 congregations and 170 mid-councils that have adopted the Commitment to Peacemaking.
Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling an affirmation of policy and direction
THE CHURCH IS FAITHFUL TO CHRIST WHEN IT IS ENGAGED IN PEACEMAKING.
Our insensitivity to patterns of injustice, inequality, and oppression —indeed our participation in them —denies the gospel. Christ alone is our peace. As part of his body, we experience the brokenness of this world in our own life. Our structures of military might, economic relations, political institutions, and cultural pattern fail to meet the need of our time. At stake is our future and our integrity as God’s people.
THE CHURCH IS OBEDIENT TO CHRIST WHEN IT NURTURES AND EQUIPS GOD’S PEOPLE AS PEACEMAKERS.
Proclamation of God’s word, frees us from guilt and paralyzing fear; Lord’s Table we discover our brothers and sisters around the world; Baptism unites the whole body in solidarity; Prayer we lift our concern for the victims of injustice, oppression and warfare; Praise we celebrate the gifts of life, the Prince of Peace; Study we focus on foreign policy subjects in light of biblical and theological considerations. The General Assembly has established positions on many subjects related to peace and justice, facilitating study and action to equip God’s people for the ordering of the church’s life and establishment of public polices in peacemaking.
THE CHURCH BEARS WITNESS TO CHRIST WHEN IT NOURISHES THE MORAL LIFE OF THE NATION FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE IN THE WORLD.
The church’s faithful obedience means active participation in the formation of the values and beliefs of our society. It means seeking peace in personal and social relationships of our culture, exercise our citizenship to shape foreign policy, nurture changes in public attitude and raise public consciousness.
Four Tenets of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Central to our faith
It is integral to each believer’s personal calling, an inner response to God, who loves the whole world and whose Spirit calls for and empowers the making of peace.
Wholistic in nature
Wherever there is brokenness in the world, there is a need for peacemaking. Our understanding of peace (shalom) is broad and our commitment needs to reflect that breadth. This vision of peace is empowering and moves faithful people from living in fear into hope.
Connected with justice
Effective peacemaking considers issues of justice towards individuals or groups in the world. One of the strengths of peacemaking is bringing people of faith together with a common purpose to make a difference. Historically, Presbyterians have been deeply concerned about issue of racism, reconciliation with justice, nuclear weapons, gender equality, violence, human rights, and environmental degradation.
Multiplies in communities
Congregations are invited to participate in the Peace and Global Witness Offering on World Communion Sunday. 50% of the offering provides operational funds, resources and training and to support congregations though the Peacemaking Program. 25% support peacemaking ministries in presbyteries and mid-councils, and 25% remain with the local church to support peacemaking in the congregation, community or special concerns. Peacemaking begins wherever God is present in our lives bringing healing in the midst of brokenness.
by Peggy Cowan,
Department of Religion, Maryville College
The Bible witnesses to the centrality of peacemaking for Christian discipleship in three ways. First, the word “peace” — shalom in Hebrew and eirene in Greek — is widely used in the Bible and has a wealth of meaning. It is through exploring the uses of the word “peace” in the Bible that we come to an understanding of the meaning of peace and peacemaking. Second, the visions and stories of the Bible offer models for the transformation of individuals and communities into peacemakers. It is through wrestling with these stories and making them our own that we grow as disciples of the Prince of Peace. Third, the entire biblical story shapes our calling to be peacemakers. It is through reflections on the themes of the biblical witness as a whole that one is confronted by the significance of peace and peacemaking for thinking about God, God’s work in the world, and God’s intention for human persons, communities, and creation.
I. Biblical Meanings of “Peace”
A. The Hebrew word shalom includes such English ideas as peace, well-being, wholeness or health, welfare, prosperity, and safety.
1. Shalom is God’s gift (Lev. 26:6, Num. 6:26, 1 Kgs. 2:33, Ps. 29:11; 85:8; 147:14, Is. 26:3-12) and God’s intention (Jer. 29:11). The fulfillment of God’s purpose for creation is described as a covenant of shalom (Num. 25:12, Ez. 34:25-31; 37:26, Is. 54:10). Within this covenant relationship people know God and live in community in which people and nature flourish. The Old Testament provides several visions of this fulfillment (Gen. 1:1-2:4a; Ps. 46; Is. 11:1-9; 58:6-12; 61:1-4; 65:17-25). Although given by God, shalom is not to be passively awaited but actively pursued (Ps. 34:14).
2. Shalom involves positive relationships between peoples and persons. In Gen. 28:21 Jacob looks forward to a time when he can return home to his brother Esau in shalom. Judges and true judgments enable the people of Israel to live together in shalom (Ex. 18:23, Zech. 8:19). The unity of all nations worshipping God together is an important part of the vision of shalom in Is. 2:2-4 and Mic. 4:1-4.
3. Positive relationships within the community mean that the needs of all persons are met and there is material well-being, economic security, and prosperity for all (Isa. 54:13; 66:12, Jer. 29:5-7, Ez. 34:27-29, Ps. 37:11, 72:3, Hag. 2:9). For this to occur, righteousness must characterize the people and justice the society (Isa. 9:6-7; 32:17; 59:8; 60:17, Jer. 8:10-11, Ps. 72:1-7 and 85:10). There is no peace without justice.
4. Shalom involves absence of war (Deut. 2:26; Josh. 9:15; 10:1, 4; Judg. 4:17; 2 Sam. 10:19; 1 Kgs. 5:12; 2 Kgs. 9:17-19; 1 Chr. 22:9). In Joshua and Judges victory in war is gained through God’s miraculous action, not human weapons. Isaiah (Chs. 30-31) insists that Judah rely on God, not the weapons and military might of Egypt. The expectation that in God’s kingdom swords will be beaten into plowshares (Is. 2:2-4, Mic. 4:1-4) looks forward to a time when resources will be poured not into military technology but into meeting basic human needs. In Lev. 26:6, Ps. 122:6-8, 2 Kgs. 20:19, and Est. 9:30 shalom goes beyond absence of war to include security and lack of fear.
5. The full meaning of shalom can only be grasped when human well-being is balanced within the welfare of all of creation (Is. 11:1-9, Ez. 34:17-31, Zech. 8:12, and Job 5:23).
B. 1. The Greek word eirene means absence of war, but in the New Testament includes all of the meanings of shalom: good relationships among peoples and nations (Mk. 9:50, Rom. 12:18-19, Eph. 2:15, Heb. 12:14), healthy relationships within the community (Acts 9:31, Rom. 14:19, 1 Cor. 14:33, 2 Cor. 13:11, Eph. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:13), a quality of life in the Spirit or in relation to God (Lk. 1:79, Rom. 3:17; 14:17; 15:13, 33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11, 2 Thess. 3:16, Phil. 4:9, Eph. 4:3), a gift of Jesus (Jn. 16:33, Col. 3:15), reconciliation effected by or through Jesus (Rom. 5:1, Phil. 4:7, Eph. 2:14-15, 17, Col. 1:20), a greeting in letters, and a quality to be pursued by humans (Lk. 19:42, James 3:18, 2 Tim. 2:22, 1 Pet. 3:11, Heb. 12:14).
2. Pursuing peace does not mean avoiding conflict C indeed it may cause conflict with forces opposing peace. The “Magnificat” (Lk. 1:47-55) pictures the kind of peace Jesus brings, the kind that led to his crucifixion. Col. 1:19-20 affirms that it is only through this ultimate conflict that God makes peace, reconciles all things to God.
3. In Romans (5:1) Paul understands the reordering of relationships through Christ as peace with God. Peace with God brings reconciliation with other persons and communities of people (Eph. 2:13-18, Gal. 3:26-28). The primary phrase used by the gospels to talk about a world reconciled to God is the Kingdom of God. Those who participate in this kingdom, who are children of God, are peacemakers (Mt. 5:9).
II. Visions and Stories of Peace
Biblical visions and stories offer models for transforming areas of life that need conversion and renewal. The Rich Young Man (Mk. 10:17-21), the Samaritan Woman at the Well (Jn. 4:16-26), and the Laborers in the Vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16) offer models for transformation by calling us to confront and deny cultural definitions that separate us from our true identity as God’s creatures, that reinforce divisions within humankind along racial, ethnic, national, and economic lines, and that justify exploitation of natural and human resources for unjust ends. The Cain and Abel story (Gen. 4:1-16) challenges us to recognize the connection between our relationship to God and to those close to us. The Mary and Martha story (Lk. 10:18-42) calls us to question traditional role expectations. Educational resources of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program offer many examples of such stories and their power in challenging disciples to grow as peacemakers.
III. Peacemaking and the Biblical Story
The Bible begins with creation, God’s intention for harmony, wholeness. Brokenness is a result of human failure and pride. However, God does not give up on creation but promises renewal and restoration, culminating in the vision of shalom in Rev. 21:1-22:5. Between creation and new creation is God’s work of salvation, reconciliation. A promise to Abraham and Sarah identifies God’s intention to relate to particular people. The Exodus identifies God as one who liberates the oppressed, who is involved in the concrete social, political, and economic lives of people in need. The covenant calls the people to view their life in relationship to God. The God who liberates demands a society based on mutuality, respect, righteousness, and justice. The God who has mercy requires kindness and compassion for all people. The God who is holy expects and empowers a holy people.
When the community fails, judgment follows. Exile is the inevitable consequence of the failure to trust in God and establish justice in community. Restoration and return reveal the extent to which God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
The visions of the prophets find their fulfillment in the coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who embodies shalom, heals, teaches, empowers, reconciles, and brings the Kingdom of God into the lives of those who follow him. Jesus fulfills God’s intention for human life and demonstrates servanthood as the model for disciples. Through him God makes peace with humankind, within the human community, as symbolized by the church, and renews creation, thus establishing shalom. Believers are called to participate in God’s work of peacemaking.