Confession of peace
In a violent world, living what we say we believe
Practically every Confession of Faith accepted by Mennonites over the centuries takes a stand for peace. The current Mennonite Brethren Confession is no different. But confession should lead to action. Words should match realities. This month the U.S. MB Conference is doing something important: holding a study conference on parts of its Confession to seek greater unity and stronger identity as a peace church.
MB leaders and others will gather Jan. 24-26 in Phoenix for “Kingdom Citizens in a World of Conflict,” the first USMB study conference of its kind in many years. Media coverage is being limited to the denominational magazine, Christian Leader.
Purposes include examining two articles in the USMB Confession of Faith: “Society and State” and “Love and Nonresistance.” Participants will try to “more fully understand the complexities” of applying the articles in today’s world.
In keeping with the MB evangelical tradition, one of the event’s goals asserts the need to embrace the best of both the evangelical and Anabaptist perspectives.
A list of six purposes ends with this goal: “To challenge each other to retain and expand our identity as a church that emphasizes reconciliation and peacemaking as an integral part of faithfully following Jesus.” Every Anabaptist church could benefit by adopting this challenge. Among the beliefs we confess, loving our enemies remains one of the hardest to live.
A world addicted to violence cries out for peacemakers. Nonresistant followers of Christ must show the healing power of refusing to take an eye for an eye.
Our Confessions set high ideals. The MB Confession calls for being “agents of reconciliation in all relationships” and “peacemakers in all situations.” The Mennonite Church USA Confession says, “We witness against all forms of violence, including war among nations, hostility among races and classes, abuse of children and women, abortion and capital punishment.”
There was a time when standing for peace meant we didn’t go to war. Today’s peacemaking must go far beyond that, binding up many kinds of wounds.
Our world is deeply wounded by violence in ways that we are still learning to understand. Psychologists have developed the concept of “moral injury.” The term is usually applied to soldiers, such as those who suffered psychological trauma in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, every month nearly 1,000 veterans attempt to take their own lives. Christian pacifists need to find ways to support soldiers, veterans and their families as they deal with the trauma of war. A 2005 MC USA statement opposing the Iraq war called for doing this.
The concept of moral injury applies more broadly. December’s school shooting in Connecticut scarred an entire nation. With wounds still fresh, many now seek answers that would drive our communities deeper into a culture of violence. It is time to confess that we believe fighting gun violence with more guns will inflict deeper injuries, both moral and physical.
The world’s most heavily armed nation needs churches that live the words they confess about Christ’s way of peace.
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