Friday, October 28, 2011

Learning about Leadings

By Madeline Schaefer

I have never quite identified with the idea of a "leading" in Quakerism--perhaps because it is a term that the Society has chosen to define as such, and in a specifically spiritual way.  But I have always experienced "leadings" as a direct result of being alive, being human.  Spirituality is woven into every bit of our lives, of course; but I was always deeply concerned growing-up that these Quaker leadings were something that only the most pure in our religion could understand.  I have since come to understand that leadings, even the deep ones, are not truths to be magically uncovered, but teased out through the process of questioning and of living.

Our lives are filled with leadings--every moment is pushing us towards an existence that is satisfying, joyful, true.  It is often not difficult to understand our passions, desires and callings on a day to day basis.  But which passions to follow, what voices to hear, what paths to take? Sometimes the role of a leading is simply to provide a base from which to understand the falsity of a current decisions.  But leadings, even if they are not followed, or followed foolishly, are always present in our lives.  It is our responsibility to have faith and follow, follow, follow.

Often life can feel like a swing from periods of total confidence and assurance, to periods of change and chaos.  Having faith that our leadings will sort themselves out if we only listen to the answers provided, is crucial for entering into those periods of stability.  But many leadings may once again fill our lives; and our experience of faithfulness in the past, and reflecting on what we learned to be true, will help guide us through those periods of turmoil again and again.

Which brings me to my own "leadings," particularly those of my recent past.  In many respects I had to learn how to "take hold" of my leadings after graduating college; no one was going to force me into any particular institution or situation; I was in charge now.  Of course my life had been full of decisions up until that point--where to go to college was a major one of those--but for the most part I never had to ask myself where God was taking me.

After graduating college I realized that I had a role to play in this "leading" business--I had to understand that God is not just a force outside of us, but provides the power within us to make bold decisions and move forward in our lives.

When I decided to go to New Zealand after college, it was not because I felt "led" in any kind of long-term, this is who I am and this is what I'm going, kind of way; but rather I felt everything line up accordingly.  If I hadn't received a scholarship, or engaged in a friendly correspondence--if I hadn't had faith--I would have never made it over there.  I made a decision, started working towards it, and followed the good energy.

Does that approach sound frightfully "un-spiritual"?  I would argue that it is deeply so.  For spirituality is not something to be attained, but something to be used in this messy stomp through life.  We stomp as gracefully as we can, while enjoying the mud along the way.

Madeline Schaefer lives in Philadelphia. She is the founder and host of the Quaker podcast series, Friend Speaks My Mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Working with Mexican Theologians

I recently participated in an ecumenical conference in Mexico City at the invitation of the Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos (CEE). It was inspiring to work with so many thoughtful people who are deeply involved in social justice and its integration with theological reflection. Of course, connecting reflection to responsible engagement has been important to me for a long time and it is always good to connect with others who share similar commitments. However, the conference was as challenging as it was inspiring because, almost to a person, the participants’ theological reflection was born out of direct and first-hand experience of walking side by side with the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized. This is good…excellent, even. However, it was a departure from many of the conferences I frequent where folks are either thinking but rarely act or where they act but rarely think.

The conference, Esperanza de Liberación y Teología (the hope of liberation and theology), was attended by about three hundred Mexican theologians, philosophers, and activists from across the country, from those teaching in one of Mexico’s many theological institutes, to those working with indigenous populations in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, to those working for peace in Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of the narco wars where over one thousand people have been killed this year alone.

Over the past three years I have visited the CEE in Mexico City a number of times and have twice taken ESR students with me as part of the Theology in Context course. Thus, when I received the director’s invitation not only to attend, but to participate as well and to present some of my own work on the conference’s theme, I was honored and accepted immediately. I was one of a handful of non-Mexicans who gathered at the Comunidad Teológica Mexicana to work on topics at the intersection of theology and social engagement. We were assigned specific groups where we focused most of our energy: human rights, economics, environment, Church practice, and citizen participation. Based upon some of my recent work, I was assigned to a mesa de diálogo focused on theology and/of migration.

Working in this group make me aware of how different the US experience is from the Mexican. This was evident simply in the language we used. If we had been meeting in the United States we probably would have used “immigration” rather than “migration.” It’s another angle on the same phenomenon and a reminder why neither the US nor Mexico can address the issue satisfactorily without substantial cooperation from the other.
The reality in Mexico is of citizen movement to the US or to one of the country’s major urban centers, particularly Mexico City. Additionally, Mexico sees the movement of persons across its southern border as they make their way north. However, before reaching the boarder many are subjected to rape, robbery, human trafficking, hunger, or death. As one participant explained: many escape violence in their own country only to encounter it in the US and in the journey through Mexico. She recounted a saying: antes de llegar a sueño americano tienes que pasar por la pesadilla mexicana (before you arrive at the American dream you have to go through the Mexican nightmare).

In July 2008 I spent time with a couple from Honduras who were traveling to the United States without documents. They were spending a few days in Mexico City where she was waiting to have an abortion. She had been raped by a coyote who had beaten her husband into unconsciousness and stole the money and belongings they carried with them.

Difficult social realities such as these were front and center at the conference. One participant described our work with the Spanish verb aterrizar (to land) which we generally use when speaking about airplanes and runways. Tenemos que aterrizar nuestra teología—we have to land our theology, she said, bring it out of the clouds. We tried to do teología contextualizada. To this end, our work was divided between first seeing the issue (descriptive), and then thinking about the issue (analytical), and finally, formulating proposals for acting (application).  

In addition to the working groups, we began each day with worship and had plenty of time for fellowship. I stayed on campus with the Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos staff and roomed with a priest from Oaxaca. We cooked together and had enough late-night conversations to keep me thinking for quite a while. Several plenary sessions helped direct our attention as well. We heard from Doris Garcia Mayor, Padre Alejandro Solalinde, Maria Pilar Aquino, and also from Enrique Dussel, who in the last year and a half has become an intellectual hero of mine.

Dussel’s critique of post-modernity and neoliberalism was pointed. He drew upon Gustavo Gutiérrez and the Puebla Conference of 1979 where theologians began articulating justice in terms of “God’s preferential option for the poor” (which Paul Farmer has more recently modified: “disease makes a preferential option for the poor”). Dussel noted that neoliberalism exploits time and the earth as much as it exploits people. There is no rest in globalization and its march toward totalization; there is no sabbath—not for humans, not for the earth. Yet, salvation is not for humans alone; it is for the entire cosmos. El reino de Dios no cede la tierra (the kingdom of God does not give up the earth). A sufficient economy needs to take into account local communities as well as broader publics—el consenso del pueblo (consensus of the people), and families, and the health of human beings and the entire planet. This is the cost of a well-ordered life—economy (a concept that has been hijacked by those incapable of thinking beyond money and “free” markets).

Without a doubt there was tremendous energy among participants at the conference for exploring the social implications of being Church and it seemed no one hesitated to name concretely the challenges we face in our present context. Although we were surrounded constantly by an awareness of the crushing poverty and suffering of the human family, an underlying hope was present as well and it was repeated by many throughout the week—otro mundo es posible (another world is possible).

As I was saying my goodbyes, both to a city I dearly love and to people who are becoming very good friends, I said to one of the coordinators: “It’s been great to be here with all of you.” She responded: “Here there is no ‘all of you’ (ustedes); there is only ‘us’ (nosotros). This spirit of welcome extended also when I was accepted into the Mexican Ecumenical Theological Association. I’m not sure how many other non-Mexicans are members of this group, but there is no doubt that with these folks I feel right at home.

David Johns
David Johns is Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. He is an Associate Editor of Quaker Religious Thought, a member of First Friends Meeting, Richmond, and now a proud member of the Associación Teológica Ecuménica Mexicana.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Quakers and the limits of pacifism

Bonhoeffer, a German theologian executed by the Nazis, poses a challenge to Quakers. Although a pacifist, Bonhoeffer supported assassinating Hitler. Meanwhile, German Quakers made a strategic decision to fight in World War II in order to survive as a group. The alternative to military service was execution as a traitor (ie, the Nazis didn’t recognize CO status). Bonhoeffer and the German Quakers raise a question: In extreme situations, how far can the peace testimony bend? Can personal purity or holiness become immoral? Were pacifist Germans wrong to participate in violence?

Learn more at Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Sneak Preview, a review by Diane Reynolds.

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Report on the Division of Indiana Yearly Meeting

By Chris Sitler

On October 1, 2011, the Indiana Yearly Meeting Representative Council met in a called session at Friends Memorial Church in Muncie Indiana to consider the report of a Task Force that had been appointed to consider possible ways the yearly meeting could respond to tensions between West Richmond Friends and the Ministry and Oversight of IYM regarding a welcoming statement that West Richmond had adopted. Among other provisions, the statement declared that West Richmond would be a welcoming and affirming congregation to homosexuals.

Members of the Yearly Meeting Ministry and Oversight began deliberations with West Richmond over the conflict between the statement and the yearly meeting’s minuted statements regarding same-sex relationships.

At the July yearly meeting sessions the Task Force had recommended a separation, known as Model #4. After discussions on the floor of the yearly meeting, the task force reconvened at a later date to  define their recommendation which became known as Model #5, a collaborative realignment in which various parties would be represented in the process of establishing a new alignment of Indiana Yearly Friends into two bodies.

When I was still quite new to Quakerism, I was fortunate in that historian Tom Hamm was a member of the meeting I attended, First Friends, New Castle, Indiana. Having Tom teach the membership class session on Quaker history was a real joy. He did an excellent job distilling the 300+ years of Friends history into a one hour class.

Of course, the class included to-the-point descriptions of the splits that have occurred in North American Quakerism. That day the terms Hicksites, Gurneyites and Wilburites were introduced to me in a way that made historical sense. I also learned about the holiness Friends of Central Yearly Meeting, Anti-Slavery Friends, Waterites and others. I learned about Friends United Meeting, Friends General Conference, and, what was then the Evangelical Friends Association as well as Conservative Friends. To his credit, Tom made all of this clear to me. Having majored in history as an undergraduate, I was in my element listening to him lecture. While the overarching themes that Tom presented in clear, precise terms were enough for a foundational understanding of the separations, further study would bring out nuances that were not immediately evident.

Likewise there are nuances to the events of October 1, 2011 at Friends Memorial in Muncie, Indiana that years from now may be glossed over in Quaker history classes, not because of any attempt to cover them up, but because a full understanding would take a semester’s worth of work. My personal impression is that there are three general groups within the yearly meeting. Those that fully agree with the West Richmond welcoming minute, those that disagree with the West Richmond minute and feel it is in the words of one Friend “a deal breaker” and those that disagree with West Richmond but wish to keep in fellowship despite the disagreement.

It was the movement of this last group in particular that seemed to lead the Yearly Meeting (through Representative Council) towards the adoption of a collaborative realignment known as Model #5. A year-long process, the model seeks to bring forth an alignment of two new yearly meetings along certain theological and perhaps cultural lines.

Many who hoped for unity came to realize that the rift in the yearly meeting was deeper than just a question of where one stood on West Richmond’s welcoming statement. Although there were and still are those on all sides who will still point to that issue as THE issue that lead to the split, more and more of the representatives became convinced that the rift over the West Richmond statement was a symptom of even greater social, cultural and theological differences that have been pulling Indiana Yearly Meeting apart for many years.

Some seek a greater unity of theology within the Yearly Meeting that would place Indiana Friends squarely within the wider body of Evangelicalism. Others envision Indiana Friends as being more similar to other mainline Protestant denominations where a wide spectrum of theological points of view are held and the diversity and tension between those viewpoints brings forth new possibilities.

Historically, particularly during the Quietist Period, Friends tried to maintain a hedge, keeping outside cultural forces at bay. But eventually social, cultural and political forces that began beyond the walls of their meetinghouses had a way of forcing some tough decisions that often led to rancorous splits. Forces from the wider culture are at play now and like animals before an earthquake, we sense the ground moving below our feet. The sense of the meeting was that a division is inevitable, but rancor is not. Will we live into something new without some of the extremes that have plagued separation in the past when contending clerks would physically fight over the minute book to claim legitimacy? That depends upon our willingness to approach the year ahead with humility and patience and to be touched by the better angels of our nature.

A 2006 graduate of ESR, Chris Sitler is the pastor of Dublin (IN) Friends Meeting.  His bachelor's degree is from Hanover College (IN) where he was a double major in History and Communication. He is the husband of Penny Rutherford Sitler and the father of Daniel and Mariah Sitler. He is also a competitive Scrabble player and enjoys hiking.

Friday, October 14, 2011

“How Can They Hate Us So Much When We Are So Good?”

By John Fitch

George W Bush asked this question in his 911 address.  It is a question that I pondered much during my retreat in NY with my Franciscan Order and especially during the 911 memorial at ground zero in Manhattan on the 10th anniversary. The theme of this year’s gathering was the story of St. Francis and the Sultan. We looked at the lessons learned from history and St. Francis' take on what Jesus would want us to do instead of waging war on our neighbors. Our main text was the book The Saint and the Sultan by Paul Moses.

The gist of the story is that St. Francis traveled to stop the Fifth Crusade in 1217. The Crusaders' plan was to conquer all of Egypt which would capture the riches of the fertile Nile Valley and strategically defend against the Egyptian Navy by controlling the Nile. This would ultimately lead to safe passage to Jerusalem in the South. Francis first tried to reason with the crusaders camped on the opposite side of the Nile which came to no avail.

Francis tried to convince the Bishop in charge that war is not what  Jesus wants us to do to our neighbor but instead we are to love our neighbor. The Bishop in charge of the army was certain he could win and would hear nothing about peace and reconciliation.  Francis begged for permission to speak to the Sultan and permission was granted only that Francis was acting on his own as a missionary to convert the Sultan and did not have the authority to negotiate peace on behalf of the Church.

Francis then went with one other Friar to the Muslim camp and asked to speak to the Sultan. They were arrested and beaten but not killed because the commanders of the Sultan’s army believed they were sent by the other side to negotiate a peace settlement and hence were taken to the Sultan Malik al Kamil.  Al-Kamil was a learned man who knew of the Coptic Christians and had great respect for holy men. He was interested in finding a peaceful resolution and ready to offer the Christians control of Jerusalem in return for peace. Francis told the Sultan he did not have the authority to negotiate a truce but instead wanted to convert him to Christianity.

Francis was not successful in converting the Sultan, although the Sultan was impressed by Francis and granted him safe passage back to the other side. The battle went on as planned and all the Crusaders were slaughtered ending the 5th Crusade.  It does not seem to me that we have learned much about peace seven hundred and ninety five years later. We are still waging war at the tremendous cost of many lives and economic losses. Jesus' message of peace has not changed and I don’t believe he would say any of the wars have been justified.

On Sunday some of us traveled to Manhattan to attend the 911 Memorial. The mood was somber. I saw a lot of firemen and policemen who looked like they were reliving that tragic day 10 years ago. One fireman looked like he had been crying and he was carrying a photo of Fr. Mychal Judge the Franciscan Friar who was the much loved  Chaplain of the fire department and was killed when the building collapsed because when warned to leave he said, “I can’t leave. I have to stay with my men. "

911 was a tragic event and it came as a shock to most people because always before wars and acts of terrorism have happened somewhere else. Because we are an introverted society we don’t pay attention to wars and conflicts that in many cases we are involved in around the world.  “Why do they hate us so much when we so good” is the question we all need to seek answers to.

Most Americans believe our military interventions are justified and necessary for our defense but I suspect that the people on the receiving end of our bombs don’t see our actions as just and are responding to our violence with continued acts of terror.  We have been responding aggressively for ten years at a tremendous cost in both money and lives lost since 911 and we have not made any real progress toward peaceful resolutions of conflicts.

In his sermon preached at the Episcopal Church on Wall St. on the memorial Sunday the priest called on us “to never forget the power of love”.   Franciscans like Quakers have been especially aware of Jesus' message of loving our enemy. Our ecumenical Franciscan group has decided as our focus of study this year to learn more about Islam and the ongoing conflict to seek understanding so we can help find a peaceful means of solving our differences.

41490_1779412490_5473_nJohn Fitch is the founder of the Renaissance House community and is an alumnus of ESR. He is currently studying in the Doctor of Ministry program at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology and is participating in a one year internship with the monks of New Skete training dogs and learning about traditional monasticism. In his spare time he enjoys photography.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friend in Residence: Christopher Sammond

By Valerie Hurwitz

This past week Chrisotopher Sammond, General Secretary of New York Yearly Meeting, visited ESR as our Friend-in-Residence. He spoke at many events, including our Common Meal, Peace Forum, joint worship on Friday, and a Friday afternoon workshop. When I sat down to write this post, I intended to focus on his Peace Forum presentation, but my thoughts ranged wider than that so I’ll comment on a number of the Friend-in-Residence activities I participated in. Christopher Sammond is widely knowledgeable; from the traditional seminary education he got at United Theological Seminary in Minnesota to his long history with Friends, and he had a lot to share with ESR this past week.

First, Indiana Yearly Meeting’s Representative Council meeting last Saturday is very much on our minds here. (You can read Margaret Fraser’s thoughts on the meeting here). While Indiana Yearly Meeting no longer appoints Earlham trustees and our formal relationship with them has changed significantly, West Richmond Friends is only a few blocks from ESR and has been (along with First Friends and Clear Creek meetings) a spiritual home for many residential students. Christopher Sammond, being part of dually affiliated FUM-FGC yearly meeting, has a particular vantage point being able to see trends within the liberal branches of Friends, as well as within FUM.

During a lunch with faculty on Wednesday, Christopher spoke both about trying to sustain liberal Friends and also about forming working relationships with other members of FUM. Christopher spoke about New York Yearly Meeting and the need for liberal Friends to reflect theologically. He drew a distinction between religious/spiritual experience (which he says NYYM does very well in its unprogrammed meetings) and being able to reflect communally on what is going on during these experiences and articulating one’s own theological beliefs. This does not necessarily lead to dogmatism about specific theological doctrines (although it certainly can). Christopher wants to encourage unprogrammed Friends to reflect on their experiences in meeting and develop their vocabulary of theological concepts in order to better do so.

Christopher has also worked with the FUM board, and the discussion turned to relationships among yearly meetings as they try to form a vision of FUM’s purpose and mission. Christopher could name many examples of having worked individually with superintendents and other representatives from less liberal yearly meetings, but noted that it often felt difficult to gain unity among the board as a whole. Christopher’s reflections on relationships within FUM came full circle during the West Richmond Friends meeting this past Sunday where a member stood and shared a joy. She had attend the FUM board meetings over the weekend and found an amazing feeling of Friendship and an absence of conflict. Let’s pray that FUM continues along those lines.

At Peace Forum on Thursday, Christopher spoke about being effective as Peace activists. He finds the practice of spending long hours during yearly meeting business sessions of crafting a minute of concern on a particular topic to be not effective in changing the world. (I laughed a little at this, having seen the process of laboring over each word on a minute a few times now. Not being Quaker, however, I can have a great deal of patience for a business practice that isn’t mine.) Christopher joked that, “the walls of every room in Congress could be papered with minutes of concern from Friends”, but acknowledged that sometimes this is part of an important process of clarifying identity and an outlet for anger and powerlessness.

Christopher instead believes in the power of individual action being contagious and encouraging. He mentioned the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting “Called to Action” program and the Quaker intentional village project occurring now in New York Yearly Meeting. Christopher and the attendees also discussed the Occupy Wall Street protests happening now, which have spread around the country. Christopher point is that we need ask ourselves “How have we acted to create the Kingdom?”, not defend, but create.

On Friday, Christopher spoke in joint worship on Luke 18, the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee praying in the temple. He encouraged us to be wary of our own sense of righteousness and see the ways in which we are the Pharisee, proclaiming how much better we are than others. After lunch, Christopher shared a workshop with us, focused on reading the parables of Jesus. It was a quiet sunny day and we sat in Quigg (the worship room), sharing the conclusions and connections we drew from specific parables. I was reminded of a theologian who commented that Jesus must have spoken in parables to avoid dogmatic certainty among his followers.

The name of the theologian escapes me, but the workshop was a reminder to read the Bible imaginatively and the joy of reading it communally. This post has come out a little scattered, as the week included many events. Christopher also carries a broad range of concerns that address many issues among Friends, from programmed to unprogrammed to larger structural issues within FUM and FGC. Hopefully this is good for thought for you and an update on how we’re doing at ESR!

Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Following the Call

By Diane Reynolds

For 18 years John Muhanji worked as a banker in Kenya, living a high-status life of material prosperity. In 2004, moved by the plight of survivors of the Rwandan genocide, he resigned from the bank to take a much lower-paying job with Friends United Meeting. “It was a moment of total change,” he said at last Thursday’s Peace Forum lunch at Earlham School of Religion.

This is a rare, but not unknown story—among others, John Woolman deliberately curtailed his tailoring business to free himself for ministry, George Fox chose a life involving years in jail, and Elizabeth Fry stepped into prison reform ministry. The call comes and some heed it.

The son of Quaker minister, Muhanji is participating in the rapid growth of Quakerism in both Kenya and Rwanda, a growth he attributes to the faith’s ability to provide a distinctive Christian voice. To continue to expand, Quakerism, he said, must maintain that distinctive edge and not become just another religious choice.

The Quaker distinctives Muhanji locate as important include the integrity and peace testimonies. As Kenyan Quakers stand for integrity, they not only talk about the faith but live in a way that shows the difference a Quaker version of Christianity can make in people’s lives. This, says Muhanji, is a powerful witness to Christianity as a force for good in the world. Most specifically, Quakers exemplify the connection between Christian faith and peace.

Quakers run 250 high schools in Kenya, Muhanji said, and these schools teach peace building and reconciliation skills, making them vitally important for changing the culture of government and police corruption that exists in Kenya. Students are hungry for this peace building knowledge. And creating a cadre of peacemakers, Muhanji said, is vital not only for Kenya, which in 2007 experienced an outbreak of unspeakable violence, but in the entire region of East Africa. Somalia is a special problem, Muhanji said, for terrorist training goes on here unchallenged, threatening the region.

Muhanji invited Quakers and others to come to Kenya to teach in the Quaker schools. Our knowledge and peace skills are needed there, he said. For those with the call, it seems that little could be more gratifying than entering a country where your life has the potential to make an immediate and a lasting difference.

I think often about Kenya because I have a friend who lived there for seven years: she and her family lived in a gated community with a private security guard, a maid, a driver, private schooling and all the privileges of the good life that American ex-patriots can enjoy. They also lived in a society in which they had to be on constant guard against theft, a country filled with desperately poor people, and with an infrastructure so overburdened that people without money were left to die on hospital emergency room floors.

When John talks about the hope of Quakerism, he is saying, I think, the same as Dorothy Day, who often spoke of building a world in which “it is easier to be good.” Nobody, I believe, wants to let a fellow human die on a hospital floor. Nobody wants to steal to stay alive.

The dialogue and partnership between U.S. and Kenyan Quakers is vital to both sides. Our society, as recent cheers for letting the uninsured die show, is threatened with hardness of heart. We need to share the vitality of Kenyan Quakers. What more can we do to promote the lived—not merely sentimental--tenderness that has long been a central tenet of our tradition? How can we rally more around our insight into Jesus Christ as a radical peacemaker rather than fight among ourselves?

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Paradigm Shift from “Just War” to “Just Peace” at the World Council of Churches

By Diane Reynolds

Is “Just War” theory—which attempts to limit when and how a nation wages war- obsolete? At a recent meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, 1,000 members of the World Council of Churches—including Bethany Seminary professor Scot Holland—moved beyond it to embrace a vision of “Just Peace.”

Speaking at last Thursday’s Peace Forum lunch, held at ESR, Holland explained the importance of a new, more creative, way of imagining a world without war.

The shift towards peace has been long coming, Holland said. Shortly after World War II, the WCC invited historic peace churches, including Quakers, Brethren and Mennonites to Geneva, where the WCC decided that “war is contrary to the will of God.” However, at the time, churches were not yet able to work out what that statement meant in political or pragmatic terms.

Fast forwarding to the last ten years—dubbed by the WCC the “decade to overcome violence”—“Just War” theory became highly questionable, Holland said.

“Just Peace,” Holland said, is preferable because it moves us from a military metaphysics to a “poetry of peace.” Because we are used to “the bad fiction” of a master narrative of war, we equate guns with security, and worry if we don’t have strong militaries. The move away from this mindset, Holland said, is pragmatic,
because military metaphysics “simply doesn’t work.” Instead, a new story approach finds power in the human longing for a peace narrative.

Thus, the poetic or creative basis of “Just Peace” encourages us to imagine not just avoiding war but peaceful modes of being in the world. These include embracing an embodied spirituality that names the human form as a temple. If the spiritual is found only beyond the body, Holland said, anything can be done to the body.

The World Council of Churches enumerated four principles of Just Peacemaking:

o Building peace in our communities, including our spiritual communities, with an emphasis on our faith groups being “in the world, for the world.”

Embracing eco-theological approaches to making peace with the planet.

Promoting peace in the marketplace and acknowledging that economic injustice makes peace difficult.

Focusing on peace between peoples by building “the peace of the city”—promoting outer peace in the world and trusting it to lead to inner peace. This form of peace was imagined by the prophet Jeremiah, who called for the Israelites to build houses and live in them, to plant gardens and eat of them, to marry and have children.

Personally, I love the idea of working together to build a just peace on earth, rather than merely sidestepping war until it becomes “inevitable.” However, many Quakers tend to believe that inner peace is a necessary first step to outer peace. What do you think of an external “peace of the city” leading to inner harmony?
Further, what do you think of “Just Peace?” Can a new paradigm lead to a more peaceful world?

More on “Just Peace” can be found at

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’sMaster of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog,Emerging Quaker.