Living Peace Church - 2013 Report
The Living Peace Church (LPC) call is for every church to live and teach as Jesus lived and taught. Each committed LPC congregation will identify itself as a Living Peace Church, discern at least one enduring service outreach for the entire church body to do together to embody this commitment, and share its stories with the public and other churches. A congregation begins the Living Peace Church journey by going through a discernment process to hear if this call speaks to their faith community. The new Living Peace Church ministry of On Earth Peace accompanies a congregation through this discernment process and throughout its committed life as a member of the LPC community.
Living Peace Church History
Since the 1935 “Conference of Historic Peace Churches” in Newton, Kansas, the Brethren, Friends, and Mennonites have shared the “historic peace church” label. This label served not only as a badge of distinction, but also as a shield of privilege and a form of accommodation with the war programs of the nation. Basically, this label said that these minority faiths were quaint, insignificant, and not a threat to the nation’s war efforts.
With the “New Call to Peacemaking” movement of the 1970’s, the historic peace churches and other denominations put the world on notice that peace churches would no longer be contained within the walls of privilege and accommodation. The Church of the Brethren embraced this direction for our denomination with two Annual Conference Statements: “Peacemaking: The Calling of God’s People in History” (1991); and “Call for a Living Peace Church” (2003). These boldly declared our intent for peacemaking to break out and infuse the entire body of believers in a new Living Peace Church leavening.
The Every Church A Peace Church (ECAPC) project began the 21st Century with an attempt to embody this Living Peace Church vision for all of Jesus’ churches. In 2012, ECAPC gave itself to the new Living Peace Church ministry of On Earth Peace to continue the work of helping to catechize and support a network of local churches who choose to self-identify as living peace churches. We convened a gathering of peace leaders from several denominations and organizations in the fall of 2012, and began preparing resources for this ministry.
This new Living Peace Church initiative represents another wave of peacebuilding that will keep surging onto the shores of the church until it has soaked the entire body of faith with a shared commitment to live and teach as Jesus lived and taught. As we see other denominations and traditions also moving in this direction, we reach out for partnership and unity with all churches and their affiliates at one shared table of peace.
LPC Progress in 2013
In the past year, we have developed a guide for local Leavening Teams to lead their churches and congregations through the Living Peace Church discernment process. This guide is titled The Way of Peace, and takes the church through six sessions of shared Bible study, conversations, and prayer about the call for every church to live and teach as Jesus lived and taught. In preparing this guide, we studied similar materials from other church renewal programs and consulted with professionals who have been shepherding such efforts. This preparation also included careful examination of the seminal book, The Journey Into Peacemaking, by noted theologian and member of the ECAPC leadership team Glen Stassen, written in association with the World Peacemakers movement piloted by the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. We also focused on the key principles of the organizational transformation practice known as “Appreciative Inquiry” and built these into the structure of this discernment process.
This year also blessed us with the arrival of Bethany Theological Seminary student Angela Finet as an intern dedicated to the Living Peace Church ministry for her field service placement throughout the 2013-2014 academic year. Angela helped us finish The Way of Peace guidebook and to develop a workshop to introduce people to the Living Peace Church initiative, and is actively engaging a number of churches with the Living Peace Church call and discernment process. She is pursuing her Master of Divinity, and has an MBA degree and substantial experience in the small business startup field.
In 2013, we conducted many Living Peace Church workshops at church conferences, leadership meetings, and other venues throughout the Church of the Brethren. These gave us valuable feedback and experience to refine our LPC resource development, along with validation of the appeal of the Living Peace Church call and direction. They also led to interest by several Brethren congregations to be among the first group of churches to pilot the LPC program.
We began an LPC community blog in 2013 (at http://LivingPeaceChurch.org), as a temporary place for sharing information about the development of the program. We also started working with a web developer who will help us build a community website to replace the blog in 2014.
In 2014, we will begin a pilot of Living Peace Church sites with several churches, including some from the Church of the Brethren, and some from other denominations. Our ideal mix would be to have six congregations from the Brethren, Mennonite, or other historic peace church traditions, and six local churches from other Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox faith traditions. ECAPC founder John Stoner has committed to help us connect with non-Brethren churches from the former ECAPC church network. To look into adding your congregation, contact Bill Scheurer, Executive Director of On Earth Peace, at Bill@OnEarthPeace.org or (410) 635-8704.