Commitment to Christ's Way of Peace, A (MCC, 1993)
In 1950, delegates from Mennonite and Brethren in Christ church bodies in North America met at Winona Lake, Indiana, to consider their commitment to the Biblical way of peace. Their "Declaration of Christian Faith and Commitment" stands as a testimony which has guided our churches in the past forty years.
Much has changed in our world since 1950, and we as churches have also changed. While the people of God have given a strong witness to peace during this time, the forces of violence have not diminished. We have seen a vast growth in technological means of destruction, with the development of nuclear bombs and missile systems. We have experienced wars in which highly sophisticated weapons distanced many soldiers from seeing the enemy as human beings. While the East-West power struggle which led to a massive buildup m destructive capacity has ended, conflicts between rival groups threaten the hope for peace in many parts of our globe. People everywhere long for an end to war and strife.
As our congregations have reached out to become more diverse, we have grown in our awareness of the effects of sin and the need to be peacemakers. We have learned that violence can be done not only in warfare, but also through economic structures. We have seen the world's fragile ecosystem endangered by careless treatment of the natural environment. We have struggled against the effects of racism. We have come to realize that violence can reach into our churches and into our families.
As our churches have done at various points in history, we find it helpful to once again state clearly our convictions regarding the church's calling to be God's people of peace. We look toward the future with hope because of God's promise to be with us in all situations. We are committed to speaking clearly and courageously as messengers of the good news in a troubled world. Recognizing our own sinfulness, and relying on God's grace and strength, we make the following affirmations and commitments.
- We believe that God created the world and all its inhabitants as good. Despite human sin, God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit continues to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to all. As we personally acknowledge our sinfulness and repent, we are reconciled to God through Christ our Savior, united with the church community, and entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Acts 2; 2 Corinthians 5.
- We believe that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has saved us and proclaimed peace to us. This message of peace is central to our witness to God's suffering love which is redeeming the world Isaiah 53; Luke 1-2; Matthew 5-7; Ephesians 2.
- We believe that God calls the church to demonstrate by its life the gospel of peace, which it has received through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Nurtured by the Holy Spirit, the church gives this witness through expressions of love, peace and justice within its own community and beyond. We believe that God is creating a people -- the church - - as a sign of God's renewal of the world. 1 Corinthians 12-14, 1 Peter 2-3; 1 John.
- We believe that peace is the will of God, and that there is no peace without justice. God calls us to abandon hatred, strife and violence in all human relations, whether between individuals, within the family, within the church, among nations and races, or between religious factions, and to pursue a just peace for God's whole creation. Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 12-14.
We have chosen to follow Jesus as our Lord, and to serve him as disciples. As his representatives, we are called to be peacemakers. This call encompasses all of life, requiring certain attitudes, duties and commitments. We recognize that the strength to pursue these goals comes from God, as we together seek God's will in the context of a spiritual community. Asking for God's grace and guidance, we adopt these commitments as a definition of our path and directions.
- We strive to share with all people the good news that the grace of God in Jesus Christ, experienced in forgiveness and discipleship, changes lives and enables us to be peacemakers. Our love and ministry reach out to all, regardless of race, religion or status, whether friend or foe.
- We seek to build up the church as a community of love, which welcomes people of every race, class, sex, and nation, uniting even those who were enemies. Though the church in its human expressions remains imperfect, it is the body of Christ, heralding the reign of God. Membership in this body which transcends national boundaries unites believers throughout the world in community and witness.
- We will contribute to the relief of human need and suffering by giving ourselves and our resources. The needs of our world and the cries of people in many places for justice call us to respond as Jesus did, with compassion. At the same time we recognize our own spiritual and moral poverty and seek to receive the gifts that others, some of whom may be materially poorer than we are, have to share with us.
- We will live in relationships of love and mutual respect. We seek to model such relationships in our homes, churches, and work places, and to refrain from behavior which violates and abuses others physically or emotionally. In the spirit of Christ, we will oppose and seek to correct abusive relationships within our church family.
- We will pray for and witness to those in authority over our countries. We recognize that governing authorities have an ordering role in society Some of us may be called to ministries of reconciliation, relief of human need, and protection of the environment through service within governmental institutions. As Christians and citizens, we strive to live consistently according to the values of God's reign, and so we offer our witness to the state, reminding those in authority that they are called by God to use their power in ways that are constructive and life-giving rather than violent and life-destroying. As Christians we are keenly aware of our primary allegiance to follow the way of God which may at times conflict with the demands of government.
- We will strive to show by our lives that war is an unacceptable way to solve human conflict. This calls us to refuse to support war, or to participate in military service. When war or war preparations lead to the conscription of ourselves, our money, or our property, we will seek alternative ways to serve humanity and our countries in the spirit of Christ. We support ministries of conciliation which search for peaceful resolution of conflicts. Recognizing the subtle ways in which our loyalties and resources can be conscripted m modern industrial states, we will strive to continually examine our complicity m systems which treat others as enemies.
- We will resist evil and oppression in the nonviolent spirit of Jesus. Our stand against unjust treatment of people employs the "weapons" demonstrated by Jesus -- love, truth, forgiveness, and the willingness to suffer rather than inflict suffering. Our witness anticipates God's transformative power in human hearts and institutions. In loving resistance we will stand with people in their struggle against the power of sin, and proclaim the liberation and reconciliation which come with the rule of God.
- We will work together to discern what God's reign means for our lifestyles and economic systems. As Christians we are called to be compassionate and just in our economic practices, domestically and internationally, and to critique all economic systems according to their impact on the poor. In our nations military expenditures are used to sustain and shape our economic systems. We seek to resist being trapped by the consumerism so prevalent in our societies, and to live modestly as witnesses against greed and militarism.
- We will work to restore the earth which God has created God made the earth good, and wills the redemption of the whole creation. The threats to the future of the creation posed by nuclear weapons and environmental degradation are the result of human sinfulness. We seek to live in sustainable ways as inhabitants of the earth, and to respect all of God's creation.
- We submit ourselves to the study of scripture, the giving and receiving of counsel, and the practice of prayer, as ways to receive the gift of God's peace. Our world is confronted with problems which are beyond the power of unaided human reason and resources to solve. Jesus relied on prayer in his ministry, and continues to intercede for us. In humility we confess that Christ shows us the way and provides strength, guidance, and comfort as we walk in the way of peace.
We thank God for the many opportunities we find to learn from diverse peoples around the globe. We yearn to work together in the ministry of peacemaking with all Christians. We are grateful for the faithfulness of all God's people who have sought to follow the way of Jesus Christ, and for our own tradition which has affirmed Christ's way of love and nonresistance, expressed again in these declarations and commitments.
In humility we confess our failures in following this way, and our shortcomings in both demonstrating and proclaiming Christ's love. As we renew our commitment to Christ's way, we acknowledged our need of God's grace and each other's help in learning and obeying. With the hope that God gives us, we once more commit ourselves to live holy lives worthy of our calling and to discover anew Christ's message of reconciliation and peace for the world today.
Adopted by Mennonite Central Committee Board,
February 20, 1993, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
The Mennonite Church General Assembly endorses the statement, "A Commitment to Christ's Way of Peace," and commends it to our conferences and congregations for teaching, study and the strengthening of peace convictions.
Mennonite Church General Assembly
July 31, 1993
Commentary on the Statement
The 1993 revision of "Declaration of Christian Faith and Commitment" marked the first new overarching peace statement by Mennonite Central Committee since the 1950 document. The new statement was not without its critics. Some saw the 1993 statement as blurring the distinctions between the mandate of the state and the mandate of the church. On the other side, critics felt the 1993 statement should have included a "confession" section acknowledging the violence found within us. Some members of the Canadian Council of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Moderators were troubled by the phrase "there is no peace without justice."
Since Mennonite Central Committee serves on behalf of a wide theological spectrum of Mennonite denominations this type of declaration has been uncommon. The Mennonite Church General Assembly endorsed the statement at its 1993 session. The Conference of Mennonites in Canada endorsed the statement at its 1994 session.
Context written February 2000 by Sam Steiner
MCC contact 16 (May 1993): 1-5
"New peace statement reflects new position." Mennonite Reporter 23 (May 31, 1993): 8.
Derksen, Wilma. "'No Peace Without Justice' Phrase Snags Moderators' Debate," Mennonite Reporter 23 (November 15, 1993): 1-2.
Miller, John W. "A Radical Departure from Traditional Position." Mennonite Reporter 23 (May 31, 1993): 8-9.
Penner, Leona Dueck. "Statement Looks Different to Africans." Mennonite Reporter 23 (May 31, 1993): 8-9.
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