Anti-Nuclear Weapons Legislation will Test CofC Peace Commitment

At stake is whether I trust in God or the bomb. In nuclear war there are no winners. I therefore cannot agree that perfecting the bomb and developing the ability to use it first is a basis for my security and well being. It is certainly not an appropriate basis for my faith. … The fashioning of nuclear weapons and threatening to use them is a sin — a sin against God, against God’s likenesses (all humans), and against God’s creation. … Our security as a people of faith lies not in demonic weapons which threaten all life on earth. Our security is in a loving, caring God.

These prophetic words were delivered in a brave and remarkable sermon given by Charles D. Neff to the 1982 Community of Christ World Conference. Neff knew what he was talking about. He was in Hiroshima as a US Naval Officer just a few weeks after the city’s destruction by an atomic bomb. “What I saw there,” he told the conference attendees, “is indelibly etched into my  mind, my heart, my soul. The stark reality of death and despair everywhere in Hiroshima in 1945 was indescribable.”

Among the many contentious pieces of legislation that the Community of Christ faces at its upcoming 2010 World Conference is G-11, “Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” from the Central USA Mission Center. I believe this will be a key test of whether the church is moving toward becoming a peace church, something I have expressed doubts about on this blog.

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The Community of Christ is Becoming a Peace Church!

Please Note: This post is a response from Community of Christ Apostle, Andrew Bolton, to two blog postings by his son, Matthew Bolton: “The Community of Christ is Not a Peace Church” and “Managed Decline or Rejuvenation?” Matthew Bolton’s articles critiqued the church’s implementation of its peace mission. —Ed.

I want to respond to Matthew’s article.

Perhaps we should own up to being father and son straightaway. In recent years our relationship has become more like equal friends and that has been a real joy for me. I even look up to him — he is 6ft 5in and I am only 6ft 2 1/2 in. He writes better than I do and intellectually he is ahead of me. I like to think though that the thousands of conversations we have had over the years have helped shape not only his intellectual skills of analysis but his interest and deep convictions about peace and justice… and his outspokenness. Emily, his beloved wife, is also having a good influence on him. We both look up to her (5ft 5in) and she may, in her Mennonite convictions and personal courage, be even more committed to peace than either of us.

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The Community of Christ is Not a Peace Church

At face value, Community of Christ’s claim to be dedicated to the pursuit of peace must be deemed a failure.

As far as I can tell, the sum total of our contribution to peace on earth is an annual Peace Colloquy, a Peace Prize, a Peace and Justice website, the Children’s Peace Pavilion, a Peace Committee and a few million dollars contributed to Outreach International, World Accord, the World Hunger Fund and the Save Darfur Coalition.

This might seem like a lot to some, but it is actually no more than any other mainline denomination. It certainly does not match up to the work of the historic peace churches like the Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers. The word ‘peace’ in our logo does not make us a peace church.

How many major international peace negotiations have we supported or facilitated as an institution? Some may say this is setting the bar too high, but the Quakers (a similar sized denomination) were instrumental in providing a back channel in Northern Ireland. The Community of Sant Egido (a Catholic group) was one of the main players in ending the conflict in Mozambique.

How many church employees are working on the ground to end the world’s most deadly armed conflicts? Sure, there are a few members working with NGOs, the diplomatic services or the military, but none of these are working on behalf of the church.

Where is our fearless advocacy on behalf of the poor and oppressed of the world? We’ve given a little money to Bread for the World and have a couple interns working for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. But we have no established or effective way of mobilizing people for advocacy, unlike the Quakers, Mennonites, Presbyterians or Catholics.

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