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Home >Theology of Peace and War > Wesleyan Quadrilateral > Reason: Theological Perspective > Just Peacemaking

Background

Just war peacemaking theory has come into focus through the efforts of 23 scholars under the leadership of Professor Glen H. Stassen of Fuller Theological Seminary. They came together at the 1993 annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics and held conferences in 1994 and 1996. They presented their consensus in a book entitled Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1998. 2nd edition, 2004).

For further background, see Articles Explaining Just Peacemaking Theory on Professor Stassen's website. They include:

  • Explanation of What Just Peacemaking Is
  • Brief Summary of Just Peacemaking
  • New Paradigm: Just Peacemaking Theory (PDF version of #1)
  • Published Articles about Just Peacemaking


Roots

The roots of just peacemaking theory are found in four denominational statements issued from 1980 to 1986. They are:

Peacemaking: the Believers' Calling. A report adopted by the 192nd General Assembly (1980), United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. This 42-page document affirms, "The church is faithful to Christ when it is engaged in peacemaking." It analyzes the new global reality and presents theological and ethical bases for peacemaking and for policymaking.

The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response. A pastoral letter on war and peace from the National Conference of Bishops (1983). Much of the focus of this statement is upon nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war. But a part on "The Promotion of Peace: Proposals and Policies" includes a section on efforts to develop non-violent means of conflict resolution (pp. 69-72) and another part deals with "Shaping a Peaceful World" (pp. 73-78).

Affirming the United Church of Christ as a Just Peace Church, A pronouncement of the Fifteenth General Synod (1985). The General Synod defined "just peace" as the interrelation of friendship, justice, and common security from violence. The pronouncement calls the church to a vision of shalom rooted in peace with justice and places the UCC General Synod in opposition to the institution of war.

In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace. A foundation document and pastoral letter from the United Methodist Council of Bishops (1986). This document offers 20 guiding principles for a theology of a just peace (pp. 36-37). The bishops' policies for a just peace concentrate on achieving a nuclear free world, but they also deal with the need for common security (pp.78-79) and education for peaceful alternatives. The latter presents techniques of peaceable political action, including nonviolent direct action (pp. 79-81).

Glen Stassen provides an analysis of these statements in chapter 9 of Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992).


Theological Basis

The 23 scholars who developed the set of ideas on Just Peacemaking decided to concentrate on specific practices rather than seek agreement on theology. Professor Stassen explained why.

Focusing on practices enabled us to unite in spite of our differing faiths, perspectives, and methodologies. We believe the practices are ethically normative because they bring peace, they solve problems, they promote justice and cooperation. Each of us has additional reasons. Evangelicals among our group do our ethics with more biblical concreteness; mainline Protestants among us prefer more general theological grounding or middle axioms; peace-church members want arguments explicitly theological and faith-based; Roman Catholics work with general moral norms, natural law, and natural rights; and some who do not identify as explicitly faith-based shy away from faith-based reasons. All of us appeal explicitly to persons and groups of various faiths who will join with us in seeking to make peace. (from New Paradigm: Just Peacemaking Theory.)

But because these scholars did not seek a consensus on a theology for just peacemaking, this does not preclude development of a theological basis in the future.


Ten Practices

The 23 scholars brought their ideas together in a book entitled Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War, edited by Glen Stassen (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1998. Second edition, 2004). The ten practices are grouped in three sets:

I. PEACEMAKING INITIATIVES
1. Support nonviolent direct action.
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.
3. Use cooperative conflict resolution.
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness.

II. JUSTICE
5. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty.
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.

III. LOVE AND COMMUNITY
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

Professor Stassen has observed: "If we do begin to notice that these ten practices are: 1) already happening; 2) resolving conflicts; 3) proving useful and therefore spreading; 4) making reliance on war unlikely in many regions; then we do sense that ours is an historic moment when we may be able to encourage a transition from war as normal to war as abnormal. We are expressing not just a wish, but calling those who have eyes to see to notice what new processes of deliverance are happening among us and spreading globally. We are not urging disembodied ideals or ahistorical oughts to impose on an alien history they do not fit, but adding support to what is serving functional needs in the midst of the power realities."

Note: Further information on experience with nonviolent action is offered elsewhere on this website. Practical ideas for achieving nuclear disarmament are presented at http://www.zero-nukes.org/


Application

Glen Stassen's Ideas

In a series of Articles Explaining Juat Peacemaking Theory, Professor Stassen presents ideas on how to apply the principles of just peacemaking in concrete situations, including:

  • How Just Peacemaking Theory Can Make Sense of the Bombing of Kosovo
  • Attacking Iraq from a Just Peacemaking Perspective
  • Turning Attention to Just Peacemaking Initiatives that Prevent Terrorism

Dealing with Saddam Hussein

In the early months of 2003 leading up to the Iraq War, Jim Wallis, executive director and editor-in-chief of Sojourners, developed "An Alternative to War for Defeating Saddam Hussein." Offered as a third way between war and ineffectual responses, the plan had six points.

1. Remove Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party from power.

"The U.N. Security Council should establish an international tribunal to indict Saddam and his top officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indicting Saddam would send a clear signal to the world that he has no future. It would set into motion both internal and external forces that might remove him from power."

2. Enforce coercive disarmament.

a. Military enforcement. "Removing Saddam must be coupled with greatly intensified inspections to fully enforce all U.N. Security Council resolutions that relate to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf war."

b. Strengthen the arms embargo.

3. Foster a democratic Iraq.

4. Organize a massive humanitarian effort now for the people of Iraq.

5. Recommit to a "Roadmap to Peace" in the Middle East.

6. Reinvigorate and sustain the "war against terrorism."

On February 18, 2003 a U.S. religious delegation presented this plan to British Prime Minister Blair. They included Jim Wallis, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop, Washington, D.C.; Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk, Presbyterian Church USA; Melvin Talbert, ecumenical officer, United Methodist Council of Bishops; and Dan Weiss, immediate past general secretary, American Baptist Churches in the USA.

Dealing with Terrorism

[Examples to be added.]

 


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