Peace Discernment Process: Journeying towards a Bold Peace Witness

By Dylan Rooke, PPF Peace Discernment Organizer/National Committee Member

Summer is here, it is warming our bodies and thawing us from a long cold winter and a seemingly short spring - early spring is when I joined the staff at PPF to help in our advocacy of the Presbyterian Peace Discernment Process, and it has just flown by without much time to take a breath. There has been such a burst of energy surrounding Peace Discernment this spring, and from what I've experienced, a very enthused amalgamation of people gathering all over our country in Presbyterian centers of worship, learning, and retreat, all coming together to pray, think, listen & share with each other and the Spirit to seek what it means to be followers of the Prince of Peace – to be peacemakers in our time and place.

The Peace Discernment Process, if you're not already aware, invites congregations and presbyteries to participate in a church-wide Peace Discernment conversation to "seek clarity as to God's call to the church to embrace nonviolence as its fundamental response to the challenges of violence, terror, and war; and to identify, explore, and nurture new approaches to active peacemaking and nonviolence." This Peace Discernment Process was initiated by the 219th General Assembly (2010) in response to overtures from several presbyteries, and it was reaffirmed by the 220th General Assembly (2012).

There's been a whisper, dare I say a prophetic wind, rustling the wings of the Presbyterian Church, asking gently to challenge our assumptions of power and privilege we hold so dear as Americans and Christians in our world. How will we make faithful steps forward as an expression among many in the body of Christ? Are we being called to take bold steps towards a stronger witness of Peace? - one that is noticeable by all that we may encounter? I'll be honest, just the fact that our denomination has this discussion officially on the floor was a huge surprise and encouragement to me when I first heard of it. In the Peace Discernment conversations I've personally been apart of, my Church and Presbytery, there has been a clear longing to be more actively involved as a Church in the makings of peace, sustainable peace, and peace that reflects the Kingdom of God more than the Empirical "Pax Romana" that we have sadly fallen into as the modern American Church.

We have heard from masses of Churches and Presbyteries, spanning all over our country, all returning there forms and feedback to the Peacemaking Program and to our advocacy database with enthusiasm and questions, asking, "what's next?" "How can we help push this forward into action?" as well as many assuring statements praising the beautiful way the program set up a group in a very balanced and spirit led discussion. And again, from my personal experience, I felt very encouraged by the diverse groups I gathered in, and though by no means did we all agree on what the document proposed, and in what ways to answer the questions before us - that is if some are even answerable at all! – But, it was a time of unity, encouragement and hope.

So where do we go from here? Well, though the Peacemaking Program hopes to have all feedback in by the end of this month, we will continue to advocate that any Churches or Presbyteries that wish to still jump on board this conversation please do so. It is a valuable curriculum that we believe will enhance our collective understanding and vision in the re-imaging of our church, especially in light of how we interact with the world around us. There will be a report and recommendations brought and discussed on the Floor of the Detroit GA in 2014 as a compiling and response to the conversations we've shared in our local gatherings. Whether or not our denomination decides to make some radical steps towards embracing non-violence as a primary objective or not, we believe that as followers of Christ, we will make those brave steps with or without an entire institution, but how beautiful it would be If that was indeed where our denomination journeyed!