Methodists back peacemaking and reject Trident
The British Methodist Conference has commended a new book, Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation, which examines the ethics of modern warfare and promotes positive Christian responses to conflict in modern society.
Produced jointly by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, the resource aims to help Christians reflect on Jesus' call to be peacemakers, to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors.
Asserting that armed conflict can only be a last resort, the document asks whether there can ever be a positive use of force in conflict and if so, who has the authority to pursue war.
It also explores the possibility of non-violent strategies for dealing with conflict and speaks of peacemaking on both local and international levels.
The book goes on to address the economic, social, political and environmental factors that contribute to conflict in communities and between nations.
The Methodist Church has a longstanding commitment to promoting peace, and a small pacifist fellowship. But it has largely operated from within the ëjust warí tradition which seeks to limit conflict, rather than following those Christians who believe that all violence is against the way of Jesus.
Mainstream churches, most notably the Roman Catholics, have moved closer and closer to the Christian nonviolence position in recent years, however.
The ëhistoric peace churchesí, such as the Mennonites, believe that the refusal of war and the embracing of peace as a sign of Godís coming kingdom should be first-rank identity markers for Christians in an age of religious and secular violence.
They argue that the churchís first duty is to witness to the state, not to justify or mollify government policies which cannot acknowledge the way of Christ as their decisive motive.
ëJust warí thinking originated in relation to the defence of Christendom, an alliance of church and state which limits Christian response to questions like war, and which a growing number of Christians now say is theologically and politically undesirable and untenable.
Meanwhile, Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation, features the stories of soldiers, military chaplains and those unwillingly caught up in conflict. It considers how to respond to terrorism in a volatile environment and calls upon the leaders of the nations to join Christians in seeking out the way of peace.
Speaking from his own experience of the 7/7 bombings, Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, commented: ìI was suddenly caught up in an indescribable scene of carnage, death, chaos and fear. I've met again with those who were with me at the time, including some who were very severely injured. In various ways their lives have been changed. I can appreciate the struggle that some have had in coming to terms with the trauma of the experience.î
He continued: ìIn the week following the bombing 50 people were killed in explosions in Iraq. Israel experienced its first suicide bombing for many months and in Gaza a young woman was killed as the result of Israeli military action. The danger is that we become so familiar with such images that we overlook the grief of those involved and the trauma not only of individuals but also of whole communities.î
Adds Hucklesby: ìPeacemaking does not mean passivity or indifference to injustice ñ it is an active, creative and challenging task in which we are all called to engage as Christians. It's at the heart of Jesus' teaching, not an optional extra. This report challenges the Church to move out of its comfort zone of familiar debates and mild protest and into real action for justice and reconciliation.î
The Methodist Conference has also voted to oppose replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system when it comes to the end of its life in about 2025. It urged the Government to take the lead in disarmament negotiations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, working towards the ultimate intention of eliminating all nuclear weapons.
Steve Hucklesby commented that ìreplacing Trident would send the wrong message to the rest of the world. The Non-Proliferation Treaty has worked well in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, and the Government should instead continue its practice of reducing the size of Britain's nuclear arsenal, with a goal of ultimately disarming once the last Trident elements go out of commission.î
The Methodist Conference, meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, welcomed Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation, recommending the resource for reflection and study and resolving to produce further resources and to continue to work with other churches and faith groups.
[Also on Ekklesia: Scottish church leaders denounce Trident nuclear weapons 25/06/06; Scottish bishops signal Christian case against Trident nuclear weapons; Scottish churches in anti-nuclear petition; Christian allegations about secret nuclear weapons substantiated; Church leaders urge statement on UK's nuclear plans; Christians to mark Ash Wednesday with civil disobedience; Churches urged to tackle nuclear 'ignorance and complacency'; Plea for armed forces chaplains likely to be rejected; British Christians call for end to nuclear weapons; Catholic call to uphold nuclear non-proliferation]