JLE Portfolio: Just Peace and Just Peacemaking

[1] We have a special focus on just peace and just peacemaking in this issue. Mark Hanson, President of the Lutheran World Federation and Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, called for theological work among the member communions on principles of a just peace in his September 2004 President’s Address to the Lutheran World Federation Council. Commenting upon Chris Hedges’ book, War is a Force that Gives us Meaning, Hanson said, “In our violent and war-torn world, let us as the LWF deepen our resolve to demythologize these myths [that help to engender war], quell these fears [of the other], and together develop principles for a just peace that become as defining of us as have been the principles of just war.”

[2] This issue is a modest beginning of a response from some individual ELCA theologians to this challenging invitation. It includes some theological reflection about just peace and just peacemaking, as well as some thoughtful reviews of recent books that touch upon similar themes. (The documents and responses from JLE’s May 2005 issue on “Vulnerability and Security” are also relevant here.)

[3] This is the 10th anniversary year of the ELCA’s adoption of the Social Statement, “For Peace in God’s World.” This social statement reminds us all of our calling to be peacemakers and to search for what makes peace individually and collectively. The theological responses in this issue of JLE are in no way an official ELCA position on just peace or just peacemaking, of course, although they are in the spirit of both Hanson’s challenging invitation and the calling of “For Peace in God’s World.” JLE encourages more ELCA theologians and other LWF communions and their theologians to deliberate together and to take up Hanson’s challenge to contribute to the development of Lutheran theological and ethical thinking on these themes.

[4] Hanson’s challenging invitation shares some continuity with Luther’s own way of arguing ethical matters in his Large and Small Catechisms. His explanations of the commandments of the second table typically include both some exposition of the kinds of actions or motivations that are prohibited by the commandments and some exposition of what kinds of positive actions to fulfill the commandment are required as well. In a general way, these positive actions are also reflected in the explanation to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer for daily bread. If a peaceful life is what God intends for the creation and God’s creatures, we might ask in what ways can and should we act in order to encourage a just peace in our homes, communities, nation, and the world? And how can we think about these things theologically and ethically?

[5] There are stirrings, meanwhile, in the ELCA that suggest some hunger among us for serious work from our theologians about just peace and just peacemaking, and for more leadership from our members and rostered leaders in engaging in peacemaking. In April, the ELCA Task Force for the Decade for a Culture of Nonviolence held a training event, “Equipping for Peacemaking,” for ELCA members made possible by a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. It helped to equip persons from approximately 40 synods to start or continue personal and corporate ministries of peace education and peacemaking.

[6] The task force has since started to create a network of peacemakers throughout the ELCA that began with over 400 persons including the participants in the “Equipping for Peacemaking” event. JLE readers who may be interested in this developing network are invited to visit the ELCA web site: http://www.elca.org/nonviolence/ and click on the side bar for “Equipping for Peacemaking.” Or, contact project coordinator, Rev. Mia Baumgartner at peacemaking@comcast.net to become part of this network as it evolves and help to shape its development.

JLE Portfolio: Just Peace and Just Peacemaking

The Just War Theory of Peacemaking
by Helmut David Baer
Peacemaking is a part of politics. God wills peace for his creation, and God’s will for peace expresses itself partly through government’s work of preservation. This, anyway, is the view of Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession. Earthly peace depends upon political power, and, therefore, in the service of peace government may “punish evildoers with the sword” and “engage in just wars.” One function of just war theory is to explain the relationship between power and peace in international affairs. Government’s use of power in war, just as government’s use of power domestically, must be ordered to peace. Thus just war theory is a theory of peacemaking.

Our Pacific Mandate: Orienting Just Peacemaking as Lutherans by Gary M. Simpson
The “pacific mandate” does not apply to Lutherans. Neither does it apply to Christians. If that were the case, it’d be shocking. In truth, of course, God’s mandate of peace, of just peacemaking, applies to all people and peoples. It pertains then to all Christian saints who, simultaneously as sinners and as creatures, stand under it.

Just Peace and Just Peacemaking by William Tuttle
The ELCA adopted on August 20, 1995 its first social statement on peace with the words, “We dedicate ourselves anew to pray and to work for peace in God’s World.” That statement advocates a set of principles outlined as the following three “tasks” to “keep, make and build international peace: a culture of peace, an economy with justice, and the politics of cooperation.

In the Face of War by Larry Rasmussen
Bush has been re-elected, the war in Iraq rages on, and militarism seems the order of the day. What’s next for those committed to the way of peace?

Ronald W. Duty

Ronald W. Duty is the former Assistant Director for Studies in Church in Society at the ELCA, and is now a private scholar.