Peace articles that discuss ways of living in peace with humans, animals, and the environment.
International Historic Peace Church Consultation
Bienenberg Theological Seminary, Switzerland, June 25-28, 2001
Gene Hillman (Reprinted by request of author with permission)
Hence the first characteristic is the conviction that it is possible to live a life of peace. We do not have to give in to the lusts and cravings of which James speaks. The sermon on the mount is practical guidance for our lives.
Related to this is the second characteristic of the Quaker peace testimony. Friends believe that when we engage an adversary in the love and Truth of God we can elicit that self same divine spirit in the adversary's response. George Fox is often quoted as admonishing Friends with
... a charge to you all in the presence of the living God, be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them yea may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you. Then to the Lord God you will be a sweet savour and a blessing. 8
Not only is perfection possible, and to be sought, its seed is in everyone and can be elicited in others. Fox wrote to Friends held prisoner in Algiers on several occasions telling them to speak to that of God in their (Muslim) captors.
The third characteristic is community. Our witness is not that of an individual. We are part of a faith community that guides us and supports us in our witness, and often joins with us in that witness. In witness to those traditional testimonies we find in our books of Faith and Practice support should be automatic. This would include in particular non participation in the military. Other acts of civil disobedience are usually handled differently, through the clearness process.
The traditional clearness committee, long an ad hoc committee named to determine clearness for membership, or clearness for marriage (in both cases the clearness had to do with prior entanglements), has been extended to now include clearness to proceed with a course of action. Clearness here is defined as a clearness of discernment or understanding. Clearness committees are appointed, usually by the Monthly Meeting (local congregation) at the request of the one who feels called to the action, to aid in discernment for those called to travel in the ministry or to witness in a way not traditional in our Religious Society. This might involve civil disobedience. If the committee unites with the individual(s) that the proposed action is a valid leading of the divine spirit, and if there is a request for support from the Monthly Meeting (prayer, money, transportation) the committee will report back. Monthly Meeting will then discern its degree of support. Only then will the Friend have the corporate support of her or his Meeting (faith community). As we will see below, the support of the community goes far beyond the organizational.