02.12.08 17:03 Age: 3 yrs

US Conference for the WCC opens in a spirit of peace


Washington, D.C.  United States of America

Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, moderator of the US Conference and WCC president for North America © Philip Jenks/WCC

A just peace around the world was on the hearts and minds of nearly 60 persons attending today's opening session of the Annual Meeting of the US Conference for the World Council of Churches in Washington, D.C.


The US Conference will gather 2-4 December in meetings that will include panel discussions on peace-related issues and a service of common prayer Wednesday evening at historic National City Christian Church on Washington's Thomas Circle.


The conferees will also draft a message to US President-elect Barack Obama on their hopes for his forthcoming administration.


The theme of the annual meeting is "Making Peace: Claiming God's Promise -Towards the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation."


Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, moderator of the US Conference and WCC president for North America, said much thought and prayer had gone into determining the theme and planners were influenced by the peace convocation in Kingston, Jamaica, May 2011, a "harvest festival" at the close of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence.


"We felt this could be the moment that we might begin in the United States to prepare for that meeting," Powell Jackson said.


Bible study


The conference theme scripture is Jeremiah 6:14, "They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (NRSV).


Rev. Dr Rodney S. Sadler, Jr., associate professor of Bible at Union-PSCE at Charlotte, began a series of Bible studies on the passage and suggested the prophet Jeremiah faced many of the same challenges Christians face today when dealing with self-righteous governments and rampant nationalism.


"We are reminded today as religious leaders - as prophets and priests - that we must be careful when we say 'peace, peace', because things are not 'all good'. If we look carefully, we just might see injustice abounds for the poor and down and out that God also loves."


Jeremiah's message was treasonous in its day, not just unpopular, Sadler said. "He was preaching a message that his nation's foes would destroy it and that was a good thing. One of the functions of the prophet is to keep the king - read 'government' - in line."


But it can be just as hard for contemporary Christians to confront their government, Sadler said. "It's difficult for a nation to see its own wrong".


In the United States, Sadler noted, a biblical hermeneutic was used to justify national sins of slavery, genocide of indigenous populations, Jim Crow, "and our Israel policy", which supports a "massive wall between Israel and Palestine and (Israel's) acquisition of countless acres of Palestinian land."


Sadler said the election of President-elect Barack Obama was a hopeful development, but it was not a sign that racism was over in the United States or that churches could cease their prophetic scrutiny of the government.


In fact, he pointed out, persons of color in the United States continue to experience disproportionate hardships compared to the general population when it comes to social, economic and health care issues.


"As prophets and priests we need to confront the idea of saying 'peace, peace'", he said. "We can't be fully reconciled to a God we have not seen if we are not reconciled to sisters and brothers of another skin color that we have seen."