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The Peace to the City Network grew out of a campaign of the same name that began in August 1997 and culminated in December 1998. The network was active until 2002; its members - churches, peace and justice organizations, faith communities and civil society movements - continue to work within the framework of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010).

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Theological Perspectives on Violence/Non-Violence
Programme to Overcome Violence/ Faith & Order Consultation
(April 1998)

The WCC has long recognized that Christians have not yet been able to agree on their response to war and violence. The WCC debate begun many decades ago between Christians who hold to a theology of pacifism and those who rely on the principles of the "Just War" remains unresolved. The new Programme to Overcome Violence was created to "confront and overcome the spirit, logic and practice of war and to develop new theological approaches, consonant with the teachings of Christ, which start not with war and move to peace, but with the need for justice" (WCC Central Committee 1994).

The WCC Programme to Overcome Violence and Faith and Order are thus engaging in a joint study process to look at the theological and ecclesiological dimensions of violence as well as the powerful resources offered by the Christian faith in building cultures of peace. A consultation held in Boston in April 1998 was a first step in laying the foundations for and designing a process to engage churches and others in these issues. The 18 international participants came from a variety of Christian perspectives and back-grounds, and included theologians, sociologists, ethicists, and grassroots peacemakers from the Peace to the City Campaign.

Three goals were set for the Boston meeting:

  • to identify practical means of overcoming violence at different levels of society;
  • to explore the causes of violence through case studies from the Peace to the City Campaign, in collaboration with social scientists, theologians, and practitioners in both fields;
  • to reflect on the church as both an accomplice in violence and a transformer of violence.

The consultation sought to respond to the following issues which it considered crucial:

  • The history of peace initiatives in the ecumenical movement is instructive and challenging. But there is growing new awareness of the need for new paradigms for ecumenical dialogue on the divisive issues of the long-standing pacifist-"just war" debate and to Christian responsibility to develop active non-violent alternatives to conflict.
  • There is a history of ecumenical ministry in communities impacted by poverty, conflict and violence. But there is a need now to confront the global rise of violence through new approaches to the efforts of the churches to serve as agents of Christ's peace through building beloved communities capable of resisting the tide of violence and building a culture of peace.
  • Christian initiatives to overcome violence around the globe already are linked across borders. But there is a need for churches to affirm para-church and ecumenical groups' taking initiatives on their behalf, and to forge new alliances between social scientists, theologians and other civil society actors.

The Consultation agreed that the study process should:

  • enhance the churches' understanding of the nature and role of violence in local communities, societies, international relations, and in their own life;
  • analyze critically the role of religious institutions, and more particularly of the churches, in providing justifications for, contributing to and seeking to overcome violence;
  • seek creative new ways for people in local situations to question and learn from one another, and to explore new methodologies of cross-cultural contextual theology;
  • continue to explore and deepen understandings of the relationship between ecclesiology and ethics through focussing on the issue of violence;
  • help the churches transcend and heal their divisions through common witness and action to reduce violence and build peace;
  • encourage churches to develop cultures of peace as a prophetic sign of a reconciled human community and of the new creation (Eph. 1).

In discussing and planning for the study process, it was hoped that two paths would emerge from this study: one leading to local congregations and action groups, providing them with models and guides for ministry; the other leading back to the WCC, supplying it with case studies of churches working for a culture of peace.

POV and Faith and Order are continuing the design and implementation of the study process. The full report of the Consultation is being published and will be available this fall.

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