Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Baptist Peace Events

Reprinted from Mainstream Baptists.

Baptists who work for shalom (peace grounded in justice) have several upcoming cool events/opportunities.

The annual summer gathering (which the kids and teens call “peace camp”) of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America will be 14-19 July 2008 on the campus of St. John Abbot College, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellvue, Quebec, Canada. (I think this is the last year that U.S. Americans can travel to Canada and return without passports.) This year’s conference theme is The Way That Leads to Peace and will focus on the connections between individual lifestyles and collective action for peacemaking. Monday night Keynote Address will be by Jim Loney, one of the members of Christian Peacemaker Teams who were kidnapped for 4 months by Iraqi insurgents in 2005-06. Mornings include music, morning prayer, Bible Study, and a variety of workshops. The BPFNA is the only peace group I know that includes a full program for children and youth and young adults every year. Many people schedule this week as their annual family vacation. Lawrence Martin (Wapistan), who is a member of the Cree First Nation, will lead the morning prayers. Bible Study will be led by famed Baptist ethicist (and my mentor), Dr. Glen H. Stassen, now Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Glen will focus on the 10 Practices of Just Peacemaking. There will be afternoon workshops, too. By having a week long conference, the peace camps also build in time for naps, or playing tourist, etc., so that one doesn’t wear out with meetings–as sometimes happens when similar events take place in a weekend. The arts and creativity and music, etc. fill these annual gatherings. The evenings center around worship and preaching. This year’s preachers are Rev. Mary Hammond, co-pastor of Peace Community Church (American Baptist) in Oberlin, OH and Rev. Lee McKenna, a former BPFNA staff member and expert in global conflict transformation, of Toronto, ON. For more info. and/or to register, visit www.bpfna.org/conference or contact LeDayne McLeese Polaski at ledayne@bpfna.org or 704-521-6051. I don’t get to go to these every year and will, sadly, have to miss this one. But every time I get to go and bring my family, my faith is deepened, challenged, and renewed. It can be lonely to be a Baptist who cares about peace and justice, especially in the U.S. These gatherings make connections that are vital–and help us grow the next generation of peacemakers, too. If you have never been, I especially urge you to work diligently to attend this one. Non-Baptists are always welcome, too.


One of the ways that the BPFNA has worked for peace over the years is to sponsor “Friendship Tours” between citizens in North America and other places of the world which currently or in the past have been in conflict, internally, or with North American governments. On 15-24 August 2008, there will be a BPFNA Friendship Tour to Nicaragua. For more information, contact, Deirdre Hinz at dhinz@unitedseminary.edu . I made 2 trips to Nicaragua during the ’80s with Witness for Peace during the time that the U.S. govt. sponsored and funded the terrorist Contras and fell in love with this beautiful and tragic nation.


Since the U.S. government is still not fulfilling its obligations to the people of New Orleans, your congregation can help by partnering with a New Orleans congregation (especially in the 9th Ward) that is trying to rebuild–and help the neighborhood rebuild and the evacuated residents return. Churches Supporting Churches is not a strictly Baptist effort, but BPFNA signed on from the beginning. Look for ways for your congregation to become involved (and then write your Congressional leaders and demand they help, too!).


The Fourth Global Baptist Peace Conference will be held in Rome, Italy 16-21 February 2009. It is co-sponsored by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the Alliance of Baptists, International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, USA, Unione Cristiana Evangelica Battista Italia (The Baptist Union of Italy), and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. (That’s the Republic of Georgia, not the U.S. State of Georgia! I made the mistake of thinking that was obvious once. Sigh.) As many readers of this blog know, 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the modern Baptist movement, dating from the time in 1609 that John Smyth’s exiled congregation of English Separatists in Holland, dissolved their congregation based on a covenant and, influenced by the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites who were their hosts, reconstituted their congregation based on Believers’ Baptism. (Of course, since Smyth and most of the congregation eventually merged with the Dutch Mennonites, some may want to say that the actual founding of Baptists dates from when Thomas Helwys and a handful of others broke with Smyth and returned to Britain to found the first Baptist congregation on English soil in Spitalfields, outside London, in 1611. But global Baptists seem to want to celebrate our history in ’09 rather than waiting for ’11 and who am I to argue?) This February Peace Conference in Rome will kick off the global celebrations of 400 years of Baptist history and look to the future of our Christian movement.

Like previous global Baptist peace conferences in Sweden (1988), Nicaragua (1992), and Australia (2000), this one will feature storytelling, training in nonviolence and conflict transformation/resolution, networking, and spiritual development for Baptist peace and justice activists around the world. There will be worship, speakers, workshops, etc. culminating in a massive public event in Rome to demonstrate global Baptist commitment to peace and justice. I have seen the list of Baptist leaders coming from around the world and will soon highlight them in a follow up post. If you cannot go, get your congregation to raise funds to send one or more from your church to this event. Then get them to bring back pictures and present to the congregation. Also, help raise funds for scholarships for people from poorer parts of the world to attend. Contact Paul Hayes at paulchayese@juno.com or Dan Buttry at dbuttry@comcast.net or Ken Sehested at ken@circleofmercy.org to help raise funds, plan events, or register yourself. We need to find ways to get global publicity for this event as a contrast to the ways that more well-known Baptist groups and individuals preach and act politically for oppression, destruction, militarism, etc. The world needs to see this face of the Baptist movement.


May 12, 2008 - Posted by | Baptists, just peacemaking, peacemaking

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