A Message from Bishop Benfield
Saturday, September 21, is the date of the twelfth annual International Day of Peace. I usually do not write about days set aside for numerous and varied observances, but given the almost perpetual state of war we find ourselves in these days, I want to bring this day—and what it stands for—to your attention. Incidents as varied as gun violence in our own nation to the many layers of conflict in the Middle East remind us that we do not live in a world of peace. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship in Arkansas believes strongly in the approach advocated by Dr. King. But how do we begin? Well, we might begin by revisiting our Baptismal Covenant, in which we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” And we can seriously consider the resolution, Action to Reduce Gun Violence, passed at our last diocesan convention. That resolution in part challenges us to pledge ourselves to be accountable to take actions that seek peace.
The closing paragraph of the resolution offers a challenge that “all members of this Diocese work within our churches through prayer, preaching, education (including an examination of how Christianity has been complicit in the culture of violence), and advocacy, toward reducing gun violence in our nation and in the world.”
One parish that has accepted this challenge, St. Michael’s Church in Little Rock, will offer a three-part educational series on Wednesday evenings in November looking at violence and nonviolence in the United States, and then will offer a theological reflection series in 2014 entitled, “Nonviolence Didn’t Work for Jesus … or Did It?”
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Arkansas has compiled a list of resources that can be used by parishes and others to initiate this broader work for peace. I encourage you to take advantage of them. Caroline Stevenson and the Rev. Lisa Hlass have agreed to serve as point persons for peace work in the diocese. You will find their contact information on the resources web page. Feel free to be in touch with them for guidance, advice, and assistance on how to get started with an educational or advocacy effort in your context.
The work of living and promoting peace is not easy, but as Christians it is a call we all share. After all, Holy Scripture tells us that peacemakers will be called the children of God.