Monday, April 03, 2006

Sowing Seeds

Today I received the first three responses to my letters to church leaders about the need for all churches to become peace churches compatable with the teachings of Jesus. (See my March 23 post) Two of these letters were one-pagers; one was a bundle of papers. All were written directly by person in question and signed in pen.

Quite honestly, I didn't expect to receive any replies, except maybe a proselytizing pamphlet. So I feel quite honoured.

As to the content of the letters, here are brief summaries.

President JE Kaiser of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada gave firm but noncommittal response. He avoided referencing Jesus' teachings and instead focused what his church members believed was right or wrong :

There may well be some of our members who would agree with you that all military action is wrong. I suspect that the majority would believe that the use of deadly force is morally right under some conditions and not under other conditions. As to particular instances of military force exercised by Canada, the United States, or other nations around the world, I suspect our members would hold an even wider variety of personal views. We would encourage them to form these views prayerful [sic] based on the teachings of Jesus, which include the entire Bible. [emphasis mine]
JE Kaiser, Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada
As emphasized, JE Kaiser ends the letter by stating that the teachings of Jesus refers to the entire bible (perhaps in oblique response to my statement that war was incompatable with the teachings of Jesus). This extraordinarily broad interpretation of what Jesus taught t may explain why conservative-theology churches, who strive to be very biblical, cannot distinguish between Jesus' actual teachings and those of people who came before or after him-- or even those who contradict him. I suspect what John Kaiser meant was that the whole bible is the Word of God; and since Jesus is God, then the whole bible is Jesus' teachings. As a result, his church can assign more weight to statements in the Old Testament or in the pseudo-Pauline letters than to Jesus' teachings about turning the other cheek, forgiving seventy times seven, and loving your enemies. Or could it mean something else?

WD Morrow, general superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, also gave a one-page response to my letter. His was a somewhat nuanced look at the idea of "righteous war," which I found very thoughtful. But the letter ended with a suprisingly emphatic "civic religion" defence of non-action on Jesus' teachings: you know, there are people who in the name of religion advocate the so-called "righteous war." They define certain values and sitautions which they believe must be defended--by the sword if necessary. The problem of course is that sinful human beings have no proven ability to discern the just occasion for taking up arms.

...Respectfully, I must say that while I do not disagree with many of the comments you have made in your letter, I do not believe it is appropriate for us to make a public declaration on the wars which are presently being waged, including fronts where Canadian men and women are following the military instructions of our government.
WD Morrow, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
To me, this response suggests that Pentecostals may not be interested in real-life applications of Jesus' teachings, except as they pertain to soul salvation. But this interpretation may not be fair to the wider theology of this church.

The final letter came from the United Church of Canada, through moderator P Short. This letter had attachments which included copies of letters and press releases calling for the end of the occupation of Iraq, the disregard for human rights in Iraqi prisons, and support for the Christian Peacemakers being held hostage. The letter itself was very brief. However, toward the end, P Short expressed what I sensed was a disquiet and a spiritual ache about the issue of pacifism:

I am aware that all of the above does not address the spirit of your compelling letter. Please know that I respect your point of view and long for the day when we will not be reading the kind of headline that I read in the paper this morning.
P Short, United Church of Canada

Maybe the pope will write tomorrow.


At 10:45 AM, Blogger Contemplative Scholar said...

It was really great of you to send these letters out, and thank you so much for sharing the responses! Very interesting!

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...

I agree with Contemplative Scholar. And eventually some of the seeds that you and so many others are sowing will take root.

Do let us know when you hear from the pope!

Liz, The Good Raised Up


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