Peace Studies

The tenor of our times bids us listen, bids us watch. And because we call ourselves Friends, people committed to work on behalf of peace and justice, it also bids us act. At Earlham School of Religion, action includes a vital, practical program of peace studies. Worldwide, many social and political structures, even religious ones, demonstrate a propensity for violence, injustice, and oppression. In the U.S. today, for instance, civil religion has so colored Christianity that a militant version of patriotism can subtly stand in for discipleship and obedience to Jesus—a sobering and ominous prospect.

Such situations, contrary to faithful living as understood by Friends, call us to live, proclaim, and teach our longstanding peace testimony. Throughout nearly a half-century, Earlham School of Religion has responded to that call. Now, perhaps more than ever, peace studies deserve to become an endowed cornerstone of theological education in the manner of Friends. As we teach and model peace—biblically, practically, creatively—we help society inch closer to the prophets' vision of God's peaceable kingdom. This proposal seeks $1,750,000 to endow the Peace Studies Program at Earlham School of Religion.

This endowment will accomplish these peacemaking objectives:

  • Strengthen the peace studies faculty position through the creation of a named, endowed faculty chair.
  • Support a range of peace education activities on and off the Richmond campus.
  • Provide continuing education and renewal opportunities for Friends engaged in peacemaking ministries.
  • Ensure the future of peace studies as a permanent feature of the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts programs.

A donor who funds this endowment in full will have the option of naming the program.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, hardly any American has escaped the task of pondering the reasons for acts of terrorism—and, particularly, the appropriate response to them. Military efforts in Afghanistan and the war with Iraq also have forced us to consider where we stand as citizens and as Friends. Many voices advocate countering aggression with force; but members of historic peace church groups, along with others, have insisted that even brutal acts of terrorism are best met with non-violent alternatives. Frequently categorized as one of the three peace churches within the Christian tradition, the Religious Society of Friends has a long, impressive history of peacemaking.

Peace: A Longstanding Commitment

In the mid-17th century George Fox, a founding member of the feisty first generation of Friends, spoke of being changed by Christ, whom he called the Inner Light—an experience Fox described in terms of newness, pureness, and innocence. As his religious convictions developed, Fox refused to take up arms, first against the Monarchy, and later for any reason. Although some Friends did serve in Oliver Cromwell's army during the English Civil War, their refusal to take oaths meant they could not swear allegiance to Cromwell and his movement, as demanded; and their refusal to acknowledge superiority of rank by speech or gesture led to charges of subverting military authority and discipline. From these hardships, Friends began to articulate a position that denied tendencies to war. In 1660 Fox delivered this corporate statement to King Charles II:

We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings for any end or under any pretenses whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. We do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight any war against any man, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.

Over a century later, a 1779 document from the London Yearly Meeting affirmed the theological justification for pacifism:

. . . The kingdom of Christ is a peaceable kingdom; and though his servants walk in the flesh they do not war after the flesh. He commands them to love their enemies; and many who have followed him in the regeneration . . . have found themselves restrained from all wars and fightings; which are not of the Spirit of the Savior, but that of the destroyer of mankind.

Articulation of the peace testimony continued to be refined over the years. Statements in the Faith and Practice of most Friends Yearly Meetings today—condemning war, mentioning the sacredness of life, and citing the teachings of Christ—hold up peace as a clear priority, higher than civil obedience. Quaker history rings with a strong, persistent commitment to peace, grounded in religious experience, biblical interpretation, theological reflection, and Friends' difficulty in living out the ideals that their experience and reflection inspire.

Peace: Biblical Foundations

Friends give priority to the voices in the Bible that describe alternatives to war, violence, and domination as God's way of advancing the Gospel and relating to one another. A variety of Scriptures support this peace witness, but perhaps none is more visually gripping than two prophetic utterances. Isaiah 11 looks to a day when a deliverer shall judge with righteousness and equity. The text insists that in God's peaceable kingdom, "The wolf shall lie down with the lamb . . . " As predatory animals lounge peacefully alongside grazers and even small children, "They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:6-9)

In a similar burst of prophetic exuberance, Micah announced that nations "shall beat their swords into plowshares" as a result of being transformed by the vision of God's rule. The passage continues, "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Micah 4:1-4)

According to these biblical visions, not only will unlikely companions peacefully coexist, but they will dispense with weapons of destruction in favor of implements that contribute to prosperity. These Old Testament writers looked to an age to come, but Friends insist that humanity is capable of entering God's peaceable kingdom even now—and that such an entry produces visible, measurable changes.

Jesus' life and teachings, for Friends, confirm a spirituality of peacemaking and also establish a foundation for it. In Friends' belief, entry into the peaceable kingdom begins with an experience of the Living Christ or Inner Light—an event so overwhelming, early Quaker writings implied, that it signaled the Kingdom of God breaking in upon history and within the believer as well. Therefore Friends were called to transformed living, which meant accepting what Jesus taught: Love your enemies. Love God, and love your neighbors as you love yourself.

This practice of love manifests in Jesus' habitual rejection of violence and coercion as appropriate responses to conflict. Examples abound: Jesus' temptation in the desert; his response when Peter drew a sword against Jesus' captors in the garden; his refusal to strike or hate his persecutors; even his death, an act of ultimate peacemaking, which conveyed to Christians the depth of divine love for the human condition.

Friends' spirituality of peacemaking also proceeds from the belief that there is that of God in every person. Rooted in Genesis 1:26-31, this belief declares, with God, that humanity—along with all creation—was created and blessed as "very good." Despite humanity's undeniable propensity to sin, Friends hold that goodness is present in every human being, with a twofold effect: Each person can recognize and respond to the divine call to live in the peaceable kingdom; and each human life has immeasurable potential. Because individual life is so precious, violence against human life is nothing short of violence against God. Consequently Friends' position on peace seeks common ground as a basis for harmony and unity, for understanding and respect, and for reconciliation rather than revenge.

Peace: Theological and Experiential

From the biblical material cited above and from distinctive experience of divine grace, Friends' position on peacemaking has derived five key emphases:

The pervasive relevance of love. God is love, and humanity must learn to love as well. Whether people are like us or not, whether they love us or don't, we must choose love—and, in doing so, we must reject violence. Love sets a different predisposition. The peace testimony insists that in response to violence, society should be encouraged to seek the resolution of conflict and the reconciliation of relationships, asking first what love can do.

The belief in fresh possibilities. By recalling God's act of blessing and the intended goodness of creation, Friends open themselves to the new insights and degrees of righteousness available to and for humanity. This theological tenet returns optimism to the journey of faith. In the quest for peace, it means that alternative solutions to age-old problems can bring new, mutually beneficial results. Perhaps most importantly, it paves the way for people to believe peace is possible, even in avenues where no peace has been before.

Creation "in the image of God." Despite the differences that divide humans from each other, a bridging commonality exists: there is that of God within each person. How then shall we respond in unsettling situations where conflict might erupt into violence? This tenet reshapes the stakes of a conflict, providing maximum persuasion to exhaust all avenues before forsaking offers of peace.

The immediacy of the peaceable kingdom. The prophetic visions of a peaceful age, relatively free from militaristic images, teach us to expect unity not through subordination, but through transformation. Unlike the traditions that emphasize the strength of sin and the frailty of human nature, Friends revive a belief in the transforming power of God. The glad message Friends offer is this: with God's grace, a better world can be had here and now. The choice of reconciliation prevails over that of estrangement; under the uniting power of God, differences need not lead to violence.

The experiential dimension. Friends give high priority to religious experience, rooted most powerfully in the act of worship. Encountering the living God—the Inner Christ—strips individuals of the motives, passions, and values that give rise to violence. In their place, inner peace prevails. This experience invites humanity to know God's peaceable kingdom as a present reality, and to live as hope-filled advocates for this new alternative. It also urges us to connect with lives of those who pursue power and gain through war and destruction. In past and present crises, Friends have lived out their testimony: providing relief aid to the general population in Germany, victims of their leaders' decisions; working with interred Japanese-Americans whose ethnicity placed them under suspicion; ministering as agents of reconciliation in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and now Iraq. Behind the violence, Friends find human beings who respond positively to peaceful initiatives.

Peace: The Testimony in 20th-Century Practice

Contemporary Friends embracing the peace testimony generally do so in one of three ways:

Pacifism. In times of war, the pacifist refuses to participate in the armed forces.Though extreme "But what if . . . ?" questions assume that the pacifist will at some point answer an inner urge to defend and protect, such challenges say more about the religious and cultural values of the time than about the person being questioned. The pacifist response determines that God's drama is more important than his or her role in it, and that trust in God includes a willingness to die for what one believes.

Non-violent resistance. In this second practical response, peace advocates stand against injustice, violence, and the actions that lead us to war. Acts of civil disobedience also fit this category; people hope that this witness will prick the conscience of oppressors to the point that change is possible. Organizing groups to call for political change, even lobbying, also qualifies, as do boycotts or embargoes of corporations, groups, or even countries whose products or activities contribute to violence and war. Some Friends have refused to pay the portion of their federal income tax that supports military industries.

Creative peacemaking. Friends, who conduct business by consensus, understand that moments of apparent impasse require "a third way"—frequently a better resolution than any originally proposed or imagined. At home, this creative peacemaking focuses on peace education, an effort that has given rise to "third ways" such as these: the American Friends Service Committee, which since 1917 has offered outreach to groups affected by violence in their own areas; peace work camps, forerunners to organizations like the Peace Corps and other relief efforts; and, for centuries—from King Phillip's War (1675) and the American Revolution to Bosnia and the Middle East—mediation attempts as a means of averting warfare.

The best time for creative peacemaking, however, is not in the midst of crisis and conflict, but in moments of calm. During such times, peace education can build strong networks, sturdy foundations, and trustworthy practices. Peace study programs at Quaker schools and colleges—such as the one at Earlham School of Religion—help meet this critical need.

Peace: An Integral Part of ESR

The Friends tradition makes a compelling argument for embracing a ministry of peacemaking: it understands the complex dynamics that fuel violence, excels in conflict mediation, and seeks alternatives to violence. More than just another ministry, it models a way to live. In a peacemaking community, whether local or global, people embrace a commitment to individual and mutual integrity, to the common good, and to allegiance with God's work.

Curriculum. A program that teaches such living deserves to be a cornerstone of Quaker theological education. And at Earlham School of Religion, that cornerstone is already prepared. For students interested in peace and justice, both the Master of Divinity and the Master of Arts programs at ESR offer, in addition to the usual core requirements and electives, courses such as these:

  • Introduction to Peace and Justice Studies
  • The Spirituality of Peacemaking
  • The Bible, Violence, and Non-violence
  • Religious Responses to War and Violence
  • Moral and Faith Development
  • Quakers in Conflict
  • Theology for Peace and Justice
  • Liberation Theologies
  • Peace Seminar

Christian Reconciliation: Conflict Resolution in the Church and World
This interdisciplinary, interactive curriculum grounds students deeply in the Quaker Christian faith, helps them understand the religious, social, political, and economic factors that contribute to violence and injustice, and also prepares them for practical ministry. The program culminates in a year-long testing of peacemaking through field education.

Creative Peacemakers from ESR

Many of our graduates have completed theses, doctorates, books, and sermons that actively contribute to peace education. They are working as teachers, ministers, union organizers, program developers, and in a host of active organizations: Peace House, Earned Income Tax Credit, American Friends Service Committee, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Vietnam Veterans Against War, National Children's Advocacy Center, Companions on the Journey, The Fellowship of Recreation, The Amigos Center. The many groups they are helping to educate and to encourage include urban teenagers, children, prisoners, African Americans, Latinos, and other marginalized populations.

Beyond the classroom, ESR provides additional opportunities for exploring peace and justice. A number of these stand to benefit students—and ultimately, our world—by teaching peacemaking in both theory and practice:

Peace Forum. At this weekly lunchtime gathering, interested parties from both ESR and Bethany Theological Seminary attend presentations on peace-related research and ministry. Not a passive experience, the forum involves critical analysis of multiple points of view, followed by theological reflection. Currently the Peace Forum receives no funds from ESR and only restricted funds from Bethany. With support from the endowed program, this highly beneficial initiative can invite speakers who require honoraria or travel expenses, and ESR can promote the forum more widely in the Richmond community.

Endowed conferences on peace and justice. Year after year, ESR has found that conference events in writing, spirituality, and pastoral studies successfully connect the school with the wider Richmond community as well as with constituents and other educational institutions around the country. Because such events are outstanding draws for prospective students, funded conferences on peacemaking can contribute substantially to ESR's growth.

Field experience. Since ministries of peace and justice succeed only as practitioners learn to implement them, real experience in the field—whether through civil disobedience, work with established institutions and structures, or imaginative initiatives—is inestimably valuable. Our students have protested outside the School of the Americas, receiving insight into the challenges of questioning governmental powers, ideologies, and military commitments. They've engaged in dialogue with staff of Friends Committee on National Legislation, learning how faith can work with the hallways of Congress in an effort to influence public policy. Within Conflict Resolution Centers, they have gained the ability to facilitate resolution—and have also made an immediate impact on community groups. Participation in such activities, followed by group processing, allows students to act positively for peace while examining motives, actions, reactions, and results. The endowed program will support these faculty-led off-campus learning opportunities.

The world urgently needs the peacemaking outlook and skills that Friends have shaped over the centuries, and ESR is already preparing students to employ them. An endowed program in peace and justice ensures that this important work can continue at the highest quality.

Peacemaking: An Ongoing Task

If the peace testimony is to be anything more than a proud element of a rich heritage, each generation of Friends must find ways to renew it. This work must happen not just once, and not just at times of national crisis, but day by day, conflict by conflict, injustice by repeated injustice.

As a leader among Friends, Earlham School of Religion is capable of upholding Friends' peace testimony in a manner that witnesses to our past while continually preparing new leaders for creative ministries of peacemaking. For those who care about peace and justice, this endowed program should be a high priority.

At stake is nothing less than the hope of a world where the lion lies down with the lamb and justice rolls down like waters—a world we yearn to see for ourselves and to ensure for our children.

Queries for Consideration

These queries are provided to help you prayerfully consider whether this major gift proposal is a priority for you as you steward your resources.

  1. Do you value the work of peacemaking as an expression of ministry?
  2. Do you have a concern for the spiritual and theological foundations for peacemaking?
  3. Is the support of an educational community that promotes dialogue and practical opportunities for learning about peacemaking a worthy investment?
  4. Do you have the means to help Earlham School of Religion build an endowment to support the peace and justice program at ESR?
  5. What level of gift are you able to make to manifest this vision for Friends Peace and Justice education?
  • Full funding of $1,750,000 by gift, pledge, or irrevocable estate gift?
  • Partial but major gift of $100,000 to $1,000,000 by gift, pledge, or irrevocable estate gift?
  • Supporting gift of $10,000 to $99,000 by gift or pledge?

Contact Jay Marshall, Dean, at Earlham School of Religion to discuss your interest in this project.

765-983-1689 • 800-432-1377 •