Baptist Peacemakers In North America: A Story, A Strategy, And A Theology -- By: Kenneth L. Sehested

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 04:1 (Fall 1986)
Article: Baptist Peacemakers In North America: A Story, A Strategy, And A Theology
Author: Kenneth L. Sehested


Baptist Peacemakers In North America:
A Story, A Strategy, And A Theology

Kenneth L. Sehested

Executive Director, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Some of you may occasionally run into the same question I do when traveling in ecumenical circles:

“Why are you working with Baptists?

Though not usually asked that blatantly, the underlying skepticism is clear: “Are there Baptists working on peace and justice issues?” The question is asked often enough that I’ve developed a standard response. To those who question the usefulness of my involvement in Baptist life, I answer, “I’m tired of running into people who used-to-be-Baptist.”

An understandable reaction to the topic “Baptists and Peacemaking” would be to expect a very short essay, something comparable in length to a subject like “Baptists and Fasting.” But something new is blowing in the wind. It is not really new in the proper sense of that word. It is more like a convergence. Baptist attempts to incorporate into their preaching and teaching biblical injunctions against reliance on armaments, against hoarding by the rich in the face of great poverty, against every form of personal or corporate revenge and retaliation have been sporadic at best. It is painful to witness the mental and exegetical gymnastics so often used to relativize and trivialize the prophetic demand that “peace [should] flow like a river, righteousness like a never-ending stream” (Amos 5:24; cf. Is 58), or Jesus’ inaugural declaration of his mission to “preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:16–18; cf. Lv 25:19), or even his model prayer opening: “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).

A convergence of small, mostly underground streams has begun to develop in the past few years. Baptist involvement in a variety of peace and justice issues is increasing. Throughout North America (and beyond) we are beginning to uncover small pockets of individual and congregational activity. We have the makings of a network connecting Baptists with a wide variety of denominations—an emerging community whose common confession might be Jesus’ directive: “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

In this article I want to relate some of this story, but not with the precision of a historian, for that is not my craft. I a...

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