Should UUs reject all violence?

Should the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) reject the use of arms and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means?

This is the issue that we as member congregations have been asked to devote some time to studying over the past several years in preparation for a possible vote on a denominational statement of conscience about Peacemaking at our annual General Assembly this June in Salt Lake City, Utah.

February 2 is the deadline for congregational comment and voting in the Congregational Poll on whether the Peacemaking statement of conscience should be put to a vote at this GA. For a draft statement of conscience to appear on the GA 2009 agenda, a 25% quorum of congregations is required to have participated in the Poll.

Our UUCA opportunity to comment and to vote on whether to bring this statement forward for a vote of the GA delegates will take place under the auspices of our Peace Network this Sunday, February 25, after each service.

Rob Keithan, then Director of the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy wrote shortly after the successful initial vote to study this Congregational Study/Action issue was passed by a previous General Assembly that “our world is overdue for an end to the suffering and violence in the Middle East, in Darfur, and in our own communities and homes. Action is needed. The world we seek and the world we live in are not the same, but is only through our own human actions– and for some of us the grace of God– that we make our vision closer to reality.”

While pointing out the UUA General Assembly has passed dozens of statements over the years on issues of peace and war, and based on these statements the UUA has opposed the unilateral, pre-emptive war in Iraq since its beginnings, Keithan noted that this particular statement of conscience was proposed with the intention of studying how conflict and violence plays out on a personal, interpersonal, and international level—and to delve into theological teachings on violence, conflict, war and peace.

In other words, this process was meant to go deeper, to help us clarify our position on such topics as “just war”, the rejection of violence in any form, and the hallmarks of a peaceful culture. The resulting proposed statement of conscience calls for what is termed “Just Peacemaking,” an approach that calls for standing on the side of love, as well as on the side of justice and against the violence of oppression in all its manifestations. It does not come down on the side of pacifism as it is traditionally defined, rather asks “if force is ever to be used in the service of ending violence of a much greater magnitude.” The statement of conscience, as it now stands, asks us to commit to work toward a culture of peace that makes war and all other forms of violence avoidable and universally recognized as reprehensible and ineffective for honoring human rights and dignity.

Included in the draft are calls to action in the arenas of: international peacemaking, societal peacemaking, congregational peacemaking,interpersonal peacemaking, and inner peacemaking, including intentional spiritual practices.

Full text copies of the Statement of Conscience will be available at these gatherings. You may also find it online.

While all are welcome, only UUCA members will be able to vote on placing it on the GA plenary agenda.

If you have any questions, please contact Rev. Marti Keller at mkeller@uuca.org, or Peace Network co-chair Sven Lovegren solovegren@msn.com.