223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
San Diego, California — June 29, 2009
Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC), was the featured speaker at the annual Ecumenical Luncheon hosted by the Church of the Brethren’s Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR).
Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger and Kinnamon both celebrated the active relationship between the two bodies. Noffsinger has served the NCC in several capacities, including his new appointment as NCC vice president. Kinnamon thanked the denomination for its active role in ecumenism, and lauded Jordan Blevins, a member of the Church of the Brethren, for his role in the Eco-Justice Program of the NCC.
The CIR also hosted church leaders from Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Armenian Church of North America, and Presbyterian groups in the San Diego area.
“The ecumenical movement is essentially a movement for peace,” Kinnamon asserted in his address. He referenced the country of Sri Lanka, which has been suffering from civil war for over two decades. Six percent of the Sri Lankan population is Christian, comprising many different faith traditions. When asked why the Christian communities in Sri Lanka did not reach out to both sides of the civil war to aid in reconciliation, as they had inroads with both sides involved, a Christian leader told Kinnamon that they weren’t able even to work across the divides among Christians in the country.
“Division costs lives,” said Kinnamon. He quoted Mennonite scholar John Howard Yoder in saying, “Where the church is divided, the gospel is not true in that place.”
“The church has been entrusted with the mission of reconciliation,” said Kinnamon, “and peace is too large an issue to deal with in denominational isolation.” He shared that the ecumenical movement from its very beginning was a movement for peace, shaped by efforts for churches to come together during World War II and the Cold War.
“In the last 60 years, Christians have made great strides together,” stressed Kinnamon, claiming that there are three major peace statements made in the past 60 years by ecumenical bodies such as the NCC and World Council of Churches: war is contrary to the will of God; there are some forms of violence in which Christians may not participate; and that peace is inseparable from justice. In this light, he proclaimed the importance of working proactively for peace.
Kinnamon said that while “radical peacemaking is usually established by the historic peace churches,” he asserted that perhaps we should “give away our title of Historic Peace Church in order to bring others into the realm and responsibility of peacemaking.” He referenced Ephesians, saying, “Unity is a gift of God…. If we would be what we are, one body of Christ, it would be our greatest witness to peace.”
–Melissa Troyer is a member of Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren and serves on the Committee on Interchurch Relations.
The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel, Ken Wenger; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.