Women focus on peace, action, social responsibility
8/11/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
Photographs are available with this report.
By Linda Green*
Rev. Evelyn “Tweedy” Sombrero (left) and other United Methodist Women
from across the United States join with local peace activists at
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., in a silent vigil protesting
war with Iraq. Participants in the national seminar, sponsored every
four years by the Women’s Division of the church’s Board of Global
Ministries, stood in support of Women in Black, an international network
that stands in silence every week as a witness for peace. A UMNS photo
by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-273, Accompanies UMNS #400, 8/11/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
Methodist Women from across the United States join with local peace
activists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., in a silent
vigil protesting war with Iraq. Participants in the national seminar,
sponsored every four years by the Women’s Division of the church’s Board
of Global Ministries, stood in support of Women in Black, an
international network that stands in silence every week as a witness for
peace. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-272, Accompanies
UMNS #400, 8/11/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Making peace is an
essential part of being a Christian, yet for too long, the church has
not followed Jesus in that respect, according to a United Methodist
human rights leader.
"Peace and being called to be peace and
justice makers is an essential part of what it means to be a follower of
Jesus," said David Wildman, staff executive on human rights and racial
justice at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York.
For too long, he said, "the church has only believed in Jesus and not
followed Jesus. To be a disciple is to be a faithful follower."
focus is about action, he said. "Jesus said blessed are the
peacemakers, not those that study peace, but those that make peace."
was one of several study group leaders during the United Methodist
Women's National Seminar, held Aug. 2-8 at Scarritt-Bennett Center in
Nashville. About 250 women attended the event to focus on social justice
issues and responsibility and answer the question: "If not me, who?"
The event is held every four years.
Throughout the week, each
participant studied a specific social issue, with leadership from
experts on the topic. Wildman led an issue group called "Peace/War:
Pushing Up Daisies."
Before the United States went to war with
Iraq, leaders from around the world were championing peace, he noted. "I
asked myself, 'If everyone is for peace, how come we keep marching
toward war and waging war?'" Peace, he said, is defining the positive
aspects and what it is you are saying "no" to. Peacemaking also involves
saying "no" to war, he said.
"Peace is not the absence of
open conflict but the presence of justice in people's lives," Wildman
said. Justice materializes when people are given respect as equals,
concerns and pains are acknowledged, and ways of gathering around the
table in fellowship are emphasized, he said
The United States, he
said, accounts for half of the world's military expenditures in a given
year. That spending is to defend 4 to 5 percent of the world's
population, he said. "Jesus said if there is a problem that you face,
examine first the log in your own eye."
If Christians in the
United States are concerned about violence and the spread of weapons in
the world, including weapons of mass destruction, "we need to look at
the log in our own eye," he said. "The United States has more weapons of
mass destruction than any other country. The United States has more
bases and more military personnel in other countries than any other
country, and (it) is spending close to $12,000 a second on war and
readiness for war. What is the United States devoting to peace?"
and people of all faiths have different answers to the question of
whether war is just, he said. It is difficult to find statements by
Christ that support war, he said, adding that the just war theory itself
didn't emerge until Christianity became the religion of the Roman
Empire under Constantine. "The early church was often on the receiving
end of violence and war."
Although the Bible contains violence,
the overwhelming message is one of peace of justice, Wildman said.
"Those stories that are most violent and seem to be calling on military
action and resorting to war could be read as, 'war is the fruit of those
who sow injustice.' So, if you mistreat or abuse people, the
consequences of those actions will often be by military action."
the seminar, participants focused on concerns such as education,
ethics, globalization, faith and health, and examined how those affect
women and children.
Aruna Gnanadason, the World Council of
Churches' justice, peace and creation program director in Switzerland,
led Bible studies each morning. She discussed biblical and contemporary
women who brought about change or helped end injustices, and she showed
how women in Somalia, Latvia and India had the courage to face authority
in non-aggressive ways. "Aggression only leads to more aggression," she
Gnanadason led the United Methodist Women in exploring
how to use their vulnerability as women to address authority and power
and counter injustice. Citing Samuel 25:2-42, in which Abigail keeps
David from killing innocent people, she noted, "Women find power in
Though conflicts rage around the world,
Gnanadason said women "are ambivalent about what we should do, (and) we
have stopped doing anything. In a way, we need to continue to show that
we will not tolerate this. We will not allow our young people to die. We
need to talk about how to become more (resistant to) military plans and
not allow the military to use our young people in the way they have
done so. There are many things we need to do because if we stop now,
there will be another war."
Responding to a question of whether war is "sometimes good," Gnanadason said, "In my opinion, never.
can never resolve problems, and we have proof of that throughout
history," she said. The solution, she said is a stronger United
Nations, a respected body that can respond to the dictators of the
world. " No government should think that they can police the whole
world," she said.
At one point in the seminar, the United
Methodist Women engaged in peaceful action by standing in solidarity
with Women in Black. The international peace networks stages silent
vigils each week in support of peace. The vigils began in Israel in 1988
by women protesting Israel's occupaction of the West Bank. The United
Methodist Women also hosted the Kensington Welfare Rights Union as its
members marched through Nashville on their way to Washington to raise
awareness of poor people's plight.
The National Seminar, which
once spanned five weeks, was inherited from the former Methodist
Episcopal Church, South, and is based on the belief that the church and
Christians have a responsibility to address political and social issues.
the gathering, the women looked at the history of United Methodist
Women's social justice efforts, engaged in problem-solving and
skill-building activities, and made a commitment to return home ready to
work for peace. They looked at United Methodist resolutions, how issues
impact women and children, and the stories behind the issues. They also
participated in hands-on social action throughout the Nashville area.
hands-on events helped give the women "concrete action plans for being
Christian activists," said Lois M. Dauway, who heads the Christian
social responsibility section of the Women's Division, which administers
United Methodist Women.
United Methodist Women is a
million-member organization that seeks to foster spiritual growth,
develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members raise approximately
$20 million annually for projects and programs related to women, youth
and children in the United States and in more than 100 countries
worldwide. # # # *Green is United Methodist News Service's Nashville, Tenn., news director.