Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

The Church of the Brethren Statement on War was first adopted in 1948 and revised several times—most recently in 1970. It says, in part: “The Church of the Brethren has always believed that peace is the will of God. In … its history it has come to understand more clearly the tremendous evil which war brings upon human beings and their society.” 

The early Brethren had seen first-hand the scourge of war as it swept back and forth across Europe, and then later again in America. They saw its very human consequences and its stark contrast to Jesus’ call to love our enemies and seek peace. Later generations, as noted in the 1970 statement, had seen “two devastating world wars, the conflict in Korea, the Vietnam War, and the many international crises of recent decades.” Another half-century has lengthened that list. 

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has filled the headlines in recent days, we are seeing all too clearly once again the evil specter of war. Scenes of destruction, reports of violence and death, and accounts of fleeing refugees remind us why the denomination earlier declared that “all war is sin.” 

It’s an all-too-familiar cycle, fueled by greed, anger, revenge, the quest for power, and other human shortcomings. As the philosopher Plato once observed, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” 

And so, in times like these, we grieve. We grieve for the people of Ukraine whose lives have been disrupted or destroyed. We grieve for people in Russia who are experiencing the cost of ill-fated decisions made behind government walls. We grieve for people around the world who bear the effects of war, often outside the headlines. We grieve for all the inequities and imbalances that times like these expose. We perhaps grieve that in the course of humanity and the history of the church we have not made more progress toward peace.

Amid our grief, we also pray—for healing, for hope, for light, for strength, for miracles. We recommit ourselves to the work of peace, no matter how difficult or slow the work might seem. We name evil where we see it, and endeavor to overcome evil with good. We provide relief and help where we can, tending wounds even as we try to eliminate the disease. 

It is a challenging call. It’s also a holy one. Words that Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden offered in a benediction at the 2017 National Older Adult Conference might speak to us again: “Go now into the scared places of this weary world, but don’t go by yourself. Go with the whole community of God … making all places sacred.”

District executive schedule: In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be preaching for York Center on March 13 and for Luray Church of the Brethren (virtually) on April 6; attending Council of District Executive meetings in Elgin April 4-6 and the district clergy retreat in Rockford April 25-26; and going to the Parish Collective “Inhabit” church planting & revitalization conference in Seattle April 28-29. Walt is available for guest preaching and other events; to schedule, please contact IWDDE@outlook.com.