Toward a Nonviolent Koinonia

An Ecumenical Enquiry into Being the Church from a Historic Peace Church Perspective

In: Ecclesiology
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  • 1 Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry, USA

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While many churches now affirm the importance of nonviolence as a missional strategy, it is not clear that this has yet affected their ecclesial self-understanding. What have the ecumenical churches said about the church and nonviolence? Have they developed enough of a nonviolent ecclesiology? In this study, I contend that it is essential that the Christian churches be a nonviolent koinonia. The true church is the nonviolent church. Drawing upon major ecumenical documents, and listening to the voices of three theologians who have endorsed nonviolent theology, I outline a vision of the nonviolent church as a koinonia which participates in the life of the Triune God. As the community which is centred on the eucharist, I argue that the nonviolent koinonia is a community of anamnesis, of prolepsis, and of philoxenia.

  • 16

    Lewis M. Mudge, ‘Ecumenical Social Thought’, in A History of the Ecumenical Movement 1968–2000, vol. 3, ed. J. Briggs, Mercy A. Oduyoye, and George Tsetsis (Geneva: wcc, 2004), p. 285.

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  • 17

    David Gill, ‘Violence and Nonviolence’, in Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, N. Lossky, J. M. Bonino, J. Pobee, T. Stransky, G. Wainwright, P. Webb (Geneva: wcc, 1991), p. 1055. The Roman Catholic’s Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes and Populum progressio honored those who renounce the use of violence in the pursuit of justice, especially gs: 78 and pp: 31.

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  • 19

    Ibid., p. 286. Ernst Lange rightly stated that the ecumenical movement is a peace movement. ‘The ecumenical movement’, wrote Lange, ‘is a movement for peace … it is in fact the way in which the Christian churches really serve the cause of peace.’ Ernst Lange, And Yet It Moves: Dream and Reality of the Ecumenical Movement, trans. Edwin Robertson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 147, quoted in M. Kinnamon, ‘Assessing the Ecumenical Movement’, in A History of the Ecumenical Movement 1968–2000, p. 66. How does peace-making become a priority of the council? What steps should the churches take to promote it? As Michael Kinnamon has observed, there are two areas of consensus: (1) broad agreement that peace and justice are fundamentally inseparable; (2) widespread condemnation in ecumenical documents of the production and deployment, not to mention potential use, of nuclear weapons.

  • 21

     Quoted in Peter Lodberg, ‘Justice and Peace in a World of Chaos’, in a History of the Ecumenical Movement, 3:336. The term ‘just peace’ was coined by the late Glenn Stassen, a Baptist theologian who taught at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, usa. See Glenn H. Stassen, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992); Glenn H. Stassen, ed., Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War (Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2008).

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  • 22

     Ibid., p. 337; see also Kinnamon, ‘Assessing the Ecumenical Movement’, p. 66. For a report of what happened at the Harare Assembly, see Donald E. Miller, ‘Appendix I: The Decade to Overcome Violence’, in Seeking Peace in Africa: Stories from African Peacemakers, ed. Donald E. Miller, Scott Holland, Lon Fendall, and Dean Johnson (Telford: Cascadia, 2007), p. 219.

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  • 30

    Ibid., p. 90.

  • 31

    Ibid., p. 92.

  • 32

    Ibid., p. 93.

  • 33

    Ibid., pp. 123–125. The challenges before today’s churches are: (1) to embrace the struggle for justice through nonviolent means, (2) to have the courage to uncover the truth and to resist the strategies of self-justification; (3) to nurture the liberating act of forgiveness (ibid., p. 38).

  • 34

    Ibid., p. 129.

  • 35

    John H. Yoder, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community before the Watching World (Scottdale: Herald, 1992). Before this, Yoder’s article which appeared in Theology Today in 1991 also listed five practices of the Christian community. See John H. Yoder, ‘Sacrament as Social Process: Christ the Transformer of Culture’, Theology Today 48.1 (April 1991), pp. 33–44. This article is republished in John H. Yoder, The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical, ed. Michael G. Cartwright (Grand Rapids: Eerd­mans, 1994; Scottdale: Herald, kindle edition), chap. 17.

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  • 36

    Yoder, Body Politics, p. 15.

  • 37

    Ibid., p. 20.

  • 41

    Yoder, ‘The Unity We Seek: A Historic Free Church View’, in Royal Priesthood, kindle loc. 4778.

  • 42

    Ibid., kindle loc. 4814.

  • 43

    Fernando Enns, ‘Toward an Ecumenical Theology of Just Peace’, in Just Peace, kindle loc. 508.

  • 49

    Enns, Peace Church and the Ecumenical Community, p. 140.

  • 50

    Ibid., p. 144.

  • 51

    Ibid., p. 143–144.

  • 52

    Jenson, Systematic Theology II, pp. 204–205.

  • 53

    Ibid., p. 207.

  • 56

    J. Denny Weaver (ed.), John Howard Yoder: Radical Theologian (Eugene: Cascade, 2014), Kindle.

  • 57

    Gerald J. Mast, ‘Sin and Failure in Anabaptist Theology’, in John Howard Yoder, kindle loc. 8861. Mast contends that from now on, Yoder’s corpus will be read in light of his assault against numerous women.

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  • 60

    Enns, Peace Church, pp. 236–237.

  • 61

    Bruce T. Morrill, Divine Worship and Human Healing: Liturgical Theology at the Margins of Life and Death (Collegeville: Liturgical, 2009), p. 14.

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  • 63

    Kinnamon, Can a Renewal Movement, p. 37. Konrad Raiser is also of the same opinion. The goal of living in relationships is the development of communicative and supportive networks. He writes, ‘Living in relationships means acknowledging that "the other" sets limits on my freedom, power, need and security … our common task is to shape these relationships which constitute our identity into communicative and mutually supportive links’. Raiser, To Be the Church, p. 25.

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  • 64

    Enns, Peace Church and Ecumenical Community, p. 237.

  • 65

    J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013), kindle loc. 5317.

  • 67

    John D. Caputo, What would Jesus Deconstruct (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2010), kindle loc. 888.

  • 69

    Septemmy Lakawa, ‘Changing Landscapes of Mission: Challenges and Opportunity’, International Review of Mission 103.1 (April 2014), p. 103.

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  • 71

    Enns, Peace Church, p. 228.

  • 73

    Martin L. King Jr., ‘Nonviolence and Racial Justice’, in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), pp. 7–8. The article was previously published in Christian Century 74 (6 February 1957), pp. 165–167.

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