Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from Mission Summit Conversations (June 2013)

  • Insights
    • We are all victims of violence, but we are also practitioners in violence (in the language that we use, in church meetings on hot topics, etc.)
    • Justice is a precondition of peace as a way to overcome violence
    • Violence will look very different in different contexts (i.e. hunting communities vs. urban areas; public area vs. in homes)
    • Open our hearts to people; do not stereotype.
    • Violence is not about “them”; we need to be able to look at ourselves and how it touches us.
    • We, as the church, do not yet fully trust in the Christian message of love and forgiveness or in the power of the Holy Spirit, but instead remain largely complicit in an ongoing cycle of fear and violence.
  • Challenges
    • Many issues breed violence: mental illness, drugs, poverty, media, alienation – there is great complexity. We need more awareness of the faces of violence (economic, cultural, environmental, systemic)
    • Being prophetic as a faith community
    • Are we willing to take the risk of acknowledging violence in our midst (name what we see, e.g. harsh words, hurtful touch, abuse, etc.), even in our families and church?
    • The difficulty of getting people in our churches (us) to deal with risky ministry and things we have fear about.
  • Experiments
    • Church needs repentance around our contribution to and complicity in violence
    • Church moderators need to learn how to moderate and promote healthy conversations in churches
    • We need an attitude of non-acceptance of violence; it is urgent that we denounce cultural employment and racial bullying; we need to use more respectful language
    • Put church community pressure on religious curriculum publishers to deal with emotional intelligence, to address harmful media images and messages, to deal with issues of violence
    • Preach on domestic violence, child sexual violence/abuse to raise awareness
    • Apply restorative justice methods with schools, neighborhood groups, victims of crime and offenders; we need restorative circles for newly release prisoners
    • Affinity groups/small groups can be a place to become comfortable (safe) enough so that the Holy Spirit can make us feel uncomfortable/ able to take risks.
    • Have “the conversation” about violence (perhaps similar to our session) in your congregation.
    • Denominationally – Lift up ministries like the Prison Ministry Task Force.

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the Mission Table (November 2013)

  • Insights
    • There is a tendency to privatize our reading of scripture (to see and understand  our Christianity as about and for ourselves)
    • Social Justice issues are able to engage the unchurched and disinterested easier than the personal spiritual issues.
  • Challenges
    • Issues of shame (as victims and as victimizers) are barriers
    • Challenge:  to change society’s ideas of what is acceptable
    • Challenge: Our polity means that local churches, who are deep in the culture and may not see how their attitudes perpetuate violence, make their own choices
  • Experiments/Projects
    • Environmental violence and racism needs to be addressed
    • We should address the economic forces that foster violence

Continued Day 2 – Summary (November 2013)

  • Proposed Projects: Recognizing that violence takes many forms, and permeates our society, we proposed three areas of action:

One:  Taking a prophetic stand

  • ABCUSA, ABC regions, and local congregations need to raise a prophetic voice against the violence in our society, communities, and churches.  Silence from our churches is deafening.
  • ABCUSA needs to have a strong national voice on this topic and circulate the ABHMS statement on gun violence more widely.
  • We need to model non-violence in our church and offer non-violent conflict resolution.

Two: Training and Equipping.

  • Before action in the civil rights movement, trainings were offered and people were equipped in non-violent resolution.
  • We need education on what violence is, the types of violence, etc.
  • We need to develop curriculum on non-violence to be used in churches,
  • We should deal with prison re-entry, perhaps Michelle Alexander’s resources could be helpful here
  • We need to model non-violent language and behaviors, such as not calling these “bullet points”

Three:  Host a conference on non-violence

  • It is important to have conversations around this issues both in our churches and in our broader communities
  • We should offer a conference and training on non-violence
  • This might lead to a stronger prophetic voice, completing the cycle of intervention

Read the full notes:

Mission Summit Conversations:

Mission Table:

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the National Leadership Council Meeting (April 2014)

Current Activity:

  • Metro Chicago devoted an Annual Meeting to this issue along with several other meetings on this issue among leaders, in schools, etc.
  • ABC/Conn has a statement on violence and is working to understand the connection between mental illness and violence. They are also studying the issue of bullying.
  • ABHMS is looking at understanding violence through the neurosciences
  • This is one of the top three priorities in the Philadelphia Baptist Association
  • AB Women’s Ministries is creating Sacred Safe Spaces. We are working with a women’s program in New Jersey to declare churches as safe places for women to talk about their experiences

Next Steps:

  • We need to address violence in our families
  • We also have to face the violence within ourselves, our own brokenness
  • We need to resist using violent language and metaphors in our conversations.
  • We discussed how complicated and inter-related the dimensions of violence are, but how churches (separately and collectively) must approach the issue in a more comprehensive way–that is, through (1) developing a better understanding of the various dimensions and causes of violence from both biblical/theological and social science perspectives, (2) employing that understanding in the various dimensions of ministry (including worship, education, pastoral care, community outreach, etc.), and (3) engaging the issue in public witness, public action (e.g., publicly protesting against gun violence), and public/political advocacy. But we wanted to emphasize that this could be a long process and that we/churches should not wait to act until everything is in place, but rather take whatever steps possible at the earliest time, incomplete though those steps may be. We also discussed how violence resides within ourselves, our families, and in our churches and ministries and the need to develop disciplines, both personal and social, that would minimize violence in our personal/family/church life, that would make us more effective in our ministries, both churchly and publicly.

Views expressed are the sole opinion of conversation participants. They do not express the views of American Baptist Churches USA, or individual American Baptist churches. Conversation notes and summaries are shared to allow American Baptists and friends to easily review and use these Mission Summit Conversations and the Mission Table learnings as they wish.