A Message from Allison:
Often Christians delegate peacemaking to committed activists rather than embracing it as a “holy obligation” for all of us, as Henri Nouwen suggests. Episcopal Peace Fellowship has existed on the fringe of The Episcopal Church for the past 75 years rather than as a pillar of the church because of this mentality. But last week there was a shift in our Episcopal thinking. Last week in Oklahoma City, 220 Episcopal brothers and sisters (including 34 bishops), gathered to reclaim Jesus’ message of peace and love. We gathered as experienced peacemakers and as individuals new to the conversation. We gathered because we believe The Episcopal Church should offer a unified voice against the epidemic of violence in our country.
Bishop Ed Konieczny of Oklahoma welcomed us to his home diocese and emphatically declared, “We need to move away from the polarizing comments, and the rhetoric and the finger-pointing and actually claim responsibility for what happens in our society.” Bishop Eugene Sutton of the Diocese of Maryland spoke next and echoed Bishop Konieczny’s words, ”The Episcopal Church aims to model at this gathering a civil and respectful conversation about violence in general and gun violence in particular – a dialogue that our society has not been able to accomplish.” I fully believe that Bishop Sutton’s statement held true. Honest and difficult conversations took place throughout the conference without judgement or malice. We all came to Oklahoma City out of our love for our brothers and sisters; we want to challenge the culture of violence that pervades our country.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship began dismantling violence and waging peace in 1939; EPF is not new to this conversation. Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace provided Episcopal Peace Fellowship with the opportunity to connect with other Episcopalians working for peace through different venues. I met Carissa Baldwin McGinnis, a priest in Houston, who helps clergy teach nonviolence to their churches. I met Matthew Ellis, CEO of Episcopal Health Ministries, and brainstormed how we might work together on the 16 Days of Activism toward Gender Violence this fall. I talked with countless bishops about establishing Episcopal Peace Fellowship chapters in their dioceses. I’m so thankful for this conference and the sincere enthusiasm I met there. Episcopalians are far more effective when we collaborate and work together rather than as lone voices crying out in the wilderness.