The committee appointed by the Christian Reformed Church to study war and peace has much to say about war but much more to say about peace and the role churches ought to play in building it. The committee’s report is headed to Synod 2006, the annual gathering of delegates from the whole denomination.
“Our church has not addressed adequately the responsibilities of citizens and governments to…prevent war and build peace,” the report says. “If the Christian Reformed Church is to obediently play the role to which God calls us… we must make our calling as peacemakers a central element of our worship, our evangelism and outreach, and our congregational life.”
Synod 2003 appointed the committee to address the just-war theory and the use of military force in both pre-emptive and preventive warfare. It also asked the committee to explore the changed international environment and what that means for the church’s position on the use of military power.
Historically the CRC has held that some wars are justified, but only as a last resort. The committee asserts that while the just-war criteria is still essential in assessing whether a war is just or unjust, contemporary discussions often show an ignorance of what constitutes a just war. It also states that the church has not said nearly enough about the need for peacemaking.
The committee points out that Canadians and U.S. citizens have different cultures and histories and that their two countries play different roles in the world. It laments the fact that spending on peace initiatives is “insignificant in comparison to the massive investment in preparation for war.”
The United States, the committee says, is in a unique position in the world in terms of power and resources. That, it said, “demands that American Christians adopt an attitude of humility and prayerfulness.”
The committee was especially concerned about the United States’ national security strategy that states, “America will act against emerging threats before they are fully formed.” This, the committee said, is a preventive-war doctrine that is morally unacceptable. The committee drew a clear distinction between that and pre-emptive war that may be justified when the threat of attack is imminent. The committee wrote, “Preventive war, initiating military action against a country that poses no near-term threat, is little more than illegitimate aggression.”
Canada’s international policy has, according to the committee, a strong focus on improving government in weak, fragile, and failing states. It also continues to promote treaties for nonproliferation of weapons and defusing conflicts to prevent war.
“For the Christian Reformed Church,” the committee wrote, “it is important to understand that the level and nature of engagement by faith communities in foreign policy formation is much different in Canada than in the United States, especially decisions relating to peace, war and human rights.” The report cites Canada’s increased resources for development and peace building as partly a result of the advocacy of faith-based organizations in Canada.
“Exercise of the prophetic role of individual Christians and churches as institutions within communities is one way to be agents of peace in society,” the report states.
To prepare Christians for that role, the committee makes several recommendations that will be considered by Synod 2006 (see box).
The full text of the report, including all the recommendations, has been sent to every Christian Reformed church council and is available online at the denomination’s website, www.crcna.org, under resources, synod-related.