Social Witness Policy as Liturgy

Vice Moderator Larissa Kwong Abiza, and Elder Norma Smikle serve communion at the March HRP Presbytery Gathering

Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly, and Elder Norma Smikle serve communion at the March HRP Presbytery Gathering

Chris Iosso, who serves as Coordinator for the PC(USA)’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, penned this “update from Louisville.” During a recent worship service at the Church Center, Chris used the Five Affirmations of the Peace Discernment process to construct a liturgy for reflection on the call to end war. What a great idea for enfleshing the commitments of PC(USA) social witness policy within our liturgy and life!

I led Wednesday morning worship at the PC(USA) Center with communion on July 1, as part of our staff rotation. My meditation was on “A Five Step Program to End Addiction to War,” using the Five Affirmations of the Peace Discernment process. This is something Hudson River has participated in, partly thanks to the Peace Fellowship. The Stony Point Church invited me to speak on it at one point, and I have spoken in perhaps a dozen congregations and several presbyteries since the process was begun in 2010.

Because the total service is 30 minutes and a mission co-worker, an MD from Malawi, wanted to give a minute for mission, I used the final form of the Five Affirmations as parts of the text for the Call to Worship (Affirmation 1: Working for peace is not only an individual matter but a call of the whole Christian community), Prayer of Confession (Affirmation 2: Being honest patriots who own our responsibility for the horrific consequences of war), Assurance of Pardon (Affirmation 3: Christ’s example and gospel of peace), and the several approaches in (Affirmation 4: Teaching non-violence) as steps “to declare independence from war,” playing on war as a substance upon which our culture has become dependent. Affirmation 5, Choosing non-violent methods in our personal and corporate efforts to transform conflict, served in the benediction. [Download a summary of these affirmations].

The wars vary, states Bill Astore, a retired colonel and author for the website, Truthout. He mentions the war on poverty (derailed by the war in Viet Nam), the war on drugs (now militarizing the lower Mexican border to prevent young people from escaping gangs in Central America), the war on terror, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and support for many militaries and military bases.

“Why do the nations rage,” asks Acts 4? James 4 answers that violence stems from greed and other out-of-control desires. Quick exegesis, but the rage to expand, consume, dominate, and to choose the military hammer, automatically creates enemies, reduces options, oversimplifies cultures, and (often) guts our faith.

The Five Affirmations include pacifism, but you don’t need to be a pacifist to know that most of our recent military ventures have failed. And now, in big picture, our Republican and Democratic candidates are already struggling with whether Russia or China, respectively, get to be our next Most Fearsome Opponent (enemy).

During the Center’s worship, we did sing (an Afro-Latin version of This is My Song) and prayed for our country and many individuals, from Charleston to the friends and former employees suing the Presbyterian Mission Agency (that’s another column). There certainly have been a few problems in the organization, but 99% of the time we do our jobs, break bread together, and try to keep our eyes on the Prize.

The Rev. Chris Iosso is the Coordinator for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, based in Louisville, KY; former pastor of Scarborough Presbyterian, and a continuing member of Hudson River Presbytery.


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