As an offshoot of our Mission Team, the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Team (CPJ) supports initiatives to make our world a better place. Covering areas such as human trafficking, interfaith relations, domestic terrorism, racism, hunger, poverty, compassion for animals, and promotion of peace poles, we work to educate our members, the Unity congregation, and those around us on these topics. uses this knowledge to actively support initiatives in these areas.
The CPJ Team has planted several peace poles in the Denver community, one of which is on Unity’s property for all who drive by to see and be reminded that our goal is peace in the world. It has invited those of different faiths to come and “break bread” together so that bridges of understanding can be built. The Team continues to hold seminars that keep Unity members informed of topics that affect the church, locally as well as globally, emphasizing Unity’s commitment to serving as a Peacemaking congregation through the PC(USA).
Mission, Vision, and Goals 2017
Inspired by the love of God and presence of Christ, and responding to Christ’s call to share the gospel message of peace to a broken and insecure world, we commit to go into the world, joining with others, to work courageously toward building a culture of peace and nonviolence … locally first, then nationally and/or globally as the Holy Spirit guides us. (Ephesians 4:1-3 “I … beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”)
OUR CALLING [Based on assimilation of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s in-depth, seminal study, Peacemaking: The Believers Calling (1980)
We discern and affirm:
- Peace is the wholeness and wellbeing that God wills for all creation. Although the effects of human sin wound all creation, God is continuously at work in the world offering healing, wholeness, mercy, justice, and peace.
- Peace means more than the absence of overt conflict and is well expressed by the Hebrew word, “Shalom” (a bringing together into wholeness, a healing, a moving out from oppression toward freedom).
- God’s peace is offered wherever there is brokenness – in individual lives, families, congregations, communities, nations, internationally, and all creation.
- The important role of compassion, as exemplified by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, in developing and carrying out effective peacemaking.
- There is no lasting peace without justice … in all areas of life.
SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION OF COMPASSION, PEACE, & JUSTICE (From the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, headquartered in Charlotte.)
- Peace is the will of God. From the first chapter of scripture, where God pronounced creation “good” (Gen. 1:31), to the very last, in John’s vision of a tree “for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2), God pursues peace. Trust in God is contrasted with trust in the instruments of war (Is. 31:1; Ps. 20:7; 33:16-17, Hos. 1:7).
- Peace was the mission of Jesus. His role as “The Prince of Peace” was foretold by Isaiah (9:6). Angels announcing his birth declared “Glory to God” and “peace on earth” (Lk 2:14). Weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus prayed; “would that you knew the things that make for peace” (Lk. 19:41-42).
- The fruit of the Spirit is peace (Gal. 5:22). “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6). Prior to his death, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you,” in reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-27).
- Peace was the witness of the early church. The new community created in Christ bore witness by its reconciled fellowship: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-37). Paul urged that the church’s “feet” should be shod with the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15)
- Peace is more than the absence of war. Peace – shalom – occurs when captives are released (Lk. 4:18); when outcasts are gathered (Zeph. 3:19); when the hungry have plenty to eat (Joel 2:19-26; Lk. 1:53; 1Sam. 2:1-8).
- The foundation of peace is justice. “The effect of righteousness (justice) will be peace,” predicted Isaiah (32:17). “Righteousness and peace will kiss,” wrote the psalmist (Ps.85:10). “Sowing justice” will result in peace, said Hosea (10:12-14).
- Peace like war, is waged. Peacemakers are not passive, but active. Peter, echoing the psalmist, urges us to “seek peace, and to pursue it” (1 Peter. 3:11; Ps. 34:14). Jesus urged worshippers to take the initiative to settle disputes (Matt. 5:23-24). Peace includes loving and feeding enemies (compassion) (Luke 6:27; Rom. 12:20).
- Peacemakers sometimes cause trouble. Jesus turned over the tables of oppressive money-changers (John 2:13-16). When he says, “I come not to bring peace but division” (Luke 12:51), the “peace” of which he speaks merely disguises an order of injustice (see Jer. 6:14-15). It was Jesus’ peacemaking mission which landed him on the cross (Col. 1:20).
- Peacemaking is rooted in grace. In Jesus’ prayer, our “debts” are forgiven in the measure to which we forgive others (Matt. 6:12). “Whoever is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). It is grace which frees us from fear (1 John 4:18) and empowers us to risk our lives for the sake of justice and peace.
- Peace in Christ and in creation are linked (“Making Peace with the Earth” / “Earth Care”). Not only are divisions in the human community overcome “in Christ” (Gal. 3:28), but also in the whole created order. The knowledge of God and the healing of creation are parallel realities (Is. 11:3-9). The land itself mourns (Is. 33:9). “But ask the beasts … and the birds … or the plants, and they will teach you of the ways of the Lord (Job 12:7-10).
- Peacemaking is not optional. The separation between “preaching the gospel” and “working for peace and justice” is a perversion of biblical truth. Jesus prayed; “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We lie if we say we love God yet fail to assist neighbors in need (1 John 4:20). Loving enemies – whether close at hand or far away – is the way to become children of God (Matt 5:44-45).
- God’s promised future is peace. Though now living as “aliens” in a strange land, peacemakers have caught glimpse of how the future will finally unfold. Both Isaiah and John’s Revelation speak of the coming “new heaven and new earth” (Is. 65:17-22; Rev. 21:1). The day is coming, says Micah, when nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares … and neither shall they learn war any more” (4:3-4). On that day, creation itself – which “has been groaning in travail … will be set free from its bondage to decay.” (Rom. 8:19-24).
- We stand up to initiate, promote, and/or support efforts that complement or supplement Unity’s already strong commitment to compassion, peacemaking, and justice. We recognize that these are areas of Mission, and therefore we provide representation on that Team and work to support and widen its efforts.
- Our starting point is the PC/USA’s existing “Commitment to Peacemaking” document (signed by Unity’s Session, Dec 2009). It provides a framework within which to plan and act:
— Worship (Assist in providing worship that expresses the reality of God’s compassion, peace giving, and call for justice.)
— Prayer and Bible Study (Encourage studies and disciplines that strengthen and equip people to share the gospel messages of compassion, peace, and justice into the world.)
— Peacemaking in Families and in Community Living (Create opportunities for people of all ages to develop peacemaking skills such as conflict resolution, mediation, or nonviolence training to help them grow as peacemakers in their families and communities.)
— Community Ministries (Work with and support ecumenical and interfaith partners and other bodies in their pursuit of social, racial, and economic justice; to confront racism and other forms of prejudice; and to respond to people in communities — local, national, and worldwide — who are caught in poverty, hurt by unemployment, and burdened by other problems.)
— Study and Response to Global Issues (Support human rights and economic justice efforts in at least one area of the world – through presbytery and other partnerships.)
— Global Security (Study global security concerns, work for worldwide arms control, and support alternatives to military solutions to international and civil conflicts.
— Making Peace with the Earth (Protect and restore the environment and offer compassion to all God’s creations through study, advocacy, and individual and group lifestyle commitments and actions.)
- We recognize it would be challenging to do work in all of the above areas at one time, but we can choose areas of emphasis, and they may vary at different times as needs and opportunities arise. Compassion, peacemaking, and justice efforts may be performed through any number of entities. They are not exclusive to us. Our task is to identify endeavors that we want to support or collaborate with, or resources we want to utilize, and determine how to do that in a manner appropriate for Unity Presbyterian Church as sanctioned by its Session.
- We are living out of Gospel-inspired motivation to affirm and support those who already are or want to be:
- caring for the poor, diseased, and afflicted;
- teaching personal responsibility and accountability;
- resisting racial discrimination;
- addressing the deeper needs of the human soul;
- opposing physical violence, especially against women and children;
- combatting physical, sexual, or economic slavery in any form;
- detesting theft of any kind (even when perpetrated by the rich, famous, and “white collared);”
- promoting respectful language and behavior out of deep compassion for each other;
- encouraging fair and open communication on the basis of justice, equity, and respect;
- practicing responsible stewardship of the environment;
- teaching appreciation for cultural and religious differences and resisting forces of division that seize on our God-given diversity to spread misunderstanding and mistrust;
- committing to a positive approach to cultural and religious differences and seeking new opportunities for conversation, understanding, mutual respect, and positive collaboration toward peacemaking goals;
- standing strong in doing what is good and helpful for those who suffer;
- performing as God’s blessing to someone or some group without their necessarily even knowing it;
- persevering despite naysayers, cynics, and obfuscators, to establish “Christ-like” communities and endeavors at all levels.
- We strive to live in accordance with the Golden Rule, connect with others who also share this desire, and seek creative ways to promote its practice. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12.) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40.)
CONCEPT OF TEAM OPERATIONS
- Compassion, Peace, and Justice are all encompassing and global. We are a small, humble team that has decided to start on a small scale, focused as a first-priority on local issues or global issues that can be addressed locally.
- Furthermore, because we are part-time (every team member has numerous other worthwhile commitments to uphold as well), we have put emphasis on “support to” others who already are or want to address needs that we consider, after careful reflection, worthy of Unity’s support. (See Vision Statement, above.)
- We have affirmed, as a result of Unity’s 2013 “Peace Discernment Process,” that we are based in a Spiritual Direction orientation. This is intended to insure we do not, over time, transition into a “project mentality;” that is, focused on events, budgets, and process to the neglect of God’s calling and our connection with broader themes within our denomination and other national or international groups seeking common compassion, peace, and justice goals. We want to leave room for the Spirit and follow where it leads us.
- We commit to following the Golden Rule principles as we work together as a team.
- We affirm that Compassion, Peacemaking, and Justice are areas of Mission. All mission efforts are forms of peacemaking. Therefore, we maintain representation on Unity’s Mission Team. Any issue going forth to the Session that emanates from the CPJ Ministry is first coordinated with the Mission Team.
- We meet on the first Thursday of each month, come as you can.
- Team meetings are conducted within a Spiritual Direction orientation.
- Chair rotation is encouraged. Chair appointment will be decided annually (September). Chair is responsible for establishing meeting agendas; insuring a record of meeting decisions; upholding/updating the Team’s Mission, Vision, and Goals document; insuring representation on Unity’s Mission Team; representing the CPJ Team before Session as necessary; and administering the Team’s budget (which Session has designated as part of the Mission Team budget).
- The CPJ Team identifies issues that it intends to sponsor and support. In order for an issue to qualify, it must have a sponsor who steps forward and serves as “Issue Coordinator.” Issue Coordinators take the lead in exploring, researching, designing, attracting and recruiting other participants from the congregation / community. They facilitate the implementation and promotion (advertising) of their specific project. They research their area of interest and share findings and insights. Not every team member will be interested in and/or able to engage with every project launched. But the Team comes together to listen, provide suggestions and support, help resolve problems, and review the “big picture.” Issue Coordinators are welcome to attend Unity Mission meetings and encouraged to collaborate with other Unity groups having a shared interest to further represent and coordinate support for their projects.
- The CPJ Team connects with peacemakers from other traditions, faith-based and secular, to build alliances and support common goals of a more just and peaceful world.
- The CPJ Team maintains an open invitation to anyone interested and passionate about fostering compassion, peace, and justice in some way.
- Explore and become familiar with programs our denomination (PCUSA) has underway and its available resources relevant to Compassion, Peace, and Justice. Share information and insights. Recommend programs with which we may want to connect.
- Explore resources and programs outside our denomination, including secular. Which are compatible with our mission, vision, and goals? How might they fit and be used effectively?
- Determine in consultation with our Pastors and the Session, how best to publicize the CPJ programs in ways supportive of Unity’s overall programs and that may attract others with a similar sense of calling.
CURRENT PROJECTS (They are listed below under the appropriate theme within the PC(USA)’s “Peacemaking Commitment” document, which Unity PC signed:
- Assist in designing and carrying out Unity’s annual “Peacemaking Service.”
- Stand ready to support our ministers in any way to convey God’s call for compassion, peace, and justice.
- Prayer, Bible Study, and Education
- Respond to any call for support from ministers and/or elders.
- Research and evaluate curricula that might be appropriate for adult and youth education programs aimed at strengthening and equipping people to share the gospel messages of compassion, peace, and justice into the world (It is understood that recommendations would be forwarded to the Session for approval via established coordination processes.) Examples might be: “Living the Golden Rule,” “Enhancing Compassion.”
- Selected themes in Scripture on Compassion, Peacemaking, and Justice.
- Education on Stewardship of the God’s Earth and All Living Things.
- Intra-and Inter-faith Understanding
- Curricula appropriate for various Youth age-groups (partnering with Unity’s Youth Education Team)
- Peacemaking in Families and in Community Living
- Consider conflict-resolution facilitation training (family and/or community focused) and/or workshop(s) on issues related to bullying and/or domestic violence.
- Schedule the study of “blind spots,” “fake news,” and other similar concepts in order to better understand how they affect our beliefs and actions. Use these insights to explore ways we can improve our own daily living of the CPJ mission and to more effectively reach out in support of others.
- Promote the planting of “Peace Poles” in the greater Denver area … and wherever else interest is expressed.
- Distribute to area schools free educational materials relative to Compassion, Peace, & Justice for teacher and/or student use. Materials must be politically and theologically neutral and approved in advanced by the Team as a whole.
- Community Ministry
- Highlight how activities at Unity relate to the Golden Rule and compassion, peace, and justice. Monitor how what we as a church do reflects our PC/USA “Commitment to Peacemaking” and to Compassion and Justice.
- Determine what PC/USA intra- and inter-faith initiatives, such as the International Peacemaker Program, may be of interest and use at Unity.
- Determine if there are any intra-faith issues, attitudes, or obstacles limiting the effectiveness of our local community mission programs, such as the East Lincoln Christian Ministry. Are there any needs/shortfalls that we can address?
- Explore where there might be opportunities to fruitfully and faithfully engage in dialogue with another Christian church and/or other faith body that is pursuing what we deem to be a sincere, open-minded, interest in ecumenical peacemaking. Outline the pro’s and con’s and develop a strategic plan.
- Seek opportunities to support successful refugee assimilation in our local communities. Initial candidates might be Syrians and others from the Middle East as well as the Montagnard population.
- Study and Response to Global Issues
- Explore how Unity can contribute to counteracting “human trafficking.”
- Learn more about Islam and reach out to communicate with Islamic Leaders engaged in Peacemaking.
- Periodically invite speakers on aspects of local, domestic, or international issues intended to broaden our community’s awareness and understanding of issues having particular relevance to compassion, peacemaking, or justice.
- Global Security
- Explore ways Unity might contribute to countering international and domestic terrorism.
- Making Peace with the Earth
- Compassion toward Animals (Lincolnton Shelter).
- Support Unity’s Earth Care Committee (which grew out of our Compassion, Peace, and Justice Team deliberations in 2014-2015).
CPJ ISSUE AREA COORDINATORS 2017
Charter for Compassion: Ken Sipes
Community Networking for CPJ: Ken Sipes
Compassion toward Animals: Tanya Koehler
“Cost” of War: Kelly Meyer
CPJ Worship Service & Awareness Events: Various
Domestic Terrorism (“Hate Groups”): David Keck
Education Initiatives (Includes supplementary education for young children in poverty in the East Lincoln County area.): Sam Sipes & Elaine Jenkins
Human Trafficking: Tricia Lytle
Hunger (Including CROP WALK): Vic Leith & Dave Fechtmeiste
Inter-Faith Relations: Ken/Sam Sipes, Bee Manship, & Jay Sloan
Making Peace with the Earth: Bee Manship (Chair, Earth Care Committee)
Peace Pole: David Keck (Support: Francie Franklin & John Marrow)
Peace Gardens: Francie Franklin
Race Relations: Elaine Jenkins & Ken Sipes
Reducing “Over-Consumption:” John Marrow
Support to Stephen’s Ministry (“Compassion”): Dave Fechtmeister
Support to Refugees: Jeanne Gillespie & Sam Sipes
Visiting Speakers: Jay Sloan and Charlie Lampley