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Bodies of Peace

Bodies of Peace: Ecclesiology, Nonviolence, and Witness

Myles Werntz
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Bodies of Peace
    Book Description:

    This book argues that Christian nonviolence is both formed by and forms ecclesial life, creating an inextricable relationship between church commitment and resistance to war. Examining the work of John Howard Yoder, Dorothy Day, William Stringfellow, and Robert McAfee Brown, this book explores how each thinker’s advocacy for nonviolent resistance depends deeply upon the ecclesiology out of which it comes. These forms comprise four strands of a comprehensive Christian approach to a nonviolent witness rooted in ecclesial life. Because each of these figures’ ecclesiology implicates a different mode of resistance to war and a different relation between ecclesiology and resistance to war, the volume argues that any account of an ecclesially-informed resistance to war must be open to a multitude of approaches, not as pragmatic concessions, but as a foretaste of ecumenical unity. Insofar as the pursuit of peace in the world can be seen as a church bearing out the work of the Spirit, the approach of other ecclesial traditions can be seen not as competitors but as common works of the Spirit, which other traditions may learn from and be challenged by.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8946-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Ecclesiology, Nonviolence, and the Claims of War
    (pp. 1-22)

    For many years, the relationship between war and Christianity was relatively invisible to me. In my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, the world’s largest arsenal of B-52 bombers cast a large economic and political shadow over the region as one of its largest employers; bombers from the base have played significant roles in every major foreign conflict since World War I.¹ The relation between military force and church celebration was underscored by the familiar scene of military personnel in dress uniform and the singing of patriotic hymns in church worship on the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. I do not...

  5. 1 War, Church, and the Plurality of Witness
    (pp. 23-58)

    To begin our exploration on the ways in which ecclesiology sets the tone for nonviolent resistance to war, we must first deal with a direct and potentially problematic supposition: that churches doin fact live with war and benefit from societies that make war, regardless of their stance on the matter.¹ This supposition, I will argue, is a theological one, insofar as it claims the church—as Christ’s body in the world—involves acknowledging the church’s unity with the world as a part of creation, for the sake of the world. Prior to discussing how churches witness against war, we must...

  6. 2 The Church as Nonviolent: John Howard Yoder, Dialogical Nonviolence, and the Church’s Performance
    (pp. 59-106)

    In this chapter, I will examine one of the best known Christian proponents of ecclesially-rooted nonviolence from the last century: John Howard Yoder. The last decade has seen a flurry of interest in Yoder, with the emergence of various unpublished or neglected works.¹ Without question, Yoder’s work has been an inspiration to many in the last twenty-five years, with his major contributions to theology and ethics coming in the form of his work on war and peace. Though he was resistant to being known only for his contributions to these subjects, the persistent theme of Christian witness in war pervades...

  7. 3 The Church Forming Nonviolence: Dorothy Day, The Mystical Body, and the Logic of Tradition
    (pp. 107-156)

    In the work of Dorothy Day, we find a second voice offering an account of the interrelation between ecclesiology and nonviolence, albeit in a distinctly different manner. For Day, Christ’s Mystical Body assumes all human existence and directs all humanity toward its full communion: the visible body of Christ, the Catholic Church.¹ In certain ways, Day’s thesis agrees with Yoder, insofar as Yoder also measures the church’s nature and witness according to Christ’s humanity. For Yoder, the church (Christ’s body) is inextricably related to nonviolence, to the extent that the faithful church could not be narrated as other than nonviolent....

  8. 4 The Church as Naming Nonviolence: William Stringfellow, The Powers, and the Word’s Renewing Work
    (pp. 157-204)

    In this chapter, I will continue the exploration of the relation between ecclesiology and nonviolence by turning to one of the most enigmatic theologians of his generation, William Stringfellow. Best known as the man Karl Barth singled out (during Barth’s trip to America) as the individual who grasped the significance of Barth’s work, Stringfellow was an Episcopalian self-trained theologian and a lawyer by trade—read widely in his own day but largely neglected in our own.¹ Like Yoder and Day, Stringfellow maintains a deep suspicion of political arrangements that bring churches into close alignment with military and political institutions. And,...

  9. 5 The Church Supporting Nonviolence: Robert McAfee Brown, CALCAV, and Worldly Ecumenicity
    (pp. 205-254)

    In this chapter, we turn to a fourth articulation of the relationship between ecclesiology and nonviolent resistance to war: church as supporting nonviolence. As the Vietnam War continued to unfold, the longstanding dissent of Yoder, Day, and Stringfellow was joined by a chorus of other voices; by 1965, the smaller protests of Catholics and Mennonites were joined by much larger Christian groups.¹ As the attention of more American churches turned from internal struggles over racial equality to questions of foreign policy and war, national groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the National Council of Churches (NCC)...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 255-266)

    As our exploration of nonviolent resistance to war and the ways in which it relates to the church comes to a close, two things should be clear. First, ecclesiology frames, forms, and relates to nonviolence in manifold ways, emerging in a variety of forms. In an age of a divided church, we could expect nothing less than plurality, but as I indicated at the onset, the presence of multiple forms is not a reason to lament but rather an opportunity for the churches to recognize the limits of their own witness and to receive the work of the Spirit from...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-304)
  12. Index
    (pp. 305-314)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)