5 January 2021 |
An interview with Lisa Clark Diller and Daniel Xisto
Adventist Peace Fellowship (APF) is a denominationally supportive ministry devoted to inspiring and educating college students and congregations in the work of bringing justice and peace to people in their communities. Over Martin Luther King Day weekend, they’re launching their first annual virtual Peace Summit on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. Session times are:
- Saturday, January 16, 5:00-6:30 pm, ET / 2:00-3:30 pm, PT
- Monday, January 18, 1:00-2:00 pm, ET / 10:00-11:00 am, PT
Todd Leonard, on behalf of Adventist Today, asked two of APF’s leaders to talk about the organization and share more details about the summit.
Todd: APF was launched in 2002 by a group of Adventists who wanted to see our denomination return to its roots of active peacemaking in our world. What was the catalyst for its formation? How has the mission evolved since then? What does it look like today?
Lisa: APF started in reaction to the warmongering that occurred in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002. Under the leadership of Ron Osborne later in that decade, the vision widened to include more than literal peacemaking. “For the Healing of the Nations” became our motto—encompassing all the justice and peace work to which we believe Jesus calls us. Under that motto, we identify six core commitments that flesh out that vision:
- Peacemaking and Reconciliation – a commitment to nonviolence and conscientious objection
- Care for Creation – a commitment to protect and restore all forms of life
- Sabbath Economics – a commitment to end poverty through economic justice
- Health and Human Rights – a commitment to bring affordable healthcare access to every human being
- Freedom of Conscience – a commitment to preserve liberty for all religious thought and practice, not just that of Christianity
- Racial and Gender Justice – a commitment to remove obstacles to radical human equality
Our unpaid leadership (board, director and executive team) work with university peace chapters and local peace churches in the United States, Canada and Australia to help them tell their justice stories to inspire and educate other groups and recruit new groups to join the movement. Our podcast, Adventist Peace Radio, along with our website and social media platforms regularly feature the people who are engaged in doing this work on the ground. The donations that support our modest budget are primarily used to provide student or church leaders additional training or to support a specific peacemaking project initiated by one of our groups.
Todd: Tell me a little bit more about the churches involved in APF. What does it mean to be a Peace Church?
Daniel: APF churches have had their board approve a statement affirming the congregation’s intention to pursue biblical shalom as an integral part of the church’s mission, and wanting to be publicly identified as a peace church. In addition, our churches have pledged to cultivate and enhance their peace-making efficacy—a journey of discipleship where we learn from one another. This process is laid out in detail on our website: http://www.adventistpeace.org/churches
Quite simply, being a Peace Church gives you access to a network of people that are passionate about peacemaking and social justice. If you are interested in connecting to other churches that are exploring how Jesus took such bold action and stood up as He did, then Adventist Peace Fellowship is for you. Whether your church has been involved with matters of justice for years, or whether you are hoping to shift your church in that direction, you will find others just like you at APF.
Todd: You’ve entitled this summit, “Martin Luther King and the Unholy Trinity: Liberating the Church from Racism.” What can people expect to experience during the two sessions?
Lisa: On Saturday, they can expect to hear a bit from Dr. King himself, a prophetic word from Washington Adventist University theologian, Olive Hemmings, short clips from the various chapters and churches about how they are engaging in anti-racist actions, and a panel discussion with diverse voices in dialogue on how King’s call to resist racism connects with our Adventist mission.
Daniel: At the conclusion of our time together on January 16, we will announce three viewing options—a film, a TED talk, and a brief discourse on Adventism—all centering on race. People can watch whichever option appeals to them on Saturday night or Sunday, and then join a ZOOM gathering on January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to discuss. People of faith from different parts of our country, perhaps different countries, from different churches, university, etc., will inhabit the same space and engage in powerful conversation.
Todd: What do you hope to accomplish with this summit? What do you want those attending to take away from it?
Daniel: We want people to leave knowing that racism is not just a plague out “in the world,” but that it is deeply entrenched in the church. This is a reality we must acknowledge, repent of, and intentionally work toward liberating ourselves from. Jesus leaves no room for us to be silent on this.
More broadly, we want to create a regular space where justice stories can be told and these kinds of conversations can begin to take place—within Adventism.
Lisa: Yes! Our church has a long history of working for reconciliation, justice, and the Healing of the Nations. Adventists young and old should know that they can pull on that tradition and the resources of the contemporary church to do the work of the Kingdom of God. Too often our members feel our church is so busy theologically navel-gazing that it forgets about the suffering planet and its hurting people.
I know there are actually many Adventist churches already participating in many of the commitments mentioned above. But sometimes we need to name these actions and show how they are connected to our denomination’s historical and theological foundations. I especially have a concern for young people–or others not so young–who think they have to leave the church in order to participate in the work of the Kingdom–who think that other churches are doing more or are more rooted in justice and mercy. They need to hear the stories, learn the theology, and get acquainted with their sisters and brothers in the Adventist tradition who are doing this work right now. We want to create a space where fellow travelers can connect with the broader movement of Adventist justice work.
Lisa Clark Diller is Chair of the Department of History at Southern Adventist University, a member of The Well, a peace church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Co-Executive Director of Adventist Peace Fellowship.
Daniel Xisto is Pastor of Church Operations and Community Engagement at Takoma Park Church, a peace church in suburban Washington, DC, and Peace Church Coordinator of Adventist Peace Fellowship.
Todd Leonard is Senior Pastor at Glendale City Church, a peace church in metro Los Angeles.