The Community of Christ is built on the foundation of peace, according to church President Steve Veazey, and at its World Conference beginning this weekend, peace will be one of the main topics of conversation.
Delegates from all over the world will be gathering in Independence for the conference, which happens once every three years. Veazey explained the church is expecting 2,000 delegates from about 56 nations, with each delegate representing 100 members of the church.
While the conference allows the church to take care of regular business matters such as the retirement or new approval of staff, it also serves as an opportunity to discuss loftier subjects integral to the church’s beliefs.
“There’s going to be a major discussion at this conference that’s part of our ongoing journey of exploring what it means to be a church dedicated to peace and reconciliation in the world,” said Veazey. “The question that’s being raised is, how do we view the philosophy and methodologies of non-violence in terms of change that’s needed in the world to stand for peace and justice?”
According to Veazey, this conversation will involve examining government policies and world events, as well as the complication of stopping injustice as you see it happening in the moment.
“The debate is, how do we understand all that in relation to our call to be a church that pursues peace?” explained Veazey.
Veazey said they’re not expecting a concrete answer to such a large question, but by asking it, the church hopes to create a conversation that will yield results, giving the church an idea of what direction to move in and what steps to take to promote peace in the global community. Part of this will involve listening to experts trained in conflict resolution and mediation, as well as post-conflict healing.
The goal is to come to a common definition of what it means to be devoted to sharing peace. In a global community, however, peace doesn’t mean the same to every person.
“We have members in Haiti and Africa, various nations that live in poverty. For them, their peace would be having hope for the future,” said Veazey. “We have people in conflict areas … where there have been civil wars. Their peace is, ‘How do you stop this violence?’”
Veazey said the conversation is made all the better by having multiple perspectives from around the world.
In addition to this conversation, Veazey said there is a resolution from a church in Australia encouraging the Community of Christ to join with other organizations in working against domestic violence of any form, including sexual abuse and the abuse of women and children.
“We already have positions on that, but it’s an encouragement to ramp up the effort even more,” Veazey said.
As the church prepares for its conference, Veazey said there has been some issue in ensuring all delegates are able to attend, with some members having difficulty getting entry visas into the United States. Veazey said the final decisions regarding whether visas are granted are made by the embassies in each nation.
Should a member not be able to attend, his or her vote will be given to other delegates of the nation, or to a church staff member who is familiar with the nation and can speak to its interests. Veazey said each church in the Community of Christ will have the same strength of representation in the conference.
“We’re considering options in the future of having some remote locations in other nations and having internet, audio and visual connections so people can participate as delegates even if they can’t physically come here,” said Veazey, explaining the church is sensitive to matters of inclusion, and is looking for ways to improve it.
The delegates who are able to gather in Independence will be here for two weeks, celebrating and encouraging peace in an atmosphere that welcomes individuals from every possible cultural background.
“They may be from nations that are in conflict with each other, but in this setting and for this purpose, people are very peaceful and compassionate with each other,” Veazey said. “It doesn’t mean they’re not passionate about issues … but there’s a certain decorum. I wish the world could be like this.”