School of Mission turns attention toward peace


Special to the Advocate

Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; peace I give to you.”

How have we used the gift of peace that Jesus gave to us? At a time when most of the world is involved in war or conflict, it is imperative that followers of Jesus find every opportunity to share and promote peace.

The studies for this year’s School of Christian Mission sponsored by United Methodist Women will challenge participants to look at what peace means for members of the global community, as people of India and Pakistan and as members of different religious groups. The studies include the book Shalom-Peace-Salaam: Peace in the Bible and in Our Time, India-Pakistan and “Globalization: Its Impact in Our Lives.

The 2006 Mississippi Conference school is scheduled for July 19-22 at Rust College in Holly Springs.

Participants will arrive in peace to explore their role as Christian members of society and to be God’s witness to the end of the earth.

The epistle of James asks, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks dairy food, and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”

As participants fulfill the teaching of Jesus, they can expect to reap the harvest. James 3:18 states, “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”

The mission study on India and Pakistan presents the richness and diversity of the cultures of those nations. It also explores selected current key issues affecting both countries, including gender issues, poverty, child labor, population, caste, illiteracy, religious extremism, and globalization. The study examines the complexities of the border conflict over Kashmir between the two countries.

Further, the mission study presents the rich theologies and missiologies which have originated from India, and the emerging role of Dalit and Indigenous peoples and theologies. The study offers selected vignettes of the history of mission in India and Pakistan, with particular reference to United Methodism and the role of women in that history.

Leading the study will be Twick Morrison of Vicksburg and Jackie Pennington of Cleveland. Both women have been active in United Methodist Women on the local, conference and general church levels. Pennington participated in a General Board of Global Ministries trip to India and Pakistan in 2005.

Shalom-Peace-Salaam, three words which mean “peace” from the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, provide the foundation for the spiritual growth study. The author, Alison Stokes, and study guide author, Pat Patterson, lead participants to think about these three traditions, each of which seeks peace. Each tradition has a history of neighbors living at peace with neighbors and urges its followers to seek inner peace. Each tradition has a history of violence which cries out for explanation. In the name of “truth” wars have raged.

Questions abound:

  • Why does religion foment such violence?
  • Why is God portrayed as violent in sacred scripture?
  • Do we worship the same God as Abraham?
  • Has God “divided” since then?
  • What is the path to peace?
  • Must we ignore the world and seek inner peace, or does God call us to embody peace on this world?
  • What is the price of peace?
  • Is there peace when there is force?

Leading the study will be the Rev. Ron Barham of Mathiston, Lou Ann Staggs of New Albany and the Rev. Patrick Phillips of Jackson.

Barham is the executive director of Wood Institute in Mathiston, a mission institute of The Women’s Division and the Mississippi Annual Conference. He is pastor of Sturgis and Big Creek UMCs. Formerly a district superintendent, he has been a teacher in Elderhostel, has taught biblical literature in two community colleges, and continues 20 years of teaching in Lay Speaking Ministries.

Staggs serves as the staff person for the New Albany District. She was commissioned a deaconess in the United Methodist Church in 2001. Phillips is pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Jackson.

Throughout the history of the Schools of Christian Missions, United Methodists have turned their attention to issues of the economy, thus, continuing the church’s public witness for economic justice. Today, in this time of globalization – when what occurs in one part of the world, whether it concerns wealth, poverty, abundance or scarcity affects people in many other parts – United Methodists again should focus on this issue.

Where and how do the economic policies of globalization touch the lives of ordinary people? If United Methodists are to “manifest the gospel values in the economic order,” as a General Conference Resolution maintains, then they need a better understanding of how and where contemporary issues of economic justice touch our lives and of how and where our decisions for responsible actions can be made.

There are diverse ways and means by which economic globalization impacts the lives of people in the US. In this study, participants will focus on a few but important issues and their effects on people everywhere, including:

  • Free trade policies
  • Outsourcing
  • Global media consolidation.

Leading this study will be the Rev. Ludrick Cameron and Don Manning-Miller. Cameron has served 34 years in the North Mississippi and Mississippi conferences. A graduate of Rust College and Gammon Theological Seminary, Cameron is a former district superintendent and currently serves the Waynesboro Circuit. 

Manning-Miller is an ordained minister who serves as vice president of Rust College in Holly Springs. Manning-Miller is a member of the board of directors of SPAFER (South Points Association for Exploring Religion), Inc. in Birmingham, and assists with the Progressive Christian Witness project of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.