Divisions compromising church’s peace message, says Reformed leader

The head of the world’s largest group of Reformed churches says that the body of Christ is rendering its own peace message ineffective because of internal divisions and strife at a time when persistent threats to global peace and security make the quest for Christian unity more urgent than ever.

Setri Nyomi, the General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, made the comments on Tuesday in an address to more than 1,000 Christians at the Civilisation of Peace – Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue conference in Nicosia, Cyprus.

“Does the church have a moral voice or credibility when our divisions are so visible?” he asked.

“How can churches and church bodies foster world peace, peace among nations and peace within nations, when there is no peace among themselves, or when injustices that are so much at the heart of conflicts in the world are also found among us?”
Nyomi said that the church’s ability to speak credibly and prophetically on issues of peace and justice was at stake if it failed to reconcile its differences.

“If we are not united, we are breaking with the Lord of the church, and we are making it difficult for the world to believe,” he said, reminding delegates of Christ’s prayer that his followers would become one.

Nyomi noted that many churches and faith communities had taken action to express their concern amid conflicts.

“Peace and security within and between nations is under great threat. Christian churches and faith communities are very concerned about these situations and many of us have made statements and taken actions that show our concern and commitment to see peaceful resolutions in these conflicts,” he said.

“At the same time, we are saddened by the visible signs of division – including new divisions that have occurred – and how the church continues to be threatened by division, not so much on doctrinal lines but on ideological and ethical lines.

“When we spend our energy on what divides us, we are taken away from work on Christian unity and on our contributing to peace among nations.”

Nyomi pointed to the successful role ecumenical organisations were playing as peace builders through their work in areas like economic injustice, poverty, disease and environmental care.

“Our ability to be credible in doing so will be greatly enhanced by our commitment to responding to our Lord’s calling to Christian unity,” he said.

Nyomi and the other religious leaders present concluded the conference by signing an appeal for peace that was later presented to Cypriot political leaders.

“We share a common global destiny: either we live together in peace or we perish. War is never inevitable and it piles up ruins even in the hearts of winners,” it stated.