1998 NCC News Archives

National Council of Churches logo represents the church 
as ecumenical ship, serving the world

Churches Revive Visionary "Peace Pillars"
For 21st Century Context

The Six Pillars

The six "new" pillars are:

1) International political framework (provided by the United Nations);

2) International economic accountability;

3) International legal framework;

4) Protection for the most vulnerable;

5) Resolution and transformation of conflict;

6) Honoring human rights.

A seventh pillar might be added -- one concerned with ecology and the environment.

NEW YORK, July 17, 1998 -- Just as they did more than 50 years ago, American churches are working together to develop a new agenda of world peace and security and to renew their support for the United Nations.

Member denominations of the National Council of Churches have begun developing "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century," an updated version of "Six Pillars of Peace," a visionary 1942 document which emerged during World War II from the Federal Council of Churches, the precursor to the NCC. That document served as a cornerstone for the creation of the United Nations following the war.

"We want to continue this strong tradition," said Kathy Todd, interim director of the International Justice and Human Rights Program Ministry of Church World Service, the humanitarian response ministry of the NCC.

"We are trying to engage the church and remind it of its heritage, of its speaking out and being a witness on behalf of world peace and justice," she said. "Just as the church was a powerful actor in the formation of the UN 50 years ago, the church can be powerful and effective in strengthening the United Nations today."

The UN Task Force of the NCC's Program Ministry Committee for International Justice and Human Rights has drafted "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century," which takes into account the increasing role of civil society, transnational corporations and the process of economic globalization.

The six "new" pillars are: 1) International political framework (provided by the United Nations); 2) International economic accountability; 3) International legal framework; 4) Protection for the most vulnerable; 5) Resolution and transformation of conflict; 6) Honoring human rights. Ms. Todd suggests there might even be a seventh pillar added -- one concerned with ecology and the environment.

The draft has served as a starting point for discussion at three regional consultations, which have been supported by the Stanley Foundation. The first, May 8-10, took place in New York around the issues of international political framework and conflict resolution. The second, scheduled for Sept. 11-13, 1998, in Chicago, will focus on international legal framework and human rights. The third consultation, Sept. 18-20, 1998, in San Francisco, centers on international economic accountability and protecting the most vulnerable.

Church leaders, denominational representatives, ethicists and theologians are among those participating in the consultations, and their work is serving as the basis for a video and study guide that will be used at the congregational level by NCC member denominations.

The original "Six Pillars" stemmed from a feeling by prominent American church leaders that "civilization had failed," according to historian Robert Smylie. By 1942, many of these church leaders had fashioned the "Six Pillars of Peace," and this statement exemplified the significant role that churches then played in shaping thought and action in international affairs and in helping create the United Nations.

"Churches played a leadership role during the formation and early years of the UN," said Ms. Todd. "Today, more than 50 years after this important document was drafted, churches are being challenged to update the 'six pillars' for service in the new millennium and to reclaim their voice in relationship to the global community."

The new "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century" that emerge(/s) from the consultations and study will serve as a governing policy statement considered by a number of NCC bodies -- including the NCC/Church World Service and Witness Unit Committee and the NCC Executive Committee -- before being taken up for a first reading at the NCC General Assembly in November 1998. The document will be slated for a second reading and final adoption at the NCC’s 50th Anniversary General Assembly in 1999. If approved, it will become a new NCC policy statement on the United Nations.

One of the participants in the May consultation says the revised document holds the promise of reviving support for the UN, which has not been politically popular in the United States in recent years.

While the task for renewing interest in and support of the United Nations will not be easy, the churches can play a critical role, said Jennifer Butler, Associate for Global Issues at the Presbyterian United Nations Office in New York.

"The church can serve as a powerful educational tool, and also as a comfortable place where people can discuss their concerns about the meaning of global community," she said. "We have a Christian call, a theological basis, to love our neighbor and expand our boundaries beyond our family and those we know to the wider world."

-end-

Contact: NCC News Department

NCC Home Page
NCC News Service Index