The On Earth Peace (OEP) board and staff concluded its spring board meeting at the Maria Kaupas Center in Chicago feeling invigorated by positive accomplishments and energized by a new sense of direction and momentum. As a spiritual focus for board conversations about values, vision, and mission, each session of business was opened with devotional reflections on what has been called Jesus’ mission statement:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” -Luke 4:18-19
Lucas Al-Zoughbi, former OEP intern and newest board member, led one of the devotions and read the scripture in his home language of Arabic:
A graduate of Manchester University, Lucas brings international community organizing experience to the board as well as his passion to connect with people working for justice and peace.
During its meeting, the board approved a new set of core values, as well as new vision and mission statements. For more effective governance, a major board reorganization plan was affirmed. Meaningful conversations were held with Carol Wise, executive director of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBTQ Interests, and with Chris Douglas, representing the Compelling Vision Process Team.
OEP staff assisted the board with quality preparatory information and exercises for the values, vision, and mission conversations. The new values approved are:
- Jesus-Centered Spirituality - We follow Jesus into the work of justice and peace. We share in spiritual practices and develop faith resources to help undergird our programs.
- Positive Peace - We learn, teach and practice dynamic forms of peacemaking which see conflict as an important tool to meet needs, address injustice, correct imbalances of power, and seek healing and reconciliation.
- Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression - We commit to name and undo barriers to participation in our programs based on identity, and to work for full inclusion and equity for all who wish to join in our work. We commit to the long-term transformation of On Earth Peace, the church, and society.
- Intergenerational Leadership - We nurture peacemakers and leaders, and honor the wisdom, skill, and experience of all generations.
- Beloved Community - We commit to raising the levels of relationships until justice and peace prevail, and all people attain their full human potential.
The new vision statement affirmed for On Earth Peace is:
A world in Beloved Community,
liberated from oppression, violence, and war.
Flowing from this, the new mission statement for the organization was approved:
We develop and walk with leaders and communities
who work for justice and peace.
The new organizational design calls for a board of 8 to 10 members which will function with a structure of three committees: Executive Committee, Resource Management Committee, and a Board Governance and Development Committee. Draft committee descriptions were presented and will be finalized no later than the fall meeting. The nine-member Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT) will continue to function as is; however, its integration into the overall structure of the organization is now more clearly defined. ARTT has its own 20 year vision statement defining its purposeful work toward the day when:
On Earth Peace board, staff, practitioners, and programs are unapologetically multiracial/ multicultural, driven by an anti-racist, anti-oppression lens toward the transformation of society.
Carol Wise was invited to talk with the board about the Supporting Communities Network (SCN), which has been experiencing steady growth since its inception in 1994. Her presentation included survey results demonstrating the loyalty of Brethren congregations in the network to denominational values and programs. At the same time, these congregations report not feeling reciprocal support from denominational leadership. OEP will continue conversation with SCN about the responsibilities and accountability involved in SCN membership.
Chris Douglas led the board and staff in conversation around three questions which had been given to the board in advance by the Church of the Brethren Compelling Vision Process Team. These were:
- What does a church that is making a difference in people's lives and in the world look like?
- What do we need to do to become that kind of church?
- What can OEP do to help us become that kind of church? Or what role can OEP play in helping us become that kind of church?
Among other affirmations, board members noted that OEP is taking a leadership role in meeting the vision of the “Separate No More” paper of Annual Conference as it models progress in overcoming racism and oppression and in becoming a multicultural and multiracial organization. On Earth Peace is also engaging young adults in the life and ministries of the church at a time when many congregations are losing their interest.
The COB Compelling Vision Process Team also brought an unexpected fourth question to denominational agencies including OEP. “How has OEP (Bethany, BBT, M&M Board) contributed to the culture of mistrust and suspicion? How can OEP actively demonstrate that it serves all people in the denomination creating deeper sense of unity and trust through the bonds of peace?” Board and staff engaged in honest conversation identifying areas for improvement while also expressing the important relationships of trust OEP has gained with marginalized groups in the denomination for whom OEP is their primary connection with the denominational structures.
There was a clear sense that this board meeting marked a positive turning point following several difficult years of internal and external conversations. A new spirit of hope and excitement prevailed in the meeting as words were found to express an emerging sense of clarity of purpose. The groundwork for an exciting new chapter in the work of On Earth Peace has been laid and the board looks forward to the next steps for developing strategies and activities for implementing its mission.