Peace and the Buttry Center

Love and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Fidelity will sprout from the earth,
and justice will lean down from the heaven.
God will give us what is good,
our land will yield its harvest.
Justice will march before you, O God,
and peace will prepare the way for your steps.

Psalm 85

We long for it.  We pray for it.  It’s a word that occurs frequently in our Scriptures.  But what is peace?  And how can we more fully experience it in our world and communities?

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means far more than simply the absence of conflict or war.  It means wellbeing or wholeness in every aspect of life.  It involves flourishing communities in which people can experience the goodness of life, needs are met, and there is harmony with the earth.  Psalm 85 portrays for us this picture of peace.  It also points to the centrality of justice for a peace that is deep and enduring.

Jesus has called us as Christians to be peacemakers.  This is not the same thing as being passively agreeable so as to avoid conflict and “keep the peace.”  If injustice is occurring and people are suffering, these need to be addressed.  And the unjust features of society need to be changed in the transforming and nonviolent ways that Jesus has taught us.

In May of 2018, Central Seminary officially launched the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence.  It was named for Dan and Sharon Buttry, Global Peace Consultants for International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, USA.  It thereby honors their work of global and local conflict transformation and seeks to continue this legacy.

As a Christian seminary serving many denominations, we understand that the teachings and life of Jesus show us a loving and nonviolent way of life that seeks justice and the wellbeing of all.  Recognizing our responsibility as a seminary to faithfully interpret the Scriptures, train pastoral leaders, shape congregations, and serve humanity and all of creation, we have established the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence to participate in helping build a culture and world of peace.  There are numerous societal and environmental justice issues that need to be addressed as we seek the many dimensions of peace that are part of the biblical concept of shalom.  In our turbulent times, as people actively work for change and greater justice, there is a great need to understand nonviolence and its methods and to collaborate with others in bettering our world.

The Buttry Center will seek to equip individuals and faith communities to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, who lived and taught justice-seeking, peacemaking, and nonviolent resistance to wrong.  Therefore, it will offer biblical, theological, and theoretical education, along with practical skill-building training in these areas.  It will express Central’s educational commitments to sharing the best insights of biblical and theological studies and to enabling learners to serve humanity through compassionate action that leads to progressive, purposeful change.  At the same time, such learning will also impact their faith and facilitate shaping the congregations of which they are a part.

The Buttry Center’s offerings in peacemaking will support the Peace Studies emphasis within the Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree. Its focus on social justice for all persons and environmental justice and care for our earth aligns with the justice and personhood threads of the new Master of Divinity curriculum. It will therefore supplement and strengthen the seminary’s academic program.

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