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Remembering Jim McGinnis


August 14, 2009 | bpfna

by Johnny Almond
August 14, 2009

St. Louis, MO - James B. "Jim" McGinnis, founder and director of the Institute for Peace and Justice, St. Louis, MO, died suddenly Thursday morning, August 13, while out for his morning walk.

Left: Jim McGinnis in the first IPJ office, 1970. Right: Jim McGinnis (r) with Arun Gandhi, 2008. Courtesy IPJ.

In 1970, in response to the Vietnam War, the killing of student protesters at Kent State and Jackson State, and St. Louis University’s decision to retain its ROTC program, several faculty members joined Jim McGinnis to launch the Institute for the Study of Peace at the University, one of the first such programs in the US, with Jim named as director. 30 students enrolled that fall in the new undergraduate program and within a year, the Institute had also developed an interdisciplinary graduate program.

In 1973, Jim and his wife, Kathy, wrote Educating for Peace and Justice: A Manual for Teachers, the first comprehensive manual of its kind in the US. In 1975, the Institute left St. Louis University and incorporated as the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ), an independent, interfaith, not-for-profit organization.

Since that time, the McGinnises have made important and continuous contributions to the field of peace work through publications and programs dealing with hunger, parenting, education for children and teens, racism, family nonviolence and corrections. They have been honored with numerous awards, including Salt Magazine's "Women in the Church" award, the "Courage of Conscience" award from Peace Abbey, the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers' "Recognition Award" and the "Teacher of Peace" award from Pax Christi. At age 44, Jim discovered his talent for clown acting as he donned a costume and assumed the character to relate the stories of St. Francis and other figures to children.

The relationship between the McGinnises and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA) goes back to the early days of the organization's existence. Ken Sehested, BPFNA's founding director, recalled, "The very first issue of PeaceWork I produced (May 1985) included a brief letter to the editor from Jim and Kathy: 'Great news about the BPFNA! We wish you well and look forward to relating more closely.'"

The BPFNA first worked with Jim McGinnis and IPJ in 1986, when he led a "parenting for peace and justice" workshop at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, GA. Later, Kathy McGinnis wrote the Family Activities Guide book in the BPFNA series, Dreaming God's Dream: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Around 2000, BPFNA Associate Director Pat Parker participated in a meeting that produced the "Family Covenant of Nonviolence", a project initiated by the McGinnises.

Jim authored many books, including a current release, Praying for Peace Around the Globe, which recently launched a major effort by IPJ to reach out to people of faith around the world to pray and act for peace in more than 40 countries and around 13 key justice and peace issues.

Jim McGinnis is survived by his wife, Kathleen McCoy McGinnis, three children and three grandchildren.

►Visit the Institute for Peace & Justice website
►Read an interview with Jim McGinnis at Peace Builders Initiative

Johnny Almond is Communications & Technology Manager for BPFNA. Thanks to the Institute for Peace and Justice, Peace Builders Initiative and Ken Sehested for background information for this article.

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