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Building a Culture of Peace


August 30, 2013

Building a Culture of Peace

Photo by Dick Myers.

Rev. Dave Ogilvie is the pastor of Port Williams Baptist Church in Port Williams, NS. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Baptist Peace Fellowship board of directors.

By Rev. Dave Ogilvie

This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of The Bulletin, the publication of the Canadian Association for Baptist Freedoms.

The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America gathers, equips and mobilizes Baptists to build a culture of peace rooted in justice. We labour with a wonderful array of peacemakers to change the world.

For me, there's something incredibly compelling and inviting about the BPFNA's mission statement. Gathering lies at the heart of what it means to be the church and, in spite of our fierce defense of the principles of individual freedom, at the heart of what it means to be Baptist too. Beyond bringing us together, equipping and mobilizing are why we create Baptist organizations. We need to be informed and outfitted so that we might go forth into the world to be about the work to which Christ calls us. And the statement speaks poetically and meaningfully of that calling – to build a culture of peace rooted in justice… to change the world.

There are other ways to articulate the mission of the church – words like "evangelism," "ministry," "discipleship," "healing" and "salvation" come to mind – but the biblical themes of peace (shalom) and justice (mishpat and tsedeq) encompass all these, and more. A culture of peace rooted in justice proposes a world in which all people (and even all things) live fully, equitably, harmoniously and profoundly together in right relationship with God, with each other, and with all of God's creation. It is an intensely beautiful, desirable, and ambitious goal, this dream of God.

A gathering of peacemakers at Peace Camp 2013. Photo by Dick Myers.

So, how does the BPFNA live into this dream and hope? It gathers by bringing staff, board, members and friends together for Friendship Tours to various parts of the world, by organizing an annual, week-long Summer Conference, often referred to as Peace Camp, and by hosting or facilitating local gatherings of peacemakers. It equips by means of its wide array of resources and publications available through its website and online store ( And it mobilizes by training individuals and trainers in the skills of Conflict Transformation, by organizing and supporting networks for the distribution of fair-trade products, and by bringing peacemakers together to address pressing justice issues, such as recent gatherings in the US focusing on marriage equality for the LGBT community. These are but a few of the ways in which the BPFNA is helping Canadian, American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican Baptists change the world.

It has been my privilege to serve on the Board of the BPFNA for two years now, and this fall I assume the role of Vice President. I can honestly say that this is both inspiring and humbling. The Board, which is made up of 24 gifted, articulate, and passionate peacemakers from all four member countries, seeks to live the organization's values, making decisions by consensus, evaluating its work through the process of "appreciative inquiry," and striving to be fully inclusive by accommodating itself to the various and diverse needs of its members. This is no small task, but it makes the time we share together incredibly invigorating and meaningful. I count it a profound privilege to be part of the lives of these sisters and brothers, and to labour with them in our shared mission.

Miguel de la Torre. Photo by Dick Myers.

This summer's Peace Camp was held on the campus of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and I was delighted to attend. The theme – "Entertaining Angels: Peacemaking Through Radical Hospitality" – was richly explored in word, worship, workshop, and song. The Keynote Speaker was Miguel de la Torre, a brilliant and engaging scholar, activist, and author who serves as Professor of Social Ethics & Latino Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.

Don Schlosser. Photo by Dick Myers.

The music and singing (always a highlight of the week!) was led by Don Schlosser, a gifted composer, pianist, and singer who serves as the Minister of Music & Worship at Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. And the Bible Study Leader was Laurel Dykstra, a community-based biblical teacher, preacher, author and scholar. Laurel, who was recently ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of New Westminster, BC, lives in a housing co-op in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where she is exploring the vocation of neighbour. Together with a host of wonderful Workshop Leaders, these speakers and facilitators challenged and inspired us toward an expression of Christian hospitality that is radical in terms of its determination to leave no one outside the circles of our communities.

Celebrating with Deborah Lynn and April Baker who were officially married at Peace Camp 2013! Photo by Dick Myers.

A highlight of the week for me was my participation in the wedding of April Baker, Pastor of Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, and her partner, Deborah Lynn. April and Deborah, who are long-time members of the BPFNA, have lived together in a loving, committed relationship for twenty-five years, but their home state of Tennessee has not yet made same-sex marriage legal. However, Washington State has. On the Friday night of Peace Camp, Deborah and April were married in a beautiful ceremony that included congregational dancing and singing. Reverend LeDayne McLeese Polaski, who serves on the BPFNA staff as Program Co-ordinator, officiated, speaking in the ceremony of the important legal rights that are now available to Deborah and April as a married couple. It seemed fitting that after exploring the topic of radical hospitality together, we as a community enacted it in this sacred, communal rite.

Dave Ogilvie and Lee McKenna performing in a skit promoting Peace Camp 2014. Photo by Dick Myers.

Next year's Summer Conference, scheduled for July 14 to 19, 2014, will be hosted on the campus of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. Karen Turner and Lee McKenna, both from Toronto, and I performed a skit in Spokane to encourage those at this summer's program to join us in Canada next year. We poked a little fun at our American neighbours as a means of adding some intrigue. And we promised everyone there would be plenty of opportunity to meet some fascinating Canadian Baptists, so I hope you'll think about attending.

If you would like more information about the BPFNA and any of its resources or events, if you wish to become a member, or if you would like to have someone speak to your church about the Peace Fellowship, please check out the website or contact me at

Members of the Young Adult Companioning Program dancing at morning worship. Photo by Dick Myers.

[email protected] If you are already a peacemaker, or if, like me, the work of peace and justice is relatively new to you but you find the BPFNA's mission statement compelling, I invite you to join with some of the most interesting Baptist sisters and brothers you will ever meet, to experience and help foster a little radical hospitality, and together, in the way and manner of Jesus, to change the world!

If you remove the religious concept of good and evil you are left with purely pragmatic and expedient conventions. Conventions may decided that stealing and dishonesty are antisocial and should be punished as a deterrent, but only morality can make people refuse to steal, and desire to be honest. Convention may establish methods of settling disputes but only morality can persuade people to love one another or to honour an undertaking. Only a moral imperative can persuade husbands and wives to be faithful to each other.

-HRH Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh
A Question of Balance (London: Sphere Books Ltd., 1982
[Michael Russell Publishing], 1983), p. 102)

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