Christian Peacemaker Teams – a chat about origins
It turns out they were there at the beginning; Bill and Genie Durland. “I was in a graduate studies program with Ron (Sider),” she said, “He was leading a seminar.” Bill interrupted, “It was Genie gave him the idea,” he said. She looked at him affectionately. “Of course, the idea of an ‘un-armed army’ goes back to Gandhi,” she said.
This handsome older couple and I sat over coffee on a sunny deck. It was last June, summer ’09, and the occasion was Intermountain Yearly Meeting, un-programmed Friends from Rocky Mountain states gathered for a week at Ghost Ranch, northwest of Sante Fe. The glories of Georgia O’Keefe country rose around us in the dry mild morning as we talked about the Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Bill went on, “And Gandhi was, as we know, profoundly influenced by his reading of the New Testament and Jesus.” I looked down at my boots and felt around in my mind for questions taking shape. I felt it was so important to ask good questions.
“So… how ‘Christian’ is the Christian Peacemaker Teams?” I asked. “I mean, I’ve got folks in my own yearly meeting who question the support we give the CPT because of their concern, right or wrong, that the CPT does not actively witness for Christ, or seek to make converts; and that they should.” Bill and Genie exchanged a look, and Bill started to speak. He was pretty warm about it. “Their… whole motivation, their whole effectiveness, in my opinion, is because they are following Jesus.” “I don’t think they would have the heart to take the risks they do if it were otherwise,” said Genie. She went on, “What could be more fundamentally Christian than putting your self on the line to do peacework?” “In Jesus’ name,” I said. “In Jesus’ name,” said Bill.
I asked another question: “You two have been on… how many missions for the CPT yourselves? And you said, what? over a dozen to Israel / Palestine alone…? and you’ve been involved with the organization from the beginning. Let me ask you, because people are going to want to know: how sound are they? I mean, when you give money to a group, you want to know their accounting is good, their process is transparent, they’re well managed. Can you speak to that?”
“They were founded by Mennonites, and remain a Mennonite ministry,” said Bill, and clearly that was all he felt needed to be said. “They’ve got issues, like any organization,” said Genie, slowly, “But not business. They’ve got good oversight from their board. They’re well run.” “They could use more money,” said Bill. “How ‘bout that,” I said, “A peace group that could use more money.”
We talked a little bit more, and I excused myself. “Thanks’ guys,” I said, “It’s just been a real privilege to get to meet you both.” “You too,” said Bill. “But tell us… what are you going to do? Have you been on a delegation? Have you taken the training? Where do you go from here?” And where are you from?” asked Genie, “Did we hear Denver?”
“Umm, no, no, Portland, Oregon,“ I said. “My church is from the evangelical side of the Quaker family tree. We’re NWYM. And I’m not much sure what I’m doing. I’ve followed the CPT for years; over the internet, and through people I knew. I got a chance to spend a couple of days with the Hebron team two years ago in ’07; and went out on a little action with them. I was, shall we say, very impressed. This summer I’m just trying to follow a leading to do some travel around the country on behalf of the CPT; play a little music, promote their work, and talk them up with anyone that will talk with me. I’d like to make it out to the east coast this summer. It’s all sort of in Jesus’ hands, if you know what I mean.” “Where it belongs,” said Genie.
Bill and Genie Durland, (Colorado Springs Monthly Meeting) are well-known peace activists; and among the founding generation of the Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Find out more about NWYM’s involvement with CPT, and Joy Ellison, our representative with CPT.