Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (APF) is a body of people within the Anglican Communion who reject war as a means of solving international disputes, and believe that peace and justice should be sought through non-violent means.
- 1 Origins and early history
- 2 Second World War
- 3 Historical opposition to nuclear proliferation
- 4 Current status
- 5 Current activities in the United Kingdom
- 6 New Zealand
- 7 Australia
- 8 Other countries
- 9 Work with other groups
- 10 APF publications and resources
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Origins and early history
The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship was established in 1937, and now has some 1,400 members in over 40 countries, as well as a sister organisation, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, in the United States of America. APF was founded as a specifically Anglican offshoot of Reverend Dick Sheppard's secular Peace Pledge Union. APF was formed by Anglican clergy and laity led by Sheppard who were intent on undertaking a torchlit peace march to Lambeth Palace in 1937 as the threat of a Second World War loomed on the horizon. The aim of the march was to give Sheppard's colleague, the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, a statement of pacifist conviction. This was at a time when many churchmen were intent on "trying to reconcile the teachings of Christ with the practice of war".
Besides many priests and bishops, notable early members of the group included British Labour Leader George Lansbury and famous literary figure Vera Brittain. In 2006, songwriter and fellow Anglican Pacifist Fellowship member Sue Gilmurray wrote a song in Brittain's memory, entitled "Vera".
In addition to her famous novels, which were heavily imbued with pacifist ideology, Brittain was very much an active member of the "Ban the Bomber" campaign during the inter-war period, which sought to outlaw bomber aeroplanes as an illegal weapon of war, in recognition of the fact that they directly target civilian populations, beyond the frontline of conflicts and that they carry increasingly deadly payloads. This campaign had parallels to later attempts to ban nuclear weapons and ICBMs
Second World War
During the war, "as well as campaigning for peace at every opportunity, APF had a support role for conscientious objectors... Anglican pacifists [also] became involved in social projects as an alternative to military duties".
Lansbury was particularly active in this period, though his life was nearing its end. In contrast to Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, Lansbury took a pro-active diplomatic approach towards preventing a war. He sought negotiation with all the major parties in order to arbitrate a peaceful settlement, as related in his book My Pilgrimage for Peace, published in 1938. His efforts were, however, in vain, and most APF members now acknowledge that, to counteract Hitler by non-violent means, Governments should not have allowed the economic and political situation of instability in the Weimar Republic to arise in the first place. This issue is discussed at depth in APF's 1989 publication, What to Do About Hitler: A Pacifist Symposium. Notably, many early pacifists had argued against the excessively harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles from its inception.
It is notable that, by 1944, Vera Brittain was on Hitler's list of those English people posing the greatest threat to his regime. The leader of the Reich clearly felt deeply threatened by her pacifism. Upon a successful Nazi invasion of Britain, the Gestapo were to arrest her immediately. Undaunted, she continued writing further tracts on the immorality of saturation bombing, as the British Royal Air Force undertook its campaign against target cities such as Dresden.
Another famous female Christian to actively work for APF during the war period was the Anglo-Catholic intellectual, Evelyn Underhill. Although initially opposed to pacifism (and, in fact, working for Naval Intelligence during World War I), after much soul-searching, she found pacifism to be the correct Christian position by 1939 and threw herself whole-heartedly behind APF's work, for "Not content to be merely a proclaimer of pacifism, Underhill tried to live by its principles".
Writing in a famous pamphlet for APF entitled Church and War (1940), Underhill stated that, "If she remains true to her supernatural call, the Church cannot acquiesce in War for War, however camouflaged or excused, must always mean the effort of a group of men to achieve their purpose... by inflicting destruction and death on another group of men... it is often difficult to define the boundary which divides legitimate police action from military action; nevertheless, Christians must try to find that boundary and to observe it".
Historical opposition to nuclear proliferation
Some prominent members of APF were at the forefront of resistance to nuclear proliferation. "Canon John Collins from St. Paul's Cathedral was in the forefront of the founding leadership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The Revd. Sidney Hinkes was an early Chairman of CND".
Hinkes' "theology was conservatively Catholic in what he regarded as essentials, yet his parochial and pastoral practice was radically open, both to the working-class culture and the ethnic diversity of the people in the areas in which he served".
Hinkes was a leading member of APF during his lifetime, known for leading peace rallies and prayer vigils with his distinctive, large-sized version of the APF's emblematic blue and gold cross. He worked with the then-President of the Fellowship, Gordon Wilson and APF counsellor Paul Oestreicher on many strident campaigns for peace, his motto being "we put the 'fist' into pacifist!"
This stance exemplified the proactive peacemaking stance and pacifism of APF and contrasted sharply with any accusations of "passivism." "To Sidney, peacemaking was anything but passive. His priesthood was a total commitment to the non-violent struggle to implement God's just and gentle rule. It was tough and demanding, but never embittered".
Frustrated that the Church often saw peace-making as a marginal issue, Hinkes worked to ensure that it came to central prominence due to his diligent work on race-relations as Britain became more ethnically-diverse following the War. Up until his death, he worked for both APF and the Stop the War Coalition to proactively pursue peace and an end to the 2003 Iraq War.
Oestreicher, an honorary doctor from the University of Sussex, fled Nazi Germany as a child refugee. He grew up in New Zealand and was for many years director of the Centre for International Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral. Like many APF members, he also works for other peace organisations. In his case, he has worked for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and was also the founding chair for Amnesty International. Though an Anglican priest, also holds a strong affinity for the Quaker religion.
APF currently has more than 1400 members in forty countries who have signed the pledge stating "that our membership of the Christian Church involves the complete repudiation of modern war, pledge ourselves to renounce war and all preparation to wage war, and to work for the construction of Christian peace in the world..."
The key beliefs of members of the Fellowship are:
- that Jesus' teaching is incompatible with the waging of war.
- that a Christian church should never support or justify war.
- that our Christian witness should include opposing the waging or justifying of war.
Today, pacifism is recognised as a mainstream Anglican position, though it is not yet a dominant belief of the faith. "Numerous bishops have been Counsellors of APF and two, Wilfrid Westall, Bishop of Crediton, and Colin Scott, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Leicester, have chaired the Fellowship".
The current chairperson of APF as of 2012 is Revd Nathanael Reuss.
Current activities in the United Kingdom
APF campaigns prominently at each Lambeth Conference. This activism aims to make the Church uphold Resolution 25 of the 1930 Lambeth Conference and Resolution 5 from the 1978 Lambeth Conference that state that "war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ". This Resolution overrules the older Article 37 of the 39 Articles of Anglican faith, which had stated that "It is lawful for Christian men at the commandment of the Magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the wars". Making Bishops take practical steps to proclaim and uphold this Resolution is a key aim of APF.
The 1968 Lambeth Conference saw a victory for conscientious objectors who finally had their rights recognised and upheld by the Church. The use of nuclear and bacteriological weapons was also "emphatically condemned". "Gordon Wilson of APF was pleased that there were no ‘but’s in the Conference’s anti-war statements".
During the 1978 Conference, after a pilgrimage to Dick Sheppard's grave, activists nailed Seven Theses to the door of Canterbury Cathedral. "The theses reflected the theological approach of Gordon Wilson for whom Christ’s victory of love over violence on the cross was a fundamental principle". This action deliberately echoed Martin Luther's famous nailing of The Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.
APF founded the Week of Prayer for World Peace, and continue to have close ties with it, now that it has expanded to become an inter-religious event. APF is also heavily involved in the Greenbelt Festival and White Poppy sales for protesting Remembrance Day, which APF members feel has become to much a celebration of the military.
She is also prominent in protests against the Faslane Naval Base, at which Trident Nuclear Weapons are situated.
Several prominent APF members, such as Gilmurray and scientist Dr Tony Kempster are also involved in the secular Movement for the Abolition of War. Kempster has been a strident opponent of the weapons manufacturer, BAE. Indeed, BAE considered Kempster such a threat that it infiltrated MAW and stole a membership database. Legal action against the arms manufacturer was pursued.
APF also supports peace museums with Reverend Clive Barrett being particularly involved in this type of education and awareness campaigning. Elnora Ferguson also lead peace education in the British education system.
Much time is also spent liaising with bishops and politicians and promoting the pacifist viewpoint in public forum debates and on representational committees.
APF branches exist in all British Commonwealth countries but the Fellowship is particularly prominent in New Zealand. The New Zealand Chapter was initially established in Christchurch in 1948. The New Zealand Chapter have their own website and newsletter and count a number of local bishops amongst their membership.
The prominence of the New Zealand branch was helped significantly by Sidney Hinkes' pilgrimages to that country during the branch's formative stages. The New Zealand Chapter was headed by Professor Margaret Bedggood and Chris Barfoot throughout 2008. The previous head of the Chapter in this country had been Roger Baker.
Bedggood, a Franciscan, is a Professor of Law and was the Chief Commissioner of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, a member of Amnesty International and a member of the New Zealand Film and Literature Review Board.
The Chair of the New Zealand Chapter for 2009 is Dr Jonathan Hartfield.
In contrast to New Zealand, APF have a much more low-key presence in Australia. The most notable member of the organisation in this country was Margaret Holmes, a lifelong peace activist, prominent in many anti-war organisations, notably the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Author Michelle Cavanagh published a readily-available biography of Holmes in 2006. Margaret Holmes died on September 10, 2009, at the age of 100.
For many years, the secretary of APF in Australia was a priest from Melbourne, the Very Reverend David Thawley, a Second World War conscientious objector who was proactive in promoting the organisation and working on various committees within the Church and alongside secular anti-war organisations. Since 2005, the Secretary of the Australian Chapter has been the Bishop Philip Huggins, also from Melbourne in Victoria.
Another member of APF in Australia is young Anglican thinker and anti-military activist David Le Sage, who has organised fundraisers for African refugees and has been involved in some protest activities in his native Tasmania. David Le Sage has written academic research on the pacifist ideology of notable British writers of the 1930s. A published author, from January 2009 he led peace education in a teaching role at a private Christian school in Brisbane before going on to work as a head technical writer for one of the world's leading software companies. Like Bedggood, David Le Sage has worked with Franciscans and Quakers.
APF is very much active in a number of African countries and bishops and priests from this part of the world are members of the Fellowship, working to deal directly with conflict situations. An example is Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng of the Diocese of Northern Uganda who has helped to facilitate peace talks with rebel militia leaders and directly faced the problems of dealing with the Lord's Resistance Army and their kidnapping of youth to pressgang them into becoming child soldiers.
Work with other groups
The American branch of APF is known as the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. The Fellowship is a member body of the Peace Education Network, Network of Christian Peace Organisations, War Resisters International and of the International Peace Bureau. Indeed, Roberta Bacic, a survivor of the Pinochet regime in Chile and President of WRI, has worked closely with Fellowship members and written for the APF newsletter.
APF publications and resources
The Fellowship publishes a newsletter, The Anglican Peacemaker, which is available online or via mail subscription. Each newsletter explores a specific theme or current event and also contains a page depicting art, song lyrics and poetry that promote a culture of peace. Book and film reviews are also featured. The newsletter explores pragmatic, constructive ways of building peace as well as exploring the Christian spiritual foundations of pacifism. It frequently critiques the actions of the military and arms manufacturers in many parts of the world whilst exploring the reasons why the military still has such influence in society. The role of the media, environment, politics and capitalism are explored whilst ways of educating people about the immorality of military life are also discussed. Promotion of proactive peace-making and analysis of the causes of war and attraction of the military are key aims of the newsletter.
APF also publishes a range of leaflets on a variety of topics, from traditional Anglican pacifist tracts and an explanation of the Church's teachings on pacifism, through to articles discussing pragmatic pacifist responses to the problem of Hitler and alternatives to warfare. Pamphlets analyse the Bible in detail, with particular reference to the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ to show pacifism as the most Christian response to warfare, such as how Jesus, through disarming Saint Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, thereby "disarms every soldier". They also depict the pacifist attitude of believers in the Early Church, prior to Christianity's acceptance by Constantine. Many of these educational pamphlets were written by Derek Savage, a prominent British poet, APF member and Second World War conscientious objector.
One of Savage's tracts, Pacifism, Church and State, discusses one of the unique problems facing the Anglican Communion. As a State Church in England, the Anglican Church is often seen as part of "The Establishment" and, thus, critiquing Government policy and fully realizing the subversive, radical politics and social message at the heart of Jesus' Gospel can be difficult. The Church can thus be criticised for excessive compliance to the Government and not living up to Christ's ideals as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, in which he criticises the power structures of this world, including the dominant military and economic force of His own time, the Roman Empire.
A topic often discussed amongst pacifists is that of how best they could respond to the emergence of Hitler, using non-violent means. Most APF members feel that the problem of Hitler could only have been settled earlier peacefully prior to 1939, via a more just and equitable Treaty of Versailles and more work to promote a stable economic and political situation in the Weimar Republic, as related in the pamphlet What to Do About Hitler: A Pacifist Symposium, published in 1989. The pamphlet also notes that whilst the Jews suffered horrific persecution under the Nazis during the 1930s, the Final Solution could only occur under the cloud of wartime activity. Those who argue against fighting Hitler also note that the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki meant that the Allies sunk to the level of their opponents, whilst a campaign of non-violent resistance to any Nazi regime may have been more effective as such an overstretched empire would not be sustainable in the long run. The pamphlet argues that if Germany had been treated with greater dignity and been helped to recover more quickly after the 1918 defeat, the conditions that led Hitler to rise to power would not have occurred. Hence the Fellowship aims to work proactively in the world to determine and eliminate causes of warfare before conflict becomes inevitable.
Other notable tracts include:
- Why I am Not a Pacifist: A Pacifist's Reply, which addresses some of the key theological and pragmatic questions often asked by people hesitant to embrace pacifism;
- Article XXXVII and War, which discusses the contentious Article and its bearing on modern Anglican pacifism;
- Against the Stream, about the life of the German Roman Catholic conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, who was executed for refusing to serve in the Nazi army;
- The Church and War, a classic 1940 tract by Evelyn Underhill
Combined, these texts explore many of the issues surrounding a pacifism and intellectually engage the spiritual and pragmatic consequences of the ideology.
In 2000, the Fellowship released a compact disk of music, entitled Finest Hour, featuring music composed by Gilmurray, the renowned Anglican hymn writer Christopher Idle and John Bell of the Iona Community. The songs on the album promote pacifism and Christian fellowship by critiquing a number of issues and themes relating to war, arms manufacturing, American imperialism and corporate capitalism.
A second recording by Gilmurray, The Way of Peace, was released in 2006 to recognise the United Nations' Decade for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. It was accompanied by a Lenten study book that contains poetry and passages of scripture. This album featured songs critiquing social issues such as the use of child soldiers in African combat zones and the depictions of violence in films and other media products marketed towards children.
- Vera Brittain (1893–1970), English literary figure and APF member.
- Canon John Collins (1905–1982), Clergyman, APF member, CND co-founder and anti-apartheid activist.
- Sidney Hinkes (1925–2006), Priest and APF activist.
- Margaret Holmes (1909–2009), Australia's most prominent APF activist.
- George Lansbury (1859–1940), Former British Labour Party Leader and APF Chairman
- Derek Savage (1917–2007), Former APF General Secretary.
- Colin Scott (1933-) Former APF Chairman and Anglican bishop
- Dick Sheppard (1880–1937), Anglican priest, pioneer religious broadcaster and founder of the Peace Pledge Union and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
- Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941), Anglican thinker and APF member.
- Gordon Wilson (1927–1995) Former APF Chairman
- Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
- Christian pacifism
- Conscientious objector
- Fellowship of Reconciliation
- Lambeth Conference
- Pacifist organisation
- Pax Christi
- Peace Activist
- Peace Churches
- War Resisters' International
- Anglican Pacifist Fellowship website.
- The Anglican Peacemaker