Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree Receive Quaker Peace Award


Just today I got an email from Jarrod McKenna, a Christian activist who lives Down Under.

He says of himself, “I’m a lapsed vegetarian who’ll now eat happily my daily bread from dumpsters (but secretly longs for the flesh pots of evil big corporation burgers.) I spend my time as a nonviolence trainer for activists, students and whoever else will listen and sharing the gospel of a nonviolent messiah, (hopefully in more than just words!).”

The interesting thing about McKenna is not just that he and his team named “Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community” (or EPYC for short) are doing some incredible things in Perth Australia, but Jarrod has just been awarded the Donald Groom Peace Fellowship, an award Quakers in Australia have been giving out since 1975.

Now Jarrod’s been invited to speak at the Austrian Yearly meeting in Hobart 2007.  This is a huge opportunity for McKenna because he is going to be talking to one of the historic peace churches about how he and his community follow Jesus.  An article at We Can Be looks into this fact a little closer,

[McKenna’s speech] is bound to create a deepening conversation around how Quakers can live the work of peace generally, including how we reach out to young people, and where (or if) the kingdom of God informs our work. Is our peace testimony a tactic, or an embodied truth? If it is an embodied truth, can we name the body?

It’s a conversation that might be timely. We need to be tender, but also daring. In meetings, do we quote satyagraha from Gandhi, almost because he’s not Christian, avoiding the hurt of Christian fundamentalism, but thereby repeating the error of liberalism? Do we cite Buddha, because of his message of nonviolence, to again signal our openness to other religions, but shrink from pacifist developments in Christianity? Is Martin Luther King Jr mentioned more for the nod to our faith-in-action beliefs than for his constant references to Old and New Testament spiritual canon? The black pastor had seen the Promised Land, but do we only get as far as Martin Luther King? Was the “promised land?? a rhetorical flourish, or a central story of Christ’s transformational power, to be formed in and lived out of?

In many ways it sounds like McKenna fits the convergent Friends mold; his relentless focus on Jesus and the Kingdom, embodying practices, living out faith in a post-modern culture and his interest in what the Peace Church tradition has to say about being Christians today all sound really familiar.

The author at We Can Be concurs,

If twenty-first century Christianity is heading towards a post-denominationality, Jarrod is on reconnaissance. Based on these explorations, Jarrod thinks the future is not found in modernism’s twin theological children of unthinking fundamentalism (which causes so much damage) and unengaging liberalism (which merely gives itself over to the motifs of other ideologies.) Instead he explores new approaches (some call them post-modern) in which we allow ourselves to be experientially submerged in a “narrative theology,?? living with integrity something far more counter- or alternative-cultural, that is found, for example, in the Gospels.

…He nevertheless strives to avoid the “Constantinian shift?? which universally tries to impose convictions and values on others, also keeping abreast of narrative theologians such as Biblical interpreter Walter Wink (who coined the phrase “the myth of redemptive violence??), Mennonite John Howard Yoder, and N.T. Wright, pacifist theologians that could reignite our own Quaker thinking.

One thought that continues to pop in my head and leads me to prayer is that I hope that Quakerism as a tradition isn’t too far removed from it’s own Christian roots for a return to life and vitality as exemplified by McKenna and many others.  But then again, Quakers gave McKenna, an outspoken Christian, this award.  But there are many more reasons for hope because there continues to be people popping into the converging Friends conversation with growing curiosity and excitement.  And we continue to learn that there are more and more people who are already on board with what we’re talking about and didn’t know it (I think this is the best part).

And so to hear stories like this always encourage me, even if McKenna isn’t directly related to the Quakers he has great respect for the tradition and has incorporated some of our practices into his own community. It is almost as if they could remind us how to be ‘Quakerly.’  It’s of little surprise then that people on the outside can help us get perspective on our own tradition.

I love hearing about what Christians are doing around the world to bring about peace and justice for their cities – I look forward to hearing more about Jarrod McKenna and his community in Perth.

Related Articles:
Overcoming ‘Unease Isolation’ with Mere Discipleship – Article by Jarrod McKenna
EPYC – A Dream for This Generation

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