Now Processed: Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Records | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Now Processed: Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Records

January 3, 2024
Slide from "I hope they don't bomb my lilypad: peacemaking, a child's view, about 1982." [Pearl ID: 348007].

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Records have been processed as Record Group 542, and the guide to the records is now available:

The processed collection totals 59 boxes. The collection's scope covers the history and actions of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program (PPP) and its staff as they worked to find ways for the denomination to respond to Christ's call to be peacemakers. Additionally, there are records of the Presbyterian United Nations Office (PUNO) and the files of Reverend Donald J. Wilson, chiefly documenting his work in peacemaking and international affairs (before the creation of the PPP). The materials are primarily in English with some items in Arabic, Korean, and Spanish.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (right) models a "Peacemaking Jubilee" t-shirt in his Cape Town residence. The Rev. Ken Jones (left) of Cleveland, Ohio, makes the presentation on behalf of 20 U.S. Presbyterian participants in the November 1994 Study/Travel Seminar to South Africa/Namibia, sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, 1994. Pearl ID: islandora:348265 [RG 542, Box 34, Folder 11]

In 1975, the 187th General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) called for a study on peacemaking and foreign policy. The Advisory Council on Church and Society (ACCS) created a special task force to undertake the work, resulting in the publication of the report "Peacemaking: The Believers' Calling," which was adopted by the 192nd General Assembly in 1980. The report called for the creation of a formal peacemaking program and peacemaking offering within the denomination and for all synods, presbyteries, and congregations to find ways to respond to Christ's call to be peacemakers. This led to the creation of the Peacemaking Project and the Peacemaking Advisory Committee (PAC) in 1980, operating through the Program Agency (Unit III, Ministries with Congregations).

The Reverend Richard Killmer served as the first director of the Peacemaking Project. In 1981, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) also adopted "Peacemaking: the Believers' Calling," which led to the PCUS contributing a grant from the estate of Pearl Wight Burnam to the Peacemaking Project in 1982. These funds were used to hire the Reverend James Watkins to serve as a peacemaking liaison to congregations and presbyteries and to establish a joint peacemaking program for both denominations.

Front cover of brochure/leaflet titled "Become a Presbyterian Advocate of the General Assembly's public policy recommendations to Reverse the Arms Race," 1983. Pearl ID: islandora:348020 [RG 542, Box 1, Folder 18]

Coinciding with the reunion of the UPCUSA and PCUS in 1983, the Peacemaking Project expanded to become the PPP, with offices in Atlanta, New York, and Washington, D.C. Ollie Gannaway, associate for international peacemaking, began to use the Burnam Fund to develop the Peace Associates and International Peacemakers Program, which brought international peacemakers to the United States for month-long visits to interpret the issues of their countries for American Presbyterians. This program also supported American peace associates' international work and funded travel-study seminars for Presbyterians visiting, and learning from, places around the world experiencing conflict.

At the recommendation of the 1983 General Assembly, the PPP initiated the "Commitment to Peacemaking," a formal program that congregations, presbyteries, and synods could adopt.

Letter from Fred Rogers to Richard Killmer regarding the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program's publication "Peacemaking in the Family," April 25, 1985. Pearl ID: islandora:348248 [RG 542, Box 26, Folder 18]

When the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moved to Louisville in 1988, the PPP did as well. The Presbyterian United Nations Office was created in New York the same year. Structurally, the PPP was situated in the Social Justice and Peacemaking Ministry Unit (SJPU) until 1994, when a restructure moved it to the Congregational Ministries Division (CMD) of the General Assembly Council (GAC). Another restructure in 2007 saw the PPP move under the mission area of Compassion, Peace, Justice within the GAC.

Front cover of brochure/leaflet advertising the 2000 Peacemaking Offering, 2000. Pearl ID: islandora:348244 [RG 542, Box 28, Folder 1]

The collection contains four series:

Series I, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Files, circa 1969-2014, contains materials created, collected, and maintained by the PPP and its staff, including Richard L. Killmer, Debby D. Vial, James O. Watkins, and Richard G. Watts. Materials document the work, operations, and activities of the PPP and include: files of correspondence, drafts, final/published copies, and other working documents pertaining to the creation of a variety of PPP publications and educational resources; conference files of correspondence, packets, photographs, planning documents, posters, programs, publications, and other materials pertaining to the annual PPP conferences; files pertaining to peacemaking issues and overtures at general assemblies; grant files, including materials pertaining to the Burnam Estate; files of correspondence, itineration schedules, photographs, and other materials pertaining to the Peace Associates and International Peacemakers Program; minutes and meeting files of the PAC; files of packets, publications, and educational resources of the Peacemaking Offering; files documenting the PPP's travel-study seminars; and subject files pertaining to a variety of entities and topics. There are also photograph albums that document PPP conferences, travel-study seminars, and other events in the PPP's timeline.

Series II, Presbyterian United Nations Office Files series, circa 1948-2004, contains materials created, collected, and maintained by the PUNO and its staff. Of note are subject files on children's issues / children's rights and women's issues / women's rights, including materials pertaining to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China (1995). There are also files pertaining to PUNO's seminars and seminar series.

Series III, Donald J. Wilson Files, circa 1954-1979, contains materials created, collected, and maintained by Reverend Donald J. Wilson throughout his tenure in the Program Agency in Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Justice (Unit II). Files predate the creation of the PPP but document Wilson's work in peacemaking and international affairs. Materials are chiefly subject files pertaining to a variety of entities and topics, including China, Korea, Vietnam, arms control, race, and racism.

Series IV, Audiovisual Materials, circa 1982-2009, includes audiocassettes, compacts discs, media kits, and videotapes, chiefly of PPP conferences and PPP educational resources.

Click here to access the guide to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Records and read more about the contents of the records.