The Church Peace Mission began as an outgrowth of a conference on the "Church and War," held in Detroit in May 1950, with its purpose being to disseminate the findings of the conference to as many churches and seminaries as possible in the next six months. Its objective was to challenge the various peace groups "to face anew their responsibility to Christ, to his Church, and to mankind," by appealing to Christians not to make or use weapons of war and to "devote their energies to the removal of the social, economic and moral causes of . . . war."
Robert Weiskotten became the first Director, having received a sabbatical from his pastorate at St. John's Lutheran Church for the half year the program was to be in effect. A.J. Muste, later an executive at Fellowship of Reconciliation, was appointed as Missioner. By February 1951, conferences had been held in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, Nashville, Springfield (OH), Indianapolis, Columbus, Buffalo, Toronto, and Boston. In addition to Weiskotten and Muste, leadership at these events was provided by Paul Scherer, Henry Hitt Crane and John Oliver Nelson.
The conferences engendered much enthusiasm and it was decided in April 1951 that the CPM should stay in existence for another two years. Martin England was chosen as the new Director (continuing in this role until the end of 1952), and an office was opened at 513 West 166th Street, New York City. The practice of holding regional seminars for pastors and laity was continued and pamphlet literature was developed. A concern for youth was a focus during this time, with a conference on "Christian Youth and War" held in October 1951, regional conferences geared primarily for them offered, and a CPM Youth Section proposed. In addition, the CPM increasingly saw itself as an umbrella organization for the historic peace churches (Brethren, Friends, Mennonites), the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and peace and pacifist groups in numerous denominations in the United States and Canada, by providing a forum for "genuine dialogue on controversial issues - and hence mutual repentance - through beginning with a common ground in the Gospel."
In 1953, J. Harold Sherk became the Secretary of CPM and he stayed in this post until 1961 (while still an official at the National Service Board for Religious Objectors). A.J. Muste continued as Missioner. During these years the CPM offered "missions" to seminaries; solicited sermons in a contest on the Christian peace position; held conferences, one being in preparation for the World Council of Churches Assembly which dealt with the problem of nuclear war and others with the relevancy of pacifism; put together resources; and conducted meetings with discussions of such topics as global peace, nuclear weapons testing, Russia, China, and the Christian nation-state. An attempt was made to establish a commission of Christian pacifists and non-pacifists to study the theme of "agape" in its relation to peace, but this project was later abandoned. The CPM rented an office at the InterChurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive, New York City.
Through the years there was discussion about finding an executive secretary, someone who would devote his full attention to the work of the CPM. This did not take place until 1962 when Paul Peachey was appointed to the post (this appointment coinciding with the retirement of A.J. Muste as Missioner and coordinator of activities). Peachey was a Mennonite theologian, who received a Ph.D. in history and sociology in Zurich. He moved the office of the CPM to Washington, D.C. (4102 Brandywine Street NW). Peachey taught classes in seminaries, met with Catholic leaders (such as Daniel Berrigan) to learn their views, wrote articles, corresponded extensively with other pacifists, and visited Europe to gain understanding of the peace movement there.
During the five years the CPM was under Peachey's leadership, scholars and theologians made significant contributions to the CPM's impact in the realm of pacifist thought. Literature was developed that provided a scholarly look at the national and international understanding of justice and peace. As in previous years, conferences were planned. Peachey wrote that his role was to "probe at the frontiers of the churches' concerns with international questions. The technique [used] is conferences or seminars involving social scientists and theologians in dialogue, the former to elucidate the social realities, the latter to speak to them in terms of their own disciplines." A number of such conferences were offered, though several had to be canceled due to low registration.
There is little evidence that the CPM was involved in activism or that it had much impact on lay leaders in the church, particularly in the later years. Instead, its significance lies in its pushing its member organizations to re-think their traditional, often limited, views on peace. It encouraged them to find spiritual sustenance in their desire to bring healing and reconciliation in the world, and created out of their dialogue definitive statements on which they could build for the future.
Paul Peachey resigned as Executive Secretary in 1966, though agreeing to the appointment of Secretary for a time. In 1967 the CPM voted to disband.