Magazine article The Christian Century

Churches Argue against War. (News)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Churches Argue against War. (News)

Article excerpt

AS THE BUSH administration wrestled with Senate Democrats over presidential authority to wage a preemptive war against Iraq, mainline church figures lobbied Congress, contending that a first-strike, unilateral attack on that country would be immoral. The White House meanwhile rejected as unacceptable an agreement between UN officials and Iraq to allow

weapons inspections at all sites except Saddam Hussein's large presidential palaces.

And while Bush and Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to persuade France, Russia and China to back a stronger UN resolution, at world-level September gatherings of Anglicans in Hong Kong and Methodists in Oslo, Norway, church leaders urged that all means be taken to bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

More recently, the Episcopal House of Bishops, meeting in Cleveland October 1, approved a letter to be sent to all members of Congress, stating that "we do not believe that war with Iraq can be justified at this time." The statement also stressed the "unintended consequences" of war, including "unacceptable civilian casualties." The bishops concluded that they "do not support a decision to go to war without clear and convincing evidence of the need for us to defend ourselves against an imminent attack."

In Washington, D.C., member denominations of the National Council of Churches initiated what they called a "season of peacemaking." For example, Felton May, bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, wrote to all 20 Methodists who are members of the Senate, telling them that "it would be theologically, ethically and morally inappropriate for the nation under God to take direct military action against Iraq at this time in history." Added May: "Only as a last option should we move ahead militarily."

One hundred Christian ethicists, both pacifists and adherents of just war theory, released a one-sentence statement September 25, saying that they "share a common moral presumption against a preemptive war on Iraq by the U.S." The declaration, spearheaded by Shaun Casey of Wesley Theological Seminary, told reporters that the statement was meant to be a "flashing yellow light" to political leaders.

In Canada, 15 prominent church leaders called upon Prime Minister Jean Chretien in a September 25 message to say no to war with Iraq and instead press for peace. Nonmilitary approaches are "infinitely preferable to war," said the letter signed by Jacques Berthelet, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada; Marion Pardy, moderator of the United Church of Canada; and the heads of Presbyterian, Lutheran, Mennonite, Orthodox and other denominations.

Overseas, the Anglican Consultative Council--leaders of the world's 70 million Anglicans--said it "welcomes the proposed return of weapons inspectors to Iraq" and called on that government "to comply fully with the UN resolution" requiring unfettered inspections. It also said that "on present evidence, military action against Iraq is not morally justified."

The World Methodist Council, at its Oslo meeting representing 37 million Methodists in 132 countries, passed resolutions urging that peaceful solutions take priority in three regions: Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Zimbabwe. …

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