Griswold joins ecumenical pastoral letter on Iraq

May 12, 2004

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has signed an ecumenical pastoral letter released May 11, in which leaders of the National Council of Churches USA and its 36 Protestant and Orthodox member communions called for a change of course in Iraq. Their goal, they agreed, is peace and a renunciation of violence as contrary to the will of God. "In a sinful world, some of us may hold that there may be times when war is a necessary evil," they wrote. "But Christians should never identify violence against others with the will of God and should always work to prevent and end it." Specifically, they called on the United States "to turn over the transition of authority and post-war reconstruction to the United Nations-and to recognize U.S. responsibility to contribute to this effort generously through security, economic, and humanitarian support-not only to bring international legitimacy to the effort, but also to foster any chance for lasting peace. We would ask that members of our churches, as they feel appropriate, contact their respective congressional delegations to urge the U.S. to change course in Iraq." They encouraged local churches to read the letter aloud in services during the coming month. The full text of the letter follows, along with signatures collected by 5 p.m. May 11. May 11, 2004 Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ! We, leaders of the thirty-six member communions of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, write this joint pastoral letter at a time when the threat of violence hangs over the earth and warfare involving United States forces is increasing in Iraq. We write out of a deep love for this country, but also out of a profound concern at the direction this cycle of violence is taking us. This concern has been brought home to all Americans and indeed the world in the horrific pictures of prisoner abuse. Two central claims of the Christian faith are crucial in our thinking: that every person, as a child of God, is of infinite worth; and that all persons, as participants in God's one creation, are related in their humanity and vulnerability. This is why the World Council of Churches has asserted that "war is contrary to the will of God" - because it destroys that which God has made sacred. In a sinful world, some of us may hold that there may be times when war is a necessary evil. But Christians should never identify violence against others with the will of God and should always work to prevent and end it. We believe, with these things in mind, that the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy must be to build up the whole, interdependent human family and to promote reconciliation whenever possible. Yes, this means standing firmly against all acts of terror, but it also means envisioning a world in which war is truly a last resort. Current U.S. foreign policy, however, is not aligned with this principle. Many people see our policy as one based on protection of our country's economic interests narrowly defined, rather than on principles of human rights and justice that would serve our nation's interests in deep and tangible ways. We are convinced that current policy is dangerous for America and the world and will only lead to further violence. We, therefore, call for a change of course in Iraq, and we encourage you to do the same. Specifically, we are calling upon our country to turn over the transition of authority and post-war reconstruction to the United Nations - and to recognize U.S. responsibility to contribute to this effort generously through security, economic, and humanitarian support - not only to bring international legitimacy to the effort, but also to foster any chance for lasting peace. We would ask that members of our churches, as they feel appropriate, contact their respective congressional delegations to urge the U.S. to change course in Iraq. We certainly recognize that faithful Christians of good will may disagree with one another when it comes to questions of national policy. We trust, however, that all Christians will pray and work for peace, remembering the words, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." We also urge all of our congregations and parishes to pray not only for the soldiers of this nation, as we surely do, but for all people, military and civilian, caught in this and other cycles of violence. When possible, join in prayer, discussion, and action with ecumenical and interfaith neighbors. Materials to assist in this are available from many of our churches and from the National Council of Churches (http://www.ncccusa.org/). As ecumenical partners, we know that it is a scandal that the body of Christ remains so visibly divided, often by those things that divide the world. Let us, however, be united as followers of Christ in our hope for that day when swords are beaten into plowshares and mourning and crying and pain will be no more! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Alliance of BaptistsThe Rev. Dr. Stan HasteyExecutive Director American Baptist Churches in the USAThe Rev. Dr. A. Roy MedleyGeneral Secretary Diocese of the Armenian Church of AmericaHis Grace Bishop Vicken AykazianDiocesan Legate and Ecumenical Officer Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)The Rev. Wm. Chris HobgoodGeneral Minister and President The Episcopal Church, USAThe Most Rev. Frank T. GriswoldPresiding Bishop and Primate Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of AmericaHis Eminence Archbishop DemetriosPrimate International Council of Community ChurchesThe Rev. Michael E. LivingstonExecutive Director Moravian Church, N.PDavid L. WickmannPresident National Council of Churches USAThe Rev. Dr. Robert EdgarGeneral Secretary National Council of Churches USAInterfaith Relations CommissionThe Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown ZikmundChair Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of FriendsFriend Thom JeavonsGeneral Secretary Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.The Rev. Dr. Major L. JemisonPresident The Rev. Dr. Tyrone S. PittsGeneral Secretary Swedenborgian Church in North AmericaThe Rev. Ronald P. BruglerPresident United Church of ChristThe Rev. John H. ThomasGeneral Minister and President The United Methodist ChurchCouncil of BishopsBishop Melvin G. TalbertEcumenical Officer

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