February 18, 2003, LONDON -- U.S. Christian leaders spent 50
minutes with British Prime Minister Tony Blair today (February 18) to convey a message of
widespread opposition to war with Iraq and to explore alternatives.
The visit was the third of five urgent meetings with European leaders by delegations
organized by the National Council of Churches, New York City.
The ecumenical delegations are finding strong support among European church
leaders for the "Win Without War" approach advocated by most major U.S. faith
A February 5 visit to Berlin included a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder. In Paris (Feb.10-11), the delegation met with the French Foreign Ministry.
Upcoming are visits to Moscow (March 3-5), including a meeting President Vladimir Putin,
and a multi-faith visit to Rome (Feb.25-27).
Following the private meeting with Blair, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk,
Presbyterian Church USA, Louisville, Ky., said they had explored alternative approaches
including working through the United Nations to empower the Iraqi people, strengthening
the process of weapons inspections, dealing deeply with the Palestine question, building
global policy which addresses the gap between rich and poor, and building inter faith
Jim Wallis, Executive Director and Editor of Sojourners,
Washington, D.C., led the delegation on the NCC's behalf. He said, "American church
leaders agree that the threat of Saddam Hussein is very real and that Iraq must be
disarmed, but we also believe that the unintended and unpredictable consequences of war
could be catastrophic. American and British leaders have reminded the world of how
terrible Saddam is, but the churches must remind the world about the realities of
Wallis said the Prime Minister had listened to them cordially. They said they believed
Britain is in a unique position to influence the decision about War with Iraq, more than
any other country in the world. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland facilitated the
Besides Wallis and Kirkpatrick the delegation included Bishop John Chane, Episcopal
Diocese of Washington, D.C.; Bishop Melvin Talbert, Ecumenical Officer, Council of United
Methodist Bishops, Nashville, Tenn.; and the Rev. Dan Weiss, Immediate Past General
Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA, Marco Island, Fla. They were joined by British,
Middle Eastern and South African church leaders.