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NCC Releases Ecumenical Pastoral Letter on Iraq

May 11, 2004, NEW YORK CITY -- In an ecumenical pastoral letter released today (May 11), leaders of the National Council of Churches USA and its 36 Protestant and Orthodox member communions call for a change of course in Iraq.  Their goal, they agree, 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 write. "But Christians should never identify violence against others with the will of God and should always work to prevent and end it."

Specifically, they call 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 encourage 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 (updated noon May 12).

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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.

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.


African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Bishop Clarence Carr, President, Board of Bishops

Alliance of Baptists
The Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, Executive Director

American Baptist Churches in the USA
The Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
His Grace Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Officer

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Rev. Wm. Chris Hobgood, General Minister and President

Church of the Brethren
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary

The Episcopal Church, USA
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate

International Council of Community Churches
The Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director

Moravian Church, N.P.
David L. Wickmann, President

National Council of Churches USA
The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary

National Council of Churches USA
The Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President

National Council of Churches USA
Interfaith Relations Commission, The Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Zikmund, Chair

National Council of Churches USA
Justice and Advocacy Commission, The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, Chair

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Friend Thom Jeavons, General Secretary

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk

Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
The Rev. Dr. Major L. Jemison , President
The Rev. Dr. Tyrone S. Pitts, General Secretary

Swedenborgian Church in North America
The Rev. Ronald P. Brugler, President

United Church of Christ
The Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President

The United Methodist Church
Council of Bishops, Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, Ecumenical Officer
 

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