Statements on war by religious institutions and leaders

The following are statements on war with Iraq from a variety of religious viewpoints. Some are denominational or agency statements; some are by individuals with leadership roles in a particular faith. Most of these statements were released in the weeks leading up to the war. This compilation is from the Religion News Service.
Atlanta Journal_Constitution, Mar. 22, 2003
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African Methodist Episcopal Church: Bishop Adam J. Richardson, president of the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said in a March 12 interview that he was troubled by the support of possible war by some in Christianity’s conservative wing. “I think that, from my perspective, the right-wing faction of Christianity is doing Christ a disservice by attempting to back their jaundiced views with Scripture, trivializing the Bible in public view and making a mockery of the best traditions of biblical scholarship.” He added his thoughts about the military: “I say emphatically that I am not against the military nor military personnel. I am an American. My passport says so. But I think the leadership is wrong. I’m praying for him [President Bush] and . . . the people of the Middle East.”

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American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.: The General Board of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., meeting in November, issued a statement urging efforts toward peace and prayer for the United Nations, the Iraqi people, military personnel and others affected by the crisis. “Let us pray for the United Nations that it may continue to be a voice, a forum and instrument of peace in these days of terror and the prospect of war. We recommend that President Bush and Secretary of State [Colin] Powell continue their efforts to work through the United Nations to resolve the issue of Iraqi disarmament through inspections and diplomacy,” the statement reads.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): The church’s Common Global Ministries Board, a joint venture with the United Church of Christ, said in a Feb. 10 statement: “God continues to speak to us a word of peace. Our churches believe that the church is called to participate in God’s message of reconciliation with all of creation. This calling is distinct from the pull of the world, but not removed from it. We are taught by Jesus, the Christ, that peace, harmony and justice are God’s vision for humanity.”

Church of England: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in a joint Feb. 20 statement with Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, reiterated his opposition to war. “The events of recent days show that doubts still persist about the moral legitimacy as well as the unpredictable humanitarian consequences of a war with Iraq.”

Church of God in Christ: In a Jan. 23 letter to President Bush, Church of God in Christ Presiding Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson and the denomination’s General Board expressed concern for the military — noting its significant numbers of ethnic minorities — and Iraqi civilians. They called for moral principles to be involved in determining the necessity for war. “Failure to satisfy these criteria renders the war aims, strategies and tactics, at a minimum, morally suspect and perhaps morally unacceptable in the eyes of the church universal and under the gaze of a just and holy God,” they wrote.

Conference of Major Superiors of Men (Catholic men’s religious orders): In a joint letter with other groups to U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson, the men’s orders flatly opposed the war. “There remain many avenues of peaceful, diplomatic alternatives that have not been explored. The international community does not support a planned war. A clear and imminent threat has not been proven.”

Conservative Judaism: Rabbi Jerome Epstein, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said all Jews hope for peace, but “history has also taught us that, at times, those who seek peace must fight for peace. Therefore, we hope that Iraq will use this period of time to comply with the world call for elimination of terrorism. If not, the responsibility of nations and the world to eliminate terrorism through whatever means necessary would be a tragic outcome.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations: One of the country’s most visible Muslim groups said war against Iraq would kill innocent civilians and destabilize the region. “Any American invasion and occupation of Iraq will fuel anti-American sentiment and would thereby harm our nation’s image and interests in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world.”

Eastern Orthodox bishops: The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, in a Feb. 11 statement, urged “all leaders of governments to utilize every means available to seek a peaceful resolution to the present challenge to the security and happiness of all humankind, posed by the forces of terror and evil that threaten not only the civilized world, but the very survival of human existence.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has called for prayer. “As weapons inspectors continue their work, the United Nations debates next steps, the Iraqi people suffer and our government moves closer to war, we must not abdicate our responsibility to both pray for peace and to engage in public conversation regarding what is a just response that might lead to peace,” he wrote in a Feb. 13 letter to church leaders.

Episcopal Church: Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who has been critical of President Bush’s war talk, said on Jan. 30 that Bush needs to “exhaust all diplomatic and multilateral initiatives as the alternatives to waging war” and to “act only in concert with the United Nations Security Council.”

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod: In a March 3 statement on peace, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said: “Our president has been entrusted with the sword. He may have to use it. We pray for God’s wisdom to guide him in the execution of his duty, that peace may prevail for us and for all people.”

Lutheran World Federation: The federation’s Executive Committee, in a March 15 statement, denounced the Bush administration for seeking war without United Nations approval. “The ‘just war’ criteria . . . were designed to constrain — not justify — the resort to war. Indeed, they stand in clear opposition to a pre-emptive war for the purpose of ‘regime change.’ “

Mennonite Church USA: The church’s Executive Board, in a Jan. 15 letter to President Bush, said that the “victory this country needs” is “the victory of peace, of a stable economy both here and in Iraq, of a democratic government that listens to the majority of its citizens who currently do not support war against Iraq.”

Metropolitan Community Churches: On Jan. 27, the church’s Board of Elders said that war “will only increase unrest and suffering in the world, deepen the distrust that already divides America and Britain from Iraq and its allies, and divert international attention . . . from world poverty, a rapidly deteriorating ecological structure and oppression of too many of the world’s peoples.”

Muslim American Society: The Muslim American Society issued a March 10 statement, saying that a war on Iraq would not be a “just war,” would complicate the long-term foreign policy goals of the United States, and could prompt increased terrorist attacks against America. “Therefore, based upon our Islamic religious beliefs and concern for our nation’s prosperity and security and the innocent potential Iraqi victims, we call on our government and all peace-loving people and nations to do everything in their power to avoid war, and resolve all pending issues through peaceful means,” the statement reads.

National Association of Evangelicals: Members of the National Association of Evangelicals, meeting on March 6, affirmed a call to prayer issued Feb. 24 by the World Evangelical Alliance. “We believe that war or violence is almost always the worst solution for resolving conflict. Insofar as it is possible, all paths to peace should be explored and all possible means should be used for resolving any conflict,” the WEA statement said.

National Baptist Convention U.S.A.: During its midwinter board meeting, leaders of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. adopted a resolution expressing opposition to a possible war with Iraq. “The president, officers, board of directors, auxiliaries, boards and commissions of NBCUSA Inc. firmly believe that nonviolent social change and international peacemaking are the most desired methods to address any and all infractions of Iraq against the United Nations resolutions passed relative to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq’s possession,” the resolution reads.

National Council of Churches: The NCC has sponsored antiwar delegations to Iraq, England, Germany, Italy, France and Russia and is a sponsor of the “Win Without War” coalition. After a Feb. 5 meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, an NCC statement said that “we deplore the fact that the most powerful nations of this world regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy” and called a U.S.-led war “an inappropriate means to achieve disarmament of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.”

Orthodox Judaism: Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, said he supports President Bush in this “just war” against Iraq. “We pray for a peaceful solution, but if the president and his advisers, who are the experts, determine that military action is required to eradicate this evil . . . [the Orthodox Union stands by him] 100 percent.”

Pope John Paul II: In a Jan. 13 address to diplomats, the pope said: “No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, the noble exercise of diplomacy: These are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): In a Dec. 6 letter to President Bush, Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick urged caution. “We urge you to do everything in your power to encourage the United Nations inspection process. It is imperative for all that this be a successful effort.”

Progressive National Baptist Convention: In a resolution approved in January, the Progressive National Baptist Convention said it “calls on President George Bush, the Congress and the United Nations to seek peace and justice through diplomatic means in Iraq just as this administration is seeking better relations with North Korea through diplomacy and not pre-emptive strikes.”

Reform Judaism: Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said on Jan. 29: “We would prefer that this crisis be resolved by peaceful means, and if military action is necessary, we believe that multilateral action would be far preferable to unilateral action. Although we urge the president to pursue all diplomatic means with urgency and resolve, we know that the time for such efforts is limited.”

Southern Baptist Convention: Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has spoken in favor of the potential war with Iraq. In a statement issued after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Feb. 5 address to the United Nations Security Council, Land said: “The case for using force to bring about disarmament and regime change in Iraq was clearly and convincingly made for anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear. Our choice is to pay less now and deal with this problem, or we can pay a lot more later and deal with a nuclear-armed Saddam.”

Unitarian Universalist Association: UUA President William Sinkford has said he opposes the war and has asked for prayers for peace. In a pastoral letter last September, he said: “The question in this difficult discussion must be more than simply, ‘Do we go to war?’ Raw power cannot heal those wounds hidden in the human heart that lead us to conflict.”

United Church of Christ: In a Feb. 22 statement, regional church leaders urged more time for United Nations inspections. “The recourse to war, according to our Christian tradition, is an admission of human failure. By such action, we admit our lack of commitment to use other means to resolve human conflict. It is a resounding ‘no’ to God’s eternal ‘yes’ to humanity.”

United Methodist Church: The General Board of Church and Society expressed, in a statement Thursday, “deep sorrow and regret over the pre-emptive attack on Iraq. The invasion marks a new military posture by the United States of America. Around the world, people remain deeply divided over the legitimacy of this war and concerned about its spiritual and temporal costs and consequences.”

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: The bishops’ president, Wilton Gregory, said Feb. 26 that the bishops have not changed their minds since they spoke out against war last November. “To permit pre-emptive or preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening or hostile regimes would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents. Based on the facts that are known, it is difficult to justify resort to war against Iraq.”

World Council of Churches: The WCC Executive Committee, in a Feb. 21 statement, said that “war against Iraq would be immoral, unwise and in breach of the principles of the United Nations Charter.” The WCC also lambasted “the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy.”

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