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Weiss Brings American Baptist Voice to Peace Delegations

Feb 15, 2003 01:15 PM EST

Valley Forge, Pa. -- The Rev. Dr. Daniel E. Weiss, who served as general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA from 1988 to 2000, is part of two delegations that are meeting this month with European church and political leaders to promote peaceful solutions to the Iraq crisis.

Weiss was asked by American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley to represent the denomination "as a distinguished and knowledgeable spokesman for the historic American Baptist commitment to peace, dialog and reconciliation in the name of Christ."

The National Council of Churches of Christ has organized visits to five European capitals as part of the U.S. ecumenical body's search for diplomatic means of avoiding conflict. The effort was underwritten by a special gift to the NCCC from an individual desirous of encouraging the pursuit of peaceful diplomacy.

The first delegation met Feb. 5 in Berlin with counterparts from across Europe and with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Weiss was part of a five-member NCCC delegation that met with representatives of French churches Feb. 10-11. He also will join the delegation to London (Feb. 17-19), co-sponsored by the Christian organization Sojourners, which plans to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other delegations are scheduled for Rome (Feb. 25-28) and Moscow and/or Madrid at a time to be determined.

Participating in the Paris visit, in addition to Weiss, were the Rev. Michael E. Livingston, executive director, International Council of Community Churches, Trenton, N.J.; Thomas H. Jeavons, Wallingford, Pa., general secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends; Father Stanley DeBoe, Trinitarian Fathers, Silver Spring, Md.; and John Briscoe, NCCC staff, New York.

They met with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Church, the Lutheran Church and the Baptist Federation of France; the bishop of the American Episcopal Church in Europe; a representative of the Baptist Churches of France; staff of the French Protestant Federation; and Hubert Colin de Verdiere, general secretary of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Both the National Council of Churches, whose members include 36 Protestant, Orthodox, African American and Peace member churches with a combined membership of 50 million, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formally are on record in opposition to war with Iraq.

Weiss, who served as spokesperson for the delegation, noted that many Europeans were unaware that there is significant opposition to war at this time within the U.S. Christian community. In identifying the broad spectrum of churches in the U.S. that are calling for peaceful alternatives to war, Weiss cited the likely staggering toll of military and civilian lives that would result from conflict. "We don't like Saddam Hussein," he said, "but we feel there are much better ways to resolve the Iraq crisis than this."

He summarized the position of the group, emphasizing that while not all members of the religious groups represented agreed with the delegation's position, "we believe a majority do; many member communions have made official statements reflecting the position we express."

He also noted the delegation believed: "...Saddam Hussein is an evil and dangerous dictator and should be removed; "our allegiance to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, transcends all geographical boundaries and all governments; "all attempts to solve the problems with Iraq through peaceful solution must be exhausted before war is considered; "...it is vitally important to live up to the UN charter and to avoid destroying or weakening NATO; "[while] we range, in our memberships, from pacifists to those holding a just war position, the conditions for a just war...have not been met; "the long-range fallout from war has not been adequately assessed; it will destabilize the Middle East, cause an additional threat to Israel, cause an even greater breech in long-term Christian/Muslim relations [and] is likely to have far reaching environmental implications (we recalled the burning of oil wells and the pollution of the gulf during the 1991 war which is still not cleaned up)."

"... We, therefore, oppose going to war since it has not been clearly thought out strategically, is morally wrong and economically disastrous," the delegation maintained.

General Secretary Medley said: "It is my prayer that the voices of American Baptists--and those of all others who are deeply motivated by Christ's call to peacemaking--will help to soften hardened hearts, setting the stage for diplomacy and not aggression. While American Baptist Churches USA is not a traditional "peace" church in the strictest sense, I am convinced that in every church and every family of our denomination there is a profound yearning for global peace. I ask all American Baptists to seize this fragile moment and prayerfully seek, in the name of Christ, genuine wholeness and understanding within God's creation."

By Albert H. Lee
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