Leaders and Members of NCC Call for Peace in Iraq

"Christians should never identify violence against others with the will of God and should always work to prevent and end it"
( [email protected] ) May 12, 2004 09:14 AM EDT

The leaders of the National Council of Churches USA and its 36 Protestant and Orthodox member communions released a letter on Tuesday, May 11, calling for a ‘change of course in Iraq.’

"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."

The NCC encouraged local churches to read the letter aloud in services during the coming month.

Amid the tense standoff between Iraqi militants and American soldiers, the church leaders called for peace and a renunciation of violence. And with the recent reports of prisoner abuse by American soldiers, the NCC reminded the readers that “violence is contrary to the will of God.

The following is 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


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


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 (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 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

The Episcopal Church, USA

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold

Presiding Bishop and Primate

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios


International Council of Community Churches

The Rev. Michael E. Livingston

Executive Director

Moravian Church, N.P

David L. Wickmann


National Council of Churches USA

The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar

General Secretary

National Council of Churches USA

Interfaith Relations Commission

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Zikmund


Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

Friend Thom Jeavons

General Secretary

Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

The Rev. Dr. Major L. Jemison


The Rev. Dr. Tyrone S. Pitts

General Secretary

Swedenborgian Church in North America

The Rev. Ronald P. Brugler


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