Church leaders meet with Department of Defense officials at Pentagon

Jan 08, 2003 12:37 PM EST

A group of religious leaders met with Pentagon officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, December 18 to discuss aspects of the war on terrorism. Participants described the two-hour meeting as a "good exchange."

Pentagon officials briefed the church leaders on America's role in Afghanistan and the changing shape and source of threats. They took questions from the church leaders on the religious and moral implications of the military campaign. "Today the enemy is not all that visible or discernible or noticeable and yet is a very, very real threat and represents imminent danger," said the Rev. Clarence Newsome, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC.

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold said that he left the meeting with "an enlarged sense of the complexities of the problems" facing military leaders as they combat the threats of terrorism, but he reasserted his opposition to the possibilities of war with Iraq. "I still have the gravest reservations about a war, but I certainly was encouraged that some of the nuances and complexities that are so integral here are being included in the conversations" at the Pentagon, he said in an interview.

Newsome and Griswold said that the church leaders suggested that an increase of American concern for some of the major problems of the world, such as the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, might help combat terrorism. As Anglican churches continue their explosive growth in many African countries, Griswold said that a generation of AIDS orphans and militant strains of Islam threaten to destabilize the region and make it ripe for terrorists looking for recruits. "I said I think we need to be aware of these sorts of larger concerns," he said.

Bishop John Chane, the new bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, joined the church leaders in the Pentagon discussions, along with Jewish, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Evangelical representatives.

By Albert H. Lee
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