Seek Peace and Pursue it

Apr 07, 2003 01:21 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES – The United Methodist Church’s African-American caucus releases a resolution opposing war and calling for peace during its annual meeting, April 2-5. The Black Methodists for Church Renewal, describing itself as "a conscience for social justice," while calling for a hurried end to the war, expressed support for the deployed troops.

Anne Williams, chairperson of the 380,000-member group, said, "BMCR took its stance in this resolution because it is difficult to reconcile our interpretations of the Holy Scriptures with the aggressive actions of our government in Iraq."

The caucus rejected the U.S. policy of using "brute force," and it called upon the United States to end the war speedily; bring the troops home; restore Iraq and its culture under a government that supports self-determination; and avoid initiating war with other nations.

Almost every person who addressed the annual meeting spoke against the war and called for peace. The Rev. R. Randy Day, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, urged the caucus to "speak a prophetic word" as it has always done.

Commenting that the United States could take over Baghdad before the conclusion of the caucus meeting, Day asked: "Are we taking Baghdad, or are we as nation in danger of losing our souls?"

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s, he also upheld his commitment to be in ministry with Jesus Christ, Day said. "King did not simply oppose the war because of the aggression of his country, but he opposed the aggression of any country."

Day said United Methodists oppose war because it "is against our biblical teachings (and) it is against our foundations. We uphold that (stance) because our ministry to Jesus Christ is important to keep before us today."

The war in Iraq will result in a "great humanitarian effort" to help the Iraqi people, and the Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Committee on Relief will have a role to play, Day said.

"Our media is so sanitized and controlled about what they are giving to us," Day said. "They show you what they want to show you. The church has more responsibility now than ever before in terms of communicating – in telling a word of truth to the people."

Day called upon all the members of the ministry to "join together in speaking and living those prophetic words of justice and also words of peace.

How is war justified when one is haunted by the images of orphaned children looking for their parents, or of a mother crying over her dead children?"

The Following is the Full Statement of the Caucus’ Meeting

Opposing War and Calling for Peace

A Statement to President George W. Bush, the Administrative Cabinet,

and the U.S. Congress

from Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc.

We, the officers and members of National Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc. gathered for our 36th annual meeting in Los Angeles, Calif., April 2-5, 2003, affirming our identity as Christians who operate under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, recognize our call as advocates and as a conscience for social justice. To that end, we are moved to express our dismay that our United States government made a preemptive strike and invaded the nation of Iraq, putting at risk the lives of innocent men, women and children.

We are also dismayed that such action was taken without exploring all alternatives to war, especially the instrument of the United Nations.

We also deplore the sanitization of the news reported by the media that keeps from the U.S. public the explicit horror of the war. Our church sources reveal that numerous atrocities inflicted upon civilians by our bombing are not being presented in totality to the people of the United States.

The foundation we are taking regarding this war is included in the Social Principles in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, that states, "We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ."

Therefore, we reject our nation’s policy of brute force against the Iraqis and any people.

We also reject the policy of our nation to take unilateral preemptive action without exploring all alternatives to war through the United Nations.

However, since such action has already been taken, we call for specific and immediate counter-action to:

Bring the war to a speedy end and return all of the troops that have been deployed to fight in the war in Iraq.

Initiate the action necessary to restore Iraq and its culture under a government that supports the people’s right to self-determination.

Enact and follow a national policy that requires the United States of America to pursue peace at all costs and avoid initiating war with other nations.

While our statement is in opposition to war, we must nevertheless clearly express our prayerful support of the troops, who must follow the orders of our President, the Commander-In-Chief.

The psalmist calls us to peace. Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc. strongly urge you, President George W. Bush, our government and our decision-makers to do as the psalmist directs: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."—Psalm 34:14

By Pauline J.