Churches post viewpoints on pending war
Saturday, Mar. 15, 2003
As the nation edges closer to war, the faith community continues to define or refine its position of support, caution or opposition to the approaching conflict. Continuing our summary surveys of last week, here are further points of view on political and spiritual responsibility from national and local leaders.
* GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH: The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops in the Americas, leaders of Orthodox Christian communities throughout America, urged "all leaders of governments to utilize every means possible 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."
At the metropolis level (which includes California and six other western states), the metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco, bishop of the region, sent an encyclical in opposition to preemptive strikes against Iraq.
At the local level, Father Michael Pappas told his parishioners that "Christ's Gospel clearly advocates peace over war and violence. In this moment of crisis, the degree to which we are faithful to the teachings of Christianity will be revealed in our stance to this very fragile issue."
* THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Bishop Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, said America "should not be doing anything without exhausting all diplomatic and multilateral initiatives" as an alternative to a unilateral assault. The bishop also cautioned against inflammatory statements that tend to provoke conflict. "Some of the rhetoric used by the Bush administration could prove dangerous and create even worse tension in the world. As a superpower, we should also be a super servant in the global community."
* BAHA'I COMMUNITY OF THE WORLD: "The Baha'is of the world encourage the reconciliation of viewpoints, the healing of divisions and bringing about tolerance and mutual respect. Therefore, it is not the practice of Baha'i institutions or individuals to take positions on the political decisions of governments. We are confident, in spite of conflicts which erupt in the world, that world peace is inevitable. We are actively working in social and economic development programs and praying so that all conflicts will be resolved quickly and as peacefully as possible."
* THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA: Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson in a letter to all American pastors and leaders opposed war with Iraq.
"I do not seek to minimize the complexity of our current situation -- the combination of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, the immense U.S. military strength and an already unstable Middle East means there are no easy answers. That is precisely why we need broad-based conversations in which we articulate our convictions and are willing to challenge and be challenged by others."
The bishop strongly supports "efforts to develop the potential of nonviolence, to bring about just and peaceful change" and supports those "who in conscience undertake nonviolent action for peace."
On the local scene, Pastor Peter Holmquist of Stockton's Zion Lutheran Church last week sent a letter to elected officials stating his opposition to war with Iraq.
"I mourn the choices the leaders of this government are making. These choices are for the deaths of thousands of people from this country and other countries. These choices are for hardship and long-term upheaval. ... These choices are for the dishonor of the mostly amazing history of this nation."
* JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES: In defining the neutrality of his faith, T. Wayne Bogart, of the Colonial Heights Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Stockton, said that Witnesses follow a consistent relationship toward governments and wars in all countries of the world. Jehovah's Witnesses do not share in the politics or wars of any nation. Their position of Christian neutrality is in accordance with the Biblical "beating their swords into plowshares." At the same time, Jehovah's Witnesses recognize the authority of nations to raise armies and defend themselves, and they do not interfere with what others choose to do, respecting government authority but declining to comply with it "only on those rare occasions when a government demands what is in direct conflict with what God commands."
©Copyright 2003, The Record (Stockton, CA, USA)
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