The United Methodist Church's bishops are calling on President George Bush to draw up a plan and timeline for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq.
The resolution, adopted Nov. 4, updates a statement that the Council of Bishops issued in May 2004. During the final session of the council's weeklong fall meeting, no bishops voted in opposition to the resolution, though some abstained from voting.
In a poignant moment, Bishop Charlene Kammerer of Virginia told the council about her son, Chris, who is serving in the Navy in the Persian Gulf.
"I know the pain of totally loving and supporting your child in the military and at the same time faithfully challenging the policies of the United States government," she said.
"Our son has absolutely no problem with our stance," she said. "He has been formed and shaped by the United Methodist Church. We are very proud of him for his service, and yet he and many, many, many others in the military are questioning why we are there. I cannot do anything but support this resolution as a parent of Chris."
Other bishops also spoke in favor of the resolution, submitted by retired Bishop Marshall "Jack" Meadors Jr. of Atlanta.
"Nothing could be more global than this war," said Bishop Sally Dyck of Minnesota, "and we need to bear in mind that the world is waiting for us to make a moral statement about the war."
Though the council had adopted a statement on Iraq a year and a half ago, several bishops stressed the importance of speaking again on the issue. Bishop Melvin Talbert noted that when something is important, the message needs to be said over and over again. "Repetition is helpful at times."
Meadors noted that more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers and an estimated 26,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed since the war began. Though some say it's unpatriotic to challenge the war, the bishop said, it was not unpatriotic to question a war that began with a pre-emptive strike based on "flawed and manipulated" information.
"Now is the time to take a stand as peacemakers who are followers of Jesus Christ," he said.
In the "Resolution on the War in Iraq," the bishops noted that "peacemaking is a sacred calling of the Lord Jesus Christ," and that the denomination's Book of Discipline declares war "incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ."
The resolution stated that "the continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially children, and the increasing death toll among United States and coalition military, grieves the heart of God." The bishops said the U.S. government's reasons for war - "the presumption of weapons of mass destruction and alleged connection between al-Qaida and Iraq" - have not been verified, and that the violence in Iraq has created a context for "gross violations of human rights of prisoners of war."
The bishops said they:
- Lament the continued warfare by U.S. and coalition forces and the insurgents.
- Pray for military personnel and their families and for a swift end to the violence.
- Support a congressional resolution "stating that it is the sense of the Congress that it be the policy of the United States to withdraw all U.S. military troops and bases from Iraq."
- Call on the president "to immediately draw up and present to the Congress and the American people a plan and timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq."
- Call for the United Nations to appoint an envoy to encourage peace talks and explore a political settlement.
- Call for the rebuilding of Iraq and other Middle East nations "through a multinational development plan that honors the participation of the peoples of the region."
- Call on United Methodists to pray for peace and advocate "for public policies that promote peace, justice and reconciliation among all nations."
The council, with offices in Washington, comprises the top clergy leaders of the nearly 11 million-member United Methodist Church in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia.
*Tanton is managing editor of United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].