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Delegates call for world peace, end to war in Iraq

Laurie Hays Coffman examines boots and shoes that symbolize people killed in the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. They were placed in a park across the street from the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
May 15, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)

The Iraq war, world peace and prayers for members of the armed forces and veterans were on the hearts and minds of delegates to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference.

The denomination's lawmaking body approved petitions calling for an immediate end to the war in Iraq, a ban on cluster bombs, the prevention of "space weaponization" and study of the "degrading effects that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide have on the victims, the perpetrators and on those who silently stand by."

The statement on space weaponization calls for the rejection of any nation's efforts to "weaponize" space and urges all nations to pursue the "peaceful and collaborative development of space technologies and of outer space itself."

Other petitions approved include a statement on war and peace and the "high toll" war exacts on young people; a call for support and services for rebuilding Iraq; and an affirmation that the U.S. military should not exclude people from service on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The General Conference was held in the Fort Worth Convention Center April 23-May 2. The assembly meets every four years to set policy and is the only body that speaks for The United Methodist Church. Its resolutions on a wide range of issues are collected in the denomination’s Book of Resolutions, revised every four years.

Peace in Iraq

A revised resolution on peace in Iraq was adopted by a vote of 836-28. United Methodists throughout the world are asked to pray for an immediate end to the Iraq war and to support public policies that promote peace, justice and reconciliation.

"The war in Iraq must end. It is a tragedy that wounds the heart of God. Thousands of lives have been lost, millions of Iraqis have fled their country, and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a war the United States initiated and never should have fought," the resolution states.

Sally Graham Ernst (left) of Bethel Park, Pa., and Marilyn J. Outslay of Portland, Ore., walk among the boots and shoes on display outside General Conference. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

In the resolution, the 2008 General Conference calls upon the U.S. government to end the violence by developing and implementing a plan for the immediate and safe withdrawal of U.S. and partner coalition troops from Iraq. The government is also asked to work with Iraqis of good will, the United Nations and nations in the Middle East to bring about a peaceful, long-term resolution.

A separate new resolution on support and services for U.S. military and rebuilding Iraq was approved.

"We call upon the government of the United States and its partners in the Iraq war to provide full support and services for as long as needed for returning veterans, especially for those wounded in body and spirit by their experiences in the war," states the resolution. Medical treatment, counseling, training for employment and a "generous pension" are some of the services called for in the resolution.

The rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure, especially the medical system, is also on the list of concerns.

A copy of the resolution, "Support and Services for U.S. Military and Rebuilding Iraq," will be sent to the U.S. president, vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, congressional leadership and leaders of partner countries with troops in Iraq.

Instruments of peace

The United Methodist Division on Ministries with Young People's statement on war and peace was adopted by a vote of 836-28. The division is part of the Board of Discipleship. The Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly drafted the statement during the gathering held in South Africa at the end of 2006.

The statement says young people are among those sent to the front lines of every war; the ones who pay the price of military action at the expense of education, health and security; and among the least represented in decision-making bodies.

"We empower all young people around the world to actively work for peace within their churches, their communities and our world. We are the young people of The United Methodist Church. We affirm God's clear call to be instruments of peace in all corners of the world."

The General Conference also directed the denomination's Board of Discipleship and Board of Church and Society to develop study materials that will inform youth and young adults about theological issues surrounding war and peace.

The paragraph in the Book of Discipline on war and peace (165.C) was amended to include opposition to "unilateral first/pre-emptive strike actions and strategies on the part of any government." It also states, "As disciples of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, reject the use of violence, seek justice and serve as reconcilers of conflict."

The petition, proposed by Methodists United for Peace with Justice, was a return "to the historic, unconditional position of the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church that war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ."

"A Call for Peacemaking" was adopted and will become a new resolution in the 2008 Book of Resolutions. It calls for "United Methodist children, youth and adults as devoted disciples of Jesus Christ to become peacemakers." Bishops, local churches, annual conferences and the denomination's boards and agencies are to incorporate peacemaking into their regular programs and budgets.

Another new resolution calls for abolishing all nuclear weapons, renounces the use of chemical or biological weapons, and strongly protests unilateral first-strike actions and strategies. The U.S. government is asked to work "with all deliberate speed" toward peaceful resolutions of issues with Iran, North Korea, the Middle East and the rest of the world and to reject any first-strike action by U.S. armed forces anywhere.

Prayers and support are offered in resolutions that honor those who choose to serve in the armed forces and for those who conscientiously oppose all war.

* Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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