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Church leader urges action on U.S. war spending bill

Jim Winkler is urging United Methodists in the United States to contact their representatives about the war spending bill making its way through Congress. A UMNS photo by Jay Mallin.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
March 14, 2007

The next 48 hours could be crucial in stopping the United States from rushing into military action against Iran, said a United Methodist leader.

On March 13, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stripped a provision in the $123 billion supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that would require congressional approval before a new war could be launched against Iran.

Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, urged United Methodists in the United States to call their representatives now to ask the language be reinserted. He said the first vote could come as soon as March 15 in the House Appropriations Committee.

House leadership had attached the provision last week in an effort to require the administration to make a full, public explanation of the need for war and gain congressional approval before expanding military operations in Iran.

U.S. religious leaders meet with Ayatollah Kashani in Tehran during their February peace trip to Iran. A UMNS Web-only file photo by Mark Beach.

Democrats dropped the provision, however, in an effort to draw votes for the war spending bill that also would require withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008. According to news reports, Pelosi struck a compromise between liberals who oppose any funding for the Middle East military effort and conservatives who do not want to restrict the president’s ability to use force when needed.

The overall bill would appropriate $95.5 billion for emergency wartime supplemental spending.

Winkler said the provision is necessary to ensure the United States does not rush into a war with Iran. Political tensions are high between the two nations over Iran’s nuclear program, among other things, and there have been no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries in years.

"Members of Congress from both major political parties are concerned that, given the administration’s track record leading up to the Iraq war, President Bush will authorize military action against Iran," he said.

Winkler was part of a 13-member delegation of U.S. religious leaders that visited Iran Feb. 17-25. The group, which included Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker and Mennonite traditions, released a statement on the trip during a Feb. 26 news conference in Washington.

"As Christian leaders from the United States, we traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time of increased tension, believing that it is possible to build bridges of understanding between our two countries. We believe military action is not the answer, and that God calls us to just and peaceful relationships within the global community," said the statement.

"The Iranians don't want war,” Winkler said after returning from the trip. “Every political and religious leader we met with said Islam forbids the possession or development or use of weapons of mass destruction of any kind including nuclear weapons."

*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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