|Torture is unacceptable, NCC assembly says|
Nov. 15, 2005
|Courtesy of the Dept. of Defense
This file photo shows a 48-person detention block at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
By United Methodist News Service*
Any use of torture is “unacceptable and contrary to U.S. and international legal norms,” according to religious leaders.
The condemnation of torture came when the General Assembly of the
National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service met Nov. 9-11
Assembly delegates, including United Methodists, commended the U.S.
Senate’s “anti-torture provisions” in the 2006 Defense Appropriations
bill, which is before the House of Representatives for action. The
resolution also criticized those in government who would fail to approve
“Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer
and tortured alike,” the General Assembly declared by unanimous vote.
“Torture turns its face against the biblical truth that all humans are
created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). It denies the
preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being by
reducing its victims to the status of despised objects, no matter how
noble the cause for which it is employed.
“We believe that any reluctance of this nation to publicly disavow
torture under any circumstance not only erodes the peace of the world
but even the possibility of peace, since it destroys the trust required
for diplomacy and other nonviolent means to seek peace,” the resolution
At its fall meeting, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society
also applauded the Senate bill and called upon Congress to create an
independent, bipartisan commission to report on the detention and
interrogation practices of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies
in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and to hold all those involved
accountable for the atrocities.
In another resolution, the NCC expressed concern about threats to civil
and religious liberties in the United States. Assembly delegates pledged
to educate member communions “on the importance of upholding civil and
religious liberties, even and most critically in times of national
Threats to liberties include indefinite detention and the withholding of
due process; extraordinary rendition and torture; arbitrary designation
of enemy combatants; the suspicion of immigrants and those applying for
immigrant status; the invasion of private medical records, library
borrowing and other personal documents; “and a creeping reliance on
selective religious fundamentalism as the lens for shaping public
policy, especially at the expense of religious communities.”
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Assembly delegates endorsed the Special Commission for the Just
Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, established by urgent action of the NCC
Governing Board in September. United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert of
Nashville, Tenn., a former NCC president, is chairperson of the special
According to the motion, the assembly urges the special commission to
“strive for the greatest degree of coherence and comprehensive efforts
in our rebuilding (of) the Gulf Coast communities and in addressing the
human inequities which exacerbated a natural disaster into wholesale
The commission also will address issues of race, class and gender that
came to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Talbert and the 16
commissioners will meet Nov. 17-18 in the New Orleans area to tour the
area, confer with pastors and other religious and community leaders, and
develop a timeline and plan of action for their work.
A policy on human biotechnologies, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,”
received a first reading by the assembly. Delegates will share the
policy with member communions for study and comment, for possible
adoption at the November 2006 assembly in Orlando, Fla.
|Photo courtesy of GCCUIC
Clare Chapman poses with the Rev. Bob Edgar, NCC chief executive, in this file photo.
Clare Chapman, a United Methodist and chairperson of the policy
development committee, said the proposed policy would supplement a 1986
biotechnologies policy that will be retained because it has useful
language, including bioethics in the fields of agriculture.
The Rev. Michael E. Livingston was installed Nov. 10 as the council’s
new president, succeeding Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. Currently executive
director of the International Council of Community Churches, Livingston
has been a pastor, educator and church administrator for most of his
adult life, and involved in all levels of the ecumenical movement.
Bishop Vicken Aykazian, a Turkish-born priest who represents the eastern
prelacy of the Armenian Church of America in Washington, was elected
for a two-year term as the NCC’s president-elect.
In other business, the assembly:
- Received a welcome from Cardinal William
Keeler of Baltimore to his archdiocese. Keller reassured delegates that
the Roman Catholic Church and the pope are firmly ecumenical.
- Discussed the unexpected withdrawal of the Antiochian Orthodox Church from the NCC last summer.
- Pledged more than $32,000 to Church World Service for worldwide relief efforts.
*The National Council of Churches supplied information for this report.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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