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United Methodist bishop urges church to pray for peace

3/21/2003

NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photograph of Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html.

By United Methodist News Service

As U.S.-led forces intensify their attack on Iraq, the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops is calling on all 9.5 million members of the denomination to pray for those involved in the conflict and to make local churches "venues of peacemaking."

In a letter issued March 21, Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher urges United Methodists to pray for a just resolution to the war, engage in "respectful" dialogue and generate support for relief to the Iraqi people. She has asked that the letter, written on behalf of all the denomination's bishops, be read from church pulpits Sunday, March 23.

"In this season of Lent, with the world caught in the grip of war, we United Methodists remember Jesus' words, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations,'" the bishop writes. "I call on all our churches in every place to be such a welcoming house for all people.

"In the midst of our feelings of insecurity and lack of control, Jesus' words invite us to gather in prayer," she says in the letter, addressed to "United Methodist Brothers and Sisters."

"Let us pray for all the leaders of the nations who are involved and affected by this present crisis," she writes. She also requests prayer for all the military personnel, their families and friends; "for a just resolution of this conflict"; and "for the innocents in harm's way, especially the children."

She suggests making church sanctuaries "houses of Christian hospitality" as a way to ease "the increasing international polarization over the appropriateness of this war." She asks that "our sanctuaries welcome the anxious and fearful."

"Let our sanctuaries be gathering places for respectful and honorable Christian conversation across political perspectives," she continues. "Let our sanctuaries be centers for inter-religious dialogue, especially between Christians, Muslims and Jews, that we may grow in understanding of one another."

The bishop calls on United Methodists to use their sanctuaries to generate support for humanitarian relief for the citizens of Iraq and to be "venues of peacemaking in our families, our local neighborhoods and our global community."

Christopher leads the United Methodist Church's Illinois Area. The Council of Bishops comprises the church's 150 top active and retired clergy leaders from around the world. Christopher's letter was developed in consultation with the council's executive committee.

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Dear United Methodist Brothers and Sisters,
In this season of Lent, with the world caught in the grip of war, we United Methodists remember Jesus' words, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations." I call on all our churches in every place to be such a welcoming house for all people.

In the midst of our feelings of insecurity and lack of control, Jesus' words invite us to gather in prayer.

Let us pray for all the leaders of the nations who are involved and affected in this present crisis.

Let us pray for all the military personnel and for their families and friends who wait, worry, and wonder.

Let us pray for a just resolution of this conflict.

Let us pray for the innocents in harm's way, especially the children.

In the midst of the increasing international polarization over the appropriateness of this war, Jesus' words teach us that our church sanctuaries are houses of Christian hospitality.

Let our sanctuaries welcome the anxious and fearful, providing for them a place of safety and power that we know through the saving power of Jesus.

Let our sanctuaries be gathering places for respectful and honorable Christian conversation across political perspectives.

Let our sanctuaries be centers for inter-religious dialogue, especially between Christians, Muslims, and Jews, that we may grow in understanding of one another.

Let our sanctuaries generate support for humanitarian relief for the citizens of Iraq now and in the future.

Let our sanctuaries be venues of peacemaking in our families, our local neighborhoods, and our global community.

God is calling us, the church of Jesus Christ, to be "a house of prayer for all the nations." Please join us, your Council of Bishops from around the world, in prayer and witness to God's vision in which the lion and the lamb lie down together in peace.

In the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace,
Sharon A. Brown Christopher

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