Social Principles spell out church's stand on war
3/20/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: UMNS story #161 is available as a sidebar to this report.
By United Methodist News ServiceAs
the United States begins military action against Iraq, many United
Methodists are wondering where their denomination stands on the issue of
The United Methodist Church believes war is incompatible
with the teachings of Christ and urges the peaceful settlement of
disputes among nations, according to the Book of Resolutions and the
Book of Discipline. However, the church acknowledges that when peaceful
alternatives have failed, armed force may be necessary.
church leaders have addressed the current crisis with Iraq directly in
recent months. However, the General Conference is the only entity that
speaks for the entire denomination. The legislative assembly, which
gathers every four years, will meet in 2004 in Pittsburgh.
the years, General Conference has adopted several resolutions and
positions related to the issue of war. Those are included in the
church's Book of Resolutions and Book of Discipline. The most succinct
positions are found in the Social Principles, which appear in both
"We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and
example of Christ," the church states in Paragraph 165C on "War and
Peace." "We therefore reject war as a usual instrument of national
foreign policy and insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to
resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among
The passage goes on to say "that human values must
outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that
the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped; that the
manufacture, sale and deployment of armaments must be reduced and
controlled; and that the production, possession or use of nuclear
weapons be condemned. Consequently, we endorse general and complete
disarmament under strict and effective international controls."
While deploring war, the church also notes that most Christians realize armed force may be necessary in some situations.
deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of all disputes among
nations," the church states in Paragraph 164G on "Military Service."
"From the beginning, the Christian conscience has struggled with the
harsh realities of violence and war, for these evils clearly frustrate
God's loving purposes for humankind. â€¦ Some of us believe that war and
other acts of violence are never acceptable to Christians.
also acknowledge that most Christians regretfully realize that, when
peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms may be preferable
to unchecked aggression, tyranny and genocide," the passage continues.
"We honor the witness of pacifists who will not allow us to become
complacent about war and violence. We also respect those who support the
use of force, but only in extreme situations and only when the need is
clear beyond reasonable doubt, and through appropriate international
"We urge the establishment of the rule of law in
international affairs as a means of elimination of war, violence and
coercion in these affairs.
The church also supports people who
may take differing viewpoints on the issue of war, whether they choose
or refuse to serve in the armed forces.
"We support and extend
the ministry of the church to those persons who conscientiously oppose
all war, or any particular war, and who therefore refuse to serve in the
armed forces or to cooperate with the systems of military
conscription," the church states. "We also support and extend the
church's ministry to those persons who conscientiously choose to serve
in the armed forces or to accept alternative service."
adopted by General Conference address a variety of other topics related
to war, such as military conscription and the consequences of conflict,
as well as a specific resolution on the sanctions against Iraq. More
information is available at
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