Ad asks president to repent of foreign, domestic policies
By United Methodist News ServiceA
one-page advertisement in The Christian Century magazine, signed by
more than 100 United Methodists, has called on U.S. President George
Bush to "repent" of certain domestic and foreign policies, including the
use of violence in dealing with Iraq.
The ad, titled, "A
Prophetic Epistle from United Methodists Calling Our Brother George W.
Bush to Repent," appeared in the magazine's April 5 issue.
message was written and signed before U.S.-led forces began military
action against Iraq on March 19, explained the Rev. Jennifer Kimball
Casto, a signer and pastor of New Life United Methodist Church in
"It was our hope that it would be a prophetic
word to our nation's leaders to consider other options - other than
going to war," she said. "Unfortunately, it came out after we had
already engaged in war in Iraq."
Casto said she believed the ad's
signers share the belief from Scripture that "we don't overcome evil
with more evil, but we overcome evil with good."
The Rev. Eric A.
Stone, the chaplain-director of the Wesley Foundation at Central
Michigan University, wrote the document as a petition to his annual
conference. Someone suggested that he make it an ad, "and I felt that a
distinctly United Methodist voice (among the other ads and online
petitions) would be appropriate in challenging one of our own" members.
President Bush is a United Methodist.
"Since we do not
excommunicate people in our denomination, I ruminated on possible ways I
might respond to someone who I feel should be held accountable," Stone
He felt that the best step "would be to call brother George
to repent," he explained. His friend, the Rev. Thomas E. Sagendorf,
circulated the document and asked the signers to help pay the cost of
running the ad. Sagendorf told United Methodist News Service that he
began circulating the document in the last week of February, and the ad
Using the language of religion, the document called
Bush "to repent from domestic and foreign policies that are incompatible
with the teaching and example of Christ."
"It is our judgment
that some policies advanced by your administration give evidence of the
spiritual forces of wickedness that exist in our world today," the ad
stated. It called the notion of "pre-emptive violence" incompatible with
Christ and his teaching.
"Violence is not the way of Christ, and
yet you threaten the very earth and all its inhabitants with open
discussion of the use of nuclear weapons," the ad stated. "As Christians
we are convinced that weapons of mass destruction are not justifiable
for any leader or nation."
The ad also challenged the president's
domestic policy and urged a Christ-like focus on "justice for the poor
and oppressed, not (on) making the rich richer."
"I wanted this
call to repentance to reflect the prophetic role of our heritage," Stone
recalled. "â€¦ The one who is ultimately responsible must be called to
turn away - to turn away from the myth of redemptive violence, to turn
away from war without end, to turn away from the idolatry of placing
trust in weapons of mass destruction (and) to turn away from policies
that increase the wealth of the wealthiest while ignoring the needs of
the poor and hungry."
The Rev. Scot H. Ocke, senior pastor at
Marysville (Ohio) First United Methodist Church and a member of the
board of the Evangelical Fellowship of West Ohio, disagreed with the
ad's message. "The United Methodist Church has had a longstanding
opposition to slavery, injustice and terrorism. The church has also
declared its support for those in the armed forces.
Bush's decision on Iraq has not been quick tempered, but a firm and
measured response to free the innocent people of Iraq from a brutal
regime, economic poverty and to protect neighboring nations from a
historically legitimate threat of weapons of mass destruction," Ocke
"The signing and release of the mentioned document does
not support the armed forces called there, or their families, and brings
no viable solutions or hope to the injustices there that have long been
ignored by our church under the disguise of peace and justice," he
More than half the people who signed the ad, which was
clearly labeled "paid advertisement" in the magazine, were clergy. The
seven bishops were Melvin H. Wheatley Jr., Judith Craig, Melvin G.
Talbert, Joseph H. Yeakel, James S. Thomas, Jesse R. DeWitt and C.
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