Church leaders plan dialogues on security concerns
11/5/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
By Tim Tanton*WASHINGTON
(UMNS)-United Methodist bishops are taking the first steps toward
starting a churchwide conversation on the issue of international
"Throughout the globe, there is a deep concern about
security in an era of terrorism," said Bishop Timothy Whitaker, leader
of the denomination's Florida Area. "Certainly the people of the United
States of America are preoccupied with the issue of security, and
whenever the most powerful nation on earth is preoccupied with an issue,
the rest of the nations have to be preoccupied with that issue."
Council of Bishops voted Nov. 4 to discuss a paper on security at their
meeting next spring. Afterward, the bishops will hold discussions about
that document among United Methodists in their areas and report back to
the council. Bishop Walter Klaiber of Germany will write the paper,
which will be titled, "In Search of Security: An Invitation to a
The final outcome of the conversation is open
ended, said Whitaker, convener of the bishops' Task Force on "In Search
of Security." The council might decide to authorize publication of a
major study on security that would be released to the church, or it
might approve joining with other denominations in releasing such a study
to the public and policy makers, he said.
The bishops, meeting
Nov. 2-7 in Washington, are the top clergy leaders of the 10
million-member United Methodist Church. Nearly 112 active and retired
bishops from around the world are attending the semiannual meeting.
and Klaiber emphasized the importance of providing a theological
underpinning for the conversation on security, to give people a
biblically based perspective for examining public policy and their own
"We think it would be extremely significant if United
Methodists across the United States and around the globe were involved
in a conversation about the search for security in light of the biblical
witness of faith in God," Whitaker said.
In the conversations,
people would reflect on the validity of phrases such as "war on
terrorism," Whitaker said in a written report. They also would discuss
global public policies regarding terrorism, "such as the storage and
development of weapons of mass destruction by nation-states of the West
and the national security strategy of the United States."
think it would be morally irresponsible for the Christian community to
be silent while security is being defined in terms that do not take into
account the perspective of faith or that may be contradictory to the
perspective of faith," Whitaker told the bishops as he presented the
He noted that the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society is also working on a paper on terrorism, which will be helpful
to the bishops. The bishops' paper will have a broader scope and will
relate to the dialogue that is occurring around the world on terrorism,
Measures taken to improve security in the United States
in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have given rise to
concerns by church and secular groups about the erosion of liberties and
other implications for public policy.
The council seems to be in
a mode of study, and action may be six months to a year away, said
Bishop Felton Edwin May, leader of the church's Washington Area. In the
meantime, he said, "freedoms are being wiped away." Did the committee
discuss what could be done now? he asked.
Whitaker replied that
the task force's proposal allows the council to act at any time with a
statement or other action, and he said bishops could also act
individually if they felt the need.
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*Tanton is United Methodist News Service's managing editor.
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