News Archives

Church leaders react to war in variety of ways

3/20/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: Head-and-shoulders photographs of people quoted in this story are available at

A UMNS Report By Kathy L. Gilbert* By Kathy L. Gilbert*

With President George W. Bush's declaration that war has begun, leaders in the United Methodist Church are responding with prayers, words of comfort, and support for those in the military and the people of Iraq.

In a March 20 statement to United Methodists, the Rev. R. Randy Day, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, reminded people that John Wesley called war a "monster" that cannot be reconciled to "any degree of reason or common sense" - a monster bringing miseries to the warriors and to all those in the warriors' path.

Day urged all United Methodists "including President Bush, a member of our Methodist family, to join in prayers for peace, praying with heart, and mind, and strength that humanity will be saved from the monster of war."

"Let us pray for the men and women engaged in combat. Let us pray for enemies as Jesus commanded. And let us pray that we shall find ways to show in a time of war that we love our neighbors, especially those in Iraq, as ourselves." Read more at

The statement came the day after U.S.-led forces began attacking Iraq, with the stated goals of removing dictator Saddam Hussein and ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction. Bush had given the Iraqi leader and his sons until the evening of March 19 to go into exile or face military conflict.

The Rev. Bob Edgar, a United Methodist and top staff executive of the National Council of Churches, has called for a weeklong Worldwide Hunger Strike for Peace.

"This hunger strike is to be directed both at Saddam Hussein and his sons, that they might leave Iraq, and at President Bush, that he might extend the period of time for continued inspections, which might still allow for an alternative to the devastation and horror of war," Edgar said.

"We're not asking anyone to fast or hunger strike until they die," said Edgar, joined in his appeal by folk singer Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. "But a little bit of self-sacrifice at this time is appropriate."

Edgar and Elenie Huszagh, president, National Council of Churches, also issued a joint statement to be issued at the start of war:

"We pray for the men and women of the armed forces of both sides, facing grave dangers in a mission not of their making," they said. "We pray for the innocent civilians of Iraq, especially the children. May they be protected from harm and the multiple injustices of war."

They also lifted in prayer "all the people of the world who will be put at risk by the unintended consequences of this war," and "those in poverty whose fragile well-being will be sacrificed in the preoccupation with -- and expense of -- this war."

"Finally, we pray for the leaders of the United States, of Iraq, and of the United Nations, that they may learn from the history of failures of heart, mind and will that led to this war."

Edgar and Huszagh are encouraging houses of worship to "stay open for prayer throughout the war, and for churches to extend a special hand of friendship to people of other faiths at this potentially divisive time."

The Rev. Konrad Raiser, top staff executive for the World Council of Churches, called the U.S.-led attack "immoral, illegal and ill-advised." The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of more than 300 denominations and includes the United Methodist Church.

"At this time for repentance," he said, "we pray for all the people who will suffer in this war, as well as soldiers and their families."

The WCC is responding to the humanitarian situation through Action by Churches Together International, The full text of the statement can be found at:

Win Without War, a coalition of religious and secular organizations, released a statement saying it remained steadfastly opposed to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive attack and the reckless use of military power.

"Win Without War supports our men and women in uniform. We hope and pray for their safe return as we hope and pray for the innocent men, women and children of Iraq. We are deeply concerned that, according to United Nations and U.S.-based relief organizations, the United States is woefully unprepared for what could easily become a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq."

The Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries' campaign "Christian Women Pray for Peace from Advent to Easter" has generated more than 10,000 prayers for peace. Women have been asked to write a prayer for peace on a postcard and send it to the board. On Easter weekend, the Women's Division plans a demonstration for peace and will deliver the postcards to the White House

Joyce D. Sohl, Women's Division deputy general secretary, said the organization "will pray for peace for those we support and our enemies."

"War affects all people," she said. "It affects the leaders of countries; military personnel; people around the world; and women, children and youth, who are the first to suffer in times of war, oppression and dispossession."

More information on the Prayer for Peace campaign can be found on the Women's Division web site at

"At this time we grieve for those who are having to endure additional sufferings," said the Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, the relief arm of the NCC.

"I encourage all people of faith to uphold in thought and prayer the people of Iraq, all those persons serving in the armed forces, and the leaders of our nation, so that they may be guided by the wisdom of God and by a true commitment to peace with justice, as embodied by Christ."

The board of directors for Church World Service issued a statement during its winter meeting in support of the people of Iraq.

"Church World Service has for many years had an established ongoing partnership in providing humanitarian service to the people of Iraq, and is acutely aware of the tremendous deprivation and oppression that the Iraqi people have suffered over many years. We will continue our commitment and presence; therefore, our humanitarian services should not be seen as acquiescence to the war. We will respond on the basis of human need, working through our established partners in the region, including the Middle East Council of Churches.

"We are profoundly saddened by the recourse to war. This is not a moment for triumphalism, but for humility and repentance. … The people of Iraq must be given hope that there are alternatives to both dictatorship and war."

Bishops of four Methodist denominations issued a call for peace in a message to President Bush during a meeting on reconciliation, war and peace, education and the future.

"War is not the only option," the bishops wrote in a March 13 letter. The 46 bishops at the 8th Consultation of Pan-Methodist Bishops called on Bush to "use restraint" and allow the United Nations inspectors to continue their work of finding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The bishops represent the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal and United Methodist churches, which have a total of 15 million members worldwide.

A United Methodist Church cable television commercial offering a message of hope, healing and comfort to a world focused on war in Iraq will begin airing tonight on CNN.

The 30-second commercial will also begin airing soon on MSNBC, Fox News and CNN Headline News cable networks, said the Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications, the denomination's communications agency.

The wartime commercial comes as the denomination was prepared to begin its regularly scheduled national Lenten advertising campaign.

Hollon said United Methodist Communications has allocated $150,000 to air the message. The decision to move forward with the commercial mirrors the approach the church took to communicating with the nation and the world following the 9/11 tragedies in 2001, he said.

Readers of "Words of Comfort" on the United Methodist Church's Upper Room Web site ( are reminded of God's words in Isaiah 43:1-2, 4.

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you."

# # #

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.

Back : News Archives 2003 Main

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add to your list of approved senders.