|Church leaders urge pulling troops from Iraq
Sept. 22, 2006
Bishop Susan Morrison
By Mark Schoeff Jr.*
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — United Methodist Church leaders helped launch a week
of protest and civil disobedience against the war in Iraq by signing a declaration
of peace urging President Bush to pull U.S. troops out of the country.
The Declaration of Peace, signed Sept. 21, is
described as a call for nonviolent action to end the war in Iraq. The Washington
was one of 350 that will
be staged nationwide to promote the peace initiative. The declaration calls
for people to “engage in peaceful protests” if there is not a plan
for troop withdrawal established and begun by Sept. 21, days before Congress
adjourns for the fall elections.
More than 500 groups, almost half of them faith
organizations, are involved in the declaration of peace effort, which recently
said includes “acts of moral witness to seek a new course for our country.”
By signing the peace document in front of the White House, the United Methodists
and other protesters hoped not only to make a statement but also to influence
congressional races in November by forcing candidates to outline where they
stand on the war.
Speakers at the Washington rally, which drew about 100 people to Lafayette
Square, castigated Bush, accusing him of lying about Iraq possessing weapons
of mass destruction and launching what they called an illegal offensive.
“Our demand as a movement is to end the war now,” said
Morrison, recently retired episcopal leader of the Troy Annual (regional)
The declaration calls the situation in Iraq “the U.S. war in Iraq” and
describes it as “an endless fire consuming lives, resources and the fragile
possibilities of peace.”
Thirty-four protesters, attempting to deliver
the peace statement to Bush in an act of civil disobedience, were arrested
conduct. None of the United Methodist protesters participated in that portion
of the day’s activity.
The Declaration of Peace initiative provides a
way for the faithful to vent their anger about Iraq, Morrison said. “There are a lot of frustrated
United Methodists out there who don’t know where to channel it,” she
United Methodist clergywomen attending the recent
2006 International Clergywomen’s
Consultation in Chicago signed the declaration to “call to end this war” and
made a commitment to take action to translate the call into a concrete plan
Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist
Board of Church and Society, said that protesting the war is similar to the
church’s work to promote
other social movements. The church took prophetic positions on civil rights,
women’s rights and nuclear disarmament before Congress acted, he noted.
“It has taken time for Congress to catch up,” Winkler said. “We
may be seeing another example of that.”
Staff members of the denomination’s social advocacy agency have been
meeting with congressional staff members on a weekly basis regarding policy
toward Iraq. Political leaders on Capitol Hill have been divided on the Bush
administration’s policy, with some calling for a timetable for withdrawal
and others urging a staying of the course.
“You see more and more Republicans who are uncomfortable with the position
of ‘stay the course,’” said Mark Harrison, director of the
board’s Peace with Justice program.
But the White House asserts that Iraq would collapse if U.S. troops leave
prematurely, potentially leading to a full-blown civil war.
United Methodist leaders argue that the long insurgency in Iraq, which has
resulted in the deaths of thousands Americans and Iraqis, is proof that U.S.
involvement is misguided.
“Iraq is in a civil war right now because we’re there,” Winkler
Morrison agreed. “We just exacerbate what’s going on.” She
disputed critics who say that war protesters undermine U.S. troops and sap
“We care deeply about the troops,” she said. “We’re
proud of their commitment. We want them safe. We want them home.”
Within individual United Methodist congregations, however, members may not
agree with the way the anti-war movement is articulating its opposition.
Differences of opinion must be respected, said the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior
minister of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Such divisions have
come up throughout Christian history.
“It’s part of our discernment process of truth,” he said. “But
that does not change the fact that church leaders are put in positions of prophetic
*Schoeff is a freelance writer in the Washington area and a staff writer at
Workforce Management magazine.
Antiwar Push Starts Near White House; 34 Arrested
Clergywomen sign peace declaration, call for end to Iraq war
A Wesleyan Attitude Toward War
Declaration of Peace
General Board of Church and Society