President Bush's church decries injustice and war in Iraq
Ninety-six bishops of the church that until recently claimed the allegiance of President George W Bush have signed a forceful statement repenting 'of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.'
The signatories include more than half of the United Methodist Church's active and retired bishops, both within the United States and in the Central Conferences outside the United States.
Bishop Kenneth Carder, one of the signers, told the United Methodist News Service this weekend that the statement had been nearly six weeks in preparation.
President Bush, who has claimed that God told him to invade both Iraq and Afghanistan, famously refused to meet with bishops or leaders from his own denomination in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2003 Iraq military action.
Instead he courted the pro-war opinion of allies on the religious right. He now attends an Episcopal Church, though ECUSA has also been critical of the Iraq venture, along with most mainstream denominations.
The UMC bishops' statement confesses 'our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated.'
True security does not lie in the weapons of war, the bishops point out. They commit themselves to praying daily for the end of war in Iraq and all wars in general, reclaiming the idea of living 'faithfully in the light of God's new creation' and pledging to peacemaking as an 'integral component of our own Christian discipleship.'
The bishops also called upon United Methodists to object to 'solutions of war that conflict with the gospel message of self-emptying love" and to work towards 'unity in a world of diversity.'
The days ago the Council of Bishops adopted a resolution calling on President George Bush to draw up a plan and timeline for withdrawing all US forces from Iraq. Another statement on Iraq had been issued by the council a year and a half earlier.
In the Resolution on the War in Iraq, the bishops noted that 'peacemaking is a sacred calling of the Lord Jesus Christ,' and that the denomination's Book of Discipline declares war 'incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ.'
The resolution stated that 'the continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially children, and the increasing death toll among United States and coalition military, grieves the heart of God.'
The bishops said the US government's reasons for war - 'the presumption of weapons of mass destruction and alleged connection between al-Qaida and Iraq' - have not been verified, and that the violence in Iraq has created a context for 'gross violations of human rights of prisoners of war.'
In October 2005, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society passed a resolution calling on the United States to withdraw its troops from
Iraq. 'As people of faith, we raise our voice in protest against the tragedy of the unjust war in Iraq,' the resolution stated.
It continued: 'We urge the United States government to develop and implement a plan for the withdrawal of its troops. The US invasion has set in motion a sequence of events which may plunge Iraq into civil war.'
[Also on Ekklesia: US church leaders reject torture; the forgotten church of Iraq (a briefing); Bishops call for post-9/11 rethink on force and freedom; Of bishops, bombs and ballast (feature); TV producer defends claims about God, Bush and Iraq; UK Christian peer calls for Iraq helicopters to aid quake zone Muslims; impact of US Iraq policy on Christians]