Soon after delegates to the Church of Scotland's general assembly gathered on 15 May they were urged to support a resolution that calls on Britain and the United States to preserve peace in the Middle East and to take no further action that could lead to an invasion of Iran - writes Trevor Grundy.
The meeting, which runs until 21 May, has begun in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, a city highlighted in tourism brochures as one of the world's beautiful cities. The Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church are the two largest denominations in Scotland.
"We will strongly urge the British government to do everything in its power to discourage the American government from undertaking any form of military strike against Iran," Morag Mylne, convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Scottish Presbyterian church, told Ecumenical News International.
"And if the Americans ignore that advice, then Britain must make clear its strong opposition for such a move, either by the USA as a strike or by Israel as a pre-emptive move against Iran," she added.
In recent years, the assembly has heard debate on the explosive situation in the Middle East.
"The CSC motion will be controversial and timely," said the Rev. David Sinclair, secretary of the council. "In the past we have discussed Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Israel and Iraq. This year it will be the turn of Iran, one of the most important and powerful countries in the Middle East." Sinclair arranged for speakers from London's Royal Institute for International Affairs to brief committee members on the nuances and intricacies of Iran's history and present-day politics.
"Although the CSC views Iran's production of enriched uranium as a serious concern, the prospect of an American military action against Iran, or a pre-emptive strike by Israel, would be solutions that could prove worse than the original problem in terms of regional instability and loss of life in the Middle East," said Mylne. She added that the Church of Scotland "strongly opposed" the US and British-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan have a special significance in Scotland as more Scottish troops are involved in combat operations than at any time since the Second World War, Scotland's Herald newspaper reported on 5 May. While Scots make up about 10 percent of the personnel in the British Army and 8 percent of Britain's population, Scottish troops have sustained 16 percent of the combat fatalities, according to defence ministry figures cited by the newspaper.
Asked if the Church of Scotland had any influence over Britain's Scottish-born prime minister, Gordon Brown, Mylne said: "Christians shouldn't automatically expect to be heard by politicians but the Church of Scotland is Gordon Brown's home church. But I'm not saying we have any kind of special relationship with him, though he is a 'son of the manse' [a pastor's residence]." Brown's father was an ordained minister.
The Rev David Lunan will be appointed the next moderator of the Church of Scotland. He replaces the Rev Sheilagh Kesting, the first ordained woman to hold the post, who stepped down on 15 May after a year in office, the normal period of office for moderators of the church.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]