From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Resist temptation to vengeance in wake of attacks, say U.S. church
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
12 Sep 2001 16:38:48 -0400
Note #6833 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
Resist temptation to vengeance in wake of attacks, say U.S. church leaders
by Laurie Spurr
Ecumenical News International
GENEVA - While U.S. officials started a hunt for the culprits of yesterday's
brutal attacks in New York and Washington, leaders of churches in the United
States appealed to their members and to national leaders to show restraint
and wisdom in the days ahead.
"We all will be tempted to surrender to our rage, to seek vengeance and to
be consumed by bitterness," said the leader of the United Church of Christ
(UCC), asking church members nonetheless to "resist the impulse to respond
to violence with violence."
"This is a time of testing for our souls," John H. Thomas, general minister
and president of the UCC, said in a statement issued from Germany, where he
was visiting European partner churches.
Hijacked planes yesterday crashed into New York's 110-story World Trade
Center towers and near the Pentagon, the defense department's headquarters
in Washington D.C., in what U.S. President George W. Bush today called "acts
of war." A fourth hijacked plane also crashed - in a Pennsylvania field -
killing all the passengers on board.
President Bush said the US would spend "whatever it takes" for recovery
efforts and to protect national security, the Associated Press reported.
The collapse of the World Trade Center, where some 50,000 people work, and
part of the Pentagon, sent as-yet unconfirmed numbers of people to their
deaths. "We are talking about the possibility of [the deaths of] thousands
of people," predicted New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Reuters reported
Several national leaders have likened yesterday's attacks to the surprise
strikes against Pearl Harbor in 1941 that pushed the U.S. into the Second
But responding to yesterday's violence, Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of
the Episcopal (Anglican) Church, said in a statement that the church was
"called to another way."
"Many are speaking of revenge," the presiding bishop said. "Never has it
been clearer to me than in this moment that people of faith, in virtue of
the Gospel and the mission of the Church, are called to be about peace and
the transformation of the human heart, beginning with our own. I am not
immune to emotions of rage and revenge, but I know that acting on them only
perpetuates the very violence I pray will be dissipated and overcome."
After an address to the nation by President Bush, former President Bill
Clinton made a plea for people in the U.S. to remain calm and to support
"We must send a clear and unambiguous message to the world that the people
of America are completely 100 percent united and we're going to follow our
leaders and support whatever action he takes," Clinton said, according to
However, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has
urged a cautious approach. "As Christians, it is important that we behave
responsibly at this time and not act harshly," said George Anderson, ELCA
In a pastoral letter, officials of the Presbyterian Church (USA) addressed
the "horrendous decisions" that U.S. leaders were facing in the aftermath of
"As they seek to find effective and appropriate responses to this terror,
it is our prayer that these responses may contribute to a future of peace
and not serve in any way to escalate the cycle of violence and
counter-violence to a higher level," said the Rev. Jack Rogers, PCUSA
moderator, and the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the general
assembly in the letter, which was also signed by General Assembly Council
executive director John Detterick.
"Further, we call our leaders and all people of good will to resist the
stereotyping of enemies that so often occurs in these types of situations."
Various interfaith councils that group Muslims and Jews as well as
Christians have also called on the public not to resort to ethnic prejudice.
Remembering the "threats, harassment and incidents of violence" suffered by
Muslims after the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma
City, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington issued a
statement reminding the public that all religions "teach the sanctity of
The conference - which includes members of the Baha'i, Hindu-Jain, Islamic,
Jewish, Latter-day Saints, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Sikh faiths - has
scheduled a public prayer service at Washington's Islamic Center on
Thursday, Sept. 13.
While a spirit of despondency has swept over the U.S., "people are bonding
together," said Chris Herlinger, ENI's US correspondent and public
information officer for the Emergency Response Program of Church World
Service, the National Council of Churches aid agency in New York that is
responding to the disaster.
"Yesterday the mood at New York's Interchurch Center - home of a number of
national and local ecumenical offices, including the National Council of
Churches and the CWS - was sheer daze. People were stunned," Herlinger said.
"New Yorkers are resourceful people and there will be a lot of determination
in the weeks ahead. But the mood in the city right now is still somber. The
subways are quiet; you can see the sadness in people's faces."
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