From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC pastoral letter to US churches urges discernment in response to
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
Fri, 21 Sep 2001 18:01:26 +0000 (UTC)
Note #6860 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
WCC pastoral letter to US churches urges discernment in response to attacks
GENEVA - World Council of Churches general secretary Konrad Raiser sent a
pastoral letter to member churches in the United States Thursday, expressing
continued ecumenical support and sympathy in the wake of the attacks on New
York and Washington, DC, and urging discernment and encouraging faithfulness
in local, national and international responses.
The letter also shares the WCC Executive Committee's recommendation to send
a delegation of church leaders from around the world to the US as "'living
letters' of compassion, and to engage with you in a common reflection about
how we can shape a shared witness to the world in a time of such great
The full text of the letter:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in our One Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In the brief message I sent you on behalf of the Executive Committee of the
World Council of Churches on that tragic morning of Sept. 11, I assured you
of the prayers of your sister churches around the world. That was an
affirmation of faith. Now you have had the evidence of those prayers in an
almost unprecedented flood of messages of compassion, love and solidarity
from churches in East, West, North and South.
This expression of unity in such a time of trial gives flesh to the words
Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth: "Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who
comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those
who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are
comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so
through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. Our hope for you is
unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also
share in our comfort" ( II Cor. 1:3?7).
As I write to you now, ten days after the tragedy, the words in the
Revelation to John addressed to the angel of the church in Ephesus also come
to mind. "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know
you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have
not grown weary" (Rev. 2:2?7).
In these days, you have sought to respond in faith to many contradictory
voices. Some plead for a form of justice that would name the evil and
identify those responsible and bring them to trial in appropriate courts of
law. Others, however, want decisive military action to show the will of the
nation to avenge its losses and deny victory to its enemies. Very many share
the deep apprehension you have heard from churches abroad about the prospect
of the United States striking out again with its uncontested military might.
They fear that this would result in an ever?rising spiral of retributive
violence and the loss of ever more lives.
Words of condemnation and the language of "war" come so quickly to the
fore. Blame is easily assigned to "the enemy." These are reinforced by the
images and messages streaming across all our television screens, wherever we
live. It is far more difficult to regard ourselves in the mirror of such
hatred, and to have the courage to recognize how deeply violence is rooted
within ourselves, our communities and even our churches. These are lessons
we are all trying to learn in the Decade to Overcome Violence.
Among those who have contributed to the remarkable outpouring of sympathy
with the U.S.A. have been other communities of faith. They share both your
sufferings and your fears. Partly in response to this, but also out of your
own sense of justice, you have reached out to those communities in your own
nation and with them have spoken out clearly against threats or open acts of
violence against Muslims and Arab Americans. This powerful witness must be
heard both at home and abroad. No one should be allowed to forget that in
the places often mentioned as primary targets of military retaliation,
Muslims, Christians, and people of other faiths live side by side. Minority
Christian communities and those majority communities with whom their lives
are shared stand to suffer severely at the hands of religious extremists if
the "Christian" West strikes out yet again.
People in your country and around the world have gathered together during
this past week in sanctuaries of the churches for silent reflection, and to
invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit, who stands beside us in our time of
need and journeys with us through the valley of the shadow of death. In
these safe spaces, Christians and others have sought to discern the deeper
meaning of such thoughtless acts and the suffering they have inflicted. This
is indeed a time for quiet discernment of the "signs of the times," for
courage and wisdom, and to pray for God's guidance. As the prophet Isaiah
says: "In quietness and trust shall be your strength" (Is. 30:15).
The message to the church in Ephesus goes on, however: "But I have this
against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember
then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first."
The United States was one of the early architects of the United Nations and
was once among the strongest advocates for the international rule of law. In
recent times, however, it has repeatedly ignored its international
obligations and declared its intention to ignore the rest of the world in
pursuit of its own perceived self?interests. This it does to its own and the
The events of Sept. 11 have again reminded all nations that all are
vulnerable and that the only true security is common security. The United
States, so often accused, has now been the beneficiary of the sympathy and
solidarity of the whole world. It could respond in kind and with humility by
reversing its course now and rejoining the global community in a common
pursuit of justice for all. It could set aside its reliance on military
might at whatever cost and invest in efforts to find non?violent solutions
to conflicts generated by poverty, mistrust, greed and intolerance.
As the writer of the Book of Revelation says, "He who has an ear, let him
hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
It is one of the chief marks of the ecumenical movement that the churches
understand Jesus' prayer that they all might be one, as he is one with the
Father. They are being called to practice mutual love and to extend this
love even to the enemy, to become, as our familiar hymn puts it, "one great
fellowship of love in all the whole wide earth." No one can live alone,
separated from the wider fellowship, for we share one humanity. When one
hurts, all suffer together.
As an expression of that fellowship, the WCC Executive Committee has
expressed its desire to send to you a delegation of church leaders from
around the world as "living letters" of compassion, and to engage with you
in a common reflection about how we can shape a shared witness to the world
in a time of such great need. I hope that you will welcome and open your
hearts to them as they will to you.
I reassure you again of our constant prayers, our love and our appreciation
for your ministries of consolation and of prophetic vision. May God bless,
guide and continue to strengthen you.
For help managing your Ecunet membership, write to firstname.lastname@example.org,
with HELP in the subject line.
Send your response to this article to email@example.com
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send an 'unsubscribe' request to
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .