From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Bishop meets with Rumsfeld, seeks reissue of church paper
Thu, 19 Dec 2002 15:14:28 -0600
Dec. 19, 2002 News media contact: Joretta Purdue7(202)
NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photograph of Bishop Felton Edwin May is
By Erik Alsgaard*
WASHINGTON (UMNS) - After a meeting with top Defense Department officials, a
United Methodist bishop is urging the denomination to revitalize its earlier
pastoral letter, "In Defense of Creation."
Washington Area Bishop Felton Edwin May participated in a discussion group at
the Pentagon Dec. 18. Topics included Afghanistan, terrorism and a possible
war with Iraq.
Invited by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the small group of about a
dozen religious leaders gathered for two hours at the Pentagon. Others in the
group included Chuck Colson, an evangelical leader in prison ministries; the
Most Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; and
Clarence Newsome, dean of Howard University School of Divinity in Washington.
"I am convinced, more than ever after this meeting, that the United Methodist
Church needs to revisit and restudy the document 'In Defense of Creation,'"
May said. "This document is our church's gift to the world for peace. In it,
you'll find a careful implementation and interpretation of the just war
"In Defense of Creation" was a pastoral letter from the Council of Bishops,
published in 1986. The letter and related study guide were the denomination's
response to the threat of nuclear war. The materials, available from
Cokesbury for several years, are now out of print. Soon after the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, May urged the council to look anew at the text and
insert the words "terrorism" or "terrorists" for "nuclear war" throughout.
The two-hour Pentagon meeting began with a discussion of relief efforts and
reconstruction in Afghanistan. May raised the question of whether the drug
cartel in that country was the de facto government. Department of Defense
officials said that was a significant problem.
"The market for drugs produced in Afghanistan is Europe and the United
States," May said. "Unless we're willing to deal with the whole thing, any
relief or reconstruction we do in Afghanistan may go for nothing."
The bishop also mentioned the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty and lack of
education in Africa and other countries. "Until these issues are addressed,"
he said, "we'll perpetually generate more terrorists."
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz gave a brief report to the group
regarding the war on terrorism and the situation with Iraq. Rumsfeld joined
the group for the last 10 minutes of the meeting, after being at the White
House all morning.
"It was fascinating to be with people who are carving out policy that affects
the lives of literally millions of people," May said. "The meeting caused me
to urge United Methodists to rediscover who we are, to begin to articulate
our position on war, and to look seriously again at 'In Defense of
# # #
*Alsgaard is managing editor of UMConnection, the newspaper of the
United Methodist News Service
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