From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Presiding Bishop: Commit to Prayer, Deliberation, Peace

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Fri, 14 Feb 2003 15:49:45 -0600


February 14, 2003


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In a Feb. 13 e-mail message to professional
leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the
ELCA presiding bishop said he is greatly troubled by the situation
between the governments of the United States and Iraq and the
possibility of war.  The Rev. Mark S. Hanson asked church leaders to
be "united in our commitment to pray, to engage in public
deliberation and to work for peace."
     Hanson, who writes and distributes e-mail messages to the
church's leaders periodically, told the church's leaders his current
message is intended to support them as they lead their congregations
and communities.
     "I am writing to you because of my deep concern about the grave
possibility of imminent war facing not only our nation, but also the
human family," Hanson's message said. "As I listen to the voices of
pastors throughout the ELCA, I realize we are struggling with how to
exercise the pastoral, priestly and prophetic dimensions of our call
at such a time."
     Quoting from the Lutheran Book of Worship, Hanson said he is
aware that the baptismal vocation calls us to "serve all people,
following the example of our Lord Jesus, and to strive for justice
and peace in all the earth."
     "As weapons inspectors continue their work, the United Nations
debates next steps, the Iraqi people suffer and our government moves
closer to war, we must not abdicate our responsibility both to pray
for peace and to engage in public conversation regarding what is a
just response that might lead to peace," Hanson urged.
     Hanson said his message is not intended to minimize the
"complexity" of the current situation.	He cited the combination of
the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, the possible use of
weapons of mass destruction, "immense" U.S. military strength and an
already unstable Middle East as examples.
     "That is precisely why we need broad-based conversations in
which we articulate our convictions and are willing to challenge and
be challenged by others," Hanson said.
     "War should never become a military response severed from its moral
dimensions. As people of faith, we will always be asking hard ethical
questions regarding the reasons for war and the conduct and
consequences of it. No, I do not expect the members of the ELCA to be
of one mind regarding these questions."
     The ELCA social statement, "For Peace in God's World," is an
important resource for church members to use in response to this
crisis, Hanson said.  "It affirms that, as the baptized people of
God, we share with the Church of Jesus Christ in all times and places
the calling to be peacemakers. It also affirms that, as people of
faith, we begin with a strong presumption against all war," he said.
     "We must ask hard questions about the causes, activities, and
consequences of this [possible] war," Hanson continued. "The
statement also affirms that as a church we are committed to
denouncing beliefs and actions that find ultimate security in weapons
and warfare, and that despair of any possibility for peace."
     Hanson also noted that For Peace in God's World shows the ELCA
supports "thevocation of men and women in the military who in
conscience directly face the ambiguities of relative evils, and who may
suffer and die to defend their neighbor."  At the same time, "we strongly
support efforts to develop the potential of nonviolence to bring about just
and peaceful change ... and we provide pastoral support of those in
conscience who undertake nonviolent action for peace," Hanson added.
     Hanson said he has received many messages from churches
throughout the world, Lutheran and non-Lutheran. One response came
from Lutherans in Japan, he said.
     "It included a petition with 283 names, testifying to their
experience of war. They want us to know of their prayers and solidarity
for all efforts to achieve peace," Hanson said. "They also put challenging
questions to us, which we have an obligation to consider, about whether
it is too late to find a peaceful solution to this crisis, about the
humanitarian consequences of war on the people of Iraq, and about the
destabilizing effects of war within the region and throughout the world."
     "As people of faith, let us not grow weary in our diligent
prayer, our moral deliberations, and our baptismal calling to work
for peace. Let us continue to hold each other and our ministries
in our daily prayers," Hanson concluded.
     The complete text of Hanson's e-mail message is at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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