From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] American church leaders take their message

Date 20 Feb 2003 08:32:50 -0500

Note #7597 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

American church leaders take their message
of peace to Downing Street
February 20, 2003

American church leaders take their message
of peace to Downing Street

PC(USA)'s Kirkpatrick among those talking to British Prime Minister Blair

Anne van Staveren
Press Officer
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

LONDON - United States Christian leaders came to London this week (Feb.
17-18) to convey a message of widespread opposition to war with Iraq. They
believe there are other ways of solving the issue of Iraq's non-compliance
with United Nations resolutions over weapons of mass destruction. 
They spent fifty minutes with Prime Minister Tony Blair, met British Church
leaders, and attended a religious service for peace and justice. The
Presbyterian Church (USA) was represented at the talks by General Assembly
stated clerk the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick.
The visit by the ecumenical delegation was the third of five urgent meetings
with European leaders to encourage a peaceful response to war with Iraq. The
delegation, organized by the U.S. National Council of Churches (NCCCUSA) in
New York, also traveled to Berlin, Paris and Moscow and Rome. Jim Wallis,
editor of Sojourners, said: "It is a last minute plea, in the name of peace,
to seek a resolution for the current crisis with Iraq by means other than
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)has facilitated the visit. On
Feb. 17 the delegates met British Church leaders. A "Service of Praise,
Penitence and Prayer for Peace" at St John's Church was led by the Rev. Peter
Price, Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells.
Severe snowstorms in Washington grounded flights so Wallis and Bishop John
Chane, Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC missed the service. Instead,
Wallis sent a message, which was read to the congregation by CTBI General
Secretary Dr David Goodbourn, in which he said: "American church leaders have
come to London this week literally on a mission of peace. We've come so that
we might join together with you our brothers and sisters in the British
churches, who have been so very clear and strong in opposing the rush to war.
We want the British people to know, that the leaders of the American churches
do not support a war with Iraq. In fact, never before in our history, have
the American churches been so united for peace.
"American church leaders agree that the threat of Saddam Hussein is very real
and that Iraq must be disarmed, but we also believe that the unintended and
unpredictable consequences of war could be catastrophic. American and British
leaders have reminded the world of how terrible Saddam is, but the churches
must remind the world about the realities of war.
"We are pressing our governments to persevere in disarming Iraq without war.
We will offer our prayers for Tony Blair as he bears the heavy burden of
these momentous decisions."
On Feb. 18 the delegates had a private meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair
and also met Clare Short, Secretary for State for International Development.
Following their meeting, Wallis said the Prime Minister had listened to them
cordially and they had said that they believed Britain is in a unique
position to influence the decision about War with Iraq, more than any other
country in the world. "Our prayer is that we stop this war before it starts,"
they had said.
Bishop Melvin Talbert, Ecumenical Officer, Council of United Methodist
Bishops had traveled to Iraq in January and had shared with the Prime
Minister his particular concern for the innocent people of Iraq.
Kirkpatrick said the delegates explored with the Prime Minister a number of
alternative approaches including working through the United Nations to
empower the people of Iraq, strengthening the process of weapons inspections,
dealing deeply with the Palestine question, building global policy which
addresses the gap between rich and poor, and building inter faith relations.
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and
Syria, said the road to peace in Iraq lay through Jerusalem. And he warned
that "war, if it comes, will be catastrophic for the faithful remnant of
Christians in the birthplace of our faith."

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