From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Ham is unapologetic about provocative sermon

Date 29 May 2003 22:01:26 -0400

Note #7776 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Ham is unapologetic about provocative sermon

Ham is unapologetic about provocative sermon

by Bill Lancaster

DENVER, May 28 - The Rev. Carlos Emilio Ham, a minister in the Reformed
Church of Cuba who for the past two and a half years has been program
executive for evangelism for the World Council of Churches, said during a
press conference Wednesday that preaching a "pure gospel" without social
implications is not faithful to the kingdom of God.
	Ham had caused a stir with the sermon he preached earlier, during the
Ecumenical Worship Service of the 215th General Assembly, in which he roundly
condemned the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq waged recently by the United
States and Great Britain.

	"First of all, I was preaching the gospel," he said. "I preached what
I read in the Bible."

	"We tend to preach what I would call a 'pure gospel,' without having
a social expression," he said. "That is not faithful to the teachings of the
kingdom of God and Jesus. For instance, in Matthew 4:23 it says Jesus went
throughout Galilee, which was the region of the marginalized and outcast,
preaching in the synagogues of the Jews, preaching the good news of the
kingdom, and healing every disease.

	"When you preach a gospel that is consistent with the kingdom of God,
the gospel of justice," he continued, "many times you tend to receive this
criticism. It is interesting that I haven't found yet anyone criticizing the
President of this country, when he uses the content of the Bible precisely to
develop a war against Iraq. That's what I was trying to say. We have to be
very careful when we use the gospel for a political agenda, especially if you
want to legitimize a policy."

	Ham said he agrees that Saddam's reign in Iraq had to end. He pointed
out that the Iraqi leader himself used God for political purposes and
asserted that God was on his side.

	"If we want to be consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, it has
a political meaning of liberation and social justice," he insisted.

	Ham also said in the sermon and at the news conference later that he
came to the United States last October as part of a WCC delegation visiting
PC(USA) headquarters in Louisville.

	"A senior officer of the PC(USA) said the Presbyterian Church in the
USA is afraid to lift up its voice against the war in Iraq," Ham said. "The
war hadn't started yet, but we had been in this struggle for a long time. And
I was amazed, because I know that this is a country of freedom. And I know
the PC(USA) is a church with a strong prophetic voice. And to hear this from
a leader of this church, I said, 'Something is wrong here. How is it

	"He (the Presbyterian official) told me the church is afraid if we
lift our voice; the church is afraid of being accused, first, of not being a
good Christian, because we are not following the western Christian values
that our President is preaching; but secondly, of being a church that is
against our nation, because the President is also using the values of our
nation to develop a war against Iraq."
	Asked about Ham's assertion, a spokesperson for the Office of the
General Assembly said that, when Ham was in Louisville in October, the United
Nations Security Council was at an impasse. After the impasse cleared, he
said, the church took a stand against the war and sent a pastoral letter
explaining its position to all PC(USA) churches and governing bodies.

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