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Though council members had talked informally with each other about a response to the rising tensions with Iraq earlier this year, efforts to draft a statement didn't get underway until an October dinner hosted by Persell and his wife Nancy at their home. Those conversations continued through email exchanges, culminating in a day-long retreat November 26 where the leaders composed a letter to President Bush. For Bishop Timothy Lyne, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the galvanizing force has been the rapport and trust shared among the leaders.
'We have different ways of thinking about many things, but the men and women who are part of this organization have a unique ability to talk to each other honestly because we trust each other,' he said.
Given the diversity of organizations on the council -- besides most mainstream Protestant and Catholic denominations, members include the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the Council of Islamic Organizations, several Baptist conventions, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, the Salvation Army, and the Unitarian Church -- the letter should catch the eye, and perhaps the heart, of the nation's leaders, said Rabbi Ira Youdovin of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.
'This demonstrates that opposition to a war at this time transcends denominational boundaries. It transcends ideological boundaries,' said Youdovin. 'It unites people who may disagree on many things, but we agree that this is an important issue and something that our country dare not do at this time.'
Later this week, after other religious leaders have had a chance to read the letter and add their names to it, the letter will be mailed to the White House.