US religious leaders want to meet Bush face-to-face to warn about war

February 3, 2003

Forty-six US religious leaders have urged caution about a US war with Iraq and are seeking a face-to-face meeting with President George W. Bush to press their case.

'War is not only--or even primarily--a military matter,' the Protestant and Orthodox leaders said in a January 30 letter to the president, who in recent weeks has argued that there may be a need for war with Iraq if its leader, Saddam Hussein, refuses to fully disarm his country. 'It is a moral and ethical matter of the highest order,' said the signatories, who came from 11 denominations and four organizations.

Acknowledging their activities 'to slow the rush to war and our continuing uneasiness about the moral justification for war on Iraq,' the leaders said they wanted, 'with the utmost urgency,' to meet with Bush, a member of the United Methodist Church, and to have a 'pastoral opportunity' to bring their message to him in person. The leaders said they were seeking 'a way toward peace that is both prophetic and practical.'

In their letter, the leaders said they were in touch with their counterparts 'in Europe and elsewhere around the globe.' Christian leaders from all over the world in recent months have warned against war with Iraq.

The letter, circulated by Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches who is a former US Democratic congressman, is one of a series of public pronouncements in recent weeks by mainstream Protestant leaders urging a cautious approach toward Iraq.

Edgar returned from a visit to Iraq after Christmas and urged Bush 'to slow this rush to war.' The US administration had not yet made the case for war with Iraq, Edgar said then. In announcing the current letter, Edgar said he and other church leaders have 'become all the more alarmed as US military activity keeps escalating.' He said: 'We want to meet with the president before he decides to go to war with Iraq.'

Besides Edgar, signatories to the letter included Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Richard Hamm, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Archbishop Dimitrios, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; and Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

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