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Bishops' president urges Bush to use restraint with Iraq

2/6/2003

NOTE: Both letters released by Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher are reproduced in their entirety at the end of this story. A photograph of the bishop is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html.

By United Methodist News Service

The president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops has written to President George W. Bush, a fellow church member, urging him to seek "every opportunity to disarm Iraq without resorting to war."

Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher released two letters Feb. 6, one to Bush, addressing the crisis with Iraq, and the other to 9.8 million United Methodists around the world, encouraging them to join in prayer.

In her letter to Bush, Christopher said that as "the president of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church and, therefore, one of your pastors, I write to you, a fellow United Methodist, because of the awesome burden that rests on your shoulders in these days."

"The human community stands at an intersection of decision that will shape its common life and international relations for years to come," she said. "In your hands rests in large part the path we will follow.

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of peace," the bishop continued. "It calls us to transcend political ideology and national interests to act on behalf of the welfare of the whole human family."

She commended Bush for his "careful work within the processes of the United Nations" and urged him "to stay the course, seeking every opportunity to disarm Iraq without resorting to war and looking for every peaceful way of protecting the world and our nation against the tyranny manifest around the globe."

Saddam Hussein's tyranny has been demonstrated, Christopher said. "He must be held accountable."

At the same time, Christopher asks the president to consider the potential suffering and loss of life among the military personnel and the men, women and children of Iraq.

"I beseech you to listen to the voice of hundreds of thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries who demonstrate for peace and ask your utmost restraint," she said.

Her letter to United Methodists throughout the world explains that the Council of Bishops feels called by faith in the Prince of Peace and by the denomination's highest legislative body to "speak to the church and from the church to the world."

"The Council of Bishops urges you to join us in prayer," she wrote. "World-shaping and life-shaping decisions will be made in the coming days and weeks that require God's guidance."

Both of Bishop Christopher's letters follow:

February 6, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush,

As the president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church and, therefore, one of your pastors, I write to you, a fellow United Methodist, because of the awesome burden that rests on your shoulders in these days. The human community stands at an intersection of decision that will shape its common life and international relations for years to come. In your hands rests in large part the path we will follow. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of peace. It calls us to transcend political ideology and national interests to act on behalf of the welfare of the whole human family.

President Saddam Hussein has the world on edge. The lack of forthcoming evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and President Hussein's resistance to complete cooperation with the inspectors of the United Nations, as indicated by the inspectors' report last week and Secretary of State Colin Powell's address yesterday, raise suspicion of the highest order. President Hussein's tyranny has been demonstrated. He must be held accountable.

Military personnel now stand on the front line, willing to give their lives. They personally bear the cost of the decision of war. I thank you, Mr. President, for your words of care for the Armed Forces. I beseech you to listen to the voice of hundreds of thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries who demonstrate for peace and ask your utmost restraint.

President Bush, I commend you for your careful work within the processes of the United Nations. I compliment you for presenting the U.N. Security Council with additional U.S. intelligence about Iraq's weapons program. I urge you to stay the course, seeking every opportunity to disarm Iraq without resorting to war and looking for every peaceful way of protecting the world and our nation against the tyranny manifest around the globe.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, made up of voices from Europe, Africa, the Philippines, and the United States, has heard the voices of the men, women, and children of Iraq who suffer daily from the effects of U.N. sanctions. Their present misery will fade against the innocent bloodshed to come in the event of war.

We pray that every possible means to prevent war will be pursued in the coming days. This is not a moment for haste but rather for deep thoughtfulness and prayer. It is a moment to reflect upon the well-spoken concerns of our allies around the world. The welfare of our human family depends on it.

The Council of Bishops holds you before God in prayer in this time of decision.

In the name of the Prince of Peace,
Sharon A. Brown Christopher

cc: The people called United Methodist
The United States Congress

Dear United Methodists around the world,

Once again the Council of Bishops in prayer has been called to speak a Gospel word. This time it is spoken directly to the president of the United States, President George W. Bush. We do so again out of the mandates of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to "speak to the church and from the church to the world."

We commend President Bush for his decision to work within the processes of the United Nations. He has done what we asked of him in October, 2002. Now, for the well-being of the innocent citizens of Iraq and the faithful U.S. military personnel and their families, we urge him to continue to work with the United Nations and to seek out every possible peaceful means to deter the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The attached letter speaks for itself.

The Council of Bishops urges you to join us in prayer. World-shaping and life-shaping decisions will be made in the coming days and weeks that require God's guidance.

In the name of the Prince of Peace,
Sharon A. Brown Christopher

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