US Christian Leaders Apologize to Assembly
Plenary on Violence, Poverty, and Ecology
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epresentatives of the US Conference for the World Council of Churches (WCC) addressed a message to the WCC's 9th Assembly on 18 February saying that the US-led Iraq war was a "mistake," and apologized to the ecumenical community for failing to raise a prophetic voice to prevent it.
The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, moderator of the US Conference for the WCC, made up of 34 US churches that are members of the Council, told a 9th Assembly plenary, "We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched with deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights."
Speaking at a press conference earlier, Kishkovsky said the delegation was making the statement to the ecumenical community to "show repentance and solidarity with those who suffered."
President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US, Rev. Michael Livingstone, referred to solidarity shown with the US over the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, saying, "In a number of ecumenical settings, we were deeply moved by post 9/11 visits, where we were offered sympathy over the tragic loss of life."
Nevertheless, the statement says, the US responded to the attacks "by seeking to reclaim a privileged and secure place in the world, raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbours.
"Our leaders turned a deaf ear to the voices of church leaders throughout our nation and the world, entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of our own national interests. Nations have been demonized and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."
Presented in the form of a prayer of repentance, the message continues, "We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to call our nation to global responsibility for creation, that we ourselves are complicit in a culture of consumption that diminishes the earth. Christ, have mercy."
The statement says that while global warming goes on unchecked, the US refuses to acknowledge its responsibility and rejects multilateral agreements aimed at reversing disastrous trends.
It says, "Starvation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the treatable diseases that go untreated indict us, revealing the grim features of global economic injustice we have too often failed to acknowledge or confront."
"Hurricane Katrina," it continues, "revealed to the world those left behind in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract. As a nation we have refused to confront the racism that infects our policies around the world."
Rev. Dr Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, who supported the statement, said, "This letter is not an attempt to undermine American troops. They are brave men and women who are our sons and daughters and our neighbours. But here we gather with Christians around the world, and meet the parents of other sons and daughters."
Visibly moved, she said, "We come face-to-face with brothers and sisters who suffered because of choices our government made, and we are making the statement to acknowledge solidarity with the suffering."
The statement itself affirms, "We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war; we acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name."
Explaining the timing of the statement, Rev. John Thomas, president of United Church of Christ, said, "An emerging theme in conversation with our partners around the world is that the US is being perceived as a dangerous nation."
He said that the Assembly was "a unique opportunity to make this statement to all our colleagues" in the ecumenical movement. The statement says, "We come to you seeking to be partners in the search for unity and justice."
Thomas acknowledged that not all church members would agree with the thrust of the statement, but said it was their responsibility as leaders to "speak a prophetic and pastoral word as we believe God is offering it to us."
Cardinal Kasper: Roman Catholics Committed to Ecumenism
BY WCC STAFF
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has stressed the "irreversible" commitment of the Roman Catholic Church to ecumenism.
According to Cardinal Walter Kasper, who spoke to journalists at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Church had not become a member of the WCC for structural reasons as the Roman Catholic Church was a universal rather than a local body, but it worked with the Council "with no rivalry or competition, but in friendly collaboration."
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had reaffirmed the Second Vatican Council's ecumenical emphasis, he said. "We can do a lot together in this intermediate situation," he added, instancing the 16 bilateral dialogues in which the Roman Catholic Church was involved.
Cardinal Kasper, an ecumenist of wide experience, referred to changes in the ecumenical scene caused by the growth of pentecostalism and the forces of secularization.
The growth of new pentecostal and evangelical churches, he said, was "challenging." "With classical Pentecostals, we have good dialogues. With these new churches, it is very difficult, because they have no central organization.
"A dialogue of everyday life is possible, but a theological dialogue is not, because they have no unified theology and are often very aggressive. The neo-pentecostal movement is evolving, and we don't see what will be at the end of this development." Their growth, he said, posed questions for Roman Catholics about the effectiveness of their pastoral care and the attractiveness of their worship.
The cardinal faced questions about tensions caused by different churches' attitudes to homosexuality. "This is a new phenomenon, because in the past all Christian churches took the same position," he said. "This causes division between churches, and within churches. The principles of the Church are very clear, but there are anthropological problems which we have to discuss and solve." The Roman Catholic Church, he stressed, was "against every kind of discrimination."