Moderate and Liberal Christians Urge Bush to Push for MidEast Peace

Dozens of Christian leaders from mostly moderate to left-leaning denominations signed onto a letter, urging President Bush to rededicate himself to the establishment of Middle East Peace, January 21, 2005. The letter, posted as a full-page ad in today’s national edition of The New York Times, was spearheaded by the ecumenical “Churches for Middle East Peace” group, and was designed to be an “inaugural letter” to the newly re-elected President.

“As leaders of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches and Christian organizations with millions of members across the country, we encourage you to lead a political process that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.,” the letter began. “As you begin your second term, the vision of a two-state solution is coming back into focus after having faded into obscurity.”

Many of the signatories, including National Council of Churches USA General Secretary Robert Edgar, has not been shy in the past in criticizing the evangelical President on many occasions. From issues stretching from the war in Iraq to the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, the bulk of the signers expressed certain displeasure with the Bush administration’s handling of foreign affairs.

Today’s open letter was much more gracious in its appeal for peace than were past letters written by some of the signers.

“For the sake of our own country as well, Mr. President, we appeal to you. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a threat to the people of the United States,” the letter read. “The continuing conflict has also resulted in suffering and loss of life among Israeli citizens. We want Israelis, too, to live without fear or threat in their own country”

Taking note of the overall theme in President Bush’s reelection campaign, the leaders urged Bush to “defeat terror” by “maintaining the faith, the courage and the resolve” to work with others in implementing the Road-map to peace.

“A hallmark of your campaign was the commitment to defeat terror and make our country more secure. We believe that the promise of peace in Jerusalem is the best defense against terrorism. We encourage you to maintain the faith, the courage and the resolve to work with other world leaders toward
negotiations that guarantee two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side and sharing Jerusalem as their capital,” the letter wrote.

The letter concluded with an advice to follow in the footsteps of the biblical prophets.
“Finally, Mr. President, we urge you to follow the examples of the great prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, who declared that God calls all nations and all people to do justice to one another. We join you in praying for peace in the Holy Land and at home,” the letter read.

Meanwhile, an 11-member group, led by the NCC’s President, Christian Methodist Episcopal Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr and Edgar, left on January 21 to the Middle East to press “their conviction that governments and people of faith must seize the opportunity presented by recent developments - for example, election of new Palestinian leadership and Israeli government movement on the settlement issue - to get the Middle East peace process back on track.” Some of the 11-member group signed onto the Jan. 21 letter.

Among the signers are the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, and these top leaders of NCC member churches: Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Metropolitan Philip Saliba of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America; the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church in America; the Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, Alliance of Baptists; the Rev. Wm. Chris Hobgood, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Also, Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop, Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church; the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA); the Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches; A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches (U.S.A.); Dr. Robert E. Sawyer, Moravian Church Southern Province; the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ.

To read the full text of the letter and to see the full list of the signers, visit: www.cmep.org