United Methodist Bishops Renew Opposition to Iraq War

WASHINGTON – With the death toll of U.S. troops climbing past 2,000 in Iraq, bishops of the United Methodist Church called on President George Bush to draw a timeline to withdraw U.S. troops and urged nations around the world to develop a plan to help rebuild Iraq and other Middle East nations.

United Methodist bishops, meeting at their annual fall meeting in Lake Junalaska, N.C., last week, passed the resolution on the Iraq war during the council’s final session. The “Resolution on the War in Iraq,” which largely criticizes the way President Bush – a United Methodist – has handled the war, is an update on a similar statement issued in May 2004.

“The continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially children, and the increasing death toll among United States and coalition military, grieves the heart of God,” the resolution states.

In the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline – the denomination’s constitution – two things are deemed “incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ:” war and homosexual practices. And while many United Methodists serve in the military, the denomination has largely stood by its constitutional opposition to war since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003.

Bishop Charlene Kammerer of Virginia – whose son, Chris, is serving the Navy in the Persian Gulf – shared the pain she feels of “totally loving and supporting your child in the military and at the same time faithfully challenging the policies of the United States government.”

"Our son has absolutely no problem with our stance," said Kammerer, according to the United Methodist News Service. “He has been formed and shaped by the United Methodist Church. We are very proud of him for his service, and yet he and many, many, many others in the military are questioning why we are there. I cannot do anything but support this resolution as a parent of Chris."

The resolution has several key parts, including a call to pray for military personnel and their families and a swift end to the violence. It also calls on the president to “immediately draw up and present to the Congress and the American people a plan and timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq” and calls on the United Nations to appoint an envoy to encourage peace talks and explore a political settlement. The resolution also encourages nations in the Middle East to take part in developing their region and United Methodists to advocate for “public policies that promote peace, justice and reconciliation among all nations."

No bishop voted in opposition to the resolution, though some abstained from voting. The council, with offices in Washington, comprises the top clergy leaders of the nearly 11 million-member United Methodist Church in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia.