- WASHINGTON -- Ninety-five
bishops from President Bush's church said Thursday they repent their "complicity"
in the "unjust and immoral" invasion and occupation of Iraq.
- "In the face of the United States administration's
rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of
us were silent," said a statement of conscience signed by more than
half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide.
Methodist Church');>United Methodist Church, according to various published
biographies. The White House did not return a request for comment on the
- Although United Methodist leadership has opposed the
Iraq war in the past, this is the first time that individual bishops have
confessed to a personal failure to publicly challenge the buildup to the
- The signatures were also an instrument for retired bishops
to make their views known, said bishop Joseph H. Yeakel, who served in
the Baltimore-Washington area from 1984 to 1996. The current bishop for
R. Schol, also signed the statement.
- The statement avoids making accusations, said retired
Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, instructor at Duke University's divinity school
and an author of the document.
- "We would have made the statement regardless of
who the president was. It was not meant to be either partisan or to single
out any one person," Carder said. "It was the recognition that
we are all part of the decision and we are all part of a democratic society.
We all bear responsibility."
- Stith, who spent more than three years after his retirement
working in East Africa -- including with Rwandan refugees -- said going
2001, attacks did not solve the real problems behind them.
- The real issues are that much of the world lives in poverty,
desperation and depression, he said, while an affluent minority of the
world often oppresses them. Americans need to take responsibility for their
world, Stith said.
- "To ignore things and to assume that persons in
the government have all knowledge is to reject our franchise and our democracy,"
- About six weeks ago, Carder discussed the idea of a public
statement with other colleagues who "had concerns" about the
war, and the idea just grew, Carder said.
- Last week, the statement circulated during a biannual
meeting of the Council of Bishops, "and before the week was out, we
had 95 bishops," Carder said.
- In their statement, the bishops pledged to pray daily
for the end of the war, for its American and Iraqi victims and for American
leaders to find "truth, humility and policies of peace through justice."
- "We confess our preoccupation with institutional
enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to
Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly
suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated,"
the statement said.
- Some bishops declined to sign their names, although they
supported the statement, Carder said.
- This week's statement follows years of public opposition
to the Iraq war by the church.
Bishops');>Council of Bishops passed a resolution that "lamented
the continued warfare" and asked the U.S. government to seek international
help to rebuild Iraq. The church's women's division called for an end to
the war in 2002. And in 2001, the church's head of social policy, Jim Winkler,
said the push for war was "without any justification according to
the teachings of Christ," according to a report by The (London) Observer.
- Public approval of the war has steadily declined since
the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003. At the time, seven of 10
Americans said the U.S. did the right thing. By this October, only four
of 10 Americans did, according to CBS polls.
- About 11 million people belong to the United Methodist
Church, including 200,000 in the Baltimore-Washington area.
- Carder and Stith said they hoped their statement would
encourage more people to think about peacemaking.
- "The only solution seems to be to stay the course.
But if you're on the wrong course, you don't stay the course," Carder
said. "At the heart of the Christian faith is the willingness to acknowledge