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National Council of Churches deplores Syrian chemical attack

National Council of Churches deplores Syrian chemical attack

The National Council of Churches (The Episcopal Church is a member) has issued a statement about Syria:

National Council of Churches deplores Syrian chemical attack, and urges President Obama to use restraint in military response

Washington, August 30, 2013 – As the United States considers a military response to the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syria, the National Council of Churches has issued the following statement:

1. In any political dispute, we deplore the use of military solutions. Since its founding in 1950 in the wake of World War II and at the beginning of the Korean War, the NCC has declared its conviction that war is always contrary to the will of God.

2. We particularly deplore the horrendous violence unleashed by both sides in the Syria civil war that has resulted in a dismaying loss of life and property, and has placed severe burdens on the entire region as thousands of refugees seek safety outside the borders of Syria.

3. In particular, we condemn the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syria that has killed and maimed thousands of innocent children, women, and men. This senseless, evil act is horrifying, even against the background of the unspeakable carnage each side has already wrought against the other. All who have been responsible for this chemical attack, from the President of Syria to the soldiers following orders to unleash the attack, must search their consciences and ask God for forgiveness and for the courage to refuse to participate in future attacks.

4. We welcome the resolve of President Obama and other leaders to stop future chemical attacks against an innocent populace. However, we are deeply skeptical that U.S. military action against Syria will prevent future attacks. Indeed, we fear such action may have consequences beyond U.S. planning and control, including more death and widespread destruction.

5. We acknowledge the courage of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said the United Kingdom will not participate in punitive attacks on Syria because of the clearly stated opposition of the British people and the House of Commons. We call on President Obama to listen carefully to similar debates in the U.S. Congress and among the U.S. public.

6. We urge President Obama to use restraint in deciding upon military solutions, and to renew his efforts to build a political coalition within the United Nations to continue to isolate the Syrian government from the family of nations and place irresistible moral and economic pressure on Syria to refrain from the use of chemical weapons against innocent people.

7. We call on all persons of faith to pray for all leaders who are faced with the terrible decisions of war, including the President of the United States whose clear intention is to protect the innocent.

The Episcopal Church is a member of the National Council of Churches.

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) unequivocally opposes a military strike against Syria.

Other links about the situation:

This chart explains the complicated relationships in the Middle East.

Here are 9 questions about Syria you were afraid to ask.

Wondering what to pray? From the Book of Common Prayer:

4. For Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn

but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the

strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that

all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of

Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and

glory, now and for ever. Amen.

5. For Peace Among the Nations

Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the

world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among

them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they

may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


28. In Times of Conflict

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,

in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront

one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work

together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus

Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Donna Hicks

Jim’s comment about TEC policy makes some sense here about why there’s been no statement.

And while this may not be on the HoB agenda, Bishop Suheil Dawani is a guest and his remit extends to Syria.

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network Facebook page has posted a number of statements from church leaders and faith-based groups on the ground about Syria and will be featuring these in its weekly email PINontheGo which goes out on Thursday.

Donna Hicks

Jim’s comment about TEC policy makes some sense here about why there’s been no statement.

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network Facebook page has posted a number of statements from church leaders and faith-based groups on the ground about Syria and will be featuring these in its weekly email PINontheGo which goes out on Thursday.


Thanks, Jim!

Bill Dilworth

Jim Naughton

Here’s Presiding Bishop Ed Browning during the lead up to the war in Kuwait:

And here is PB Frank Griswold in the lead up to the war in Iraq:

I don’t think the situation in Syria is as easy to parse as either of these situations.

Here is Bishop Griswold to the bishops of the church in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan:

On that occasion he wrote: “Listening to the reports yesterday, and the various news analyses, I thought again of our discussions at our September meeting on how we inhabit multiple realities, and must make room for the inevitable ambiguities of complex situations. In particular, I thought that at this moment there are those who are very clear that the military strikes are the appropriate course. And, on the other hand there are those who believe that such military actions only fan the flames of terrorism and expose innocent people to harm. My hope is that those who believe the strikes are the proper course will not see those who disagree as unpatriotic, and that those who think military action is unwise will not see those of the other view as war-mongering or simply seeking revenge.”

The HoB meets in two or three weeks. I don’t think this was on the original agenda, but perhaps that will change.

Jim Naughton

Bill, I don’t think the fact that there is a Democrat in the White House is what is at work here. The situation is morally complex and has emerged only recently. Neither General Convention nor Executive Council has spoken on a similar issue in the past, which means that the Office of Government Relations really can’t say much. The Presiding Bishop could speak on her own authority, as could any bishop (or for that matter, priest or lay person in the church). It is possible that some of our leaders don’t feel that they understand the situation well enough to be confident in whatever opinion they might offer.

For what it is worth, I found a GC resolution condemning the war in Iraq but no similar resolution on Afghanistan.

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