National Lutheran News

ELCA presiding bishop calls church to Iraq war deliberation

Mark Hanson says congregations can contribute “moral voice”

Saying that Lutheran Christians have a vocation to strive for peace and justice because of their baptism into Christ, the presiding bishop of the nation’s largest Lutheran faith community has called members of his denomination to help shape the discussion about what to do about Iraq.

The Rev. Mark Hanson sent a pastoral letter on January 26 to all congregations in the 4.8 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In it he said church members should engage in the current national policy debate “with intentionality, seriousness and vigor.”

Hanson called on Lutherans to draw on “the best insights from our faith, our theology, our experience and our intellect” to engage one another and elected officials.
The bishop urged ELCA members to engage in prayer and moral deliberation, “especially in light of the escalation of violence, the growing casualties on all sides in the war in Iraq, and the urgency to seek peace.”

Hanson suggested a discussion including:

* How do we respond to [the] reality of terrorism without letting terrorism become the all-consuming reality?

* How can we reaffirm our witness that all people are created by God and share a unity far deeper than our divisions?

* How can we stay informed about the cost and casualties of this war for all affected, including the Iraqis, while continuing our strong and prayerful support for U.S. military, civilian personnel, and their families?

* What time frame and method should be used both to lessen significantly or to end U.S. military presence in Iraq?

* What opportunities do the present circumstances provide to enable the international diplomatic community to pursue regional diplomatic initiatives?

* How has our involvement in the war affected how the U.S. government and we, its citizens, are perceived globally?
n How can we as Lutherans become better informed about other faith traditions, especially Islam and Judaism?

Hanson called church members to listen to and to respect the views of others. He quoted an ELCA social statement on peace, which declares that, in matters related to war, “we face conflicting moral claims and agonizing dilemmas.”

Hanson called church members to pray for peace and to live as peacemakers.