The Christian Methodist Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 2                                                            Spring 2003

The World Situation

                In response to an article in the North Carolina Christian Advocate entitled "Bishop Talbert questions war in TV spot" I am glad that the title was phrased that way. Since he questions the war, I would like to take the opportunity to provide him answers. First of all, may I offer the information that I am retired from the Army, having served the highest levels of the Army in both the enlisted and officer ranks? Secondly, I have studied, lived, and worked in the field of international relations for over forty years. Third, I speak four languages and have, at times, operated in all them. The last major action in which I was involved was Operation Desert Storm which, as you know, was in the Persian Gulf.

            At that time I served in the XVIII Airborne Corps. When I deployed to Saudi Arabia for staging in support of Desert Storm, I had been the Youth Coordinator at Camp Ground United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, NC. As the lay person in charge of the youth program, I interacted with the teenagers on a regular basis and got to know them really well. During the 1991 war itself, at one point I happened to encounter two Kuwaiti women and a teenage girl who looked to be about thirteen. It was one of those moments when time seemed to stand still. I just looked into the face of the girl; she looked exactly like one of my favorite kids in the youth group back home - Sarah Wolfe. We just looked at each other: I at her dark eyes, her glasses, and the hint of a mischievous little smile so typical of Sarah; she looked up at me, just staring into my face. This was not just any girl; this was Sarah - my Sarah. The moment passed and we went on. Combat is very unpredictable, but I knew that if it had ever come down to fighting to protect that little girl, the Iraqis would have had to kill me before I would let them harm her.

            And that is exactly what we were doing there - fighting to free a country that had experienced the brutality of the rape, torture, and killing of innocent children, women, and men. They were not faceless people but individuals; each one was a "Sarah" or a "Bobby" who wanted to live his life in peace and safety.

            The same situation exists today, except that we have more confirmation of the nature of the actions inside of Iraq itself. Yet, it seems as if there has been a good deal of rhetoric without examining the facts in the case. Church officials have been energetic in trying to prevent our country's going to war and then after it commenced, they have been active in opposing it. The United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society called for peace less than 24 hours after President Bush declared the "early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq" were under way.(!) On March 26th UM Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, and both Jim Winkler and Linda Bales of the UM Board of Church and Society were arrested near the White House during a demonstration against the war with Iraq.(2) Then on March 27th  Bishop Sprague and the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss the war in Iraq.(3) Why are they doing this? Why is there such a refusal to look at the involvement of Saddam Hussein with the September 11th attack on our country, participation in the international terrorist network, and the atrocities in his own country?

            The reality is - we are now at war. We need to be mindful of the effects that our actions have overseas, especially how they will put the lives of the men and women in danger who are currently serving in harm's way: to the extent that denominational officials create dissension against our government, they will increase the danger faced by our soldiers. This is so divisive to our country. In addition we need to be aware of the fact that what the leaders and bishops of our United Methodist Church say and do reflects on our denomination and gives the appearance that they are speaking for all of us.

            Instead I would ask that you examine the information contained in this copy of The Christian Methodist Newsletter, think about it, and pray:

...for President Bush, that the Lord will speak clearly to him as to what He would have the President do.

...for the protection of our armed forces, for the men and women placed in harm's way. Specifically, I would ask you to             "pray God's hedge of protection around them against any physical harm" and to pray Psalm 91 for our soldiers.

...that America would be protected from terrorist attacks.

...that all of the Iraqis would come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - and the peace that only He can provide.

            I ask you - please pray.

                                                                                                                                                - Allen O. Morris

- (1) The United Methodist News Service (UMNS); Washington, DC; 10-21-71BI{164} March 21, 2003.

- (2) UMNS; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-21-71BP(178} March 27, 2003.

- (3) UMNS; New York; 10-21-71BPI(183} March 28, 2003.



Commentary: Just cause exists for action against Iraq A UMNS Commentary By the Rev. Donald Sensing*

Methodists are rightly concerned about the Iraq problem, but so far our denomination has shed more heat than light on the issue. The United Methodist Church is neither officially nor historically pacifist. Our Social Principles denounce war, but acknowledge that when peaceful alternatives fail, armed force may be necessary. We all wish for a world where force would never be needed. We all hope for it. But serious reasoning, not wishful thinking, is our duty in these perilous times. Wishes are not plans, and hope is not a method. Sojourners magazine editor Jim Wallis wrote this month, "For nonviolence to be credible, it must answer the questions that violence purports to answer, but in a better way. I oppose a widening war that bombs more people and countries, recruiting even more terrorists and fueling an unending cycle of violence. But those who oppose bombing must have an alternative."

     Simply using religious language and claiming divine authority is not offering a credible alternative. Just saying "Jesus" and "love" and "peace" is not a plan. The Bush administration's claims about Saddam's rule of terror and the threat his regime poses to world peace deserve our sober consideration of what they are and our understanding of what they mean.

     Many details are not pleasant. They are often technical. "Connecting the dots" is often frustrating. Interdisciplinary expertise and strategic vision - not just theological education - are required by religious leaders now. If we wish our voices to be heeded, they must be worth listening to. Saddam's regime threatens American lives and the peace of the entire Middle East.

     The Bush administration and the U.N. inspectors have provided conclusive proof of Iraq's programs to develop mass-destructive weapons and its extensive efforts to conceal them - efforts that continue to this day. There is solid evidence of Iraq's links to transnational terrorists. Saddam's regime is brutally repressive of its own people. Whether the status quo with Iraq constitutes a cause for war should be debated. That the status quo should continue cannot be faithfully maintained. The question is not whether Saddam's regime must be ended and the Iraqi people freed; the question We pray that open war may yet be avoided. But to fail to act effectively to accomplish the just end is to make oneself an accomplice of injustice and ally oneself with murderous oppression.

     The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops has twice commended President Bush for his diplomacy. He has worked with the Congress, the United Nations, NATO and the European Union to resolve this crisis. There has been no "rush to war."

     Iraq has defied 17 U.N. resolutions over 12 years. In 1998, President Clinton withdrew the UN weapons inspectors so he could bomb Iraq. President Bush insisted they return to confirm that Iraq has disarmed as the United Nations requires.

     Therefore, last November the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously that Iraq should be given a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under (existing) relevant resolutions of the council." Note: The United Nations placed the burden of proof and the onus of compliance on Iraq, not on the inspectors or the United States. Yet every report to the United Nations by the inspectors details more lies and deceit from Saddam's regime. U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix said he does not need more inspectors and does not want them, nor is there insufficient time for inspections....The problem, he said, is that Iraq is not cooperating and is not complying with the United Nations' ultimatum.

     Every nation in the world, except Iraq, agrees that Iraq must disarm. The desired outcome of the crisis is not in question. The only question now is that of means: how shall Iraq be disarmed? If Iraq does comply, fully and quickly, open war will be avoided; if not, the last peaceful means to resolve the crisis will have been exhausted. If military action against Iraq comes, it will be neither pre-emptive nor unilateral. America has been legally and actually at war with Iraq since 1991 with varying intensity. President Clinton struck Iraq repeatedly, claiming 1991's resolution authorizing force never expired. America has the announced support of 35 nations (19 European) against Iraq if such action comes.

     A key fact is being overlooked in today's debate. The choice is not really between peace and war. We have not been at peace with Iraq since 1991, and Saddam wages war upon his own people every day. The issue is not beginning a war, but how long the present war will continue. Absent Iraqi compliance, the choice is between brief, controlled warfare imminently or the continued suffering of the Iraqi people, the continued absence of peace and almost certainly a truly terrible war later.

     President Kennedy's words during the Cuban missile crisis still apply: "We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security... The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. ... Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, but now further action is required. ... The greatest danger of all would be to do nothing."

Sadly, Saddam's cruelties toward Iraqis are barely noticed by religious leaders. Iraqi exile Rania Kashi wrote, "Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years. Are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis? Out of a population of 20 million, 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their country during Saddam's reign. Are you willing to ignore the real and present danger that caused so many people to leave their homes and families?" So far, our denomination is answering, "Yes."

     Reasoning about war, wrote Catholic theologian George Weigel, is not to "set a series of hurdles that statesmen must overcome before the resort to armed force is given moral sanction." The first consideration is "the moral obligation of government to pursue national security and world order." Just cause exists for decisive action against Iraq, exhaustively documented in the public record. Just intention has been stated by the administration: halting Iraq's weapons programs, creating conditions for Iraqi democracy, freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam's murderous regime.

There have been many strident, uninformed people claiming that war with Iraq will kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. One man told me recently, and incorrectly, that we will "flatten Baghdad." War is violent, let no one doubt. But at no time in history has the just-war tenet of discrimination and proportionality been more achievable than it is today by American forces. If war comes, our forces will strive to end the issue quickly, with minimum death and destruction, abiding by international conventions and the U.S. Law of Land Warfare.

     Liberation theologian James Cone wrote that in opposing oppression, the choice for Christians is not between violence and nonviolence because violence is already present. Christians must decide whether violence to overcome the oppression is a greater evil than the violence of the oppression itself.

     "Of course it would be ideal if an invasion could be undertaken ... by the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force," wrote Ms. Kashi. "That such a force does not exist - cannot exist - in today's world is a failing of the very people who do not want America to invade Iraq, yet are willing to let thousands of Iraqis die in order to gain the higher moral ground."

     Shall we fret over our personal piety while Saddam murders his own people?

     I believe that America may justifiably use force to resolve the crisis. Let everyone decide this question prayerfully, trusting as theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer did that grace will ultimately abound. And let us agree to be united in desiring God's will to inform the decisions and actions of every national leader. Let us pray for God's wisdom to prevail and God's justice to be obtained. Let us give thanks that God is one who, in times and places he chooses, can indeed break the bow and shatter the spear asunder (Ps 46).

*Sensing is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tenn, and is also a retired Army artillery officer.

                                                - The Rev. Donald Sensing; UMNS; Nashville, Tenn. 10-21-71BPI{093}; Feb. 20, 2003.



* Anti-War Ad Claims Attack on Iraq Would 'Violate God's Law'. Networks Refuse to Run Commercial

By Jim Brown and Fred Jackson                                                                                                                        January 31, 2003

(AgapePress) - A report says CNN, Fox, and NBC are refusing to run a series of anti-war ads sponsored by the National Council of Churches (NCC). A liberal United Methodist bishop is featured in the new anti-war ad airing this weekend. In the 30-second spot, Bishop Melvin Talbert claims the United States has no right to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Talbert appears in the commercial with Hollywood liberal Jeneane Garafalo, and claims U.S. military action against Iraq "violates God's law and the teachings of Jesus Christ."

     Conservatives have denounced such charges. They say rather than the Bible, the real source of the NCC's philosophy is worldly humanist thinking that refuses to recognize that there is good and evil in the world. The NCC has a long history of representing the liberal left of the religious community. So the fact that their ads denounce the Bush Administration's threat of war against Iraq is not all that surprising. The Council had hoped to run their ads on major cable and broadcast outlets like CNN and NBC. But according to The Washington Post <>, the networks turned them down because of their controversial content. The ads will run, however, in some local TV markets across the country.

     Bishop Talbert [had] recently visited with Iraqi government officials in Baghdad and called on the U.S. to negotiate with Saddam Hussein.               



 Methodist Bishops' Anti-War Stance Inappropriate, Tooley Says A conservative Protestant leader says United Methodist bishops have got it all wrong when it comes to their stance on Iraq -- and that he is disgusted with them for gathering in Washington to protest possible military action against the Middle Eastern nation.The group of United Methodist bishops met recently in the nation's capital to protest possible military action to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher <>, the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, has even gone so far as to say war against Iraq would be "going against the very grain of our understanding of the gospel" and that a pre-emptive strike "does not reflect restraint."

     Mark Tooley with the Institute on Religion and Democracy <> says such rhetoric -- like that from Bishop Christopher -- does not reflect the views of local, mainstream Methodists. "People of good will can disagree or agree whether or not the U.S. should take military action to depose Saddam Hussein," Tooley says, "but I think that the vast majority of Methodists would think it's inappropriate that these bishops, purporting to speak for our church, were protesting to the president, then against his policies." Tooley says for the past 40 years, Methodist bishops have been making far-left political statements that are completely out of step with true Christianity. The anti-war bishops, he says, could find better ways to spend their time."Perhaps these bishops, rather than critiquing President Bush's policies, ought to look to one of their own and make some attempt to enforce or uphold Christian doctrine within the Methodist Council of Bishops," he says. Tooley says the bishops opposing military action against Iraq have little expertise on war and the Middle East, and therefore have no mandate to make such statements. Among the protesters was Joseph Sprague, a controversial bishop from Chicago who has openly rejected the virgin birth and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.[Note: We agree with Mr. Tooley. We have no confidence in these political perspectives of UM officials. This is being presented since it is timely.]  - Oct. 22, 2002; from Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy



+ Now more than ever men and women in harm’s way in the Persian Gulf. 80,000 have asked us to “adopt” them in prayer. Now, as we may be only hours away from the beginning of the war, will you “adopt” a military member in prayer? Please do so online right now.                - Source: Presidential Prayer Team.



+ Group Says Church Leaders do Not Represent People in the Pews on Iraq War delegations

 Fairfax, VA - According to leaders of the Association of Church Renewal (ACR), church statements opposing war with Iraq do not represent the views of most members of those churches. The ACR is an ecumenical association of mainline church organizations committed to advocating orthodox Christian teaching and practice in their respective denominations.  "This is not a new phenomenon," said James Heidinger of Good News, a magazine dedicated to renewal in the United Methodist Church. "Most church elites do not consult the members of the church before issuing such statements, largely because elites know that their opinions are not representative."  A recent Gallup poll confirmed this observation, noting that opinion among Christians about possible war with Iraq tracks closely with national opinion. In fact, 60% of those who found religion to be "very important" in their lives supported military action against Iraq. Only 49% of those who found religion to be "not very important" in their lives supported war with Iraq. Of all Americans, 59% support military action.  Parker Williamson, editor of the Presbyterian Layman, said, "The simple fact is that in this issue - as is the case with many others wherein denominational officials purport to speak for their constituencies - ecclesiastical bureaucrats are making statements that most of their members would disavow. Reverends Clifton Kirkpatrick (Presbyterian), Frank Griswold (Episcopal), Melvin Talbert (United Methodist) and their associates are not leaders. They are moving in lockstep, marching to the cadence of the National Council of Churches, an organization that has scant credibility among Protestant Christians in the United States." Heidinger had strong words for the National Council of Churches (NCC), which has sent anti-war delegations to France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Great Britain. A spokesperson for the NCC delegation to France said his group represented "the official position of the National Council of Churches--with 50 million members in 36 denominations--and the Roman Catholic Church, with nearly 64 million U.S. members," implying that they spoke for over 110 million American churchgoers. "It's ludicrous for the NCC to claim such a thing," Heidinger said. "It is simply untrue. American Christians, while certainly not eager for war, are still largely in support of the President's policy."  Williamson commented that this was a particularly egregious example of misrepresentation by the NCC. "The NCC claim is false. They know that there is a variety of opinions on this issue. Lying to the people of France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Britain about the opinion of Christians in the United States misleads the European public, undermines honest debate and, in the end, discredits the ecumenical movement which these fraudulently purport to represent.

- Source:


National Council of Churches (NCC). NCC's Edgar holds to belief that war can be averted

     Even as a U.S.-led military action against Iraq appear[ed] imminent to most Americans, the Rev. Bob Edgar holds steadfast to his belief that war can be averted. Edgar says he is troubled by "George Bush's arrogance." The president, he says, seems to believe that "God is not only on his side, but God is not on anyone else's side. I am frustrated with Bush's rhetoric, when it's so clear that he is blinded by the complexity (of the issues) and captured by the simplicity of his own arguments. [Note: It is interesting that Edgar imputes characteristics onto President Bush that we have often perceived among the leadership of the NCC. It is important to realize that the President and his military advisors have access to more information of a classified ("Secret" "Top Secret" etc.) nature that is not available to the general public and can provide a more detailed, accurate picture of the threat; they are in a much better position to assess the situation and the need for action. We must understand and respect that reality. Again, I speak from having had access to this type of data during the first Persian Gulf War and remember how it was so instructive of events that were happening unknown to the public. I've "been there; done that" and respect the President's greater base of information in this. Many of the people at the NCC simply do not have the experience to speak with a depth of insight about these issues. -Allen O. Morris]

                                                                                                - Ann Whiting; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BP{142}; March 17, 2003



(UM) Bishops.  Bishop joins signers in letter to Blair

United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert is a signer of "A Letter From Concerned Americans" to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that appeared March 18 in British newspapers. The letter, placed as a full-page advertisement in The London Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent, asks Blair to find "a third way" to resolve the situation in Iraq, rather than war or inaction. [This publicly taking a position in overseas publications against our own government (as the other advocacy in appealing to foreign governments against our own)  is so divisive to our country and puts our troops fighting in Iraq in greater danger. - Allen Morris]

                                                                                                                - UMNS; New York; 10-21-71B{144}; March 18, 2003.



Iraq Itself

     We are cognizant of the atrocities Saddam Hussein has committed against his own people, not to mention the approximately 5,000 people who have died each month as a result of starvation because the "food for peace" was diverted away from them. We remember what happened when he invaded Kuwait, the rape, killing, and the torture of innocent men, women, and children. We have seen the pictures of the civilian men, women, and children who have been gassed at his order. We know about the human meat grinders and the vats of acid, and try to forget about the children who are tortured and killed in front of their parents.

     This is information that is available from public and unclassified sources. But to understand what is happening, we need to read and analyze this data. In considering just the public information available, our denominational leaders need to objectively review this so as to answer their questions.

     There is absolutely no question that the criteria for the "Just War Theory" have been met, in addition to the violations of the U.N. resolutions, which would allow us to go into combat with a clear Christian conscience. It is sometimes necessary to go to war and take lives in order to prevent an evil from gaining power and causing the loss of even more lives through our inaction.

     Bishop Talbert and some of our other UM leaders need to understand that sometimes evil exists in the world and needs to be dealt with; not to do so is to see it increase its deadly consequences as we can see from the history of World War II.

     I thank him for raising the question about the war in  the North Carolina Christian Advocate. It is one that all of us need to ask - and answer with good, objective information and reasoning.                                                             - Allen O. Morris



                Concerned Methodists is a "Renewal" organization consisting of men and women literally from "coast to coast" working within the United Methodist Church for revival. We believe that this would be accomplished by greater biblical faithfulness to the denomination's Wesleyan heritage and by drawing from its Judeo-Christian ethic which extends back for over 3500 years.

                We believe that all members of the laity need to be as fully informed as possible. A knowledgeable, aware, assertive membership is as vital to renewal as is an open, responsive, Bible-based clergy. We have found that the laity are often uninformed of what is happening across our United Methodist Church.



Published by: Concerned Methodists, P. O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302. Tel.: (910) 488-4379; FAX: (901) 488-5090