A NEWS RELEASE
From the Office of the Bishop
Winnipeg, February 6, 2003 (ELCIC) -- “We need to understand that war, even in those very rare moments that make the use of force tragically necessary, is the failure of politics and a consequence of our human sinfulness,” said the Rev. Raymond L. Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), in a message to members of the ELCIC released earlier this week.
He reaffirmed his support for a message from 16 Canadian church leaders, including himself, to Prime Minister Chretien in September is which they called upon the Prime Minister “to resist the pressure to support the use of military force to invade Iraq and pursue instead more actively diplomatic negotiations.”
“Lutherans have not historically been pacifists,” Bishop Schultz reminded his church. “We understand that in the face of the disorder that results because of human sin, there are occasions when the chaos and destructive forces of this world must be restrained in order to protect the innocent. However, this is not such a moment.”
“Peace building is not utopian but rather willingness to work for peace and justice through the social, political and economic institutions of our world,” he said.
He urged his members to become part of the political process by writing letters to Members of Parliament, expressing their views and by endorsing the ecumenical statement undertaken by the Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission for Justice and Peace, Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiative, and Project Ploughshares.
Both the ELCIC and the Anglican Church of Canada reaction to calls for war against Iraq will be one of the topics of conversation during a discussion between The Most Rev. Michael G. Peers, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Rev. Raymond L. Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
Their discussions are open to the press and will be moderated by Michael McAteer, a Toronto-based freelance journalist who served as Religion Editor for The Toronto Star for 12 years. The discussion takes place on Friday, February 7, at 1:00 p.m. at the ELCIC’s National Office in Portage Place, 302-393 Portage Ave.
The event is part of preparations that are being made for the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) which will be held in Winnipeg, July 21 to 31. About 1,500 people from around the world are expected to participate, including about 100 journalists. (Background on the Assembly can be found at www.lwf-assembly.org)
The discussion on Iraq will be part of an exploration of the LWF Assembly’s theme “For the Healing of the World.” The two church leaders will be identifying some situations where healing is needed at both the national level and the international level.
Here is the full text of Bishop Schultz’s message.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
These are perilous days for the human family. The United States seems intent on war. The Canadian government is struggling to decide whether or not Canada should support this effort. The United Nations, while calling for more time for the weapon inspections, faces the prospect of a unilateral military action by the United States to disarm Iraq. The prospect of a peaceful diplomatic solution seems to diminish as each day passes. Most importantly, the hope that alternative pathways for establishing an international order founded on peace and justice seem to be threatened.
I know that many people in our congregations are deeply concerned about how these events are unfolding. It is right that we ask what these events mean for us, for the people we love who may serve in the military, for the innocent people of Iraq and the Middle East who have suffered much already, and for the world that we are still creating for our children. World events do challenge Christians and people of faith to ask: What is required of us as peacemakers in such a volatile world?
As Lutheran Christians, we believe that God intends that people live in peace and harmony. This peace that originates in God, is what the Bible calls shalom -- that ancient recognition that peace is not simply the absence of war, but a sustainable state of well-being and harmony among people and with creation. This is not a naive hope. The Gospels are rich with examples of how Jesus, through his ministry of healing and reconciliation, sent his followers forth with just such a mission of peace.
Yet as we know only too well, the shalom that should characterize our life together is too often broken and fractured in our imperfect world. Peace building is not utopian but rather willingness to work for peace and justice through the social, political and economic institutions of our world. Lutherans have not historically been pacifists. We understand that in the face of the disorder that results because of human sin, there are occasions when the chaos and destructive forces of this world must be restrained in order to protect the innocent. However, this is not such a moment. We need to understand that war, even in those very rare moments that make the use of force tragically necessary, is the failure of politics and a consequence of our human sinfulness.
Issues in international affairs can be complicated. Canadian churches for the past thirty years have been actively involved in analyzing, assessing and proposing alternatives to war and militarism. So it is not without some experience that Church leaders unanimously have spoken in opposition to war against Iraq. In September, I along with fifteen other Canadian church leaders called upon Prime Minister Chrétien to resist the pressure to support the use of military force to invade Iraq and pursue instead more actively diplomatic negotiations. We said that:
“ … another Gulf War now would be wrong, first of all because of the suffering such a war would inflict on the population of Iraq, people who have already suffered so bitterly. Our Christian colleagues in that region have urged us to educate our own societies about how crushing the international sanctions have been… [and] have been pleading with us to speak against the threat of another war.”
In December, in response to the Prime Minister, we called upon Canada to support the work of the United Nations, which has a mandate to pursue alternatives to war, and that in the event that the United Nations Security Council at some point finds Iraq in material breach of resolution 1441, it does not follow that war is a just or effective remedy. I would encourage you to read these letters at the web site of the Canadian Council of Churches www.ccc-cce.ca/.
Our Lord sends us into the world. Our concerns about war can be expressed in our witness to peace. I encourage you to remain fervent in your prayers for peace and in praying for our leaders that a spirit of peace may guide them. I encourage you to call and write to your elected Members of Parliament to express your views. I also invite you or your congregation to endorse the ecumenical statement undertaken by the Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission for Justice and Peace, Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiative, and Project Ploughshares. You can find it through the ELCIC’s Lutheran Office for Public Policy www.elcic-lopp.ca or directly at Project Ploughshares www.ploughshares.ca. Endorsements will be collected and shared with the federal government. Congregations and organizations that endorse the statement are encouraged to share your statement with other faith communities, civic organizations and the local media.
The God of peace be with all of you. (Romans 15:33)
The Rev. Raymond Schultz