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National Council of Churches Opposes Bombing

by Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer Saturday, Nov. 17, 2001 at 11:21 PM

National Council of Churches Opposes Bombing

National Council of Churches Opposes Bombing

Calling for an "early end" to the Afghan bombing campaign, the nation's largest ecumenical agency urged the United States and its allies yesterday to find nonviolent ways to stop terrorism.

Meeting in Oakland, the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches adopted a resolution entitled "Out of the Ashes and Tragedy of September 11, 2001."

The assembly, composed of voting delegates from 36 Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations, also noted its concern about the growing numbers of people "being held in detention centers presumably because of possible linkages to terrorist activities."

"We believe that the rule of law must be administered fairly, so as to safeguard and protect civil liberties, even in a time of external threat," the resolution states.

It also urges the United States and the United Nations to work for "lasting peace and security between Israel and Palestine" and to forestall a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan of "horrendous proportions."

"We believe that no nation can feel secure by itself if others are insecure, " it said. "Similarly, military security does not ensure economic security. Nor can there be true security without adequate good water, health care, sanitation or shelter."

Delegates urged the 52 million Christians in the council's member denominations to support their humanitarian arm, Church World Service, which has earmarked more than million for Afghan refugees.

In other business yesterday, the delegates heard a report on a fiscal crisis that has hit the National Council of Churches since it created a separate financial office for Church World Service, which comprised around 90 percent of its former budget.

Faced with a million budget deficit, the council's "faith, justice and education" division has reduced its staff from 102 to 39 positions over the past two years.

Council of Churches Executive Director Robert Edgar delivered a "tough love,

truth-telling audit" to the assembly delegates.

"We successfully divided the two financial systems," he said. "Now, we have to live within our means."

In recent years, some of the council's member denominations have cut or reduced their financial support because of theological and political disputes with the left-leaning National Council of Churches.

Edgar also reported on efforts to possibly create an entirely new ecumenical agency that would include the Roman Catholic Church and conservative evangelical churches.

While many conservative evangelical leaders are not participating in those talks, Edgar said he was working with the Salvation Army to try to bring fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christians to the table.

They are scheduled to hold a third "expanded table" meeting in April.

Delegate Clifton Kirkpatrick, a leader with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A. ), said now was the time to form a new umbrella organization of American Christians and to strengthen ties with people of other faiths.

"We represent less of the Christian community now than we did in 1950," he said. "We have to be willing to go out of business."

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