Written by Daniel Hazard
Before taking anti-war message to Washington, UCC leaders call for massive show of support.
Church leaders intend to gather 100,000 endorsing signatures to the UCC's Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War before the first week of October, at which time they will travel to Washington, D.C., to present the statement and signatures to government officials.
The 700-word statement, which calls for the war's end, was first presented during the opening plenary at General Synod 26 by the five-person Collegium of Officers. The letter has been endorsed by all Conference Ministers and Seminary Presidents.
"Thousands of precious American lives have been lost; thousands more have been altered forever by profound injuries. We grieve each loss and embrace bereaved families with our prayers and compassion," the letter reads in part. "Tens of thousands more innocent Iraqi lives are daily being offered on the altar of preemptive war and sectarian violence. They, too, are precious, and we weep for them."
The full text is available online at ucc.org, where individuals are being urged to offer their names in support. As of July 17, only about 6,000 persons had endorsed the statement.
"It's going to take a significant amount of work for all of us to reach the goal of 100,000 signatures before the beginning of October," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president. "But I believe the enthusiasm for the Pastoral Letter that we witnessed at General Synod demonstrates the deep concern about this war that exists across our church."
Here is what is being requested of UCC members and churches:
* On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, read the Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War at your church and distribute a prepared bulletin insert, in commemoration of the International Day of Peace, observed annually on Sept. 21, as designated by the United Nations. (The text and insert can be downloaded at ucc.org. In addition, for easy duplication, one copy is being mailed to all churches in August's All-Church Mailing.)
* "Join protest to prayer" by lifting your voices, along with those across the UCC, for an end to the war in Iraq. Promote the Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War in your church and community.
* By the first Sunday in October, sign the online petition at ucc.org and help reach a goal of 100,000 signatures before World Communion Sunday. (Handwritten signatures should include name, city/state and church name — and an e-mail address if available — mailed to Pastoral Letter Endorsers, UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100.)
* Encourage others to read the letter and lend their endorsement online at ucc.org.
* Pray for UCC leaders as they travel to Washington, D.C., in the week following World Communion Sunday to present the letter and the list of endorsing UCC members to the leadership of Congress and members of the Administration.