Episcopal Church calls for resistance to war

by Amy Kingsley

Amidst the hubbub surrounding the ordination of female and openly gay bishops, the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church quietly passed a resolution urging active opposition to the war in Iraq last month.

But despite the strong language of the resolution, the media has trained their lens exclusively on the ordination debate, said the Rev. Charlie Hawes, pastor for Greensboro’s St. Mary’s House. He added the disproportionate attention paid to sex and sexuality has obscured the fact that all the mainline religious denominations except the Southern Baptists have opposed the war since 2002. The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops sent a letter to members of the US Congress on October 1 of that year opposing military action in Iraq.

Hawes, the Rev. Hal Hayek of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem and the Rev. Leon Spencer, dean of the School of Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, drafted an anti-war resolution earlier this year. Then the North Carolina diocese’s Bishop Michael Curry introduced the resolution in the House of Bishops during the convention from June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio. The resolution that ultimately passed both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies combined language prepared by the North Carolina delegation with a resolution proposed by New Hampshire’s Rev. William Exner.

The final version states that requirements for a ‘“just war’” have not been met, that thousands of Iraqi citizens and American troops have been killed or harmed and that politicians should work toward full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty. The church also resolved to actively participate in ending the war.

‘“The 75th General Convention calls upon all Episcopalians as an act of penitence, to oppose and resist through advocacy, protest and electoral action the continuation of the war in Iraq, and encourage the President and Congress to take proactive steps to end our participation as soon as possible,’” the resolution reads.

The ‘“Resolution to End the War in Iraq’” was one of hundreds of such resolutions debated passed during the two-week convention. A full legislative summary only became available on Thursday June 29, causing confusion among local proponents of the measure who were unsure whether it had been adopted.

The resolution passed after several years of muted church response to the war, Hawes said.

‘“Initially it was a very popular war,’” he said. ‘“But what is significant is that every major religion and denomination except the Southern Baptists said this is a war that we shouldn’t be in.’”

But since the 2002 letter, members of the clergy in the Episcopal Church have been reluctant to address the issue for fear of alienating parishioners, he said. Instead, the loudest debate inside the Episcopal Church has concerned the ordination of women and homosexuals.

‘“When Hal and Leon and I sat down to write this resolution, we thought that if the Episcopal Church could pass a strong anti-war resolution, then it would distract the mainstream press from their fixation on sex and sexuality,’” he said. ‘“Obviously that didn’t happen.’”