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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

I'm a Bozo

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

So I completely missed yesterday's presbytery meeting. When my time on the docket came, my name was called to a room of nearly 200 people, and I was 45 miles away, completely unawares.

The meeting was notable for a reason other than my absence, however. The presbytery approved (by a margin of one--yes, you read that right: one--vote, the following overture to the General Assembly:

Heartland Presbytery overtures the 217 General Assembly to:

Call upon individual Presbyterians,member congregations, and the Presbyterian Church at all levels to urgently pray and raise its voice for peace in the nation of Iraq and an end to the United States military presence there.

Reaffirm the 216th General Assembly’s call for the church to express its pastoral concern for andoffer pastoral care to members of the United States armed forces serving theircountry in the war in Iraq and their families as well as for veterans of thewar who have returned home.

Direct the various mission program agencies engaged in relief efforts in Iraq to continue and expand the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s commitment, in cooperation with our ecumenical partners, to ministries that address human needs in Iraq caused by the war and long-term development efforts to assist in the rebuilding of the country.

Call upon the United States government to develop and implement a specific timetable for the complete withdrawal, to be accomplished within a twelve month period of time, of United States military forces; and reaffirms the 216th General Assembly’s
call for the United States government to engage with the international community
through the United Nations and other international agencies to cooperate with
the government of Iraq in providing security, peacekeeping forces, and funding
for the rebuilding of the country.

Direct the Presbyterian Church(USA), through its Washington Office and all other means available, to advocate with the United States government for the complete withdrawal of United States military forces and for engagement with the international community to support the government of Iraq, providing resources for peacekeeping and long-term development needs.

It can be considered a bit ridiculous that a national denomination thinks that it can "call upon" the United States government to check the weather, let alone set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But in addition to a bit of pious hubris, the perilously split vote evidences a major split in the presbytery in particular (and in the country quite generally). It's a split in sentiment, between those who feel that the church has no role to play in international military conflict save that of cheerleader and chaplain, and those who feel the church must ever and always speak out (and protest and overture) against any military action anywhere.

I never liked this war from the beginning. My family will call me un-patriotic, but I have always been critical of this thing, on religious, civic, and intellectual grounds. But I haven't joined a protest or written a single letter to my senator about it. I haven't preached about it. In fact, I've probably written more about it in the last two minutes than I have in the war's three years.

I can't see the use in deepening already painful divisions within the church for something that seems as ineffectual as "calling upon" the US government to do something. Pundits "call upon" governments to do things. The church witnesses to the good news of the Prince of Peace. If part of that witness is to urge governments to taken certain courses of action, then so be it. But there already seems to be a lot of people and groups doing a fairly good job of that. I fail to see how the church is doing it any differently.

posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:23 PM

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