I’ve just returned from the third of our “Bishop’s Conversations on the Iraq War.” Thanks to Anne Wheeler and her team for organizing these events. Nearly four hundred Alabama United Methodists engaged in fruitful, prayerful conversation and thereby modeled Wesleyan “Christian Conferencing.”
These conversations were planned to be learning experiences. I told each group, “Here we are going to try to think like Christians about war and this war. We will try to think biblically and in a specifically Christian way.”
I was proud of the way we discussed a passionate, controversial issue. I hope everyone grows in the faith and understanding. I sure did.
Here are some of my learnings:
- It’s a real challenge to think about things as followers of Jesus Christ. It’s much easier to think like Americans of the left or of the right, to ask merely “What works?” or “What do most people think?” It’s a challenge to ask, “What does Jesus require of his followers?” or “What does the Bible say?”
- There is no Christian consensus on the current war, even though I did find general agreement that scripture and the church’s tradition make war, this war in particular, or any other war, a questionable action for Christians. Christians who defend war as an appropriate response to evil and conflict have got their work cut out for them.
- Among those United Methodists who defend the war as justifiable they are diverse and conflicted in what they think about the war. Many people who believe this war is justified, believe that these who initiated this war have done a terrible job of executing the war. There are many diverse opinions, which is one reason why I don’t think “resolutions” do justice to the complexity of the issue.
- There is widespread regret and even deep repentance among our United Methodist people about this war.
- Many of our people are eager for their pastors and their church to give them help in thinking like Christians about the war. They were grateful that their church had these gatherings, though many felt that such discussion was long overdue.
- Church resolutions, statements by bishops or Annual Conferences about this war may not be as helpful as prayerful, humble, conversation with fellow Christians. (Perhaps I was the one who said that!)
After these experiences around our Conference, I encourage your church to engage in “Christian Conferencing” on this issue. Write Anne Wheeler firstname.lastname@example.org and she can send you some great resources from our church that should be helpful.
William H. Willimon