Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Against the Wars

How to Preach Against the Present U.S. Wars

Few sermons are preached opposing the present wars waged by the American Government in Afghanistan and Iraq. Doubtless many clergy oppose these wars. Many Episcopal lay people also oppose the war.

Our baptismal covenant calls all of us, clergy and laypeople “….to strive for justice and peace among all people.” Jesus calls us to be examples of redemptive love and forgiveness. We even call Jesus the Prince of Peace.

We Christians know we are to be peaceful people and makers of peace. We also know that many Episcopalians and other Christians are soldiers, warriors and defenders of the country. Many Episcopalians support the present wars, many in our own parishes. Yet it is imperative that preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ speak against the present war, the violence against civilians, the ravaging of homes and cities. Many in the church yearn for the clergy to be moral and spiritual leaders and guide their thinking on ethical issues.

How can we preach against the war and not offend some people, lose members and money and split our congregations? It can be done.

It begins with trust. We can tell our people our fears. Be up front and say, “I am afraid my opposition to the present wars will make some people leave and the parish will lose money.”

We need to trust our congregations to be thoughtful, reasonable and loving people despite the variety of opinions they may hold. We can trust them to listen, be persuaded toward peace or for whatever reason remain firm in their positions supporting the wars. We must trust ourselves to know what we believe and set it before others fairly and without rancor. We also must not fear our strongest convictions; they may very well be what the spirit is calling us to say.

Share with your people that you are opposed to the war. Make sure you indicate that you know others have different opinions and you are open to discuss them. Opposing the war does not have too be a matter of right or wrong. It is a matter that as a preacher and a person you are a peacemaker and oppose violence as the way to peace. It is a matter open for discussion.

One preacher said it this way; “I hope that the fact that I am opposed to this war will not mean I cannot serve you as your pastor. I do understand pain, grief and death…Pastoral care will not be dependent on how I feel about the wars.”

Even after all that, some parishioners may leave and some money might be gone too. Perhaps, others will admire our courage and join the church and replenish the money. Another benefit of prophetic preaching is that it opens the way for discussion and study groups on peace and other issues of social justice.

I wonder what the country would look like if the clergy and lay leadership of our church spoke openly and honestly opposition to war and tackling real peacemaking?

(Some of the ideas in this article are taken from Rebecca Zartman’s article in the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Easter and Pentecost Quarterly.)


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