National Council of Churches

Media Contact: Carol Fouke, 212-870-2252;


February 12, 2003, PARIS, France -- American church leaders in Paris
apparently caught many in the French public by surprise this week when they
spoke out in opposition to U.S.-led military action against Iraq. People had
gotten the idea that the U.S. churches all supported the proposed war, the
church leaders said.

The five-member delegation from the (U.S.) National Council of Churches met
with French churches Feb. 10-11 as part of a search for peaceful solutions
to the Iraq crisis.

We are here representing the official position of the National Council of
Churches - with 50 million members in 36 denominations - and the Roman
Catholic Church, with nearly 64 million U.S. members, said the Rev. Michael
E. Livingston, Executive Director of the International Council of Community
Churches, an NCC-member denomination.  Large portions of the American
population dont support this war.

Thats news here, commented John Briscoe, providing NCC staff support to the
delegation, speaking by phone from Paris.  He described the delegations
Monday news conference, and said, The general impression in France is that
the churches are all behind Bush.

President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, which is one of
the NCCs member churches.  Said Mr. Briscoe, Many of the questions kept
circling back to, Bush is a member of a church thats a member of the NCC.
The United Methodists and the NCC are opposed to going to war against Iraq.
Yet Bush is pushing ahead.  How is that possible?

The NCC is organizing visits to five European capitals as part of the U.S.
ecumenical bodys search for peaceful solutions to the Iraq crisis. The first
delegation met Feb. 5 in Berlin with counterparts from across Europe and
with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.  Upcoming visits include London
(Feb. 17-19), where Britains Prime Minister Tony Blair has agreed to meet
the delegation on Feb. 18; Rome (Feb. 25-28), and Moscow and/or Madrid

The NCC delegation was hosted in Paris by the French Protestant Federation
and its President, the Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont.  With the group in
Paris was Rudiger Noll, Associate General Secretary of the Conference of
European Churches. Mr. Noll is based in Brussels.

Representatives of the Council of Catholic Bishops of France also
participated actively in the delegations visit, of significance in this
largely Roman Catholic country, Mr. Briscoe noted.

Joining the in Mondays news conference were the Ecumenical Officer of the
Roman Catholic Church in France, the American Episcopal Bishop of Europe,
and a representative of the Baptist Churches of France.

The Monday schedule also included a meeting with the staff of the French
Protestant Federation and an ecumenical service at the Church of the

Tuesday afternoon, the church leaders met with Hubert Colin de Verdiere,
General Secretary of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Rev. Daniel E. Weiss, Immediate Past General Secretary of the American
Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.; described the broad spectrum of U.S.
churches that are pressing for peaceful alternatives to going to war against

Both the National Council of Churches, with 36 Protestant, Orthodox, African
American and Peace member churches, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops formally are on record in opposition to this war, maintaining that
it does not meet criteria for a just war.  They especially cite the horrific
toll on Iraqi civilians, already battered by 20 years of war and 12 years of
economic sanctions.

We dont like Saddam Hussein, he said, but we feel there are much better ways
to resolve the Iraq crisis that this.  Agreed the Rev. de Clermont, What are
we doing, tormenting children in Iraq and subjecting millions of innocents
to sickness and suffering?

In the meeting with U.S. and French church leaders, Mr. de Verdiere stressed
that for Europeans, the growth of the European Union is a historical event
of great significance -- soon to encompass 25 nations -- which has been
formed with a vision of what a "world at peace" could be like.

That vision has produced peaceful relations among the nations of the world's
once most-contentious continent, he said.  And that vision is built on a
commitment to the United Nations as a vehicle.  However imperfect it may be,
the United Nations holds out the best hope for bringing those peaceful
relations to the nations of all the continents, he said.

Therefore, the U.S. governments actions with respect to Iraq are seen as an
ominous threat to the United Nations, said Mr. de Verdiere, resulting in
European reaction that tends to be stronger than expected.

Besides the Rev. Livingston, of Trenton, N.J., the Rev. Weiss, of Marco
Island, Fla., and Mr. Briscoe, of New York City, the NCC delegation included
Thomas H. Jeavons, Wallingford, Pa., General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly
Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), and Father Stanley DeBoe,
Silver Spring, Md., Trinitarian Fathers.

Father DeBoes order was founded in Paris 800 years ago, with its mission to
facilitate the payment of ransoms and the return of prisoners, both Muslim
and Christians, during the Crusades.  Now he is co-chair of Churches for
Middle East Peace, continuing in the Trinitarian Fathers historic ministry
of reconciliation.