[Last update: 21 March 2003]

In the Shadow of War

A Pastoral Letter from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We, your bishops, write to you in perilous times. We do not know what the next days will bring. War and the threat of war make many afraid for the welfare of all that they love, and all those whom they hold dear. Such fear gnaws at the edges of consciousness and can shake the foundations upon which we have built our lives and our communities.

We do know that the certainty of God's goodness and faithfulness can never be shaken. In a time of great violence and anxiety we, as Christians, are not to acquiesce to fear; we are to witness to the reconciling love of God. We are aware that within the community of faith there are a variety of opinions about the course our nation is pursuing. Nevertheless, Christians are called by Jesus to regard all persons as neighbors, to reach out in mercy, and to pray for one another and for our enemies.

We remind ourselves now of those who need our prayers and concerns: all who will be caught up in this conflict, our military personnel including our chaplains, their families, people who suffer for conscience sake, Arab Americans of all faiths, followers of Islam around the world - the great majority of whom share a longing for peace, and the people of Iraq, among whom are more than one million Christians. Our prayers must continue for George, our President, and for the leaders of the nations, that they will make wise and measured decisions that will protect the innocent and will result in a swift and just peace, and the full restoration of the land and people of Iraq.

In this season of conflict and danger, our Church is called to be a community where all people can join in prayer for peace and healing in God's beloved world, for loved ones and those in harm's way, and for the assurance of our Lord's merciful presence and providence in the midst of crisis. As your bishops, we commit ourselves to adopt a discipline of fasting and prayer for the return of peace. We commend such a discipline to each of you.

We urge our congregations to open their doors for prayer and to be places where all can find the hospitality and hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

In all times and circumstances, our faith is set upon the firm foundation of the love of Christ. We reaffirm our confidence that "neither death nor life, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38, 39)

In these difficult times, may God give us the strength to witness to the Divine Compassion.

A Prayer for the Whole Human Family

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purpose on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 815)

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The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church -- March 18, 2003


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