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Conservative group lashes US church leaders’ censure of Washington

A conservative US Christian group has criticised a statement from US church leaders attending the assembly of the World Council of Churches that asks for forgiveness because the church had not done enough to protest against sins leaders said were committed in the name of US foreign and domestic policies.

The 18 February declaration by the US church leaders was written as a letter and read during a media conference at the WCC’s once every seven years assembly being held in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The US Conference for the World Council of Churches accused the US of "raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbours".

It said in the unsigned letter that US religious leaders and institutions had failed "to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of pre-emptive war [in Iraq]".

In response, the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) declared: "This penitence is false. These church leaders are not confessing their own sins; they are trying to confess the sins of George W. Bush, who never asked them to perform that service for him."

The 21 February statement from the institute continued: "Nor did the members of their own churches ask them to make this kind of statement on their behalf. This letter is a blatant political abuse of the sacred Christian rite of confession."

The IRD noted that some of the church leaders had previously criticised the policies of the administration of President Bush – in particular the war in Iraq. It added: "It is not clear why US denominational officials believe that another, still shriller denunciation, in this latest letter to the WCC, will make them any more effective in swaying the president or their own church members."

The IRD is an advocacy group that has long argued that the World Council of Churches and the US National Council of Churches advocate a left-wing political agenda.

The Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, chief ecumenical officer of the Orthodox Church in America and the moderator of the US Conference for the WCC – the grouping of WCC members in the United States – told reporters it was important for US church leaders to make the statement at a global forum.

This is because "around the world the US Christian voices that are heard support President Bush and the war" said Kishkovsky. "We want the world to know that there’s a serious moral struggle going on and in reality a majority of Americans do not support this war."

(c) Ecumenical News International