The news keeps coming about the atrocities of war in Ukraine and according to the most recent statement released by Roland Fernandes, General Secretary of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the humanitarian relief arm of Global Ministries, is in communication with partners in the region and actively exploring the coordination of humanitarian response in Ukraine. Support UMCOR’s international disaster response efforts by making a gift to Advance #982450.
Our hearts ache as we hear the stories and see no immediate end in sight. We have heard of death, destruction, and aggression on one side and sanctions, diplomacy and waiting on the other. Then there are those of us seeking a just response and sacred end to all manner of war and death brought on by empires and those who seek to impose their will upon those whom they can overpower.
While praying for the people of Ukraine, Europe, and all peoples of the world, I also rely on the witness and call we have as United Methodists to stand against war and war making in all its forms. Our Social Principles state this clearly:
We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy. We oppose unilateral first/preemptive strike actions and strategies on the part of any government. As disciples of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict. We insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them. We advocate the extension and strengthening of international treaties and institutions that provide a framework within the rule of law for responding to aggression, terrorism, and genocide. (2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶165.C)
I realize that the word “incompatible” is one that may be triggering for some and for that I offer an apology. Yet in this case it is the appropriate word because it is true that Christ did not trample on the rights of others, nor did he advocate for one nation dismantling the freedoms and liberties of another. He presented peacemaking and relationship building as hallmarks of a life of faith that increases in the face of doubt, hope that sustains in spaces of despair, and love that prevails when all else fails.
As followers of Jesus, the Christ, may we find ourselves in prayer for faithful, righteous and expedient ends to this atrocity. May we find solace in knowing we serve a God who is not asking us to stake any claim except one that binds us in love and unity. May we find ourselves speaking truths that magnify support for the people who stand to lose life, livelihood, and vitality.
May we openly and clearly make it known to our elected leaders, locally and nationally, that we “reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy”. May we work and pray in ways that lead us to a time when “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (NRSV, Isaiah 2:4)
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop