Disciples News Service

Disciple leaders issue statement on Iran

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning  dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’
        —Psalm 46: 5-6, 9-10

Anger and animosity.  Threats.  Murder and assassinations.  Military bluster and belligerency.  Calls for revenge and retaliation.  In the past several days, we have witnessed the rapid escalation in hostilities verging on all-out war between the United States and Iran.

Since late December, events have spiraled rapidly after a US military contractor and Iraqi troops were killed, the US responded by killing Iraqi militia members, violent demonstrations took place at the US embassy in Baghdad, and a US drone killed Qasem al-Soleimani, a top Iranian general and military leader, and others in his convoy.  And just last night, Iran fired missiles into Iraq, hitting two military bases hosting US troops.  Today, we stand on the brink of a war we pray world leaders will expend diligent efforts to avoid, urging them to deescalate tensions as rapidly as they arose, and to find a way to resolve diplomatically the several intertwined issues at stake.  We yearn for a cessation of hostilities, violence, and war; a peace that can endure; and justice that sustains hope and abundant life.

Even if not a total resolution of all outstanding issues, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or “Iran nuclear deal”) that was negotiated by the US, the EU, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom with Iran and completed in 2015, was a landmark in that it prevented Iranian development of a nuclear weapons program and lifted some of the economic sanctions that had been imposed on the country.  [The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly supported the JCPOA in 2015 and advocated for its support.]  When the current US administration abrogated the JCPOA in 2017, Iran continued to comply with its terms.  The US withdrawal from the agreement signaled a reversal in the US approach toward Iran to one that was not interested in diplomacy and one that has demonstrated greater belligerence and animosity—an approach Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has advocated for some time.  It is not clear what the current US administration has sought to accomplish, both by tearing up a diplomatic accomplishment, and by engaging militarily and directly.  We urge a return to the negotiating table to find a way out of the current cycle of revenge and violence, the restoration of the JCPOA, and discussion on all pertinent issues, including diplomacy that would lead to a nuclear weapons-free region and world.

Continued US presence in, and occupation of Iraq since the 2003 invasion that led to regime elimination there is another major element in understanding where we are today.  With the removal of Saddam Hussain’s Baathist regime, a power vacuum was created that has resulted in insecurity and instability ever since, including the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS).  Subsequent governments of Iraq have had to navigate the dueling realities of an American presence and alliance on the one hand, and the reality of Iran’s interest and engagement as Iraq’s neighbor, two countries with majority Shi`ite Muslim populations but that have a history of war with each other.  President Trump ran for election on a promise to bring US military troops home from Iraq.  Now that the Iraqi parliament has called for that, the US has been resistant to do so, presumably now because of the escalation with Iran, and has threatened sanctions against Iraq if it does force US troops to withdraw.  We pray for an end to the insecurity in Iraq—a country that was among the most advanced in the region culturally and scientifically just a few decades ago before the devastation of earlier international sanctions—so that the Iraqi people can once again live with safety, plenty, and peace, and with their full sovereignty respected and intact.

Additionally, we are deeply concerned about the implications of the current heightened tensions for the region.  The quest for regional prominence that has contributed to the exacerbation of violence, injury, displacement, and death for Syrians and Yemenis, among others, is also among the factors at stake today.  Nine years of war in Syria and almost five years of war in Yemen, both of which that have been dubbed “civil wars,” have been waged, supported by regional rivalries and fueled by global forces, including the US, which has provided arms and support in these and other conflicts—involvement that we have condemned.  These devastating conflicts must also end; that will require a reversal of policy and an end of military participation and provisions by Saudi Arabia, Iran, the US, and Russia, among others.  The devastation that has already been wrought in those countries is indescribable and will require the concerted efforts of the community of nations to recover a respectable modicum of life for the people who have been affected by famine, disease, displacement, and dispossession, as well as the violence of war itself.  We mourn the hundreds of thousands who have already been killed, and will continue to offer our support—even if modest—to our partners in the region who have faithfully and consistently provided human and humanitarian support to many of the millions who have been forced from their homes, communities, and countries.

At this precipice of war that has come about seemingly so rapidly, we find comfort in scripture.  The Psalmist recognized that “the nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter” but also the promise that “God is in the midst of the city….  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.”

We put our trust in God as we seek an alternative through persistent prayer and diligent efforts.  We reject a logic of war, violence, and revenge.  We urge our leaders and those of the Middle East and around the world to exhibit restraint and to be attentive to consequences.  We counsel peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—fruits of the Spirit.   And we persevere in our efforts to work for peace with justice.

Rev. Teresa Hord Owens                               Rev. Dr. Julia Brown Karimu
General Minister and President                     President, Division of Overseas Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

19 Responses to “Disciple leaders issue statement on Iran”

  1. Rev. Bruce Baker-Rooks:

    Thank you President Hord Owens and Rev. Dr. Brown Karimu for these words of wisdom rooted scripture, common sense, and peace. May the peace of God prevail.

  2. Thank you for this carefully researched and written statement. I am proud to be able to distribute such a statement from “My Church!”

  3. Ben Moore:

    As a 60 year plus Disciple, I continue to be terribly
    perturbed with strong statements like this which has
    alienated most conservatives who are well read and
    know the facts of issues such as the JCPOA which
    assured the Iranians a nuclear device by running out the clock.
    God gave the Israelis a homeland in 1948 and
    and without the resolve you criticize would have been
    exterminated long ago.
    Suggest we focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ and avoid taking political stances that about half love and cheer and make the other half choose to distribute their resources to local charities without a political agenda.
    Ben Moore

    • Sally Minter:

      Thank you for your response to Rev Hord’s statement. I agree with you.

  4. I grew up Disciples of Christ and thank God I was able to understand the teachings of Jesus, “No creed but Christ”. I became a United Methodist when I moved to Atlanta and no Disciples church was near. I so appreciate these wise words because most churches in the South are silent. The rational analysis of this chaos we are in as a country is truly powerful and as followers of Christ we need our faith leaders to speak truth to power. The churches were silent during the Holocaust and history must not repeat. Thank you for your wise counsel. God bless Discipline of Christ…….

  5. I’m sorry but I disagree. I don’t think criminals should go unpunished! I don’t believe Iran was true to the agreement.

  6. Don Hammond:

    Thank you for your statement. Pastors, though you may not preach it from the pulpit, it is important to let others know where your Christian life stands. Prayers are good, but what is needed beyond prayers are voices demanding peace, justice, accountability and responsibility by those in seats of power. Be bold with your following, this is the time for it. Do not be quiet about the destructive events unfolding in front of us. This is the time we have been called, and perhaps even born, to serve. Don’t miss it!

  7. Rebecca Peterson:

    While I fully agree with the spirit of this statement and wish the Trump administration’s so-called Christian advisors would be led by such spirit, I have to question why the only two other leaders mentioned were Benjamin Netanyahu and Sadam Hussein. Having recently been in Israel and experiencing the regular rain of rockets from Gaza, I’d like to point out that Netanyahu’s relationship with Iran might be more complex than the slighted reference to the JCPOA. Bringing the Israeli leader into this statement felt a little like a gratuitous nod to the anti-Israel left.

  8. Dottie Bachtell:

    I disagree with the stand you are taking and signing it with all of our Disciples! I am a fairly new Disciple of Christ, being a Follower of Christ and born again Christian for over 50 years. In fact, my husband, both sons and their entire families are Disciples of Christ now. We cherish our home church, our church family, and our Pastor and Pastor’s wife! I disagree strongly with this very political statement here. I know our entire family disagrees as well. I won’t state my political leanings here, but I will say that during this very volatile time, we should bind together and pray for our President and other world leaders. As Followers of Jesus Christ and Disciples of Him, we must do what we do best…connect with our Father God Creator as we walk on this earth ie PRAY. As Christians, our statement should be Prayer, our Document should be the truth found in God’s Word (not selected verses to back up a specific political voice), and our motivation should be to Stand the ground on what’s right in God’s eyes (in this case united with our country and it’s leader). Jesus was bold about turning over the tables of the evil-minded money changers in the Temple. Likewise our church should stand strong with this country that provides freedom and liberty so we may be in our churches every Sunday. The countries we are up against at the moment do not enjoy that freedom. I pray for the people of Iran and Iraq that one day they too will know this freedom. One day maybe they will come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Let’s stand together and profess unity with other Christians and stand for good over evil. Life over death. Blessing over cursing. Stand together and fight against the enemies of our liberties and the enemies of the liberties of their own people in Iran and Iraq! Like those who have gone before us and fought for our liberties.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Cherilyn Williams:

      The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a congregationally-governed denonmination. Statements such as this speak for the undersigned only and are not binding on any other expression of the Church.

  9. Gerald W Roberson:

    It seems to me that your comments are perpetuating a fragmented society. Your verbage is over the edge somewhere and I do not agree nor do I appreciate it. I’m more interested in a Church that follows “The Word”, than a Church leadership that presents words as representing our membership, but only represent a portion of the members. Are you helping our denomination unify and grow or are you helping to splinter and reduce it?

    • Ben Moore:

      Thank you for your perspective and clarity.
      Looking at the Mainline Protestantism stats
      reveal we are being transformed by the world
      rather than vice versa.
      General Social Survey chart shows those who profess “no religion” in 1970 was prox.5%.
      Today the number is over 20%.
      Mainline Protestantism was over 20% of population in 1970. Today it is 11%.
      Very sad to see the current schism our Methodist
      friends are enduring. Divisive issues break
      hearts,families and congregations.
      Karl Barth said the most profound truth known
      to man is “Jesus Loves me this I know for the
      Bible tells me so”. Let’s love one another despite
      our various opinions.
      Ben Moore

  10. Bradley Burt:

    Your discussion is really more of a safe space for people who agree with you. More of an echo chamber than anything else, but nice try. Hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings by pointing that out.

  11. Steven A. Haage:

    I’m in total agreement with Ben Moore. I’m a 73 year old lifelong Disciple, and my family goes back 5 generations.The statement had a number of errors in it first of all. It failed to recognize that Iran’s objective is the total elimination of Israel from the face of the earth and anyone that supports them. When the nuclear deal was made 7/14/2015 it was for a short period of time 15 years, and it was estimated that Iran was 5 years from having a Nuclear Weapon. They currently estimate that they are within 18 months from having one. How did they get there?

  12. Kenneth Kennon (ordained retired):

    Thank you for this discussion. It is essential to our discipleship that we talk to and listen to one another, especially on matters of life and death. Diversity of opinion is good. Consensus is good, but won’t come within talking and listening to one another. I try to understand any difference between my opinion, my way, my truth and the life of Jesus and make a serious attempt to follow Jesus. I’m sometimes fail. But I continue to question my opinion and hold it up to the higher standard. I encourage other Disciples to do the same. My sisters and brothers, let’s avoid war and pursue peace walking as close as we can with the Prince of Peace. Our children and grandchildren depend on our best decisions.

  13. Robert Lyons:

    The JPCOA was not an agreement. Treaties must be ratified by the Senate, not unilaterally imposed by a President who then sends $100M of currency on a secret flight to Iran. Instead, maybe we should travel to
    Iran and speak “truth to power” about the persecution of Christians or women there. Or, maybe devote our efforts to our pending denominational demise.

  14. Nancy fasolino:

    As also long time and generational disciple. I do appreciate our ability to dialogue and listen to one another. We can learn from one another’s experiences as searching Christians. May the love Christ taught us lead our searching. Realizing we have very complex situations.

  15. Guy Hulen:

    I have been a Disciple of Christ member for 50 plus years and I am extremely disturbed and frustrated that someone in Senior leadership thought posting this public announcement was needed / warranted. I have trusted and supported Disciples of Christ as I have moved around this great nation over five decades so this publicly posted blatant support certain politics does grab my attention but in a negative light . I don’t believe it’s in the churches best interest to get involved in areas like politics and alienate fifty percent or more of your congregation/church members. I think you should or would have taken the more middle of the ground prayer for peace verses getting political, thus alienating many by making a formal statement that was just not required or needed.
    I like many other Disciples of Christ members suggest that we as Christians focus on the good news of Jesus Christ and avoid taking political stances that about half love and cheer and make the other half choose to distribute their resources to local charities without a political agenda.

    Just my two cents

  16. Debra Nugent:

    I think it is a bold idea to allow everyone the opportunity to state their own opinions. And this is what these Pastors have done. To limit them on what they can say is to limit everyone on what they can say. Thus there is no conversation and there can be no resolution. What I get from their communications is a concern for the world and all of us that live on it. What I am saying may sound stupid or uninformed to some of you but it is my opinion and you can have yours.