Bishop Sprague: United Methodist Hall of Shame
Commentary on UCMPage News Article Headlined: UM Bishop Sprague Leads Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Protest Against U.S. Commander in Chief - January 6, 2003
I am ashamed! I am ashamed to see bishops, such as Bishop Sprague, representing United Methodism as they march down the streets protesting war or standing with leaders of Iraq speaking against the United States. It is sad to hear their commentary against war as being a speech for peace. Do I speak against war? Every time I preach the Gospel I preach for peace and against evil and hatred. I pray for the time when we never have to raise "hand against brother" but only to extend our hand to lift them up. Having said this, I also hear the biblical mandate to be the voice for the silent, the power for the weak and the wall of protection for the vulnerable and the victim.
The peace some seem to speak of is nothing more than capitulation to evil. How dare, they who seek to represent biblical peace, stand in stride with one who visits such evil on so many - including those who did our nation injury? It is, based on their reasoning, because we deserve it; we are the bad guys. That is much of the basis for their discourse. One has only to read their arguments to see the truth of this characterization of their stance.
To me, they lose all credibility to speak for me as a Christian and as a United Methodist. Where is their voice when the victims of Saddam cry from the ground for someone to listen and speak for them? Why do we never see them marching against the crimes and evils of the terrorists and those sponsored by Saddam and his allies?
They argue against the theory of "just war" as it sounds so sweet to the ears but holds no logic or truth. Ask them if they would seek to stop someone who blatantly announces they plan to do their family harm? Ask them if they would try to stop the person who enters their house. See if they would not seek justice or a way to defend against the person who visits evil upon their family or pays someone to do so. Of course they would. This fight against evil and terror is the same but in a larger size and in scope.
So, where is their indignation against those who visit harm to the innocent? Where is their voice against the persecution of Christians simply because they are Christians? Where is their voice except against America?
Peace is not simply a laying down of arms. Peace is a wholeness which sometimes requires the dealing with and stopping of evil. To lay down our arms is to say their lives (of victims of hate and terror) are of no value. To be willing to lay our lives down for them is to show the ultimate value of their lives.
If people such as Bishop Sprague would cry for real peace, they would hear my echo. Now, people such as Bishop Sprague and those who represent us in the WCC and NCC, will only hear my sigh of disgust. God save us from those who would "cry Peace, Peace, when there is no Peace."
I am proud to be a United Methodist Chaplain (USAFR) who is serving overseas on active duty in the theater of war. I am glad to be among those who understand the cost of standing up to evil and are still willing to pay the price. I am proud to serve among those who understand the cost of not doing so and facing evil with only wishful thinking.
Go ahead and speak against war but don't speak out against those willing to stand up to evil and who seek a way for real peace to become a reality. Go one step further and speak against the very need and cause of war. Speak for those who stand in the gap.
Maybe someday we will know the difference between such a call for peace of Bishop Sprague and real peace. Maybe some day we will see pictures of fellow United Methodists who are willing to put their lives on the line to see peace become a reality.
With their sacrifice, real peace has a chance of becoming a reality. With their sacrifice, you will hear my sigh or relief and pride.
God save us from false peace. God save us from a shallow Gospel. God save us.
Donald G Simpson Oklahoma Conference USAFR Chaplain
(December 27) Northern Illinois Conference United Methodists were well represented on Sunday, Dec. 15, in Chicago when 2,000 people participated in an interfaith protest against a possible war with Iraq.
The protest began with a prayer vigil inside St. James Episcopal Cathedral, 65 E. Huron, conducted by leaders from Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, including Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, presiding bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) of the United Methodist Church. (Bishop Sprague is shown in the photo addressing the demonstrators.)
After the service, Sprague and the other religious leaders led an anti-war march down Michigan Avenue to Pioneer Plaza at the Chicago River.
Singing songs from the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and waving anti-war signs and banners, the protestors marched right through one of the most elite shopping areas in the state during the height of the Christmas shopping season.
“I was impressed that as we walked down Michigan Avenue the people who were out there on the street shopping seemed to receive us well,” said the Rev. Ed Hiestand, co-chair of the NIC Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns and a member of the committee that organized the peace march.
Hiestand noted that when the leaders of the march arrived at Pioneer Plaza, “the last people were just leaving St. James — the march was that long.”
“We were waiting down by the riverside for quite a while,” Hiestand said. “It was lively down there. It got cold, but we sang and kept ourselves warm that way.”
When the marchers finally all gathered at the riverside, Bishop Sprague spoke to the crowd.
“As we come to lay down our burdens down by the river side, there are questions all around,” Bishop Sprague said. Noting that one question is whether anti-war protests are meaningless because the Bush administration has already made up its mind to attack Iraq, Sprague urged his listeners to continue fighting for the cause of peace.
“Some say: Why bother? What’s the use?” Sprague said. “We bother because there is beginning to move in this nation a voice of sanity in the midst of the voice of insanity.”
The somber, reflective mood of the prayer vigil inside St. James turned into a revival down by the river side.
“Bishop Sprague’s message was stirring,” Hiestand said. “It was calling people, saying there is a time when you need to speak, a time when you need to act. We can’t just let things drift on.”
And Hiestand said he thought participants gained strength and courage from the march. “One of the values of this thing,” he said, “was that people were able to see that there are other people — people of faith — who were speaking out of their morality or religious base. People saw that there are a lot of us, and I think there’s a value to that in terms of the future.”
“You may get your 20 seconds on television and a few newspaper articles, but the impact on people realizing that there is a building momentum against precipitous war is good,” Heistand said. “I was encouraged by that.”
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