Pastoral Letter to CRC Churches

Addendum to Appendix A

Pastoral Letter to CRC Churches

February 28, 2003


Dear Congregations,

Because we live in a critical moment of history, we, the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church, urge the church to continue to pray, study, and reflect on what our denomination has said over the years concerning war and peace. We ask the church to do this particularly in the light of the reality of the war on terror and (as we write this) the distinct possibility of a war with Iraq. Continue to pray for the leaders of our countries and of the world as they exercise their responsibility to govern for justice and peace. The rising tide of anarchy and terror with which many countries have lived for years has reached our shores. Many of us now, for the first time, know the names and faces of victims. Many of us in North America are angry and afraid; afraid for ourselves, our society, and the world.

As we watch countries prepare for war, some of us hear a call to support our governments in this action; others hear a call to question and resist. Some of us-our sons, daughters, husbands and wives-have been called to active military duty. The church is called to pray and pastorally care for our members in the military as well as those who object to and work against this war.

Decisions on war and peace are always grave and usually complex. Because of this, the synod of the Christian Reformed Church has spoken several times and at length on matters of war and peace (Synods 1939, 1977, 1982 and 1985).

We urge all CRC congregations to engage in prayer, reflection, and thoughtful discussion and to assist members as they discern their own consciences and God’s will in the matter of the war on terror and the war in Iraq. We affirm that as citizens of Christ’s kingdom and of nations we have a right and responsibility to participate in critical national discussions on war and peace. These decisions are not merely individual political decisions. They are moral decisions because they involve life, death and justice. We are also aware that as synod affirmed in 1977:

Weighty moral decisions are made responsibly before the face of God only if the prayers and counsel of the covenant fellowship are sincerely sought and lovingly offered. (Acts of Synod 1977, p. 46)

It is in this spirit that we lovingly and urgently call the church to reflect on our commonly held principles as enunciated by Synod 1977:

If the nation has or is about to become involved in war or in any military action against another nation, Christians, as morally responsible citizens of the nation and of God’s kingdom should evaluate their nation’s involvement by diligently seeking answers to the following, drawing on the counsel of fellow members with special qualifications as well as pastors and the assemblies of the church:

a. Is our nation the unjust aggressor?

b. Is our nation intentionally involved for economic advantage?

c. Is our nation intentionally involved for imperialistic ends, such as the acquisition of land, natural resources, or political power in international relations?

d. Has our nation in good faith observed all relevant treaties and other international agreements?

e. Has our nation exhausted all peaceful means to resolve the matters in dispute?

f. Is the evil or aggression represented by the opposing force of such overwhelming magnitude and gravity as to warrant the horrors and brutality of military opposition to it?

g. Has the decision to engage in war been taken legally by a legitimate government?

h. Are the means of warfare employed or likely to be employed by our nation in fair proportion to the evil or aggression of the opposing forces? Is our nation resolved to employ minimum necessary force?

i. In the course of the war has our nation been proposing and encouraging negotiations for peace or has it spurned such moves by the opposing forces or by neutral or international organizations? (Acts of Synod 1977, pp. 46-48)

We urge you to continue to pray, think and talk broadly, deeply, and in love on these matters as citizens of Christ’s kingdom, members of His church, and those called to be salt and light in this sin-damaged world. We ask you to do this together in the power of the Prince of Peace, because:

We who claim his name must live peaceably ourselves, furnishing to the world conspicuous examples of peace loving, harmonious living, and must also privately and publicly denounce war and strive to prevent it by prayer, by redressing the grievances of oppressed peoples, by prophetic calls to peace, by urging the faithful exercise of diplomacy, by entering the political arena ourselves, and by strong appeals to all in high places to resolve tensions by peaceful means. Christians must be reconcilers. (Acts of Synod 1977, p. 588)

We do live in a critical moment, yet our world belongs to God and our hope is in Him. With this sure knowledge we encourage you to pray, to reflect, and to work with joy and confidence for justice and for peace.

For the Board of Trustees of the CRC

Edward Vandeveer, chairman