Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi issued a statement today calling for United Methodists to join others around the world in praying for peace in Ukraine.
Below is the her statement, which was emailed to clergy and lay leaders of local churches on March 1.
As United Methodists in Pennsylvania, we join in prayer with those all around the world who are entreating God for peace in the Ukraine. In a recent Facebook post, Bishop Eduard Khegay who oversees Russia and Ukraine urged us to pray for the community in Lugansk, Ukraine who, as they pray, hear the “sounds of guns, mass mobilization of men under 55 going on. The situation is complicated and disturbing.”
As Methodists, it has always been part of our tradition to pray and work for peace. In our most current Book of Discipline, we find these words:
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 believe that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped; that the manufacture, sale, and deployment of armaments must be reduced and controlled; and that the production, possession, or use of nuclear weapons be condemned.
¶ 165(c) The Book of Discipline 2016
As his colleague and sister in Christ, I affirm Bishop Khegay’s conclusion that the situation in Ukraine is complicated. Those of you who have connections to that part of the world have a much better understanding of the situation than do I. I am grateful to Nordic-Baltic Area Bishop Christian Alsted, who issued a pastoral letter helping us to understand some of the dynamics of that region of the world.
I do understand the tension that comes in simultaneously calling for peace while supporting the Ukrainian people in their “fight” for freedom. We can do both. We can applaud Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s declaration in a recent address to the European Union Parliament that every square in Ukraine is “Freedom Square.” We can pray for the safety of soldiers on both sides of the war as we affirm Bishop Alsted’s statement that “War and violence are evil and always entail considerable human costs.” We can also pray that Ukrainian and Russian officials continue to try to negotiate a peace.
Further, we can and must pray for peace and act to combat the impact of war. Both the Western Pennsylvania and Susquehanna Annual Conferences have familial and missional connections to Ukraine. Because of our connection we have mechanisms to put our prayers into action.
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. -- Isaiah 2:4b
Peace and blessings,
Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi