Stated Clerk issues statement in the wake of the escalating violence in Syria

August 30, 2013


The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued a statement today (August 30) in the wake of the escalating violence in Syria, calling upon U.S. and world leaders to refrain from military action.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

We are deeply concerned about events in Syria. We grieve for our brothers and sisters who have suffered so deeply for so long. We yearn for an end to the bloodshed and renew our call for a cease-fire and a mediated process involving all parties to provide new choices for all Syrians.

We condemn the use of chemical weapons. Regardless of who perpetrated the attack, such a usage violates a longstanding international norm.  We recognize the authority and the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to deal with this violation of international law. We call all nations to encourage the Security Council to address this illegal and immoral act. We do not doubt that justice is needed, but question the unilateral and inevitably selective role the United States has too often played, too often leading to greater violence, terrorism, and instability.

We call upon the President and the members of Congress to follow the example of other strong leaders in the past by exercising the courage and wisdom to refrain from military action that is likely to escalate the conflict further, and to bring our country directly into another war in the Middle East.

We applaud the President’s efforts to consult widely, conferring with international leaders and with Congress.  Now we ask him to spend time over this holiday weekend listening to what Americans want and fear.

Now is not the time to feed the violence and instability that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Syrians, driven 3.4 million Syrians from their country, and displaced an additional 6.8 million Syrians from their homes. Most people affected by the conflict are noncombatants. Expanding the conflict will increase the suffering of the innocent. 

Now is the time to heed the voices of our church partners who pray and call and work for peace. Our partners look to us to challenge policies of our government that help to fuel conflict in Syria and proxy wars across the Middle East.

Now is the time to reflect on the lessons of 12 years of involvement in conflict in the Middle East by the United States. Limited engagement is never truly limited.

Now is the time to support the peacemakers of Syria who seek to end the violence and build a future. In any Congressional deliberations, we urge that nonviolent forms of intervention be considered, and that next steps beyond military force be grounded in defensible cooperative goals for the region.

Now is the time for all outside parties to cease all forms of military intervention in Syria. States and and non-state actors must stop feeding the conflict in Syria by sending weapons to the government and to opposition forces.

Now is the time to renew the efforts for a diplomatic solution. The United States must work with the United Nations and other governments to contain the violence, restore stability in the region, provide humanitarian assistance, and encourage the building of an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens.

Now—in the grimmest of situations—is the time to build a coalition of nations and peoples willing to do the long, hard, and essential work of establishing interfaith relationships of respect and understanding.

Now—for Syria and all its neighbors—is the time to seek a new vision of cooperation and nonviolence that will support an intervention with the power of impartial justice that will lead to a just and lasting peace.

Now is the time to pray for wisdom for leaders, for courage to turn from violence, for grace to build and nurture relationships, for justice to roll down like waters, and for peace to prevail in Syria.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” For the people of Syria, may it now be a time for peace.

  1. Thank you, Grady. Your statement will be in our bulletin this Sunday. On this date, September 9, there is some sign that God is indeed working his purpose out, even as our president speaks. I know that my son would be a strongly prayerful to hold back impulsive actions. I do tend to believe that the "credible threat of a targeted military strike," has been a part of all of this, together with the response of the Russian government and Syria and the collective reservations of our citizens is reason for hope.

    by schymtz

    September 10, 2013

  2. I, as many concerned Christians in America, am searching for a way to help these people of Syria; a way to impact our future as a nation of trutb and justice. It is with the peace of Christ that we help our brothers, it is with strong minds and steadfast spirits that we honor and defend those unable to defend themselves. How can we then not do something to foster peace and healing to the people of Syria? I am so thankful for this message, words of compassion and hope. It may very well be that all I or my own congregation can do is support the PDA in their efforts, and pray to God. Thank you for facilitating this path of hope and help, it is certainly the path I would like to walk with my brothers ans sisters in Christ.

    by Emily Mooneyhan, Church Educator

    September 6, 2013

  3. I am so thankful that a powerful voice for our denomination has spoken so eloquently regarding the proper role for our nation at this time. The hypocrisy of a "limited air strike" at this time, after our having stood by and done nothing while Saddam Hussein used poison gas in the Iran-Iraq war, defies both reason and ethics. Our military leaders express grave doubts about the strategic outcomes of military intervention, and the people of this country oppose it by a margin of 2:1. As an ardent support of President Obama in his election campaigns and as the daughter of a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, my heart is full of dread as I ponder the outcome of further U.S. military intervention in the affairs of the Middle East. For whom should we pray in Syria? For everyone to seek the way of peace.

    by Cynthia E. Lyle

    September 5, 2013

  4. As a Teaching Elder, I ask "How many people--men, women, and children--must be gassed before we take a stand to end the carnage? Delays in action only aid and abet the aggression of Syria.

    by The Rev. Darwin D. Wolfe

    September 4, 2013

  5. "Return no evil for evil." I am left in a state of disbelief that nonviolent actions are not among the international dialogue or even that of President Obama! President Obama stated we need to step up and say we will do nothing if that is what we want where his limited "no boots" action is deemed the only alternative. Nonviolent actions including world wide real time news broadcasts using U.S. satalites, . . . can be used to not only show everyone what atrocities are happening but also to help those doind the atrocities to recant and reverse their actions. I'm not naive, this method will no doubt cause a great loss of life and maiming of "the righteous". This nonviolent approach is however the moral "high road" that will be the foundation for more lasting peace in the long run. Is our faith only for worship services and clergy? Don't we profess to believe we go to heaven when we die a physical death? If so, why are we - any of us - acting out of fear militarily?

    by Cara A Bissell

    September 4, 2013

  6. I think we as a denomination are traditionally over confident in the ability of the UN to do anything. With Russia as an ally and arms dealer to Syria the UN is just dead in the water. Russia get a veto any action taken and they sold the weapons to Syria in the first place. Yeah, it would be great if the UN chipped in, but even if they did they would most likely send the same US ships that are going there now to enforce their decision. We are asking for a non-violent solution to this issue but we are not really giving any suggestions to what that solution might be. In the end I feel like we are simply saying "Bad things are bad and we don't like them." I think because we are unable to offer solutions and since we are not actively risking anything personal to support or positions we, as a denomination, lack moral authority to speak in this matter.

    by A Ruling Elder

    September 4, 2013

  7. It pains me to disagree with our President, but I join our Stated Clerk in urging our nation to initiate acts of peace rather than acts of war. There is no perfect solution to Syria's crisis, but we can take initial steps toward peace - relief for Syrian refugees and victims of war, and seeking international agreement to stop arming both sides of the conflict.

    by James Cogswell

    September 4, 2013

  8. Blessed are the Peace Makers! We are a nation and a world of violence. When is the appropriate time to seek peace and not war. Two thousand years of an eye for an eye has not worked. Let's get peace and love a try for once. Thank you for this statement.

    by Jack Kleier

    September 2, 2013

  9. Thank you Gradye. My wife was born in Damascus, and we worry together about her best friend, Selwa and her family, children,and grandchildren. I met them when I served our church as a Peace Associate for the Middle East. You make us proud of our Church.

    by Rev. Gordon Webster

    August 31, 2013

  10. As a minister of the Gospel I must support a limited military strike as a responce to the use of chemical agents aginst the children, women and civilians in Syria. The Children of Syria have asked Obama and the USA to help. Are the Christian and Muslims of Syria our neighbor? I answer yes. The Gospel narrative of the Good Smaritan informs the question of what we ought to do. (Act) Luther informs the question of what to do when a neighbor is being harmed and his opinion is that we must act immediately. I am disapponted that the Orthodox Church has not spoken or acted with condemnation of the use of Chemical Agents Against women, children & civilians in Syria. I am shocked that the authors of this statement are distracted from the central issue: what we Americans Citizens of faith must do when children are victims of chemical agents. Nothing is the witness from the PCUSA. The statement lacks prophetic empathy and compassion for Children killed, soon to die and orphaned. The Children of Syria asked simply for Obama (US) to help. I support the work of the UN and its mission. Still in two years there is no progress. I support our Constitution and political process. Still there are serious risks of dysfunction and confussion leading to a delay in meaningful action for the children, women & civilians. On this Lord's Day Service PCUSA rest in the cozy comfort of American Meeting Houses and Homes. One million children live on the edge of survival and more than 400 innocents have died. This statement lack theological method, lacks systematic theology and forgets the witness of D. Bonhoffer.

    by The Reverend James Turturro

    August 31, 2013

  11. Thank you.

    by Michelle Bartel

    August 31, 2013

  12. Thank you, Gradye, for speaking so eloquently and calling us to attend to peacemaking.

    by Debra Avery

    August 30, 2013

  13. I just pasted this to my Facebook wall...I encourage others to do so as well, helping to spread this 'third way' choice.

    by Constance McIntosh

    August 30, 2013

  14. I agree completely! It should be a United Nations effort to bring peace to this troubled area, not just the U.S. Prayers for relief for those innocent bystanders and prayers for wisdom for all world leaders.

    by Kathy Merizon

    August 30, 2013

  15. who are the interfaith leaders doing the good work of reconciliation there? for whom on the ground in Syria - should we be praying?

    by Rev. Dr. Thomas Blair

    August 30, 2013

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