- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Anti-war church leaders from the United States and Europe are touring world capitals to meet heads of state, but they haven't gotten an appointment with President Bush, whose Iraq policy they have assailed.
Without access to the White House, the group of American, British, Scottish, French and German clergy are holding a briefing and prayer vigil on Capitol Hill today.
"The Bush administration has yet to respond to a Jan. 30 request from 49 U.S. church leaders for a meeting before war is launched against Iraq," the group said in a statement.
"The president meets with religious leaders on a regular basis," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday. "There's nothing he would like more than to see a peaceful resolution in Iraq."
The January request, signed by 20 bishops from the United Methodist Church, said they want to "convey face to face the message of the religious community that we represent on the moral choices that confront this nation."
The group said Mr. Bush was "well aware of our activities to slow the rush to war," but sought the "pastoral opportunity" to meet.
Meanwhile, conservative evangelicals such as the group National Religious Broadcasters have backed Mr. Bush's war diplomacy, as has the head of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
Churchgoers and clergy have mixed views on a war, according to the denominational press, while many recent sermons suggest a belief that war is inevitable.
Today's event follows anti-war clergy visits earlier this month, led by the Rev. Bob Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches, to see German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the French Foreign Ministry.
And last week, the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, a peace group, lead a group of eight clergymen to see British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"We were delighted to meet the prime minister, even as our own president won't see us," the Rev. Dan Weiss of the American Baptist Churches USA said at a press conference after the 50-minute session.
Episcopal Bishop John Chane of Washington was in the delegation.
The Capitol Hill briefing today "will report on" the clergy sessions in Europe, said the group, which later today will sign a statement against the war outside the Methodist Building adjacent to the U.S. Capitol grounds.
The events will feature the Rev. Jean Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Protestant Federation; Bishop Manfred Kock, president of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany; and the Rev. Alan D. McDonald of the Church of Scotland.
A delegate from the World Council of Churches and the United Methodist Church will also endorse today's protest.
The anti-war clergy say their allies also have appointments in the next few days with Pope John Paul II, who on Sunday spoke against a military conflict and will meet next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last year, a large church delegation met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and in December, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld invited a dozen church leaders to the Pentagon.


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