PC (USA) Ordains Non-Celibate Homosexual to Ministry

Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area ‘Fidelity/chastity’ ordination standard not an essential of Reformed faith and polity, commissioners decide

By Craig M. KiblerStaff Writer
The Layman Online
Monday, January 28, 2008

EDINA, Minn. – Scripture and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) both took a beating Jan. 26 when the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area overwhelmingly voted that the “fidelity/chastity” ordination standard in the Book of Order is not an essential of Reformed faith and polity. With several inches of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering in the high teens, more than 350 people were in the sanctuary of Christ Presbyterian Church as commissioners voted on a declared scruple to that clause by Paul Capetz, an openly gay former minister in the PCUSA. Later, the presbytery also voted overwhelmingly to restore Capetz to the exercise of the ordained office of minister of Word and sacrament, as well as validating his service as an associate professor at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn.Commissioners voted on the following motion: “The Committee on Ministry recommends that Dr. Capetz’s declared departure from G-6.0106b be not found to constitute a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity under G-6.0108 of the Book of Order.” Of the 283 votes cast by written ballot, 197 commissioners voted in favor of permitting the scruple; 84 voted against; and there were two abstentions. In a statement, Interim Executive Presbyter Sarai Schnucker said, “We are overwhelmed by the grace and love that this presbytery exhibited today. The members of the presbytery have conducted themselves with respect and restraint, even while handling such a controversial issue. As a presbytery, we listened to each other and heard each other. In the midst of this time of debate and discernment, there was true worship by the Body of Christ as we sang songs and broke bread together.” “We are unaware of what might take place as a result of today,” she said, “but we have come together as the Body of Christ and we are grateful for the presence of the Spirit with us. Thanks be to God.” Second declared scruple It was the second time in 10 days that a presbytery had approved a declared scruple regarding the denomination’s “fidelity/chastity” ordination standard. On Jan. 15, San Francisco Presbytery approved a scruple in the case of Lisa Larges, a lesbian who is seeking to take the first steps in the ordination process. The three votes in Edina came in response to a request by Capetz that he be restored to ordained ministry. In April 2000, he had requested, and the presbytery agreed, that he be released from the exercise of ordained ministry because of clause G-6.0106b in the denomination’s Book of Order.That “fidelity/chastity” clause, approved by a majority of the PCUSA’s 173 presbyteries in 1997, requires those called to office in the denomination to “lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church,” including living “either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.” At the time, Capetz said in a document provided to the presbytery for the Jan. 26 meeting, he was “unable to construe that amendment to the constitution as implying anything other than commitment to a life of permanent celibacy on the part of homosexually-oriented persons who serve as ordained officers in the church.”

PUP report

In June 2006, the 217th General Assembly approved the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity that included an authoritative interpretation that allows individual church sessions and presbyteries to declare whether G-6.0106b is essential. The authoritative interpretation focuses on the “conscience” clause (G-6.0108) and states that the judgment of ordaining bodies cannot be bound by any rule that they deem non-essential.In August 2007, Capetz cited the PUP report in making a request for restoration as a minister to the presbytery’s committee on ministry. At that time, he said he was “grateful for this new authoritative interpretation of section G-6.0108 in our Book of Order that makes it possible for me to request reinstatement as a minister with a good conscience and for this presbytery to have the authority to determine my fitness for holding this office once again.” According to a November letter provided to commissioners by Stated Clerk Nancy E. Grittman, at the time he was released from ordained office, Capetz “was a member in good standing of the presbytery. … There were no charges pending against Paul, nor was there reason to believe that there might be. As Paul says in his letter, he acted in good conscience following the passage of Book of Order G-6.0106b. …” “Following the passage by the denomination of the Peace, Unity and Purity report and the authoritative interpretation,” Grittman wrote, “Paul has asked to be restored to the ordained office of minister of the Word and sacrament.” The presbytery’s committee on ministry voted 11-3 that same month to approve Capetz’s request, saying that his declared scruple to the “fidelity/chastity” clause did not constitute a failure to adhere to an essential of Reformed faith. A Dec. 1 special meeting to consider the issue was postponed, however, after presbytery commissioners at their November meeting directed the committee to provide the presbytery with “a clear statement of what the departure from the constitution is and what was the rationale of the committee on ministry to recommend his reinstatement.” That material was provided to commissioners for the Jan. 26 meeting.

Thank You Revs. Brown and Crawford, Preach it Brothers

Who gets to be called ‘schismatic?’

October 11, 2007

I continue to find the writings of John Shuck [Letters, October 10, 2007] to be illustrating about what we face by remaining in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Here is a minister in good standing who has publicly mocked our faith, who believes that Jesus’ body rotted in a grave, that Jesus will not return again, who mocks Christians on a daily basis over at his blog, and then he has the nerve to label a faithful minister like Bill Crawford a schismatic. What a joke! Friends, when an apostate “minister” stands within our system, not disciplined by his presbytery, who refutes the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and calls a faithful pastor schismatic, we had better know where we stand. How long, brothers and sisters in Christ, will we allow this to go on? How long will we swear our allegiance to an organization that allows a person like John Shuck to wear our label? As my good friend Will Spotts calls us to remember in his farewell address to the PCUSA, we had better remember what is being done in our names. I, for one, will not long abide in an organization that allows this to continue. How about you?

Toby Brown
Cuero, Texas

About letter by John Shuck
October 11, 2007

I think it will be a interesting day indeed when Christian members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) take a moment to see true heresy and apostasy at work by checking out John Shuck’s blog “Shuck and Jive.” Although offensive, it is a lesson in the practical reality of this institution. I think The Layman Online would do a community service to publish this letter and its links. Shucks, a full-blown investigation would be illuminating.Yes, John Shuck is a minister of Word and sacrament and, yes, he has been reported to the committee on ministry of Holston Presbytery and the reply was that he was a “minister in good standing.” You can read the sermons that he preaches from the pulpit of a PCUSA congregation here. Or, perhaps, you would like to read as John talks about the “Rapture” (warning – some medieval nudity here).When John Shuck insults me, I count it all joy.

Bill Crawford
pastor First Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux
Thibodaux, La.

Rev. Bill Crawford, Schismatic?

Isee the “Rev.” John Schuck has taken the time out of his busy day to take a pot shot at one of the consistory:

The PCUSA is moving ahead
October 10, 2007

It will be a day just like all others when schismatics like Bill Crawford
of Thibodaux, La. [Letters, October 9, 2007], finally exit the denomination in a
self-righteous huff. Despite the angry (and now tired) complainers, the vast
majority of the church does its work for Christ’s Kingdom. Crawford and his
crowd can stay or leave.The Presbyterian Church (USA) is moving ahead with or
without you.

John Shuck First Presbyterian Church Elizabethton, Tenn.

Denominational News

Staying and ‘fighting for reform is not a viable option’
Largest congregation in Presbytery of South Louisiana
schedules vote to disaffiliate from PCUSA, join EPC

By Craig M. Kibler
Staff Writer

The Layman Online
Friday, September 28, 2007


Saying that “remaining in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and fighting for reform is not a viable option,” the largest congregation in the Presbytery of South Louisiana has scheduled a meeting next month to “terminate its voluntary affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and petition for voluntary affiliation with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, at the “unanimous recommendation of the session’s denominational affairs committee and the unanimous recommendation of the session,” has scheduled a congregational vote on the issue at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28.

The congregation has 1,592 members, according to official denominational statistics, compared to the average PCUSA congregation’s 209 members. The Presbytery of South Louisiana is comprised of 67 congregations in the southern part of the state, including New Orleans.

In a letter to members of the congregation posted Sept. 25 on the church’s Web site, the session wrote that, within the PCUSA, “the tolerance of a variety of theological viewpoints has led to theological pluralism. It was noted that after the passage of the PUP report, discipline is less likely. The PCUSA is declining and has a limited life span. Reform has no real chance of success.”

The affiliation issue, and not church property, is the sole purpose of the vote. A year ago, the Presbytery of South Louisiana declared that First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, and not the presbytery or the PCUSA, owns the congregation’s property.

In a 55-13 vote Nov. 4, 2006, the presbytery agreed to a stipulated judgment that said First Presbyterian Church “holds all property titled in its name in full, complete and unfettered ownership” and that neither the presbytery “nor any person, entity, administrative unit, agency, commission, committee or governing body action on behalf of the Presbytery of South Louisiana or in its stead, or claiming by, through or under the Presbytery of South Louisiana, has any right, title or interest in or to the Property, whether in trust or otherwise, nor any right to determine control, directly or indirectly, the use or ownership of the property.”

The session said in the letter that the congregation’s “affiliation with the EPC is the most desirable option within the Presbyterian Church. The theological foundations of the EPC are sound, complete and embody the traditional and fundamental beliefs of the Presbyterian Church that we love. The [denominational affairs] committee acknowledges that any differences in polity could be identified and resolved within the five years of membership in the transitional presbytery.

While saying that separation from the PCUSA “will not be without consequences or pain,” the committee recommendation includes “continued, but limited financial support” to the presbytery.

In summation, the letter states that the “realization of our fullest potential as a church is through discontinuance of our affiliation with the PCUSA and voluntarily seeking affiliation with the EPC. Discontinuing affiliation will free our church from past ineffective efforts to reform the PCUSA. Affiliation with the EPC offers a more effective use of our resources, talent and energies in pursuing our shared vision of bringing the Gospel to the entire world.”

The complete text of the session’s letter to the congregation is as follows:

“Dear Members of First Presbyterian Church:

“As you know, for many months now, we have been considering the question of our denominational affiliation. The denominational affairs committee has issued their final report. After more than half a year of prayerful deliberations, dozens of interviews with church members, PCUSA officials, EPC representatives and pastors across the country, the committee brought to the session a unanimous recommendation: We are called to end our affiliation with the PCUSA and realign with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

“The board of trustees in calling for a meeting of the corporation has unanimously endorsed this recommendation. And, after two weeks of prayerfully considering the report, the session has now unanimously endorsed it. All four installed pastors have enthusiastically concurred. The final decision now rests with the congregation at the meeting called for 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.

“The formal calls for the meetings are enclosed. Also, a summary of the conclusions reached by the committee is included. Further notes from the committee are available on the literature tables or our Web site.

“For many of us, the decision on Oct. 28 will be a joyful one, as we consider embracing a future where our cherished beliefs are nurtured and cherished, rather than placed in jeopardy, by the larger church of which we are a part. For others of us, this decision may be painful and even seem like a potential departure from our heritage and history.

“Please understand that, whatever the congregation’s decision, several things will remain constant:

  • “We will remain Presbyterian. Both the PCUSA and the EPC have roots in historic American Presbyterianism as expressed through both the old southern and northern branches.
  • “We will remain in relationship with Presbyterian churches in the Presbytery of South Louisiana. Though moving to the EPC would mean that we are no longer formally under the jurisdiction of the presbytery, our ties of friendship would continue. The session is recommending that we continue financial support of the presbytery in the near future. Moreover, Gerrit has had a personal meeting with Presbytery Executive Alan Cutter. He has been assured that the presbytery desires to bless us in whichever future God has called us, and he has assured Alan that we desire to continue in friendship and shared ministry wherever possible. We will invite representatives of the presbytery to our meeting.
  • “We will continue to be a church with clear, distinctive theological beliefs which feels called toward evangelism and mission, always seeking to be outward focused.
  • “We will continue to be a warm, accepting congregation flinging wide our doors to invite others to share our fellowship and worship. We will ever remember that the church is a hospital for sinners. Because we know what it means to have been lost, we can tenderly offer a savior to others.

We have four forums for consideration scheduled over the next month:

  • Sunday, Sept 30: Combined Sunday School, 10:15 in Sanctuary: “Hearing from our Peers” Alan Cutter and Russ Stevenson speaking.
  • Monday, Oct 1: 10:30-Noon. “What Would Life be Like in the EPC?” Bob Vincent (pastor, Grace EPC, Alexandria)
  • Sunday, Oct 15: Combined Sunday School, 10:15 in Sanctuary: “Hearing from the EPC” Jeff Jeremiah (Stated Clerk, EPC) and John Adamson (elder, 2nd Pres Memphis). ?
  • Tuesday, Oct 16: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Open Forum, Reception Room.

“Please mark these dates, and especially Oct. 28, on your calendar. Join your elders in praying for God’s guidance and the church’s peace in these coming weeks.”

“Sincerely,

Mary Ann Harmon
Clerk of Session

Gerrit Dawson
Moderator of Session

Eugene Owen
President of Trustees

Notice of Congregational Meeting
“The session of First Presbyterian Church of the City of Baton Rouge has called a special meeting of the congregation, to be held in the sanctuary on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007, starting at 9 a.m. The purpose of this congregational meeting is to consider and decide whether the congregation shall or shall not adopt the unanimous recommendation of the session’s denominational affairs committee, and the unanimous recommendation of the session, that First Presbyterian Church of the City of Baton Rouge, terminate its voluntary affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and petition for voluntary affiliation with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and to consider such other actions as may be appropriate, if any, in respect of the congregation’s decision on the same.

Notice of Corporation Meeting
“The board of trustees of First Presbyterian Church of the City of Baton Rouge has called a special meeting of the members of the Corporation (all persons listed as a member on the active rolls of the congregation of the church), to be held in the sanctuary on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007, to begin immediately following adjournment of the special meeting of the congregation noticed for the same date. The purpose of this corporate meeting is to: amend the articles of incorporation to conform the method used for mailing notice of corporate meetings to the method used for mailing church bulletins, thereby reducing costs; clarify the quorum requirement; and take such other actions as may be appropriate, if any, in respect of any action taken at the meeting of the congregation noticed for the same date thereof.

Denominational Affairs Committee Conclusions and Recommendations

1. “The question demands timely resolution. The committee believes that postponing a decision would prolong confusion and unrest in FPCBR, and the level of involvement of our ministers behooves us to see resolution to the question now.
2. “Remaining in the PCUSA and fighting for reform is not a viable option. The tolerance of a variety of theological viewpoints has lead to theological pluralism. It was noted that after the passage of the PUP report, discipline is less likely. The PCUSA is declining and has a limited life span. Reform has no real chance of success.
3. “FPCBR’s Affiliation with the EPC is the most desirable option within the Presbyterian Church. The theological foundations of the EPC are sound, complete and embody the traditional and fundamental beliefs of the Presbyterian Church that we love. The committee acknowledges that any differences in polity could be identified and resolved within the five years of membership in the transitional presbytery.
4. “Separation from the PCUSA will not be without consequences or pain. The decision is not going to be easy, and it will not be made without financial consequences. Separation will not be painless, and the committee recommends continued, but limited financial support to the Presbytery of South Louisiana.
5. “Realization of our fullest potential as a church is through discontinuance of our affiliation with the PCUSA and voluntarily seeking affiliation with the EPC. Discontinuing affiliation will free our church from past ineffective efforts to reform the PCUSA. Affiliation with the EPC offers a more effective use of our resources, talent and energies in pursuing our shared vision of bringing the Gospel to the entire world.

Therefore:

1. “Subject to an affirmative vote of the congregation (adopted by a majority of not less than two-thirds of those members present and voting), the committee recommends that the FPCBR notify the Presbytery of South Louisiana that we are terminating our voluntary association with the PCUSA. At the same time, we will advise the PSL of our conditional intentions of continuing financial support for a limited period in the future as described in detail elsewhere.
2. “Subject to the same affirming vote adopted by same majority as above, the committee recommends that FPCBR apply to the EPC for admission to the non-geographical presbytery.”

Submitted to Session Sept. 10, 2007

Craig M. Kibler is the Director of Publications/Executive Editor of The Layman and The Layman Online. He can be reached at cmkibler@layman.org.

Must Read Letter to the Editor

This is a letter to the editor in the Layman that struck me as being not only spot on but a great summary of my feelings as well.

Beginnings of revival?
July 18, 2007
I am very pleased with the level of discourse I am seeing in the “Letters” section of The Layman Online. I left (“was told to leave” would be more accurate) the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the Presbyterian Church in America in 2002. I am now a PCA pastor in Sturgis, S.D.

One of my great concerns was that there seemed to be very little theological acuity among the conservatives in the PCUSA, and certainly very little awareness of the historic Reformed orthodoxy as expressed by the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions. A broad evangelicalism was certainly professed and held to, but robust Reformed theology is much more than just the puddle we call contemporary evangelicalism. I remember being called a “hyper-Calvinist” by another pastor at a PCUSA conference in Indianapolis because I believed in limited atonement. I can assure you that the dear man never met a real hyper-Calvinist in his life, and seemed not to know the true definition of the term. It was obvious that he had never read the Canons of Dordt.

It particularly bothered me that we were so up in arms about the gay marriage and gay ordination issues when hardly a peep has been heard concerning the century of apostasy from the Scriptures that led directly to the gay ordination issue. But the one surely led to the other.

Nor was there much of a desire to address the sin issues that the conservatives seemed to make an easy peace with – namely: inappropriate divorce, adultery, fornication, lack of church discipline, materialism and a love of money, and a lackadaisical approach to the sacraments and the Lord’s worship.

My reluctant conclusion was that many of the conservatives were simply culturally conservative, and not really Biblically conservative. I suspected what many on the theological left must suspect – that, given enough time and enough pro-gay propaganda from the culture around us, the conservatives would settle down on the gay issue as well. How well I remember “Rev.” Steven Van Kuiken of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church standing on the floor of Cincinnati Presbytery during the debates on Amendment O saying, “The conservatives are just being hypocrites. They capitulated to us on women’s ordination and they capitulated to us on divorce and now they’re fighting us on gay marriage?” That man is an apostate, but he understood his hermeneutics and he understood his opponents better than his opponents understood themselves.

Today, however, when I read the letters to the editor, I find links to an article by Al Mohler. I find a letter from a gentleman articulating the marks of the true visible church and saying that neither Rome nor the PCUSA fulfill the requirements. I find in another letter a very adequate defense of the Reformed understanding of the interplay between saving faith and the good works which must proceed from saving faith. I find R.C. Sproul’s Tabletalk magazine quoted to good effect, and a clear understanding that deviating from the revealed names of the three persons of the Trinity is the sin of idolatry, not simply an issue of semantics. I even find a tolerable (though roundabout) explanation of the difference between the visible and the invisible church. This is a very good thing!

My brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you. In our congregational prayers here at Foothills PCA, we frequently pray for you. You need to know that you have been cut off from a glorious theological heritage, not only by theological liberalism, but also by many well-meaning evangelical leaders who are more familiar with Bill Hybels and Chuck Swindoll than they are with the Westminster Divines and Calvin. I think it would be a very good idea if every reader of The Layman would purchase a copy of the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions and read it from cover to cover.

If you don’t want to give money to those who are responsible for the new Babylonian captivity of the church, you can find them all online. But read the Scots Confession. Read the Second Helvetic and the Belgic Confessions. Read the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Even the Barmen Declaration and the Confession of 1967 have some value. Read the Scripture references contained in them and carefully compare all these things with the Scriptures. It is the Scripture, after all, that is the only infallible rule of faith and life. But these guys were really, really good at exegeting the Scriptures! Think carefully for yourselves, and trust the Spirit of God to do what He promises He will do when God’s people get serious about God’s Word.

A.W. Tozer once said that when the Church behaves badly, it’s on account of the fact that the Church believes wrongly. True revival in the Church must begin with recovery of the truth. Historic Reformed theology is, in my opinion, the most thorough and careful exposition of the truths of the Scriptures that ever existed in the Church Militant.

It is my fervent prayer that these developments portend a new Great Awakening among God’s elect in the PCUSA, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, or whatever visible organizations result from the gyrations of the next few years. Tolle lege! Take up and read!
Rev. Brian Carpenter
Foothills Community Church (PCA)
Sturgis, S.D.

New Wineskins Conference

If the first report is any indication I am very disturbed by the focus of the New Wineskins Conference. It seems to me that the leaders of this group have no real belief in Presbyterianism or the Reformed faith. Their words are very focused on emotion-driven Christianity without any real desire to seek anything substantive or foundational. Evangelical Big-Box at heart this quote from the story on Layman Online is especially disturbing:

Dean Weaver, pastor of Community Park Presbyterian Church and co-moderator of the New Wineskins Initiative, as part of an “action plan” that also calls for the evangelical group to become formally organized as the New Wineskins Association of Churches. Although first organized as a parallel evangelical movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA), the New Wineskins Initiative has made almost no reference to being denominational or Presbyterian. Weaver emphasized that distinction during his presentation of the action plan, although it did include a reference to a connectionalism “as understood by the historic Reformed tradition.”

So here we have a “Presbyterian renewal group” that is neither Presbyterian in any fashion nor is it in the least bit interested in reforming the church. It seems that this conference is an insult to anyone who really desires to reform the church. I was never really impressed by the NWI nor the Constitutional Presbyterians and the beginnings of this conference has definitely not changed my understandings of this Renewal Group. Hopefully the Layman is printing an incorrect translation of what is really going on in Tulsa.

http://www.layman.org/

Sedition at the Top

Here is a story from Layman.org:

Moderator, stated clerk
blame kidnappings on U.S.

By John H. Adams
The Layman Online
Wednesday, December 7, 2005


Blaming the United States for its military role in Iraq, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have made an appeal to Iraqi kidnappers to release four peace activists who are members of a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

“We are gravely concerned about their safety, as well as the safety of all people, both Iraqi and the United States, whose lives have been endangered because of the United States’ war against Iraq,” said Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and General Assembly Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase.

They added, “The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has spoken forcefully about our conviction that there was no justification for the U.S. government’s invasion of Iraq. Presbyterians pray daily for the innocent Iraqi civilians, U.S. soldiers, and all others whose lives are at risk at this time. Further, we have spoken clearly about our grave concern for those who have been detained by U.S. forces, and for their families.”

The PCUSA leaders’ statement was unusually harsh in condemning U.S. involvement in Iraq – even when compared with pleas for the release of the hostages by the National Council of Churches and Islamic groups.

The NCC and Faithful Americans, an organization sponsored by the NCC and comprised of a number of Christian and non-Christian religious groups, issued a joint statement saying, “Like us, they too (members of the CPT) opposed the U.S. attack. They came to serve the Iraqi people. They came not only to urge peace but also to live peace. We who have opposed the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq call on all who live in Iraq to seek the release of these people into safety and freedom. And we call on all people of good will everywhere to join in this call.”

“Once again, we call for a swift end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and for peaceful action by the entire human community to assist Iraqis to achieve their own self-government. And we send our loving prayers to those who have become victims of their own loving commitment to peace, justice, and healing.”

The NCC and Faithful Americans did not, like the PCUSA, blame the plight of the CPT members on the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

In Palestine, Muslim religious leaders urged the captors of the four Western peace activists to release them unharmed immediately, according to the Islamic Republic News. “We appeal to the captors of these four men to release them unharmed, said the Mufti of Palestine, Ikrema Sabri. “As far as we know, these are innocent people who have done nothing wrong.”

In Washington, D.C., the Council on American-Islamic Relationships also called for release of the hostages. In a prepared statement, the group’s board chairman, Parvez Ahmed, said, “The hostages in Iraq are longtime friends of the Muslim community. On numerous occasions they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims advocating for their causes — from forming human-shields in Iraq before the U.S. invasion, to protecting the honor and property of the Palestinian people.

“Those who left the comfort of their homes to advocate for the rights of others that do not share their faith, ethnicity or language should be celebrated and honored by Muslims, not humiliated by being made captives or, God forbid, killed. This is a universal human ideal and a cherished principle of Islam.

“As a leader of the American Muslim community and the head of America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, I make a personal appeal to the captors of the four members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams – release our brothers in humanity immediately and unconditionally. We also make this call to the captors of all those, of any faith, currently held hostage in Iraq.”

The Presbyterian leaders alone blamed the “United States’ war against Iraq” for endangering the hostages. Currently, there is no “war against Iraq.” The U.S. involvement, whether supported or denounced, is focused on protecting a fragile Iraqi democracy against Iraqis and insurgents who oppose democracy.

The four peace activists were kidnapped by a heretofore unknown group, the Swords of Righteousness. The group has said it will kill the four on Thursday if all prisoners in Iraq are not released by then.

The Presbyterian leaders, after emphasizing their opposition to the U.S. role in Iraq, did mildly state their opposition to the kidnappings by the Swords of Righteousness. “We believe that all violence is wrong, and that the action of kidnapping cannot be justified under any circumstance,” they said.