This week more than 50 Christian leaders came together to voice our support for the framework of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) concerning Iran's nuclear program. Sojourners published the leaders' statement as a full-page ad in Roll Call, a Washington, D.C., political newspaper widely read by members of Congress and their staff.
The statement, signed by leaders from all the major streams of American Christianity -- Roman Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and Pentecostal -- is reprinted below. We now want to share this letter with the broader public. I urge you to add your own voice in support of the diplomatic process and share the opportunity with others. Read it; discuss it with your friends, family, and co-workers; and add your name. This is a historic opportunity for diplomacy to triumph over armed conflict, and people of faith and conscience can play an important role in helping the process succeed.
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Hope but Verify: Christian Leaders Support the Iran Framework Agreement
As Christian leaders in the United States, we welcome and support the Framework Agreement, announced by seven nations on April 2, to dramatically restrain the capacity of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. We believe this diplomatic path and process should be ardently pursued and given a chance to succeed.
We do so not as politicians but as those whose deep faith commitments compel us to speak clearly, with moral and practical wisdom, about any possibility that restrains the threat of war and opens pathways toward peace. Indeed, the One whose words and life we follow said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Mathew 5:9).
As followers of Christ, we begin with the things that Jesus instructed us to do. Whenever Christians are responding to situations of conflict, to issues of war and peace, Jesus must always be our starting point. On matters of both personal relationships and public policy, we must start with the question, "What can we best do to make peace?"
At the same time, our biblical faith tradition also cautions us about the persistent potential of evil. We are aware of this when we view the conflicts between nations and peoples -- which are the inevitable result of human sin in a fallen world. For this reason Jesus said, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves"; he admonished his followers to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Mathew 10:16).
Thus we are careful to trust not in words alone, but in actions that are fully transparent. The Framework Agreement, with its unprecedented provisions for verification, relies more on transparency than trust and offers the best path to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state.
It is the sacred responsibility of all those entrusted with political power to pursue, with patient perseverance, every option that makes the destruction of war less possible, in order to protect human life and dignity. This becomes an even more urgent moral and spiritual imperative when we have the chance to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons, with their terrifying potential of mass destruction.
We are encouraged by the ways this agreement limits Iran's nuclear infrastructure, capacities, and materials -- more than some of us had expected or even hoped. But the greatest attraction for us is the unprecedented and highly transparent monitoring and inspections systems that have been agreed to in principle and now must be finalized by June 30.
This path is better than the alternatives. Increasing sanctions, as some have proposed, is impossible without multinational support. And to engage in military strikes would be, at best, premature, as well as highly unpredictable and morally irresponsible in creating yet another U.S. war with a Muslim country.
As Christians we have a moral obligation to pursue this diplomatic course of difficult negotiations until that course is shown to be impossible. Diplomacy is never perfect, but the framework for a nuclear agreement announced April 2 is the best path to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. When finalized, the parameters of this deal will make it more difficult for Iran to develop a weapon -- a goal that reflects the binding commitments made by 191 U.N. member states, including the United States, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
As Christian leaders we are telling our political leaders: It is imperative that you pursue this agreement with integrity, commitment, and perseverance. We will be praying for you. We agree with our brother Pope Francis who said in his Easter Mass: "In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world."
Paul AlexanderPresidentEvangelicals for Social Action
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian*LegateDiocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.President/CEOGlobal Alliance Interfaith Networks
Rev. Leroy BarberGlobal Executive DirectorWord Made Flesh
Rev. Geoffrey BlackGeneral Minister and PresidentUnited Church of Christ
Diana Butler Bass, Ph.D.Author and Independent Scholar
J Ron BylerExecutive DirectorMennonite Central Committee U.S.
Sister Simone Campbell, SSSExecutive DirectorNETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Tony CampoloFounderEvangelical Association for the Promotion of Education
Sr. Patricia ChappellExecutive DirectorPax Christi USA
Shane ClaiborneExecutive DirectorRed Letter Christians
Rev. Dr. Thomas R. De VriesGeneral SecretaryReformed Church in America
Marie DennisCo-PresidentPax Christi International
Joshua DuBoisCEOValues Partnerships
Adam EstleExecutive DirectorEvangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Dr. Robert M. Franklin*President EmeritusMorehouse College
Glen GersmehlNational CooordinatorLuthean Peace Fellowship
Wes Granberg-MichaelsonGeneral Secretary EmeritusReformed Church in America
Very Rev. Jim GreenfieldPresidentConference of Major Superiors of Men
David GusheeDirectorCenter for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University
Cynthia L. HaleSenior PastorRay of Hope Christian Church
Lisa Sharon HarperChief Church Engagement OfficerSojourners
John P. HartleyExecutive DirectorPathways for Mutual Respect
Jon HuckinsCo-Founding DirectorThe Global Immersion Project
Joel HunterSenior PastorNorthland, A Church Distributed
Hyepin ImFounder and PresidentKorean Churches for Community Development
Bishop Michael V. Kelsey, Sr.*New Samaritan Baptist Church
Gerry G. Lee*DirectorMaryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rick LovePresidentPeace Catalyst International
Rev. Carlos L MalaveExecutive DirectorChristian Churches Together
Rev. John L. McCulloughPresident and CEOChurch World Service
Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM*PresidentSisters of Mercy of the Americas
Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzieAfrican Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. A. Roy MedleyGeneral SecretaryAmerican Baptist Churches USA
Otis Moss Jr.*Pastor EmeritusMt. Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Otis Moss IIIPastorTrinity United Church of Christ
David NeffEditor-in-Chief (retired)Christianity Today
Rev. Stanley J. NoffsingerGeneral SecretaryChurch of the Brethren
Suzii PaynterExecutive CoordinatorCooperative Baptist Fellowship
LeDayne McLeese PolaskiExecutive DirectorBPFNA (Bautistas por la Paz)
Soong-Chan RahMilton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and EvangelismNorth Park Theological Seminary
Bob Roberts Jr.*Founder and Senior PastorNorthWood Church
Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.*FounderCenter for Action and Contemplation
Gabriel SalgueroPresidentNational Latino Evangelical Coalition
Colin SaxtonGeneral SecretaryFriends United Meeting
Stephen SchneckDirectorInstitute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
Ronald J. SiderPresident EmeritusEvangelicals for Social Action
Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr.*Co-ChairNational African American Clergy Network
Rev. Kristin StonekingExecutive DirectorFellowship of Reconciliation
Ervin R. StutzmanExecutive DirectorMennonite Church USA
Bishop Talbert Swan, II*Spring of Hope Church of God in Christ
Bishop Mary Ann SwensonUnited Methodist Church
Jer SwigartCo-Founding DirectorThe Global Immersion Project
Dr. Geoff TunnicliffeChairmanChristian Media Corp Int.
Jim WallisPresident and FounderSojourners
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. WatkinsGeneral Minister and PresidentChristian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Tyler Wigg-StevensonFounderTwo Futures Project
Dr. Barbara Williams-SkinnerCo-ChairNational African American Clergy Network
*Due to scheduling issues, name did not appear in original Roll Call ad.
NOTE: Affiliations included for identification purposes only. Signatures do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the institution.