A pastoral letter to all Methodist Churches in Britain

11 November 2001

A pastoral letter to all Methodist Churches inBritain

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 11 November, we honour the memory of those who gave theirlives in the two great wars of the twentieth century. For most ofus in recent years, though we have wanted to continue ourremembrance, war has been something remote. This year, because ofan 11th day that is only two months away, war is at the forefrontof all our minds. We hope that on this Remembrance Sunday we mayrightly respond to the present as well as to the past, and that iswhy we are writing this letter to you.

Remembrance has always been a way of acknowledging the cost ofwar to those who have fought on our behalf. As we honour those whosuffered and died in the two World Wars, we invite your prayersalso for those of us on whom today's conflict makes most demands:our political decision makers, members of our armed forces involvedin the military action, and their families.

Remembrance has also rightly acknowledged the cost of war toforces who have opposed us, as well as to those on both sides ofwars who have suffered through no choice of their own. We cannotforget today the innocent victims of 11 September, or of the actionthat is being taken in Afghanistan. Nor should we exclude from ourprayers those we see as the enemy in the present conflict, howeverhard it may be to pray for them.

For some of us, who have thought that war was never justified,Remembrance Sunday has always been a time of repentance. For manyof us, particularly when we have remembered the defeat of Nazism inWorld War Two, war has seemed sometimes to be the lesser of twoevils, for all its cost to combatants and non-combatants alike. Butno-one who takes the cost of military action seriously can avoidthe question of whether it is justified. In Afghanistan at presenta humanitarian crisis of frightening proportions is developing.There is understandably much public debate about whether thecurrent military campaign is the right way to counter terrorism;yet all of us are clear that it must be countered somehow. We hopethat our people will take part in the debate about the rightresponse.

Finally, we have consistently used Remembrance Sunday as a timeto pray for peace. We have rarely in recent times felt our peacemore threatened than when we were faced with the hatred and rage of11 September. We have watched what followed with apprehension anddistress: the displacement of tens of thousands of refugees, moredeath and destruction in a country already ravaged by war,increased tension between different racial and religious groups farbeyond the borders of Afghanistan. Peace-making in such a situationwill require great wisdom, energy and courage, and it will be avery long task. Yet Christians are not to give up hope. In Christthere is unlimited peace-making, and with him his brothers andsisters can be peace-makers too.

It is not for us to say what practical response you should make,though we do want to underline the need we see to talk with - andlisten to - our Muslim neighbours wherever we can. Our concern isthat in our remembering together we should be as open as possibleto what God waits to do now to heal and help our troubledworld.

We join our prayers with yours, and greet you in the name of thePrince of Peace.

Yours sincerely,
Christina Le Moignan, President of the MethodistConference
Ann Leck, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference

Note to Methodist churches - preachers are welcome to readall or part of the letter during the sermon or at anotherappropriate moment on Remembrance Sunday. Alternatively churchesmight wish to hand out a copy of the letter to members of thecongregation before the start or after the end of theservice.