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'Peace Church' Urges Nuclear Arms Ban

May 17, 1987|LARRY ALTMAN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — All Saints Church, which last year declared itself the first Episcopal sanctuary for Central American refugees in Southern California, has issued a statement declaring itself a "peace church."

In the five-page statement, which took about a year to write, the church says it will take action to help prevent a nuclear arms buildup. The statement calls for a comprehensive test-ban treaty and the reduction and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons.

"In response to the urgency of the nuclear arms race, and as witnesses to the light of Christ which transforms the world, All Saints Church declares itself to be a Peace Church," the statement says.

"We will foster peace in all its dimensions, knowing that peace cannot be realized in the world until individuals find peace within their hearts, but recognizing that individual peace cannot be fulfilled unless it is acted out in the world. . . .

"We believe the spirit of God is urgently calling this parish to become the strongest advocates of peace."

History of Involvement

The church, led for the past 20 years by the Rev. George Regas, has a long history of involvement in peace issues. In many of his Sunday morning sermons, Regas has condemned nuclear weapons, U. S. policy in Nicaragua and increases in military spending.

"We have been active in the peace movement for 20 years," Regas said. "As a parish we were active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. That really marked our lives."

Last year, All Saints declared itself a sanctuary for Central American refugees, and it has been giving financial support to a Guatemalan family since then, he said. Regas also urged churchgoers to divest their holdings in companies that do business with South Africa.

In the statement, the church says it opposes any offensive or defensive weapons, such as President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, which it says could increase the militarization of space, and calls for the U. S. government to renounce any first use of nuclear weapons.

"Any national policy which intends the massive use of nuclear weapons is rendered immoral by every test of the Christian tradition. Christian ethics would call such an act a crime against God and humanity," the statement says.

"The statement is the culmination of many, many years of the deepest commitment to peacemaking," said Regas, who added that he "called for the church to think seriously" about forming an official statement to convey the church's beliefs.

"The world is teetering on the edge of nuclear destruction. We're headed in a bleak direction," Regas said. "Therefore, with all those weapons, the quintessential ethical task of the church must be to engage that issue and do all it can to change that issue. We must influence political policies that threaten destruction."

Peace Agenda

Regas said discussions will be held with church members to establish an annual "Agenda for Peacemaking," which will specify the parish's plans for action, education and advocacy programs.

The minister said members may decide to hold demonstrations, write letters and confront legislators to draw attention to the nuclear weapons issue, to "save the life of the planet."

The "Peace Statement" was approved by the church's 24-member vestry after a year of writing and revision by a committee of 14 church members. Linda Lewis, a committee member and former assistant rector, said the group's task was to a write a statement that reflected the views of All Saints church rather than all Episcopalians.

"We were really interested in ways a single congregation could commit itself to being a peace church and acting that out," Lewis said.

The statement also says the church will continue its efforts for human rights.

"We will act in support of peace, human rights, and justice at home and in all parts of the world, as we are presently acting with regard to Central America and Southern Africa, because we recognize that our well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of the whole human family," the statement says.

'Just Social Order'

In addition, the statement urges that national resources be used for "the creation of a just social order and healthy environment--to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, educate the children, protect the elderly and bring human well-being to all."

It also calls for the U. S government to use diplomacy rather than military action to end conflicts in Central America and other parts of the world.

"Violence must be resisted wherever it it found," the statement says.

Although a survey taken by the church two years ago showed that about two-thirds of its parishioners agreed with the political statements of the church and its minister, copies of the statement were sent to all of the church's 700 families during the writing process so that they could contribute to it, Lewis said. The committee wanted the statement to reflect the congregants' political beliefs and not cause problems for its more conservative members.

"We really want to make peace with each other so we are not in a lot of turmoil in our congregation," Lewis said. The final draft of the statement was approved overwhelmingly by church members, she said.

Regas said he knew of no other church that had formulated a statement to say "this is where we stand." He said he hoped other churches and synagogues would do so, looking to All Saints Church as a role model.

"I pray God will use us in that way," Regas said. "As people coming out of the Hebraic-Christian tradition, there is a strong base and a strong foundation for our commitment to be peacemakers in the world."

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