Resolution Against Torture Is Adopted by Annual Conference

224th Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — July 6, 2010


Standing Committee representative from Atlantic Southeast District Leah Hileman presented the Resolution Against Torture to the delegates, whe adopted it with many statements of affirmation. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Doris Abdullah, the church’s representative to the United Nations, spoke in support of the Resolution Against Torture. “I stand in righteous affirmation,” she said. Photos by Glenn Riegel

Delegates chat during the day’s business, which included in addition to the Resolution Against Torture, also engagement in a Bible study, reports from ecumenical groups, an open discussion with agencies of the church, and more.

A Church of the Brethren Resolution Against Torture has been adopted by the Annual Conference, meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa., today July 6. In adopting the resolution, the Conference has stated, “Torture is a blatant violation of the tenets of our faith.”

Brought by the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board and presented to the delegates by Standing Committee member Leah Hileman of Atlantic Southeast District, the paper offers a biblical and historical basis for Brethren opposition to torture, and concludes with a strong and emotional call to confession and action.

The section of confession reads:

“We…find both the occurrences of torture and the attempt to legitimize the acts of torture unconscionable.

“We confess allowing the rhetoric and images of torture to pass us by.
“We confess ignoring the cry for justice.
“We confess becoming desensitized and complacent.
“We confess feeling insignificant to make a difference.
“We confess not speaking in a timely manner.
“We confess our inaction.
“We confess our silence.

“We deeply mourn the harm that has been done to all who have been tortured and have tortured. Lord have mercy. We will be silent no more.”

Presenting the resolution to the body, Hileman told the story of preaching on this issue recently in her congregation, and then experiencing a 20-minute debate in the open response time following the sermon. Earlier in the week she had told the Standing Committee of district delegates that the response of her congregation, which included “all sorts of arguments to justify it (torture),” is all the more reason to put such a statement into place for the church.

“The question still is, ‘What would Jesus do?’” she told the delegates. “The answer is that Jesus wouldn’t be in a room pushing a prisoner to his limit.”

She challenged the Brethren to be aware of the ways torture is present in daily life, such as in our television viewing where she offered the example of the series “24” in which torture has been graphically depicted as entertainment. “That’s not who we are” as Brethren, she said. “The Church of the Brethren can choose today to be in the forefront modeling an alternative to the action of torture.”

Board member Andy Hamilton was called to the podium to speak as one of those who drafted the statement. The church has waited for close to 10 years to speak on the issue, since the events and aftermath of 9/11, he said. During the writing process, the board “came under the conviction of the Spirit of God that we had been silent,” he said.

Speeches from the floor uniformly applauded the intent of the resolution. “I stand in righteous affirmation,” said Doris Abdullah, the Church of the Brethren’s representative to the United Nations. “It’s a very important statement for us to make as the body of Christ,” said Eric Anspaugh, pastor of Florin Church of the Brethren in Mount Joy, Pa.

“This is an important step to take,” said Duane Ediger of First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, Ill., and a participant in Christian Peacemaker Teams, referring to the abuses of Abu Ghraib in Iraq and the practice of extraordinary rendition of prisoners by the CIA and other government agencies.

There were some calls to include a definition of torture in the resolution, and concerns that it refer more specifically to mental and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. Two amendments were defeated, including one that would have added a short statement reaffirming the Brethren opposition to all violence, after several responses from the microphones indicated delegates regarded the amendment as diluting the resolution’s narrow focus on torture.

After the vote was taken to adopt the resolution, the delegate body gave a round of applause.

–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren

The News Team for the 2010 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel; website staff Amy Heckert and Jan Fischer Bachman; and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Contact .

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