This weekend, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) visits Utah. Like all moderators, the Rev. Jack Rogers is elected for only one year — a year that is spent almost entirely on the road.
It's been more than four years since a moderator came to Utah. So Utah was definitely on the Rev. Roger's agenda. Yet with the events of Sept. 11, his intended topic of discussion has changed. The Rev. Rogers thought he'd be talking about healing the divisions within the church. Instead he'll be talking about healing the divisions in the world.
He will say, "We want justice, but we want it to be tempered with mercy."
In a telephone interview with the Deseret News, the Rev. Rogers talked of the grief in this country and abroad. He talked of the aid sent to New York and Washington, D.C., and of the offerings still being collected.
"We are in partnership with churches in 80 countries," said the Rev. Rogers, a minister of the Word and Sacrament of the Presbyterian Church (USA). "We run hospitals and schools all over the world. Naturally we want our government to be restrained in response to this tragedy because we don't want us, as Americans, to cause more suffering."
When he comes to Utah, he says, he will emphasize the church's solidarity with all humanity and the need to move forward in the church's various ministries "whereby we carry out God's will to be of service in this world."
In addition to attending worship services on the recent National Day of Prayer, many Utah Presbyterians made a point of learning more about their church's positions. Those who visited the church's Web site found several letters from ministers and lay leaders as well as position papers on what this country's relationship should be with other countries.
The following are from a 35-page report on the Middle East issued by the church's 1997 General Assembly, saying the church:
Commends the Middle East Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches for efforts to further Christian unity and interreligious dialogue, particularly between Christians and Muslims.
Calls upon the United States to take effective measures, including withholding aid and joining efforts of the U.N. Security Council to oppose expansion of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank — which exacerbates national and religious tensions.
Reaffirms the action of the General Assembly of 1949 supporting the United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," including such phrases as "no one shall be subject to torture . . . everyone has the right to freedom of thought, this right includes the freedom to change one's religion . . . "
Urges the United States and the United Nations and private entities to cooperate in building more sustainable, self-reliant and socially equitable agriculture systems throughout the area.
Calls upon the people and the government of the United States to reduce the American demand for petroleum . . . as a necessary step in reducing the American military presence and the promotion of weapons sales in the region.
Confesses the history of Christian prejudice and persecution of Jews, including Western Christian responsibility in relation to the Holocaust and confesses the history of Christian prejudice and hostility toward Islam that inspired the Crusades and, in modern times, fueled Western Christian complicity in colonialism.