Christian Leaders Voice Support for Iran Framework Agreement

04/16/2015 10:42 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015

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."

Signed by:

Paul Alexander
Evangelicals for Social Action

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian*
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)

Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.
Global Alliance Interfaith Networks

Rev. Leroy Barber
Global Executive Director
Word Made Flesh

Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Diana Butler Bass, Ph.D.
Author and Independent Scholar

J Ron Byler
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Tony Campolo
Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education

Sr. Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

Shane Claiborne
Executive Director
Red Letter Christians

Rev. Dr. Thomas R. De Vries
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International

Joshua DuBois
Values Partnerships

Adam Estle
Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Dr. Robert M. Franklin*
President Emeritus
Morehouse College

Glen Gersmehl
National Cooordinator
Luthean Peace Fellowship

Wes Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary Emeritus
Reformed Church in America

Very Rev. Jim Greenfield
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

David Gushee
Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

Cynthia L. Hale
Senior Pastor
Ray of Hope Christian Church

Lisa Sharon Harper
Chief Church Engagement Officer

John P. Hartley
Executive Director
Pathways for Mutual Respect

Jon Huckins
Co-Founding Director
The Global Immersion Project

Joel Hunter
Senior Pastor
Northland, A Church Distributed

Hyepin Im
Founder and President
Korean Churches for Community Development

Bishop Michael V. Kelsey, Sr.*
New Samaritan Baptist Church

Gerry G. Lee*
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rick Love
Peace Catalyst International

Rev. Carlos L Malave
Executive Director
Christian Churches Together

Rev. John L. McCullough
President and CEO
Church World Service

Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM*
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie
African Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA

Otis Moss Jr.*
Pastor Emeritus
Mt. Olivet Institutional Baptist Church

Otis Moss III
Trinity United Church of Christ

David Neff
Editor-in-Chief (retired)
Christianity Today

Rev. Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Suzii Paynter
Executive Coordinator
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

LeDayne McLeese Polaski
Executive Director
BPFNA (Bautistas por la Paz)

Soong-Chan Rah
Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism
North Park Theological Seminary

Bob Roberts Jr.*
Founder and Senior Pastor
NorthWood Church

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.*
Center for Action and Contemplation

Gabriel Salguero
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Colin Saxton
General Secretary
Friends United Meeting

Stephen Schneck
Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Ronald J. Sider
President Emeritus
Evangelicals for Social Action

Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr.*
National African American Clergy Network

Rev. Kristin Stoneking
Executive Director
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Ervin R. Stutzman
Executive Director
Mennonite Church USA

Bishop Talbert Swan, II*
Spring of Hope Church of God in Christ

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
United Methodist Church

Jer Swigart
Co-Founding Director
The Global Immersion Project

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe
Christian Media Corp Int.

Jim Wallis
President and Founder

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson
Two Futures Project

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
National 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.