Russia on Thursday launched a military assault against Ukraine, with explosions occurring across a wide swath of the country. The attacks came as Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the launch of a “special military operation” to carry out the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. In light of these events, Bishop David Bard issued the following pastoral letter calling on Minnesota United Methodists to pray for peace:
Friends in Christ in the Minnesota Conference,
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, who is our peace and who encourages us to be peacemakers when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
This past Wednesday, Russian forces, under orders from President Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine. It is the most significant violation of territorial integrity in Europe since World War II. Much of the world is outraged by this unjustifiable military intervention, and anxious about what lies ahead. Lives will be lost. Communities will be seriously damaged. Ripple effects will be experienced by us all. And we are uncertain about the extent of Russia’s military adventurism.
At this critical moment, I call upon all Minnesota United Methodists to pray for peace in Ukraine. I invite every United Methodist congregation in this conference to pray for peace at their weekly worship services this coming weekend, and to carry prayers for peace into the holy season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday on March 2. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church say: “We deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of disputes among nations…We yearn for the day when there will be no more war and people will live together in peace and justice.” Let us pray out of this deep yearning for peace, and for a better world.
United Methodist Bishop Christian Alsted of the Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area has written: “We stand with the United Methodists in Ukraine in prayer for protection, reconciliation, and peace.” Bishop Eduard Khegay of the Eurasia Episcopal Area in Northern Europe and the Eurasian Central Conference, which includes both Russia and Ukraine, has written simply and directly: “Ask for peace for Ukraine.”
Many of you know that the Rev. Dr. Fred Vanderwerf, District Superintendent of the Southern Prairie District, and his wife Stacy, served as United Methodist missionaries in Ukraine. He shared the following: “Many of you have been inquiring how are friends from our time of missionary service are doing in Ukraine, and we appreciate your inquiries. We lived in the western city of Lviv, where Ukrainian identity is preserved well, and like over 90 percent of Ukraine, they long to be respected as a sovereign nation and people. So far missiles have not landed in Lviv but have struck military installations in the oblast (like a state). My friends there seem most concerned about disinformation that is being spread through social media. The best way we can help is to only support legitimate sources. For example, it has been suggested that Ukraine was the initial aggressor and Russia is simply responding. This is categorically untrue. Mostly, I would like the world to know that this diabolical scheme of President Putin is not merely an attack on the sovereignty of Ukraine, but a potential catalyst for world war. Our concern is for Ukraine, but what happens there affects us all. Pray for peace, but also look for ways to wage peace. It’s hard to know how currently, but sacrifices at the gas station, or in our investment portfolios, are the very least we can endure for a people whose lives lay in the balance and a nation.” Fred also recorded a video that you may watch on his Facebook page.
Friends, let us ask for peace for Ukraine. Pray for a world where people will live in peace and justice, and there will be no more war. Pray, and let us “pursue what makes for peace” (Romans 14:19).
Grace and peace,
Bishop David A. Bard
Interim Bishop, Minnesota Conference
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church