Mountain Sky Outlook
Rocky Mountain Annual Conference
Yellowstone Annual Conference
of The United Methodist Church
Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky
September 6, 2013


Friends in Christ,


With gruesome images of citizens targeted in an apparent nerve gas attack by the Syrian government, the President and Congress of the United States are debating whether to authorize military action.  I ask myself as a Christian, "What is the Christian thing to do?"  It is a different question than, "What will save the most lives?"  Or, "What is necessary to protect American security?"   


I am reminded of the Three Simple Rules [1], distilled by Bishop Reuben Job from Methodism's founder, John Wesley:


FIRST, DO NO HARM.  This is not a simple rule.  How can any human being know whether a tactical military strike on Syria will do good?  We are wise to be humble and restrained.  We know only in part.  We haven't seen the report of the United Nations investigation.  We can't know what the Assad government will do in the future.  We can't know what effect any US course of action might cause:  increased Russian support for Syria; escalation of violence within Syria; Iranian involvement in the conflict?  When we hear our leaders speak as if they know the future and the consequences of various actions under consideration, we should say, "No, it is not certain.  No one knows what will happen."  We cannot know if a tactical strike will prevent harm, but we know it will do harm.  The future will be the result of the decisions and actions of many people.  We contribute our actions to the mix.  Will we contribute harm?  Or restraint?


SECOND, DO GOOD.  This may be a simpler rule.  It is good to provide suffering people with the aid they need to survive.  Christians reach out to people in need.  It is good for them.  It is good for us. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with partners inside Syria and refugees in Jordan to provide basic relief supplies to sustain the lives of uprooted people.  To read more and support this work, go to  


THIRD, STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD. Throughout time, when people of faith face circumstances beyond their knowledge, we pray before we act. 


Pope Francis has called Catholic Christians to pray and fast for peace this weekend, saying, "May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace."


My colleague, Bishop Grant Hagiya, asked United Methodists to join Catholics in these ancient practices of the church in which we turn our attention from constant media coverage and toward that sacred temple of the heart where we come into the presence of God.  In prayer we both cry out to God to lead us in paths of peace, and we invite God to guide our thoughts and actions.  By fasting we demonstrate that we are willing to set our own needs aside to seek and serve God's way in the world.  Mountain Sky United Methodists and friends, won't you join me and Christians around the world in prayer and fasting this weekend and in the days ahead for peace that passes understanding.


Our political leaders will guide the actions of the nation as wisely as they are able.  As Christian disciples are called unfailingly to pray and hope and work for peaceful solutions to human conflict.  And so we say,

  • "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it"
  • "Blessed are the peacemakers"
  • "Peace unto this house." 


Did you know that the kingdom of God is right on your doorstep?



A Prayer For The People Of Syria


God of Compassion,

Hear the cries of the people of Syria,

Bring healing to those suffering from the violence,

Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,

Strengthen Syria's neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees,

Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,

And protect those committed to peace.

God of Hope,

Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies,

Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,

And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,

Prince of Peace and Light of the World,




Petition: For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and choose a future of peace.We pray to the Lord...[2]




[1] Three Simple Rules:  a Wesleyan Way of Living, Reuben P. Job.

[2] From Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a collaborative effort of USCCB and Catholic Relief Services. 


Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky
Mountain Sky Episcopal Area
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