"For followers of Jesus, justice, reconciliation and peace are based on the demanding commandment to love others," the statement says in part.
In contrast, it says, the White House and leaders of both political parties in Congress have enacted policies "that are based on fear and intimidation, hatred and manipulation."
Published online and in the current issue of Baptist Peacemaker, the statement criticizes the government for declaring "an elusive and unending war on terrorism to justify its own violent acts of retribution" and establishing an American "empire to be imposed upon the rest of the world."
So far, 165 U.S. Baptists had signed the petition drafted in September by an ad hoc group of six Baptists who met in November at Judson Memorial Baptist Church in New York City.
One of the drafters, Baptist Peace Fellowship board member Peter Carman, said questions of when and how the statement will be distributed are still under discussion.
"One thing were tying to do is encourage individual action," Carman, pastor of Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester, N.Y., said in a telephone interview. "We're hoping to hear back from people about what they're doing."
"As Baptists in the United States, we have no desire to further the division in our nation or across the globe," the statement reads. "But neither can we remain silent in the face of the policies and practices of our nation that are so diametrically opposed to our religious faith and what we understand to be the democratic values of the nation."
It asks Baptists to:
--"Seek God's forgiveness in private and public confession for our own complicity, through acts of commission and omission, in the unnecessary harm our nation is inflicting upon the people of Iraq and in the global war on terrorism."
--"Protect the fundamental freedom to dissent and hold opinions contrary to the dominant culture and government policies."
--"Expose, in whatever means and opportunities are available, the intimidating and manipulative appeals to fear and hatred to justify and foster practices of coercion and military aggression adopted by our government."
--"Challenge in spoken and written word our fellow citizens and our public leaders to reflect on the foundations and consequences of our nation's policies and practices and to recommend and actively support alternative policies and practices that promote diplomacy, human rights and development and the protection and just distribution of the earth's resources."
Saying President Bush and members of the administration are "indifferent and unresponsive to the widening public desire to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq," the statement urges Baptists to contact members of Congress seeking legislation to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, implement international solutions to ending the war and rebuilding Iraq and "support programs that mandate diplomatic solutions to international conflicts and the use of war as a last resort."
"If, as a follower of Jesus, you share our deep concern about the policies and practices of our nation, we invite you to join us in casting off the fear that has bound us," the petition concludes.
"We ask that you endorse this statement on the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America Web site (www.bpfna.org) or convey it to the BPFNA office by mail (4800 Wedgewood Drive, Charlotte NC 28210 USA), fax (704.521.6053), or e-mail (email@example.com)."
"In the spirit of discipleship and Baptist freedom, we invite you to join in this endeavor."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.