Pastors form group to oppose government torture

A dozen Presbyterian pastors have joined forces as the Albany Confessing Clergy to reject the federa
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A dozen Presbyterian pastors have joined forces as the Albany Confessing Clergy to reject the federal government’s use of torture and unlawful imprisonment.

“The government of the United States has used its agencies, like the CIA, to kidnap alleged enemies and transport them to secret prisons in countries that allow torture,” says a resolution passed by the pastors.

The clergymen, who are from throughout the Capital Region, “reject and rebuke” the national policies that condone and allow torture, such as waterboarding, and unlawful imprisonment without “charge, trial or representation.”

These practices have been defended by government officials, who say they are needed in the international war on terror.

The name “Confessing Clergy” is taken from an organization of Protestant pastors in Germany who opposed Adolph Hitler in the 1930s and early 1940s and his attempts to turn their churches into a tool of the Nazi party.

Many of the leaders of this “Confessing Church” in Germany were executed by Hitler henchmen.

“We don’t think torture has a place,” said the Rev. Dr. Carson Mouser of the First Presbyterian Church in Gloversville.

“The information you get from it is not good,” he said. “The people will say anything just to stop the pain.”

The 12 pastors are a small percentage of the total number of clergy members in the Albany Presbytery, which includes 72 churches in a region that extends from Hudson to the south to Warrensburg to the north and from Vermont west to Gloversville.

Mouser said the group was started about three months ago but he recently joined.

Another member, the Rev. John Ekman of the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs, said he does not know of another group of Presbyterian pastors doing what the Albany Confessing Clergy is doing.

Ekman said in the Midwest there is a group of pastors that started a political action initiative, trying to “humanize public policy.”

“This is a start,” Ekman said. “It’s a statement of faith, a statement on a particular issue.”

“The world in which we live is increasingly unsettled and insecure,” states the clergy’s resolution titled “Inhumanity to Humanity.”

“There is a need for national leadership that is both vigilant and willing to do the hard work of understanding differences, furthering God’s justice for all peoples, leading with fidelity to its own best values and adhering to the highest principles of international law,” the resolution states.

“Personally, I would have a hard time to go and waterboard somebody, when Jesus says love your enemies and be non-violent,” Mouser said.

He said the Confessing Clergy’s statements are a voice against the national “climate of the past eight or nine years.”

The group will be asking others to join them in exercising their “democratic right and duty, so that, in these times of fear and immoral action, we will be a voice of conscience for our beloved nation, calling our leaders to embrace the highest moral leadership for the well-being of our nation and the world.”

Ekman said the pastors are sending their resolution to elected federal representatives, including U.S. senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and President Bush.

Ekman said members of the Confessing Church in Germany risked their lives in taking a stand againt Nazi control of their churches.

“It was an anti-Nazi confession of faith,” Ekman said. He said these pastors in the 1930s and 1940s said Christians serve God, “not the dictates of Hitler and his cronies.”

“Numbers of them were killed,” Ekman said.

Besides Mouser and Ekman, the Albany Confessing Clergy is made up of the Rev. Larry Deyss of Delmar, the Rev. Leif Erickson of Hudson, the Rev. Thomas Gregg of West Charlton, the Rev. Dr. Earl Johnson of Johnstown, the Rev. Mac McDonald of Amsterdam, the Rev. David Moore of Albany/Rensselaer, the Rev. Paul Randall of Niskayuna, the Rev. Cass Shaw of Schenectady, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Shook of Colonie, and the Rev. Donald Stake of Schenectady.

Categories: Schenectady County

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