The Rev. Wayne Lavender, pastor of the New Milford United Methodist Church, plans to launch a four-month peace mission on Jan. 1 that he hopes will include visiting Iraq and meeting President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who are both fellow Methodists.
Many leading clergy of the United Methodist Church, which has 9,000 churches nationwide, have spoken out against the war.
”Bush and Cheney are not my enemies and I respect them, but I respectfully disagree with them,” Lavender said. ”It will be part of my campaign to reach out to them and, if possible, meet with them.”
”I’ve always opposed the war in Iraq,” Lavender said. ”Now I’d like to go out and try to stop it and prevent any future wars. It’s time for all churches to unite in fighting for peace and justice.”
Lavender is calling his campaign ”Passing the Peace” and will start in his own denomination. His plans call for creating a Web site, forming a support group and promoting his efforts.
His mission has the blessing of both his own local church leaders and Bishop Jeremiah Park, head of the church’s Connecticut and New York State Conference. His regular duties in New Milford would resume after the four months.
Rita Iverson, chairwoman of the New Milford church staff-parish relations committee, had special encouragement for Lavender’s mission.
”Obviously we are sending him out with high hopes for success for all of us,” Iverson said. ”I think it’s a bold step, but he’s a very good person to try to do something in this regard.”