Ninety-five bishops from President Bush’s church, including four from Maryland, said they repent their “complicity” in the “unjust and immoral” invasion and occupation of Iraq.
            “In the face of the United States administration’s rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent,” said a statement of conscience signed by more than half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide.
            President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, according to various published biographies. The White House did not return a request for comment on the bishops’ statement.
            The current bishop for the Baltimore-Washington area, John R. Schol, signed, as did retired bishops James K. Mathews of Bethesda, Joseph H. Yeakel of Smithsburg and Forrest C. Stith of Upper Marlboro.
            Although United Methodist leadership has opposed the Iraq war in the past, this is the first time that individual bishops have confessed to a personal failure to publicly challenge the buildup to the war.
            The signatures were also an instrument for retired bishops to make their views known, said Yeakel, who served in the Baltimore-Washington area from 1984 to 1996.
            The statement avoids making accusations, said retired Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, instructor at Duke University’s divinity school and an author of the document.
            “We would have made the statement regardless of who the president was. It was not meant to be either partisan or to single out any one person,” Carder said. “It was the recognition that we are all part of the decision and we are all part of a democratic society. We all bear responsibility.”
            Stith, who spent more than three years after his retirement working in East Africa — including with Rwandan refugees — said going to war over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not solve the real problems behind them.
            The real issues are that much of the world lives in poverty, desperation and depression, he said, while an affluent minority of the world often oppresses them. Americans need to take responsibility for their world, Stith said.
            “To ignore things and to assume that persons in the government have all knowledge is to reject our franchise and our democracy,” Stith said.
            About six weeks ago, Carder discussed the idea of a public statement with other colleagues who “had concerns” about the war, and the idea just grew, Carder said.
            Last week, the statement circulated during a biannual meeting of the Council of Bishops, “and before the week was out, we had 95 bishops,” Carder said.
            In their statement, the bishops pledged to pray daily for the end of the war, for its American and Iraqi victims and for American leaders to find “truth, humility and policies of peace through justice.”
            “We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhance