When it comes to applying religious principles to specific situations, believers often disagree. That doesn't suggest they aren't equally dedicated to the faith, even when they differ over such crucial questions as war.
That point is emphasized by church leaders concerning divergent views voiced in religious circles prior to the launching of the war against Iraq, and the tempering of those voices since.Not that previous convictions necessarily have changed, but the situation now is different - America is at war - and religious forces united in caring and praying for those involved.
"We now feel deep and pastoral concern," said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning, who as head of President Bush's denomination had urged him to delay military action to give sanctions against Iraq more time to work.
However, there should be no question, either then or now, about "my loyalty to the president and to our armed forces," Browning said. "I have great loyalty to the president and consider myself one of his pastors."
Leaders of most mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches had previously urged delay in military action, but now are coordinating plans to aid an estimated 1.3 million displaced people expected in the war zone.
Congregations were advised to hold special services on behalf of those involved and their families, with interfaith prayer services recommended in communities each week.
Many churches began tolling their bells at noon daily, and in typical Sunday liturgies, there were congregational prayers for national leaders and for peace.
"It is important for us to stand together at such a moment as brothers and sisters in Christ," said S. David Stoner, executive director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in a message to regional leaders.
Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom of Chicago, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said Christians differ about strategies, but none of the debate was to disparage the military.