On May 6, 2013, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern over the latest developments in Syria with regard to recent Israeli air attacks, and urging the international community not to exacerbate this tragedy.

The Stated Clerk cited actions of the 220th General Assembly (2012), which called for “a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups,” as well as for “all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria.”

The full text of the letter:

President Barack Obama
The White House
District of Columbia 20500

Dear President Obama,

On behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I write to express grave concern over recent developments in Syria. Recent Israeli air attacks may provoke Syria and Hezbollah into widening this already tragic conflict. How the United States and the international community respond to reports of chemical weapons use, currently under investigation by the United Nations, is critically important. The potential for widening the conflict is reason for exercising caution and wisdom.

At this fragile time, I wish to repeat the call of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that urges our government:

  • to support a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups;
  • to call for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria;
  • to support a strong and necessary role for the United Nations, possibly including observers and peacekeeping forces; and
  • to refrain from military intervention in Syria.

The General Assembly also expressed its support for “full, public congressional debate of any potential U.S. military intervention, including cyber war, weapons supply, training (as is already reported), and drone warfare, to examine carefully the possible humanitarian benefits, costs, and outcomes of such intervention, including its impacts on the Syrian people, and to support review of the impacts of sanctions and other pressure on both Syrian society and the regime.” Our General Assemblies have consistently warned of the dangers of U.S. military intervention in conflicts, particularly when there is a lack of clarity about how that intervention would end. That warning seems particularly appropriate in relation to Syria.

Without excusing the nature of the Syrian regime, we ask you to use the influence of the United States to call upon nations and all other outside parties to end all forms of military intervention in Syria. U.S. policy should discourage all efforts to make the conflict in Syria a proxy war; encourage nations and other outside parties to respect the territorial integrity of Syria; and lead the international efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and to support peace initiatives. The U.S. should also provide generous support for the humanitarian needs of refugees and others already impacted by this conflict.

The future of Syria – and perhaps the entire Middle East – is uncertain if the bloodletting continues. The international community should act immediately to end the conflict, not to take steps that exacerbate this tragedy.

Presbyterians have shared in ministry with our brothers and sisters since the early 1800s.  We remain in close partnership and contact with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.


Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)