US Methodists continue to push against Bush library plans

By staff writers
1 Feb 2007

The organizers of a United Methodist Church petition urging Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Texas not to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum, and Institute released early results of their petition drive and vowed to continue with their campaign.

They argue that such close association with a US president who has pursued war, condoned torture, stalled on environmental action and pursued policies which violate the Gospel concern for the marginalised would not assist the reputation of SMU or the church.

The Rev Andrew Weaver, a Southern Methodist university alumnus who is organizing the petition, commented: “We now have as signatories fourteen Bishops in the United Methodist Church, the past President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, two Superintendents in the British Methodist Church, over 600 United Methodist clergy, and more than nine thousand members of churches from across the United States and Canada.” .

The petition, www.protectSMU.org, has been online for less than two weeks. Its promoters argue that Bush’s legacy is incompatible with the values of Methodism and thus that his Library, Museum, and Institute should not be housed on SMU’s campus.

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague is among those who have condemned the administration, stating that: “Bush violated United Methodist teachings when he initiated a pre-emptive, first- strike war, contrary to Just War criteria, when he pursued policies that reward the rich, while punishing the poor and he further sneered at church teaching by condoning the torture of prisoners.”

He continued: “Add to these callous and arrogant acts the fact that he presided over more capital punishment executions (state-sanctioned murder is condemned by our church) than any governor in this nation's history and it becomes abundantly clear why a G.W. Bush Library should not be housed on United Methodist Church property.”

Bishop Sprague said: “The United Methodist Church's social principles call all United Methodists to social holiness. This petition reflects our church's tradition that all United Methodists are to be held accountable for our personal and institutional behaviour.”

Southern Methodist University is one of 123 educational institutions that are related to The United Methodist Church. Petition organizers believe that association with this president through his proposed 500 million US dollar library, museum, and institute will reflect poorly upon Methodism worldwide.

“The placement of the George W. Bush Library and the establishment of an Institute to promote the policies of this president at Southern Methodist University would be a tragedy”, added Bishop William Boyd Grove.

He declared: “The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights, care for the environment and health care. SMU is a university of the church, and is home to one of our outstanding theological seminaries. Its Methodist identity and its moral authority would be seriously compromised were it to be identified with the policies of George W. Bush in this way”.

“We’ve had an outpouring of support so far,” Mr Weaver told Ekklesia and other news outlets. “It has come from those who don’t wish to have their beloved church associated with a man who has authorized torture and a lie-based war of aggression against the people of Iraq. The comments on the petition are a modern epistle to the church and the 45 million Methodists worldwide, pleading for justice.”

The campaign has attracted global attention and support.

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