United Methodists continue struggle against Bush institute at university

By staff writers
September 25, 2007

Opponents of the Bush Library and Institute today (25 September 2007) vowed to continue their fight within the 11 million member United Methodist Church to deny approval to Southern Methodist University (SMU) to host the Bush complex.

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet in Dallas from 15-19 July 2008, when it will be asked by SMU to approve the use of university land for the Bush complex, which will include a partisan political institute operated totally by the Bush Foundation.

United Methodist opponents of the Bush complex will ask the 290 elected delegates to the Conference to vote against this request. The delegates in the South Central Jurisdictional Conference represent the 1.83 million United Methodists living in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

Bishop Joe A. Wilson explains: "Even though the 21 member Mission Council approved by a vote of 10-4 the use of the SMU property for the Library and partisan Policy Institute, this decision must be ratified by the larger Jurisdictional Conference which meets in July of 2008.” The rules of the Jurisdiction state that, “all actions taken by the Council shall be valid and in full effect.....until the next regular session of The Conference." He adds, "to place a partisan policy Think Tank, with no oversight by the church and university, on the grounds of a United Methodist Institution, is an issue the Jurisdictional Conference must not take lightly."

“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,” said Bishop William Boyd Grove. “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 United 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.”

“To place a partisan institute on the campus of a United Methodist university is unacceptable,” said the Reverend Andrew Weaver, “especially when it will espouse the policies and values of an administration that has advocated torture, violated international law, and left the constitution in shambles. We want SMU to be a great university, not a propaganda machine for the Bush administration.”

Organizers of the effort question the educational value of the Bush complex, pointing to Executive Order 13233, which provides former Presidents with virtually unlimited powers to deny or grant access to documents generated under their administrations. Bishop C. Joseph Sprague observed, “last spring the Faculty Senate and the history faculty at SMU issued statements criticizing the Executive Order as incompatible with the goals of providing public and scholarly access to federal documents. It is a great concern when a large number of the faculty at a United Methodist university question the educational value of a project.”

Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks noted, “in February of 2007, bishops, clergy and laity of the United Methodist Church began a petition calling for the SMU trustees and the UMC to reject the Bush project. That petition (http://www. protectSMU.org) now has the signatures of 15 UMC bishops and more than 10,800 Christians (mostly United Methodists) and persons of conscience. We are very much encouraged by the national and international response that we have garnered.”

Bishop Susan M. Morrison observed, “while I respect the office of the presidency, presidential libraries are created, partly, to celebrate the legacies of particular presidents. Since George W. Bush's leadership has been so problematic and contrary to much of our Social Principles, it does not seem appropriate to place this library in the midst of one of our celebrated educational institutions.”

With kind acknowledgments to Andrew Weaver

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