Methodist decision on Bush Library to be challenged again

By staff writers
15 May 2008

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With the area conferences of the United Methodist Church preparing to meet in July, South Central Jurisdiction is expected to address the controversial 2007 decision to lease property for a George W. Bush institute.

The decision was taken by its Mission Council and has caused nationwide and global protests, because of the Bush administration's policies on war, torture and poverty - which many Christians see as contrdaicting the teaching of the Church and the message of the Gospel.

The decision involves building a George W. Bush presidential library, museum and policy institute on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Opponents, including a number of bishops, say this will compromise the educational integrity and independence of SMU.

The 21-member Mission Council serves as the executive committee of the conference to oversee ministry during the four years between jurisdictional meetings.

The extent of the council's power became a central issue when SMU, which is owned by the jurisdiction, asked to give the Bush Foundation a 99-year lease for the project and make the lease renewable up to 249 years.

United Methodists opposing the plan, citing the Iraq war and many Bush policies, questioned the appropriateness of linking the Bush presidency with SMU and argued that the school would have no control over the complex.

The opponents said only the jurisdictional conference can give final approval for the lease. However, university officials and 10 bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction disagreed (one abstained). They said jurisdictional rules permit the Mission Council to make decisions between sessions every four years.

Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones, president of the South Central College of Bishops, said the bishops considered convening a special session of the jurisdictional conference. "The proposal was rejected because that is not the normal way we make decisions," Jones said.

The outcome is uncertain. David Severe, jurisdictional secretary, told UMNS that it is not clear whether the decision needs to be ratified or just reported. "It’s a matter of interpretation," he said, "and I’m only the secretary."

A resolution to General Conference called for the denomination to prevent the "leasing, selling or otherwise participating in or supporting the presidential library for George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University." The assembly referred the resolution to the jurisdictional conference.

With acknowledgments to UMNS - the United Methodist News Service

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