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Friday, May 2, 2008

Methodist General Conference Morally Rejects the Bush Library at SMU

What's a "Methodist" president to do when the Methodist General Conference which meets only once every four years resoundingly states in a vote of 844 to 20 that as Methodists they do NOT want his presidential library/museum/think tank associated with their church whatsoever?

While some did not oppose the library/museum, it is the think tank which is to have no oversight whatsoever by Southern Methodist University in Dallas which was the straw that broke the camel's back. This project as it stands with the independent think tank with no oversight is unprecedented in the history of presidential libraries.

The time line of the selection process for the project can be found HERE (SMU's website of the project)

Bush Library Agreements
The agreements between SMU and The George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation are available as a PDF download. View PDF (9 MB PDF file) »

February 22, 2008 video of the official announcement of SMU being chosen as the site of this complex dedicated to the worst president in the history of our country. (make sure you have your barf bucket nearby if you decide to watch this video) "This is a great day for SMU?" No sir, this is a SMIRCH on the university which my own father attended. I called my father this morning who lives outside Dallas. My father isn't doing well these days, he is suffering horribly from cancer and isn't easily perked up. But when I told him of the Methodist General Conference's overwhelming condemnation of your "project" he burst out in JOY!

One of the best comments I've seen concerning this project, that the only building befitting of a George Bush presidential library is FEMA trailer!

The General Conference has no jurisdiction over this project going forward, but be on notice South Central Jurisdiction of Methodists, the VAST majority of your own fellow Methodists do NOT approve of this use of their own blessed faith being attached to the president who has trashed our Constitution and waged an ILLEGAL and immoral war on Iraq.

UPDATED and corrected: Bush Library at SMU rebuked by United Methodist Church petition; decision in hands of South Central Jursidiction

Updated 10:54 p.m., May 1, 2008

UPDATE: The General Conference of the United Methodist Church did receive a petition asking it to block SMU’s decision to lease land for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Center. Its decision was only to refer it to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. In no way did it reject the decision already made by the South Central Jurisdiction’s Mission Council. The action was merely procedural because the General Conference said the decision belonged at the Jurisdictional level. The overwhelming nature of the vote was due to the fact that it, along with 11 other petitions, was on a consent calendar of things approved overwhelmingly in committees that recommended referrals.

Ed note: Below is the original reporting and analysis.

The governing body of the United Methodist Church has come out against the George Bush Library being constructed on the campus of Southern Methodist University. This rejection overwhelmingly passed 844-20 on Wednesday morning at the 2008 Quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church that is still meeting in Fort Worth.

Here is the petition submitted by Diane Smock, Greenville, S.C.:

SMU Bush Presidential Library Rejection (80089-MH-NonDis)

I hereby petition the UMC General Conference to prevent leasing, selling, or otherwise participating in or supporting the presidential library for George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University.


We should support separation of church and state and if the Bush library goes on the SMU campus or property it will appear to the country and the world as an endorsement of that president by the United Methodist Church. Texas is a big state; surely there are other venues…

The proposal had already been adopted in a committee vote, with 51 voting in favor, 5 against and 1 not voting.

The group’s opposition is centered around the partisan think tank that will be attached to the library. The institute reportedly under the control of Karl Rove will have no academic oversight by SMU. But there may also be some concerns about associating the school with some of Bush’s policies.

“Many are offended by the contempt shown by the administration in areas like torture,” says Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D. a minister and psychologist in Brooklyn, New York. “Torture is not a value of the Methodist church.” Rev. Weaver is a graduate of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, and told Dallas South that torture in today’s terms would be the moral equivalent of slavery.

See more of Weaver’s thoughts in his article Slavery, Torture, and the Methodist DNA.

The decision now lies in the hands of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. The land on which the library would be built is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction. A body of approximately 290, many of whom voted in the general conference, will take a final vote on the sale of the land. The 2008 South Central Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled for July 16-19 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. The North Texas Conference of the UMC will play host to the event.

If torture is in fact an issue, then it seems pretty cut and dry on where the administration stands. Just look at President Bush’s March 8, 2008 veto of a measure that would have banned waterboarding and other torture tactics used by the CIA.

According to the Washington Post, Bush claimed the legislation “would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror.” He went on to say “This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe.”

I’ve always thought that the library is a good idea, but not the think tank. But I’m thinking about from a Dallas standpoint, the school should have much broader concerns. Some faculty members have threatened to leave the university if the library and think tank are built, and some students have reportedly returned their SMU diplomas in protest to the school’s decision.

So what’s been reported as a done deal may not actually be the case. I hope to get some reaction from the General Conference at some point, but if not, we will follow the developments at the South Central Jurisdiction Conference in July.


UPDATE, I received the following from Reverend Andrew J. Weaver who is one of those leading the MORAL fight against this atrocity being erected on the grounds of SMU. THANK YOU Reverend Weaver from all of my Methodist friends and from my own father (who is not Methodist, but attended SMU)

Bishop says vote to refer petition to stop Bush complex at SMU is “merely procedural”

Contact Information

Rev. Andrew J, Weaver, Ph.D.
Brooklyn , NY

“The General Conference of the United Methodist Church did receive a petition asking it to block SMU’s decision to lease land for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Center. Its decision was only to refer it to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. In no way did it reject the decision already made by the South Central Jurisdiction’s Mission Council. The action was merely procedural because the General Conference said the decision belonged at the Jurisdictional level. The overwhelming nature of the vote was due to the fact that it, along with 11 other petitions, was on a consent calendar…." (1). Scott J. Jones, Bishop, Kansas Area of the United Methodist Church . (Press Statement, May 3, 2008)

United Methodist Bishop Scott J. Jones of Kansas has been an outspoken advocate for locating the Bush library and partisan institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU) (2-3). He has also told the press that the right of the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) delegates to vote on the use of their church property at SMU will not be honored, although it is clearly stated in church law that a vote is mandated (4-5).

This appears to continue to be Jones’ position even after an 844-20 vote on a petition calling for the rejection of the Bush project was referred to the SCJ by the highest authority in the UMC – its General Conference. If this vote has no moral or legal force and is, “merely procedural”, why did General Conference bother bringing it to a vote in the first place?

The petition against the Bush project could have been killed in committee, dozens were, but it passed the important Ministry and Higher Education Committee by a vote of 51 to 5. It could have easily been killed on the floor, but it was not. Instead it was formally referred by a vote of 844-20 to the owners of the SMU property.

Bishop Jones told the Dallas Morning News in 2007 that the thousands of fellow United Methodists and SMU alumni who signed a petition ( objecting to Bush partisan think tank "would have no influence” on him as an SMU trustee. Moreover, he declared that SMU "trustees -- not the United Methodist Church -- have the final say on decisions that SMU makes about the library" (6). Bishop Jones made this statement despite the fact that the UMC founded and owns SMU, and the trustees are appointed under the authority of the church.

I urge Bishop Jones to reconsider and support the democratic and transparent processes of our church. I fear our communion will suffer a lingering and unnecessary wound of distrust, hurt, and anger if there is not fairness on this issue. Thousands of United Methodists (see believe that honoring and “celebrating” a glaringly unrepentant UMC member, President George W. Bush, with a partisan think tank, will damage our credibility as followers of Jesus Christ and bring lasting shame upon the our church and a fine university (7).





(5) "Reverend David Severe, Director of Mission and Administration for the South Central Jurisdiction, wrote to an SMU professor on October 6, 2007, that 'All actions taken by the Mission Council interim the Jurisdictional Conference must be ratified by the next Jurisdictional Conference session.' "He (Severe) cited church law from the 2004 Jurisdictional Journal: "The Council shall be subject to the following and specific limitations of authority: All actions taken by The Council shall be valid and in full effect within the South Central Jurisdiction until the next regular session of the (Jurisdictional) Conference.... "



Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D., is a United Methodist minister and research psychologist living in New York City and a graduate of Perkins School of Theology, SMU. He has co-authored 14 books including: Counseling Survivors of Traumatic Events (Abingdon, 2003) and Reflections on Grief and the Spiritual Journey (Abingdon, 2005). He has made numerous presentations, most recently at the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Jewish Chaplains, the Southern Medical Association, and the Association of Professional Chaplains. On three occasions he was awarded the Templeton Foundation Prize for Exemplary Paper on Religion and Behavioral Science.

Source: email


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