What’s really going on with the Bush Library and the United Methodist General Conference?

I’ve checked the net, and there aren’t many places (other than Dallas South) discussing developments regarding the Bush Library. That means its one of two things. Either a vote recently taken on the matter really didn’t mean much, or someone’s trying to spin the significance of what’s going on with the General Conference and South Central Jurisdiction.

After my initial post on the General Council’s vote adopting an agenda item seeking to stop the sell of the SMU land where the library would be built, I was contacted by Rev. Scott Jones. Jones is Bishop of the Kansas Area of the United Methodis Church, and Immediate past president of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. He took issues with me saying the council had “rejected” the idea of the library. See his full response here.

Now Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph. D. comes back to Dallas South to share more of his thoughts on what the vote means. After reading his response as well as the linked articles, I have a hard time believing that the South Central Jurisdiction will have the courage to make a decision like the one suggested by Dr. Weaver and many of the church’s members. The stance the General Council took on homosexuality would pale in comparison to the message the church would send by rejecting the Bush Library. The following is Dr. Weaver’s response to Rev. Jones.

jones_scott_04t.jpg“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. (Email to Dallas South 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 (www.protectSMU.org) 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 www.protestSMU.org) 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).




(4) http://tinyurl.com/5n4mrv

(5) http://tinyurl.com/6lqkw7 “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…. “


(7) http://tinyurl.com/67z4hs



weaver_andrew07t.jpgRev. 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.

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