March 6, 2003
War, domestic concerns dominate legislative briefing
By Joretta Purdue
WASHINGTON (UMNS) Politicians and social justice advocates held out hope during a legislative briefing that people across the United States can still make a difference where it counts: in the budget and on issues of war and peace.
More than 250 United Methodists attended a March 2-5 legislative briefing on "Gospel Demands Public Witness," sponsored by the denominations Board of Church and Society. Speakers, including two senior senators, called for alternatives to a military strike against Iraq and urged President George Bush to give more attention to domestic issues.
Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D-Mass.), a Catholic, and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), a United Methodist, both elected to Congress in 1962, spoke about the costs of war. Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Childrens Defense Fund, lamented the Bush administrations proposed budget and the high price she said it will exact from children and the poor.
Kennedy praised Bush "for the way he rallied America and the entire international community after the appalling terrorist attack of Sept. 11," and for "impressive leadership" during the war in the Afghanistan.
"But few can also deny that after that, President Bush squandered too much of the good will of the world community because of his single-minded rush to war with Iraq even if he has a few or even no allies to go to war with him, and even when there are other ways to contain the threat posed by Saddams Iraq," Kennedy said. His address was broadcast live on C-Span.
He said everyone agrees that Saddam is a despicable dictator, but he asserted that war with Iraq would make the world more dangerous rather than less. He warned against shattering "the very coalition that we need in order to combat the greater and more imminent threat we face from al-Qaida and its terrorists." This is the same coalition that led to the arrest the preceding weekend of the man believed to have planned the Sept. 11 attack on the United States, Kennedy added.
"On top of these actions, the Bush administration quietly and stealthily changed a half a century of American defense policy from one that used our nuclear arsenal for defense to one in which nuclear weapons may be used pre-emptively," Kennedy said. That is a major change that affects prospects for peace on the planet, and Americans are owed a debate on that, he said.
"We cannot be a bully in the world schoolyard and expect cooperation, friendship and support from the rest of the world," he cautioned. War cannot be successfully waged if it lacks the strong support of the people. "The reason for that lack of support today is clear. The administration has not made a convincing argument for war against Iraq or its costs or its consequences."
He urged strengthening domestic defenses and an honest discussion of the financial costs of war. "Across the country, the Bush administration is leaving local governments high and dry in the face of continuing threats at home."
"Im here because Ive seen too many wars," Inouye said. One of his sleeves hangs empty because he lost an arm in military service during World War II.
He was a naive 18-year-old when he left Hawaii, he recalled, a young man who sang in the choir, attended worship and participated in Sunday school. After a little training, he went to the front. He will never forget shooting his first German soldier. He was praised by his buddies, and "I felt proud," he confessed softly.
"Killing becomes commonplace," he said. The training and military experience changes people, he reported. "It does terrible things to the human soul."
"It would take a minor miracle to change the path were on (to war with Iraq)," he commented. Though hes the senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he said he has been given no idea how long such a war will take, how long an occupation the administration expects and what will happen after Saddam Hussein is gone. And even after Saddam, potential will exist for much bloodshed among the various ethnic and religious groups within Iraq, he said.
U.S. Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), a former Marine whose speech is slurred by Parkinsons Disease, complained that the men and women of the armed forces have been sent to countries that most Americans could not locate. Meanwhile, he said, this nation will not be able to devote resources to finding a cure for diseases like Alzheimers.
"We need another debate before we rush to war," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Since the passage last year of a bill authorizing the president to use military force against Iraq, "the world is a different place. We have an extremely dire situation in North Korea, and Iraq is complying with the U.N. weapons inspections."
"War always produces uncontemplated, difficult-to-handle effects," said U.S. Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), one of the few Republicans who voted against the war authorization bill. He particularly warned against letting a war with Iraq become a war between cultures. To avoid promoting this perception, he advised careful use of language, particularly words such as "evil" a moral precept that can be applied to actions and individuals but not countries and "axis" a term for an alliance.
"As long as democracy means anything, war is not inevitable," said Tom Andrews, national spokesperson for the Win Without War coalition, which includes the National Council of Churches. There is "a chance to expose this great mistake we are about to make." But he also warned against appearing to favor appeasement. "The first priority problem from my point of view is the terrorists and the conditions that cause terrorism to thrive."
Several speakers, such as U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), expressed concern for domestic issues.
"This country ought to stand for a national health care plan a quality health care plan," Kucinich said. "Preserve Social Security and resist any efforts to privatize," he urged, saying Social Security is rock solid through 2041 as it is. He supports "full employment with a living wage" and an America at peace with the world "without aggressive unilateralism."
Eleanor Holmes Norton, delegate to the House of Representatives from the District of Columbia, said of the current administration and Congress: "They need to get back to the business of the United States of America." She praised churches for providing leadership and speaking out on the issues of the day.
"Its time for all people of conscience to wake up and stop the Bush administrations war on poor children," said Edelman. "This budget (recently proposed for the coming year) says the poor should subsidize the rich."
The Bush administrations budget dismantles Head Start, housing, foster care and Medicaid under the guise of state flexibility, she warned. She accused the administration of "playing a shell game," putting a few more dollars in some childrens programs and taking away millions from others.
As an example, she said the budget would force children, persons with disabilities and the elderly to compete for diminishing amounts of money, while allowing states facing some of the biggest deficits in 50 years to eliminate or severely curtail programs for all these people.
"We have a profound values problem in America," she said. She urged her listeners to challenge "the unjust priorities" of the nation.
Two speakers focused on the problem of hunger. The Rev. Kenneth Horne Jr., a United Methodist who leads the Society of St. Andrew, urged people who do mercy ministries and those who do advocacy ministries to work together. The Rev. David Beckman, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who heads Bread for the World, called for support for President Bushs Millennium Challenge Account proposal to aid poor countries.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) raised questions about the high U.S. prison population and the difficulties that ex-convicts face in ever achieving a self-sustaining, productive life after release. In Illinois, he said, ex-convicts are barred from 56 jobs and from much housing.
Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine and an evangelical Christian, observed that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, would ask how the Bush administrations budget proposal and a possible war would affect poor people. That is the kind of question Wesley asked about alcohol and slavery, Wallis said.
Before the briefing, Jim Winkler, staff head of the Board of Church and Society, spoke to several advocacy networks about prophetic ministries.
"The logic of empire may well require good people to do bad things," he said. "It does not require the church of Jesus Christ to support such actions." Winkler cited Bishop C. Dale Whites address to the 1992 General Conference, in which the bishop named three interlocking, demonic systems: hunger-making, war-making and desert-making.
"That," Winkler said, "is the true axis of evil."
Purdue is United Methodist News Services Washington news director.
March 5, 2003
ABC News interviews Bishop Talbert on prospect of war
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) An interview with United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops, will air March 5 on "ABC World News Tonight" as part of a story focusing on American Christians disagreement over a war on Iraq.
President George W. Bush met behind closed doors on Ash Wednesday with Cardinal Pio Laghi, an envoy of Pope John Paul II. Laghi was bringing the popes admonition about a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq. Bush has said he rejects the Vaticans argument that pre-emptive war with Iraq has no moral justification.
"It saddens me that even before the papal envoy arrived, the message from Bush was clear," Talbert said.
Talbert was interviewed by phone at Brentwood (Tenn.) United Methodist Church, near Nashville, by ABC reporter John Cochran.
Asked why Bush, a United Methodist, has so far refused to meet with American church leaders about the issue, Talbert replied: "Thats a good question. I cannot speak for the president.
"I like President Bush," he continued. "He is a great man; he is a great president. We just differ on this issue. I wish he were more open to dialogue on this issue, which is so important to the future of this nation."
Bush is amassing U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf area for a possible military action against Iraq, based on Iraqi leader Saddam Husseins reported buildup of weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. National Council of Churches and the United Methodist Council of Bishops have requested a meeting with Bush. "We regret the president has isolated himself from certain views," Talbert said. "He is only hearing one side."
Talbert was part of a delegation of religious leaders, led by the NCC, who visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3. The bishop is on the NCCs executive board.
Since that visit, he said he has committed himself to working to avert a war. Talbert has appeared in a 30-second commercial for cable television and has been interviewed by numerous news outlets.
"The Gospel compels me to speak up," he said. Too many innocent people, "our brothers and sisters," will die if a war is waged.
Talbert emphasized he supports "our sons and daughters and grandchildren" in the military who have a job to do.
"I love them, and I am doing all I can to support them by asking the policymakers to keep them from a war."
March 4, 2003
Students use spring break to serve needy
A UMNS Feature
By Linda Green
Spring break is normally a time when college students head to beaches and resorts for a week of revelry, often fueled by an overabundance of alcohol. But students involved in United Methodist Wesley Foundations and campus ministry groups will be rolling up their sleeves for service work instead.
Campus ministry groups from across the country will spend their spring break working side by side with people in need. Instead of fun in the sun, the students will be working up a sweat swinging hammers, laying bricks, digging ditches and performing other service work.
"What draws our students into mission-related work during spring break is their desire to make some tangible difference in the world," says the Rev. Mark Forrester, director of the Wesley Foundation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "This desire, rooted in faith, relates belief with purpose in practical ways that can be accomplished, valued and shared."
Throughout March, students are building and repairing homes in economically depressed areas from Appalachia to Guatemala, participating in Habitat for Humanity projects throughout the United States and in other countries, teaching children in Mexico and Haiti, performing environmental preservation in Northern Ireland, ministering at an AIDS hospice in Puerto Rico, holding seminars in Berlin and working with Methodists in the Bahamas.
The United Methodist campus ministry at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is sending 50 students to work in four Southern communities Atlanta, Clarksville, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., and Cherokee, N.C.; and in two closer to home Holyoke and Mashpee, Mass.
Since 1997, University of Massachusetts students from different faith traditions have been engaging in the service projects. "Rather than worship without sacrifice, what appeals to most of our students is self-giving and sacrifice as the context for spiritual development and devotion," says Kent Wiggins of the schools United Christian Foundation.
For the second time, the campus ministry of King Avenue United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio, will depart for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to partner with International Child Care, a medical mission organization, to visit urban community health sites in slum areas. The 11 participants, students at Ohio State University, will spend time at Grace Childrens Hospital, a United Methodist Advance Project operated by International Child Care, as well as St. Josephs Home for Boys.
"Many students do wonderful things on spring break, such as Habitat for Humanity, Appalachian Service Projects and many others, but there is a tendency to disengage from the systemic issues of poverty and race that those sorts of trips are working to combat," says the Rev. Don Wallick, campus minister and associate pastor at King Avenue Church. "A trip like this, which lifts students completely out of middle and upper-middle class, sheltered American life, immerses them in the deep material poverty of Haiti." The trip will allow the students to engage the people there and to "re-evaluate their entire life and faith, laying the groundwork for deep personal transformation," he says.
For the past four years, the chaplains office at United Methodist-related Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., has taken students on mission trips to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, where they have helped construct a church and led Bible school. This year, the students will build homes and help with rebuilding as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Isidore last fall.
The chaplains office at Wesley College in Dover, Del., is sponsoring a service trip to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp serves children with life-threatening illnesses (cancer and blood diseases such as HIV, sickle-cell anemia and hemophilia) by giving them a free "normal" summer camp experience. The spring break group from the United Methodist-related school will help prepare the camp for the children by doing work projects on the site. At the end of the week, the students will serve as camp counselors for a campout for brothers and sisters of the critically ill children.
Numerous United Methodist campus ministry groups will join ecumenical delegations in the Collegiate Challenge, Habitat for Humanitys national spring break program, in which thousands of U.S. students will visit 200 locations through April 19. The participants will hammer nails and raise walls as they build simple, decent and affordable houses in partnership with families in need. The students will travel to rural and inner-city areas of the United States to build new houses or refurbish existing residences. Other students will travel overseas to help families in Third World countries achieve the dream of homeownership.
Twelve students from United Methodist-related Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va., will journey to Columbus, Ga., as part of Collegiate Challenge, to give a "hand up instead of a hand out" to families in need," says the Rev. Tim Kobler, chaplain at the school.
Students at State University College in New Paltz, N.Y., will answer the Collegiate Challenge by building houses in Horry County, S.C.
For the first time since the early 1990s, the students involved in the Tidewater Wesley Foundation and the Wesley Westminster House at Norfolk (Va.) State College are traveling with students from the Baptist Student Union of Old Dominion University in Norfolk to Red Bird Mission in Beverly, Ky., for a week of service and fellowship.
The chaplain and nine students from United Methodist-related University of Evansville (Ind.) are headed to Gray, W.Va., to make repairs in areas devastated by floods during summer 2001 and spring 2002. Last year, five inches of rain fell in less than an hour on six counties in West Virginia and Virginia, damaging or destroying 3,000 homes.
A six-student team from the Wesley Foundation at Texas Tech is going to Louisiana to assist the United Methodist Committee on Relief in helping victims of the 2002 hurricanes that hit the coast. Another team heads to Memphis to work for SOS, an inner-city ministry started by Christ United Methodist Church.
Several Wesley Foundations and ecumenical campus groups will participate in "Alternative Spring Break," a substance-free break that exposes students to the diversity of cultures, lifestyles, and living environments in the United States and South America. Students from across the country will journey to parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia to work with the Appalachian Service Project, primarily on home repair.
The Wesley Foundation students at Radford (Va.) College and Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tenn., are going to Marion, Va., to work with Project Crossroads, an ecumenical building and rebuilding project in rural southwest Virginia. The students also will speak in local United Methodist churches to share the Wesley Foundation story and thank congregations for their financial and moral support.
McCurdy School in Espanola, N.M., is the destination for 18 college students involved in the United Campus Ministry of the Tri-College in Fargo-Moorhead, N.D. They will help with service projects painting, landscaping, cement work, repairs, spring cleaning to benefit the children attending the preparatory school, which is a project of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The group also will dig out ancient irrigation ditches for "subsistence farmers" in the area and make repairs at a retreat center, a community health clinic and hiking trails.
Mission trips abroad
The denominations Volunteer in Mission Program has enabled students and others from United Methodist-related Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., to participate in a mission trip to Caribbean and Latin American countries for the past seven years. This year, 21 students will continue the construction of a parsonage and preschool for the church in San Isidro, Costa Rica.
Guatemala is the destination for students of the Wesley Foundations at Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee State universities. The foundations at both schools are uniting to take students to complete work on a church at Chuisamayac. The group will construct pews, paint, install computers and conduct a Bible school.
"The challenges of language differences, cultural difference, relationship building with our hosts and each other, and experiencing a spiritual reason for what we do make for a powerful week of sweat, inconvenience and love," says the Rev. Barry Foster, chaplain and director of church relations at Shenandoah University. "Students are thrust into an environment where they are asked to look deep into their Christian faith to see if they are truly following the Christian path to open blind eyes, bring good news to the poor and to set oppressed people free."
The Protestant campus ministry at Pennsylvania State in Erie is going to Northern Ireland to perform service work, including planting trees, pruning shrubs, and cleaning trails and underbrush at Castle Ward near Downpatrick.
Others traveling abroad include a group from Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, and the Indiana Institute of Technology, also in Fort Wayne. The United Methodist representative campus minister is taking the six-member team to Berlin to lead seminars on youth ministry, creation vs. evolution, marriage relations, and teens and children. The students will interact with German Christians and non-Christians, and meet with the one-time American warden of the prison where Rudolf Hess and other Nazi criminals were held.
"We always take a cross-cultural trip so that the students can be stretched out of their comfort zone and learn that the world is a much bigger place than Fort Wayne, Ind.," says Benton Gates, the United Methodist campus ministry representative to the three Indiana academic institutions. "We expect the trip to be a life changer."
Students from the Duke Wesley Fellowship at Duke University, Durham, N.C. will be joining others organized through Duke Chapel on a mission team to Honduras. Another student will travel to Uruguay with the Duke Freeman Center for Jewish Life. The Duke Wesley
Domestic Work Team will stay at Lake Junaluska, N.C., and work in Haywood County.
Learning and teaching is also on the agenda for 10 students from the San Antonio United Methodist campus ministry. The students, all interested in exploring the call to ministry, will tour three United Methodist seminaries: Candler School of Theology, Atlanta; Duke Divinity, Durham, N.C.; and Perkins School of Theology, Dallas.
The Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry at the University of Oregon in Eugene is joining forces with Oregon State Universitys Westminster House Campus Ministry in Corvallis, and heading to San Francisco to volunteer in the dining room of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church for Project Open Hand, preparing and delivering meals to HIV-positive patients in the community, and at Cameron House, a mission of the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown.
Oregon State Universitys campus ministry is an ecumenical effort of United Methodists, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ. Nine students chose San Francisco as their destination "because they wanted to have an urban experience, to learn more about the issues that the poor face in the city, and to see how churches and social service agencies are attempting to meet the needs of those who are living on the margins," says the Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen, campus pastor at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Oregon. "Reflection will be an important part of our experience as we integrate what we see and do with our own Christian journeys of faith."
Pearisburg, Va., is the spring break site for nine students of the Ecumenical Center at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The group will help build a Habitat for Humanity house; build a deck for an Adult Day Care facility; install a merry-go-round at a playground; and help judge a school science fair.
Thirty students from United Methodist-related Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala., will travel by train to Washington to work with homeless programs. They also will meet with their congressional representatives to discuss homelessness and poverty.
For Forrester at Vanderbilt, the words of Methodisms founder, John Wesley, relate directly to the students service projects. Says Forrester: "Wesleys maxim, the world is my parish, becomes more immediate and real when todays young people on campus venture out, with faith, and local support in hand, to share in the transformation of peoples lives."
Green is United Methodist News Services Nashville, Tenn., news director.
March 3, 2003
Judicial Council will hear case of lesbian pastor
By United Methodist News Service
The case of the Rev. Karen Dammann, a pastor accused of violating United Methodist law by living in a lesbian relationship, is going to the churchs supreme court.
Bishop Elias Galvan of the churchs Seattle Area announced Feb. 28 that he is appealing the case to the United Methodist Judicial Council. The move follows two earlier decisions by church panels that would have allowed the case to drop.
In a press release, Galvan cited the ramifications that the case could have for the whole church. "This case hinges on several passages from the Book of Discipline that have never been tested and interpreted," he said. "It is important to follow the process all the way to the Judicial Council to clarify the meaning and application of these passages."
The Judicial Council will hear the case at its spring meeting, April 26-27, according to Sally Curtis AsKew, council secretary.
Dammann had told Galvan in 2001 that she was living in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." Galvan filed a complaint against her at the Judicial Councils direction, citing "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings." The denominations Book of Discipline affirms that gays are people of sacred worth, but it forbids the ordination and appointment of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals in the United Methodist Church.
Last summer, a committee on investigation determined that reasonable grounds did not exist for moving the matter to a clergy trial. Galvan took the case to the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, which upheld the dismissal in a January decision. Both committees votes were split.
Dammann is on family leave with her partner and their son in Amherst, Mass. She remains a clergy member in good standing of the Pacific Northwest Annual (Regional) Conference, which Galvan oversees.
March 6, 2003
Work of Methodist women ranges from local to global
NEW YORK (UMNS) Rosemary Wass knows firsthand the efforts that local churchwomen make to raise money for mission.
In her community of York, England, the British Methodist laywoman has taught Sunday school, served as a local preacher and worked within the womens organization.
She also has moved beyond that community to such posts as vice president of the British Methodist Conference in 1990-91, area president of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women from 1991 to 1996 and, since 2001, president of the 6 million-member federation.
Aware of the hard work on the local level, Wass makes sure the organization uses its funds wisely. "Methodist women are very good at raising money, and they like to know what its going to be used for," she told United Methodist News Service.
The federation also wants to make the voices of its members heard, so Wass was in New York the week of March 3 to attend sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women meeting at the United Nations.
Speaking during a March 4 panel discussion on "Womens Effective Response to Violence," Wass outlined the steps that British and Irish Methodist women had taken to combat sex tourism and the use of children in prostitution and pornography.
During a 1993 seminar on those issues, the Great Britain and Ireland Area of the World Federation of Methodist Women noted with concern the "continuing reports that citizens of developed countries traveling abroad may be encouraging the use of children in prostitution and pornography." The group also confirmed its commitment to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which tries to protect children from sexual exploitation.
The women circulated petitions calling for action by "Her Majestys Government" throughout Great Britain and provided members with sample letters and postcards to send to members of Parliament.
In June 1994, with 90,000 signatures, "we bound rolls of petitions with pink rosebuds and took them to (10) Downing St.," she said, referring to the British prime ministers office. "We were not alone in our campaign. We had adopted almost the same text as the U.N. and, in effect, joined other organizations who had more experience than ourselves at things like this the Jubilee Trust and ECPAT, Doctor Barnados and the National Childrens Home.
"The petitions kept being returned full. They were placed on shop counters with the cooperation of the owners. They were taken out of the churches and into communities. They were signed by men and women. The women needed to realize that we needed the support of the men in order to speak for the whole community."
By June 1996, the Methodist women bearing another 140,000 signatures went again to 10 Downing St., where they had a live interview with the BBC. Supporting legislation was passed the next month.
The commitment to that issue has continued, Wass said, noting that new legislation is due to be introduced in the British Parliament regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Each time it meets for a world assembly, the federation votes on such issues for study and action by its nine regional areas. "Some of the subjects are so huge you know theyll be on the next agenda and the one after that," she observed.
During the 10th world assembly in 2001, where Wass was elected president, the selected issues for the next five-year period were gender justice, children, HIV/AIDS, racism and violence. Underlying each issue, the assembly recognized, is the fact that "poverty is a key factor in the experience of most women, men and children."
Between assemblies, each region holds a seminar that includes Bible study and a focus on those issues, and each year, a region is assigned to develop study materials for the organizations World Federation Day on one of the issues. In 2003-04, for example, the West Africa area is developing materials on HIV/AIDS.
Other goals that Wass has during her term, which ends in 2006, include consideration of more e-mail correspondence, development of a Web site and the establishment of a database of Web sites on particular issues "that would help people worldwide to have a wide access of resources."
The federations nine regional areas are Britain and Ireland/Europe, Europe Continental, North America, Latin America, East Asia, West Asia, West Africa, Southern and East Africa, and South Pacific. Each is represented by a number of units. Those from North America, for example, are United Methodist Women, women from the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, and women from Caribbean Methodist churches. Canadian women have associate membership.
"Uniting" was added to the federations name in 1996 to reflect membership in countries where the Methodist denomination had merged with other denominations. Wass believes that addition both enriched the spirituality and increased the diversity of the organization.
Back to the Top