New Bush Library vs. the United Methodists

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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The new George W. Bush Library at Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus in Dallas is finally about to begin construction after wails of protest from left-wing Methodists and professors.  But now the anger is rising again thanks to a preliminary exhibit at SMU featuring, among other Bush artifacts, Saddam Hussein’s handgun and President Bush’s bullhorn from his first post-9/11 Ground Zero visit.

“I hope that a bullhorn will not become the symbol for the entry of the United States into an unjustified war and that a pistol of Saddam Hussein’s is not seen as some strange symbol of victory in that horrendous misjudgment,” harrumphed anti-Bush United Methodist theologian Tex Sample to The New York Times. “That these should be the symbols of the values and commitments of the Bush administration and should now become the face of Southern Methodist University is cause for alarm.”

A more charitable interpretation of Bush’s bullhorn would recall the President’s words of encouragement to the toiling and grieving New York firemen at Ground Zero. And shouldn’t advocates of gun control at least celebrate that one particularly egregious mass murderer was mercifully relieved of his pistol before killing again?

Of course, the ongoing hostility to the Bush Museum at SMU and in United Methodist circles is informed more by Bush Derangement Syndrome than serious concern about museum displays.   The new exhibit is called “Breaking New Ground: Presenting the George W. Bush Presidential Center.”   Besides the artifacts, it will also feature a model of  the insidiously impending new Bush Library, which frenzied critics fear will transform SMU into the host vessel for the contagion of Bush militarism.

“It’s the approach they’ve taken all along; it fits their worldview,” explained leading Bush library critic and SMU professor emeritus William K. McElvaney, who is an ordained United Methodist whom The New York Times also quoted.  “It’s a tragedy for SMU to hitch its star to this.”  Evidently McElvaney has promised there will be demonstrations at the library’s groundbreaking this month.  With the Rev. Sample and other left-leaning United Methodists, he unsuccessfully tried to persuade SMU’s board and the denomination’s bishops to halt the library. More temperate minds understood that whatever controversies surrounded the Bush years, the library’s archives would be a boon to SMU scholarship.  George W. Bush, who’s wife Laura attended SMU and sits on SMU’s board, is himself a United Methodist.  The pastor of his Dallas church also sits on the SMU board and has outspokenly defended the library.

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  • iyzablue

    I left the Methodist church 10 years ago because they were going far too left for my conservative blood. I warned the congregates that it would get worse as more and more liberals transform it into something unrecognizable.

    • Ray

      I thought liberals didn't believe in God or attended Church? I'm confused!?!?

      • sebyandrew

        Well, it's no wonder.

      • Stephen_Brady

        Believing in God is no longer a prerequisitie for membership in the UMC, which believes in "social justice" far more than Jesus.

      • BS61

        Liberals infiltrate churches to spread their social justice beliefs.

    • Don Pullen

      Good for you! I beat you by forty five years. It's not your grandfathers' Methodist Church any more!

  • flowerknife_us

    Just think of all the tolerance the Methodists will need to have with George amongst them for the decades to come.

  • Preacher Billy

    The United Methodsit Church is NOT to be defined by the New York Times, and a bunch of liberal elite professors thank you very much. I am an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church here in eastern NC.

    United Methodists are not the "religious left or right" we are Christians – and as a pastor I'm proud to be part of a church that can have both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as members. The United Methodist Church EMBODIES the values of America, where we DON'T all have to agree on our politics – remember that on Veteran's Day and every time you see a United Methodist Church!

    • Layman Larry

      Preacher Billy. I only wish you were correct. Since I became aware of the far left political activities of the GBCS, the UMW, and other UMC boards…I too left the UMC after 25 years. There are indeed local congregations and indeed pastors who disagree with the UMC Boards but my sense is that the majority, including many Bishops and senior UMC clergy are left wing sympathizers if not outright activists. I cannot provide financial or moral support to a church that maintains a liberal left political lobbying office on Capitol Hill..funded with my giving.

    • therealend

      That's called looking the other way isn't it?

    • Mike

      Preacher Billy, at the local level you may be correct. At the National level you may have some work to do. God-speed in bringing back your organization from the brink. I hope the Lord Christ and John Wesley consider you worthy of the task. Left and Right are quite valid definitions in this day and age and I'm afraid denying your Denomination's shift into liberal theology and sociology is not going to help out.

    • Bill

      My Baptist church took a hard Left turn several years ago. Most notable about it was that they thought themselves politically neutral, completely spiritual, and morally righteous. During the turn, they did the very things that they complained that the Right was doing: monopolized the conversation, loaded the positions of leadership with people who think as they did, vilified other views as evil, short-sighted, and un-Christian, etc. The whole while, they were taking all their cues from worldly values and godless sources. You can think yourself a-political, but the reality is that our Christianity does–and must–inform our politics. Only the Leftists think that they are not being political as they pursue their agenda.

    • Sylvia

      Right on, Preacher Billy! As a lifelong Methodist, that has and does attend Community Churches as well, I well know that there are MANY Methodists who would find this opposition and sheer willful misinterpretation of the artifacts meaning horrendous! SMU should be grateful!! Compared to what we have now, President Bush star shines!

    • sebyandrew

      I can't see politics operating in a vacuum. Usually if you find yourself among those who don't any longer have a shared morality or theology one either doesn't join or one leaves. The issue as I see it, is that the LEADERSHIP is pushing the leftist ideology. A friend was a member and liked her local congregation. She got involved in pro-life work, no doubt inspired by some of her fellow worshippers and possibly the pastor(s) there. Eventually she became aware of the official denominational stance on abortion and felt it her obligation to leave. I'm an outsider, but they seem to only be an echo of present-day culture rather than a prophetic voice.

  • olustee

    My wife is a Methodist and I used occasionally to attend Sunday service with her. Now her church in a middle-class suburb of Milwaukee has hired a feminist lesbian pastor(ess) from Madison, Wisconsin. For her, religion = social justice. She preached a sermon calling on her parishoners to support Obama's healthcare program, and some of the church members recognized the mistake they made in calling her to their congregation. I don't attend services there anymore.

    • Layman Larry

      This was exactly what prompted me to start looking for another church. When I saw Nancy Pelosi publicly thank the UMC for their strong support of Obamacare..I resigned my membership almost immediately. The UMC has a cancer that is growing and it will likely cause a split in the church in years to come.

    • sanitypastor

      If your wife is in a church that "called" a pastor, it is NOT United Methodist. That is not a part of our polity. There are other denominations with the word "Methodist" in their title, including Free Methodists and American Methodist Episcopal. It's like saying "I go to a Baptist church whose bishop appointed a racist member of the Klu Klux Klan to be its pastor, so Baptists must be right-wing bigots."

      • Mike

        Sanity Pastor, I think you may be knitting a sweator with terminology. Initiating the Church-Pastor relationship within the UMC includes the decision of the board of elders and the laity. Any candidate can be rejected thus the term "called" is simply a layman's term for "approved and appointed". Rather than support your denomination so much, maybe you can support Christian people who are suffering under the burden of conscience for an organization that has Christ "spewing" them from His mouth? It hurts to see the name of Christ profaned.

  • Bluehawk

    My father and grandfather were both ordained Methodist ministers, and their wives deeply interested in religious education. Up until the 1950s or so, they were also both registered Socialists. The 17th century origins of the denomination were distinctly fundamentalist evangelical, to which their opponents have always replied, "Empty cross, empty religion." I have visited SMU to help President and First Lady Bush celebrate the purposes of their new library. It is such a beautiful campus, one of the most collegiate in America, and the perfect location for programs intended at the Bush Center.

  • Jane Baer

    Beware leftist Protestants! I'm related to a Disciples of Christ Christian Church (JIm Jones's denomination) who is so leftist he looks down on the stupid church-goers who still believe in what he thinks is simple minded Baptist morals. He bragged about engaging in multiple affairs with the wives of church members breaking up many families. He and his then-mistress (later married) are the prime suspects in the death of his wife and mother of his children. He now is the chaplain for US military veterans.

  • Charles R. Rettig

    United Methodism is not defined by the politics of its members, nor there statements to the press corps, nor there misleading teaching and pulpit ministries. We are a starfish organization and have no head "but Christ", no official positions except those stated in the Book of Discipline, and no loyalty to a political party, philosophy, nor movement. Our mission is to "Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World." As such we encourage people to use their voices and speak out, but when they do they are not "representing the Methodist position on anything." Remember that the SE Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church Bishop's approved the Bush Museum at SMU, and it was also approved by the Board of Trustees which has many lay and clergy Methodists as well as community, civic, and educational leaders on it. I like what Jesus said about it all, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's" I am happy to be in a church that places Christ above the politics of the nation that I happened to be born in, and does not merge the two into a 'state religion.'

    • Layman Larry

      So we should simply ignore the General Boards and other prominent UMC organizations that are working everyday (and using our tithes) to promote their political agenda? The GBCS claims to represent the UMC does it not?

  • NIKA-USA

    I was raised in the United Methodist Church and I can tell you that it has now reached virtually total corruption. While there may be some individuals and pastors who remain true to the Faith, they are "in communion" with rank heretics. If you were an ethical lawyer, would you stay in a lawfirm which included even one unethical lawyer? No, you would take steps to remove that unethical lawyer and if that couldn't be done, you would remove yourself. So this is why I left, the rot goes to the very core of the organization. BTW, I am now a very happy member of the Eastern Orthodox Church

  • Mike

    A good solid return to Biblical exegesis and reminder of the Puritan theology of John Wesley, (who was an excellent exegete and translator of the Greek NT), would be a good start. Neo-orthodoxy and Liberation Theology, (both easily defeated in a public Biblcal debate), must be removed from the UMC to return her to her roots.

  • Jenny

    I am married to a UMC pastor so the implication that I attend there is logical…for the good of the church and for my marriage. If this were not so, however, I would not continue in the Methodist

    I am married to a UM pastor and I do not support the agendas of some of the national level boards and agencies, and have not for years. But I do believe we are called to be "salt and light" in a very dark world, and we all know the "world" has invaded the walls of ALL churches in some very dark ways. So why quibble over this point? Let's just be " salt and light" where we are called to be. As for supporting the Bush Library, my husband and I are in FULL support of President Bush and his family and we believe this will be a wonderful contribution to SMU, the state of Texas and the United States as a whole. Must we always feel the need to demonize what we do not agree with?

  • NIKA-USA

    Wesley was a good man and led people away from a corrupt and dying "church" the Church of England, but, UMC is an offshoot of Anglicanism, which is an offshoot of Roman Catholocism which left the Faith in 1054.

    Consider this, the Eastern Orthodox monastery, St. Catherine's in the Sinai, has celebrated the same worship service (word for word) for18 centuries. This is the same worship service the today's Eastern Orthodox celebrate today. While there are from time to time individual priests which are corrupt there has never been the widespread corruption foundin the Latin church or the approximately 2,500 Protestant denominations. Protestanism is a scandal to an honest enquirer after the truth because it is clear that Protestants cannot in the first instance agree on what is true and in the second instance preserve what is true. (continued in next comment)

    • FedUpw/Hypocrites

      When was it ever appropriate (or Christ-like) to insult other people's denominations? As a proud Anglican, I am incredibly insulted by your decision to place the word church in quotes when describing my denomination of choice. I thought that Christians were supposed to let God do the judging. It seems to me that everyone on this message board has forgotten that. I say that one's denomination is one's choice. I would never have the audacity to insult your choice, so please show me the same respect.

    • Samurai Hit Woman

      Painting all protestants with the same brush is neither fair nor true. The church I attend
      broke off from the United Church of Christ when it became liberal and remained true to scripture.

      For me a church that repeats the same Rituals for centuries is not how a church validates itself. But closely following the Bible validates all churches including the Methodists who now fail the test.

      Back to the source was the cry of the protestant reformation and remains the test today of Christ's true church. A spiritual church that is composed of people of different churches who may differ over minor details but use the Bible as their guide and follow it to the best of their ability.

  • NIKA-USA

    Continued from previous comment:

    The United Methodist minister that presided over the church I was raised in in the 1950's would not belong to today's UMC. It has changed that much in 50 years. A house built on sand. My priest at the local Greek orthodox church can trace his clerical heritage all the way back to St. Andrew. The Phanar in Constantinople has ordination records that go back 2100 years.

    Where is the comparable anchor of the UMC? Wesley? good man, but he wouldn't be a member of the UMC today.

    • pennswoods

      We Catholics, both Latin and Eastern Orthodox, trace our roots back to Pentecost… :)

  • NIKA-USA

    Jenny:
    Jenny:

    This is a state of compromise with heresy that I simply cannot understand. Our souls are too precious to take risks like this. Your tithes support heresies of the rankest kind.

    Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. The leftists in the UMC truly "believe" in the different Faith. While Orthodoxy suffers occaisionally from individual corruption, UMC suffers from INSTITUTIONAL CORRUPTION, entire segments of the UMC stand in a state of heresy. St. John Chrysostom, perhaps the greatest of the Church fathers, someone whom the UMC NEVER taught me about stated….. flee heresy…. flee for your very souls.

    • Jenny

      Dear NIKI-USA,

      God taught me in the Bible to be salt and light in a dark world.

  • SarahMcP

    I'll never forget the UMC hymnal-revision committee–back in the '80s, I think–that voted to delete Onward Christian Soldiers as being "too militaristic". Cowper's immortal "There Is a Fountain" barely escaped due to its "literary & historical" importance, but only w/the addition of an asterisk after the last verse and a footnote that it might be offensive to the verbally-impaired. Here, if you're not familiar with the hymn, is that offensive last verse:

    "When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
    Lies silent in the grave,
    Then in a nobler, sweeter song
    I'll sing Thy power to save."

  • http://vigilantsociety.comule.com/ Joseph Veca

    To be honest most of the religious colleges have moved away from their religious roots. SMU Professor going up in flames about the the Bush Library is no different than watching Notre Dame (a Roman Catholic College) give an honorary Doctorate to Obama.

  • Beverley

    Apart from Liberation Theology (an attempt to marry Christianity with Socialist/Communist principles). The UMC embraces 'Replacement Theology' to understand what it is go to http://www.ldolphin.org/replacement

  • FrankTekstar

    I was raised in the Methodist Church but I am now a "recovering" Methodist who "crossed the Tiber" 6 years ago to the Church that has not rewritten its theology for almost 2000 years. What drove me away was the seeming ease with which truths were being discarded for political correctness. In the end, the institutional church (Catholic, Methodist, or other) is made up of imperfect men. The question for me then becomes "which one teaches the truth, even when its men are in error?"

    • sebyandrew

      Frank, the woman I mentioned earlier (reply to peacher billy) went to an HRI pro-life conference and was profoundly influenced there by FR. Paul Marx. She also crossed the Tiber. What was funny is that she didn't know that HRI was a catholic org. when she went.

    • Beverley

      Frank go to http://www.moriel.org and then on to all their links to learn the truth.

  • UM Kid

    Wow. There is so much ignorance in this commentary here. I have been a United Methodist for my entire life and almost as long as the United Methodist Church has been a denomination (since 1968.) “Methodist” is only ONE part of the United Methodist name, that “United” part coming from the Evangelical United Brethren in the 1968 merger.

    To say that United Methodists are solely “Methodist” or even “Wesleyan” in the way other holier-than-thou holiness movements have emerged, is silly. The Evangelical United Brethren also have a history and tradition of social justice. Even some of their churches were stops on the Underground Railroad. Many EUB churches were also active in the temperance movement. That’s what social justice in church is, folks: being a political force in the world without allegiance to a party ideology, but to Christ.

    This is the true issue of the Bush Library debate.

    And, this is the way the United Methodist Church is “United” in its Methodism: coming together in the name of Christ for the work of social justice. Guess what? You know that John Wesley guy? He was big on social justice too and plenty of liberation theologians see John Wesley’s work as liberative, as well as what is written in the Gospel to be liberative.

    Let’s face it, not only are,”liberals” closely aligned with Wesleyan theology, but the Libertarian Party is the conservative political party in the United States that has an ethos most closely aligned with Wesleyan theology. And, dare I say it? The Libertarian Party has core Principles much in the same way that the United Methodist Church has Social Principles! Imagine that!

    As John Wesley said, there is no holiness apart from social holiness. And if your personal holiness is in reality, a biased holier-than-thou holiness, you just don’t get it.

    If you are United Methodist and are upset by what I have written here, maybe the UNITED Methodist Church is not for you. There is an entire Book of Discipline that backs up what I’ve said here.

    And by the way, SMU Perkins School of Theology? It’s not just a Methodist school, it’s a United Methodist school.

    So,if you are so hung up about your own political leanings, and can’t be humble enough to see beyond your own narrow perspective, maybe the United Methodist Church is not for you.

  • LibertarianHomo

    The organized churches are universally political creatures. You gather humans and you get politics. Unfortunately you get "politically correct" with it, even when that seems to carry with it forgetting that "Christian" should imply "Christ-like" in goal. Sadly, this is from the right and left.

  • poetcomic1

    Calvin Coolidge's Presidential Library is a room at the town library in Northampton, MA where he practiced law. Clinton's 'library' (read Shrine) cost 165 million dollars. Bush's library will probably cost even more. Do you think Obama's library will be in the U.S.?

  • Richard

    I once asked a United Methodist minister, who was bragging about how great the church was for all its social programs, why he was so proud of that. He said it was because what Christ commanded. So I asked him, "well, that's the interesting issue, isn't it? Who is Jesus Christ to command you to do anything? Why would you want to obey him? Who is he?" This ordained Methodist could only look down, shuffle his feet, and say to me, a layperson: "I don't want to get into a discussion of religious language." What a joke.

  • NIKA-USA

    Sounds just like the UMC I left. I will never allow itself to be "pinned down" everything is vague and mushy and generalized, meaningless in the end.

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