Here is a letter from my good friend, Winifred. She is an advocate for justice in the Methodist church. I met Winifred in Montana at a PFLAG meeting. She and I both moved to warmer climes about the same time. She has been a feisty fighter for justice for many years. I always appreciate the e-mails "From WK." You can get on her e-mail list by sending her an e-mail to WKeefer1@cs.com. This last e-mail is about UMAction, which is the Methodist branch of IRD, an organization that spends over $1 million per year to target three denominations, United Methodist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian USA with their right-wing political agenda.
I wrote about the IRD earlier, here and here. The IRD's biggest chunk of change is aimed at the Methodist Church. Winifred has been reporting on these folks for some time.
Friends of justice:
Before I summarize the latest information from the IRD, let me just mention one news item that I set aside to send to you. From the Arizona Daily Star, February 19, 2007, section "Around the Nation" from South Carolina comes this information: Spartanburg, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Sunday that the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion should be over-turned. McCain also vowed that if elected, he would appoint judges who "strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and not legislate from the bench." (not all of article quoted)
Since some of the group receiving this e-mail are new to "From WK," I will give an introduction to "UM Action."
UMAction briefing is the communication bulletin sent by the IRD to United Methodists. The IRD is The Institute on Religion & Democracy's means of activating UMs to communicate with people and agencies of the UMC that differ from the goals of the IRD. There are two books you can read about this group whose goal is to bring the UMC, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church into the fundamentalist fold. One is UM @RISK by Leon Howell, 2003, ISBN:0-615-12399-6, and the other is Hard Ball on Holy Ground by edited by Stephen Swecker, 2005, ISBN:0-9711146-2-5. Both detail the conservative foundations who fund the IRD with the "goal of furthering public policy that favors the wealthy and the use of government power to support corporate interests." (p9, Hard Ball…) Their web site is www.ird-renew.org. That will take you to the general site. For the UMC only try www.ird-renew/umaction. I have found that the reports of our more liberal celebrations are well summarized on this site. If one ignores the conservative comments, the summaries are quite good. They often have reporters at these gatherings. Sometimes they are identified by their well-dressed look.
The method of operation for these briefings is to encourage conservative Christians to write (and now to e-mail) the objects of their concern telling them the viewpoint of the conservatives. I have sent letters to the persons attacked saying that I agree with the action of the person attacked. One response I received was that the person was glad to know why the negative letters were coming. I would suggest that you pick at least one article to respond to; be sure to state that you are responding to the UMAction briefing of fall/winter 2007 and you disagree with their stand.
Now to the eight articles in this trifold 8X11 "briefing." I will be as succinct as I can be.
The first article asks that the UMs learn from the Episcopal Church. You may be aware that the international church is unhappy with the freedom in the USA to ordain gays and lesbians and to elevate them to Bishop. One of the leaders in the attempt to bring all the US churches in conformity with the "right reading of Scripture" is Bishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who leads the huge number of African Anglicans. This information is from the TIME magazine of February 10, 2007. I mention this because the Methodist Church is also finding that there are more members in the "South", Africa, Latin America, and Asia than in the countries above the equator. African Anglicans number 44 million while the Episcopal Church USA has 2.2 million. There may be similar numbers for other Christian churches. The ACTION suggested for this article is to elect delegates to the UMC General Conference who will support the conservative views on sexual ethics. We know that the GLBT issue is a hot button "wedge issue" that can divert us from their objectives.
Skipping ahead to a similar theme the last article is "Good News: African UM is Growing" This echoes my comments on the first article. The list of growth in three conferences in Africa is given. In contrast, the US has lost 3 million members and is declining at about 70,000 members per year. I would like to step aside and mention that the voting delegates in General Conference is based on the membership. We in the west have already lost delegates to about 45 out of the 1000 permitted. If the African Conferences gain delegates equal to their growth, we will be even more marginalized. This is one reason I support the Western Jurisdiction MFSA. We must stick together.
The ACTION for the next article is to ask Bishop Ann Sherer to uphold the clear UM and Christian stand opposing same-sex unions. She is targeted because she approved a Nebraska church’s plan to evade the UMC’s prohibition against same-sex unions by UM clergy and churches. I find this article hitting close to my new home in Arizona. The Reconciling Committee of St. Francis in the Foothills recently met with our bishop (Desert Southwest Conference) about a similar action being considered by our church with the same goal of not violating The Book of Discipline. Bishop Sherer’s address is 2641 N 49th Street, Lincoln, NE 68504 or Bishopsherer@umcneb.org. I met Bishop Sherer in Brazil and appreciate the friendship we have. I know she would appreciate your support.
Bishop Will Willimon is the next target. His speechfor Christian Century magazine is on the IRD web site and the suggestion is to study it in your Sunday School class. The title states "Bishop Willimon Criticizes Conservatives and Liberals."
The next target is the General Board of Church and Society which is targeted by IRD to be disbanded by the general church. This time they sponsored a conference titled "Building a Wesleyan Theology of Peace for the 21st Century." Retired Bishop Roy Sano (from the Western Jurisdiction) and others spoke. Sano admitted that John Wesley believed in traditional Christian teaching of just war. He "implied that Wesley’s alleged belief was wrong" by stating that JW appeals to a certain ethnicity, namely white world and male. The briefing states that the speakers addressed The Book of Discipline (para 165 C) that war would be only a last resort in the prevention of evils and ignored the part about last resort by stating all war was unacceptable. Bishop Sano address in 100 Maryland Ave., NE, Washington, D.C., 20002 or email@example.com. The complaint the briefing wants the readers to make is why did the GB of C&S fund a conference that promoted one half of the UMC’s position on war but ignored the other half.
The UM affiliated Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta is the next article. The seminary was hit for sponsoring a conference that "mostly espoused liberal political themes." The list of speakers is impressive. Jim Wallis, Andrew Young, Minerva Carcaño, Cynthia Tucker, and Riverside pastor James Forbes. (go to the web site for more detail on these folk.) Bishop Carcaño denounced Arizona’s Proposition 200 "which would require the state to withhold benefits from illegal aliens and verify citizenship of voters." The action is to ask Candler School of Theology Dean Russell Richey why this conference was so one-sided. Candler School of Theology, 202 Bishops Hall, Atlanta, GA 30322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IRD is unhappy with the General Board of Global Ministries because it appointed a "missions" person to work for Planned Parenthood. "ACTION: Respectfully ask GBGM General Secretary Randy Day why his agency has commissioned a Planned Parenthood employee as a missionary." GBGM, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115 or email@example.com.
The UMC is the largest church contributor to the National Council of Churches. There is a list of several activities of the NCC, all rather "liberal." The action is to ask the local church’s Board or Council to discuss and take a stand on whether the UMC should continue giving to the NCC.
Well, that’s all for this issue. I recommend that you surf the site for further understanding of the IRD.