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Methodists opposing locating the George W. Bush Presidential Library and a related "think tank" at Southern Methodist University are not yet ready to declare victory. But momentum is with them.

The controvery has captured international media attention -- as well as that of leaders and members of the United Methodist Church, which owns the school. George and Laura Bush are both members of the denomination, and Mrs. Bush sits on the SMU board of trustees that has been leading the effort to place the half billion dollar monument to her husband's presidency on the campus.

But opponents have organized an online petition drive of Methodists against the Bush complex as part of their campaign -- and they are making dramatic progress.

"We now have as signatories fourteen Bishops in the United Methodist Church, the past President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, two Superintendents in the British Methodist Church, over 600 United Methodist clergy, and more than nine thousand members of churches from across the United States and Canada," said the Reverend Andrew Weaver, the SMU alum who organized the petition.

Bishops speak out against Bush Library, Think Tank at SMU and Vow to Push Forward


Today the organizers of a United Methodist Church petition urging Southern Methodist University (SMU) not to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum, and Institute released early results of their petition drive and vowed to continue with the drive.  


"We now have as signatories fourteen Bishops in the United Methodist Church, the past President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, two Superintendents in the British Methodist Church, over 600 United Methodist clergy, and more than nine thousand members of churches from across the United States and Canada," said the Reverend Andrew Weaver, the SMU alum who organized the petition.


The petition has been online for less than two weeks.  Its organizers argue that Bush's legacy is incompatible with the values of Methodism and thus that his Library, Museum, and Institute should not be housed on SMU's campus.  Bishop C. Joseph Sprague condemned the administration, stating that.  "Bush violated United Methodist teachings when he initiated a pre-emptive, first- strike war, contrary to Just War criteria, when he pursued policies that reward the rich, while punishing the poor and he further sneered at church teaching by condoning the torture of prisoners.  Add to these callous and arrogant acts the fact that he presided over more capital punishment executions (state-sanctioned murder is condemned by our church) than any governor in this nation's history, and it becomes abundantly clear why a G.W. Bush Library should not be housed on United Methodist Church property.  The United Methodist Church's Social Principles call all United Methodists to social holiness. This petition reflects our church's tradition that all United Methodists are to be held accountable for our personal and institutional behavior."


Southern Methodist University is one of 123 educational institutions that are related to The United Methodist Church.  Petition organizers believe that association with this president through his proposed $500 million library, museum, and institute will reflect poorly upon Methodism worldwide.  They invite all people of faith who honor the good name of Methodism and our Christian heritage to sign our petition at www.protectSMU.org.


"The placement of the George W. Bush Library and the establishment of an Institute to promote the policies of this president at Southern Methodist University would be a tragedy." said Bishop William Boyd Grove.  "The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights, care for the environment and health care.  SMU is a university of the church, and is home to one of our outstanding theological seminaries. Its Methodist identity and its moral authority would be seriously compromised were it to be identified with the policies of George W. Bush in this way".  


"We've had an outpouring of support so far," said Rev. Weaver, "from those who don't wish to have their beloved church associated with a man who has authorized torture and a lie-based war of aggression against the people of Iraq.  The comments on the petition are a modern epistle to the church and the 45 million Methodists worldwide, pleading for justice."

My friend Andrew Weaver is one of the organizers of this effort. You've gotta be a Methodist to sign the petition; but if you are not a Methodist, maybe you know one. Or two.

[UPDATED] The Young Conservatives have launched a counter petition.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jan 31, 2007 at 11:03 PM PST.

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