Earlier this month, at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Quadrennial General Conference, the UMC’s governing body, voted overwhelmingly — 844 to 20 — to refer a petition to its South Central Jurisdiction. The petition urges the rejection of President Bush’s presidential library which is set to be housed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The library has received significant criticism from SMU faculty, Methodist ministers and the public because of an attached institute — independent of the university — that will sponsor programs designed to “promote the vision of the president” and “celebrate” Bush’s presidency.
The South Central Jurisdiction, which owns the university property where the library is set to be built, will vote on the petition this July. In anticipation of the vote, some Methodist ministers have launched a public relations campaign to highlight the partisan nature of the library:
[T]he opponents have hired a Maine public relations firm to design ads for Methodist publications and do other strategies, said the Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, N.Y.
He said the goal is informing people about the partisan think tank, which won’t be under SMU’s control and will promote the Bush administration’s policies — such as the war with Iraq and harsh interrogation techniques of military prisoners — that some Methodists feel conflict with church teachings.
Library supporters argue that a smaller church council’s vote to authorize SMU to lease its land to the Bush Foundation last year for the library will stand, but ministers opposed to the institute “will not give up“:
But the opponents, who have raised $10,000 for the public relations campaign so far, are urging Methodists to keep fighting and send donations for the campaign to Rev. Bob Weathers, a former Fort Worth district superintendent. [...]
“This is really about the partisan institute, which will do the most damage over time,” Weaver said. “And it’s not just an issue in Texas. Methodists have pride in their name.”
Indeed, opponents have cause for concern that the institute will ignore the realities of Bush’s eight years in office. Advisers to the library said the “think tank” will “rely chiefly” on a design firm, rather than historians, to showcase Bush’s policies as president.