One of the current controversies in the United Methodist Church is the possible building of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University. I stand wholeheartedly against this, as I believe Mr. Bush has acted against the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church repeatedly and flagrantly in his presidency. I am including a letter from Dr. Tex Samples, one of our finest theologians, to the Southeast Jurisdiction Delegates of the United Methodist Church. I endorse Dr. Samples comments, and solicit your comments on the controversy. If you agree with me on this issue as a United Methodist, or want to learn more on how to formally join the petition of disagreement with this move, you may contact me at curtisaurus@yahoo.com. If you wish to comment either pro-or-con, you are invited to do so on this blog.

A Letter to SCJ Delegates from Tex SampleOn June 30, 2008, the letter below was sent from Dr. Tex Sample, emeritus professor at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, to all the SCJ delegates.
Goodyear, ArizonaJune 25, 2008
Dear South Central Jurisdictional Conference Delegate,
Having been a Jurisdictional delegate many times, I have some sense of the heavy responsibilities you now bear and the claims upon you. I write you, then, about a matter of great urgency and significance or I would not otherwise ask for your attention.
On March 14, 2007, Southern Methodist University asked the Mission Council, a meeting of SCJ representatives, for permission to lease campus property to the Bush Foundation as the site for the President George W. Bush library, museum, and policy institute.
In January 2008, following the Mission Council meeting, the SCJ College of Bishops interpreted the action of the Mission Council and gave the assurance, requested by the Bush Foundation, that the Mission Council had authority to approve the lease of the jurisdictional property on the SMU campus.
But the College of Bishops does not have this authority according to Paragraph 56, Article II.4 of the constitution of The United Methodist Church (p. 38). In the 2004 Book of Discipline, it specifically states: “The Judicial Council shall have authority to hear and determine the legality of any action taken therein by any jurisdictional conference board or body, upon appeal by one-third of the members thereof in a Jurisdictional Conference.”
By giving their interpretation, the SCJ College of Bishops not only preempted the authority of the Judicial Council but also set the stage for the lease signing and for closing the door to a Jurisdictional Conference vote.
It may be that a technical case can be made for such an assumption of your authority as a Jurisdictional Conference delegate. My problem with the decision, however, is its totally inadequate regard of the larger theological, ecclesial and ethical issues involved, whether technically permissible or not.
Unlike some, I do not object to the Bush Library and Museum, as such, being on the SMU campus. While the Bush Administration is a failed presidency, such political failure is a matter for serious historical research and evaluation. It is important to remember, however, that President Bush signed Executive Order 13233, which provides former presidents and, after their deaths, their families with unlimited powers to deny or grant access to documents generated under their administrations. To be sure, one can appropriately be concerned about matters that have to do with national security and other important papers that need to be confidential, but the National Archives and Records Administration handle these matters. President Bush’s executive order is not needed for them. This executive order places unjustifiable limitations on scholarship and research.
The greater problem is the partisan multi-million dollar Bush Institute, which will be totally under the control of the Bush Presidential Foundation, not SMU. While any viewpoints expressed by Institute Fellows will accordingly be identified with the Foundation, it nevertheless makes SMU the location and signifying marker of this partisan think tank. Furthermore, the purpose of this Institute is to promote the politically partisan and ethically questionable ideas and policies of George W. Bush.
The influence of neo-conservative and supply-side economic thought and policy has been dominant in the United States now for more than 35 years, and the Bush Administration the most disastrous example of it. These politics and economics have contributed to a sharply growing inequality in income and wealth, a tax system that serves the rich, an increasing insecurity for middle class families, the flattening of wages for workers while their productivity increases, growing concentrations of power in corporate America and in the media, and the loss of regulation of corporate activity resulting in devastating disruptions of our national life, such as Enron and the sub-prime loan housing crisis. This list names only a few of the problems with neoconservative politics and supply-side economics.
Furthermore, commitment to a so-called “free market” without regard to the common good is a violation of Christian teaching. Not to mention that commitment to a “free market” oblivious to concentrations of economic power is delusional fantasy when it is not a self-serving worldview committed to the interests of the few at the expense of the many. What we have in neoconservative politics and supply side economics is what someone has called “feeding the horses so the birds can eat.”
Even worse, Bush’s pre-emptive war against Iraq, the complicity of his administration in torture, and the serious disregard for human rights in the Bush administration campaign against terrorism raise even more sharply the question of why we would permit this institute on the SMU campus. The Social Principles state: “We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ…” (165, C). Is this not even more so when the war is pre-emptive? The Social Principles further declare: “the mistreatment or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching” (164, A). The complicity of the Bush administration in torture stands clearly in opposition to this teaching. Further, the Social Principles assert that “We strongly reject domestic surveillance” (164, A), yet this has become policy in the Bush administration. I have not mentioned at least five other violations of The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles by the Bush Administration: environmental abuses (Par. 160), the health of children (162, C), the death penalty (164, G), social services and poverty (163, E), and freedom of information (164, D).
Parenthetically, the Bush complex will pay a single dollar for a 99-year lease for the SMU property with a 249-year option to renew, all of which the Bush Foundation has required. This means that the next chance the SCJ will have to address this issue is the middle of the 23rd century. This constitutes a direct endowment of the Bush Institute through a 348-year give-away “lease” of land, which the SCJ owns, to the Bush Foundation and its causes.
Why is the SCJ making this kind of gift to any president and to the promotion of policies and views which stand in direct contradiction to the Social Principles and the positions of The United Methodist Church?
Finally, I do not wish to be disrespectful to our College of Bishops whose interpretation, if not challenged, gives a final okay to this matter. Many of them I know, respect and love. But under pressure from President Bush’s representatives – one more example of the Bush administration’s tendency to rush to a decision as they did in the war on Iraq – our College of Bishops made a mistake that needs to be reversed. I urge you to do so.
Church order must take precedence here, especially when authority for the review of the Mission Council action belongs to the Judicial Council, and when approval of this use of the SMU campus actually belongs to the South Central Jurisdiction. Even more important, the SCJ ought not to subsidize or provide de facto endorsement to a partisan institute that stands in opposition to our United Methodist stated social witness.
Grace and peace,Tex SampleRetired Clergy Member, Missouri AreaSCJ Delegate, 1976-1996

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