Marquette Warrior: Are Methodists Really This Far to the Left?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Are Methodists Really This Far to the Left?

They, as we shall see, are not nearly so far to the left as the bureaucrats who run the congregation.

On the latter, from the Institute on Religion and Democracy:
The Spring directors meeting of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) authorized a flurry of left-wing political actions amidst reports of exciting international church partnerships and of GBGM’s continued financial decline.

The April gathering in Stamford, Connecticut was peppered with political themes. One speaker promoted U.S. participation in the controversial International Criminal Court. With no discussion, Directors endorsed the liberal Children’s Defense Fund lobbying for expanded welfare programs.

David Maldonado of United Methodism’s Perkins seminary defended illegal immigration. He said “the decision is not to be a criminal” but rather “to do what in your heart of hearts you know is the right thing.” Maldonado, who is also president of the denomination’s Hispanic caucus, MARCHA, compared immigration laws to segregation. And he was dismissive of worries about illegal immigration.
More moderate forces had a little success, however.
Evangelical directors successfully stopped a proposal to remove the United Methodist Church’s support for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). Liberal United Methodist officials have previously opposed IDOP on the grounds that it was supported by the “religious right.”
One has to suspect that, in a gethering like this, persecuted Christians are of far less concern than persecuted Muslims, persecuted homosexuals and persecuted women.
There was some review and discussion of a few new resolutions. But with no time for discussion in plenary session, the directors quickly approved dozens of older resolutions to, among other things:
  • Oppose school vouchers
  • “Deplore any ecclesiastical attempts in seminaries” to use the academic community for the promotion of any particular point of view” or “to require ecclesiastical loyalty oaths designed to protect cherished truth claims”
  • Portray America as a land of “increasing oppression” with “police and the intelligence community’s harassment of minority leaders,” “rising militancy of rank-and-file police,” and “heavy punitive actions against dissidents.”
  • Blame Puerto Rico’s economic problems on the U.S. federal government
  • Promote “amnesty for the undocumented [i.e., illegal] immigrants living within the United States.”
  • Assert that violating U.S. immigration law “is not a crime”
  • Claim that “all people” are entitled “to have a full an abundant life”
  • Urge massive debt cancellation for Third World nations
  • Instruct the GBGM to work with leftist activist groups as the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Accuse the U.S.A. PATRIOT ACT of “particularly target[ing] … people of color”
  • Instructs the denomination’s Washington lobby to “intensify its advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world”
  • “[U]nequivocally” opposes military intervention by any entity other than the U.N. against a sovereign nation
  • Support “early cessation of U.S. arms sales in Taiwan”
  • Instruct the GBGM “to continue discussions with” the pacifist Christian Peacemaker Teams and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) “to explore the possibility of including United Methodists on the teams sent to areas of conflict.” The latter group is dedicated to interfering with Israeli anti-terror operations and claims that “the root cause of the conflict” in the region is solely Israel’s responsibility. Four years ago, one ISM leader was caught hiding a Palestinian terrorist in her office.
  • Endorse U.N. Conventions regarding “The Rights of the Child” and “The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” The former has been accused of promoting government intervention in parenting and the latter of promoting legalized abortion and prostitution.
  • Call for legislation to outlaw anything that could be vaguely interpreted as “malicious and intimidating actions … related to” the victim’s “sexual orientation.”
  • Criticize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • Urge “the U.S. government to end all military aid” to Israel
  • Demand the end to sanctions against North Korea and Cuba.
One has to wonder: was there any left-wing cause that was overlooked?

When it came to handing out money, the same leftist agenda was seen.
At the end of the four-day meeting, directors were also rushed to quickly approve without discussion a 122-page “Mission Opportunities” book listing GBGM grants to outside groups. These grants included:
  • $10,000 to the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, which has demanded that other nations “impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state” and refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to remain a Jewish state. The GBGM’s own description of the grant notes that it will support “remembrances” of the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948.
  • $5,000 to the Metro Alliance and Communities Organized for Public Services, two San Antonio affiliates of the Industrial Areas Foundation which describes its political perspective as “radical” and “progressive”
  • $3,000 to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which has portrayed Israel as solely responsible for the region’s problems and includes members committed to Israel’s destruction.
  • $3,000 to the Greensboro Justice Fund, which helps funds the Georgia chapter of the ACLU and a homosexual youth network. The GBGM description of this grant notes the recipient’s devotion to ending unspecified “homophobic discrimination” and “right wing attacks.”
  • $5,000 to a “progressive” effort for “structural and systemic change in the criminal justice system.”
  • $2,500 to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which has promoted the cause of radical icon and convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal
  • $2,500 to the Sentencing Project, which opposes mandatory minimum sentences and advocates, reduced penalties for crack-cocaine offences.
  • $10,000 to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which “believe[s] the freedom of expression should in no way include hurting the feelings and believes [sic] of any ethnic or religious group.”
  • Unusually and commendably, $5,000 to a United-Kingdom Christian group “to support its campaign to seek the abolition of anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan,” which is “used to persecute and imprison many religious minorities.”
Looking at this, one might get the idea that the Methodists are a left-wing denomination.

But suppose we look at the politics of rank-and-file Methodists, as reported in the General Social Survey of the University of Chicago.

  • Methodists
    • Democrats -- 39.6%
    • Independents -- 14.7%
    • Republicans -- 45.7%
  • All Others
    • Democrats -- 43.6%
    • Independents -- 15.4%
    • Republicans -- 41.1%
(To get these numbers, we pooled data from 1996-2004, and counted people who “leaned” toward a party as identifying with it.)

That’s right. Methodists are are bit more likely to be Republicans than the nation as a whole.

It’s all too typical in religious organizations that a cadre of clerics and bureaucrats run the organization. But the mystery is: why do rank and file Methodists put up with this sort of thing?

In large numbers, they don’t. The Methodist Church has been bleeding members for decades as people in the pews move to places that are apolitical, or conservative. The process is slow, however, as ties to other members and family traditions hold people in the denomination. But it moves on.

It’s not clear that the people running the denomination really care about this. Oh, they would like bigger budgets. But their loyalty is not to traditional Methodist doctrine, or even to biblical doctrine.

And, if they could meet and talk to John Wesley, they would probably consider him a religious fanatic.

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