Monday, September 25, 2006

Bush, Iraq, and Misunderstanding United Methodist Authority

Here's a curious headline:

Bush's Own Church Has Called For The Withdrawal Of Troops From Iraq

Well, not quite. Rather, 100 United Methodists, among them a retired bishop, protested the war in Iraq and called for Bush to withdraw. But if I understand UMC polity correctly, only the Council of Bishops or the General Conference can claim to speak for the United Methodist Church. A hundred-odd marchers cannot claim such authority, even if a retired bishop is among them.

Nevertheless, much of the Left end of the blogosphere has picked up this misunderstanding and run with it. This mistake does not merit harsh criticism, as one can be easily confused about the governance of a different denomination.

And to the credit of the Methodist anti-war protestors, I saw nothing in the UMNS article to indicate that they claimed to speak for the whole UMC. It's just a misunderstanding that needs to be corrected.

9 comments:

Joel Thomas said...

Not even the Council of Bishops can speak officially for the UMC; only the General Conference can do that. However, the Council of Bishops do have a prophetic voice such that there is an unoffical "moral authority" to their Council-wide pronouncements.

I'm not sure the misundertsanding is based in ideology as much as lack of awareness of UMC polity, even among many church members.

On the "conservative" side, many were also confused when the United Methodist Men sided with the Boy Scouts of America in their winning Supreme Court case involving the prohibition of gay Scout leaders. They spoke only on their own behalf, just as the General Board of Church and Society spoke only for itself in taking the opposite view in the Scout case.

Dan Trabue said...

But then, the headline is not really incorrect, either. Just not very clear.

Folk from Bush's own church HAVE called for troop withdrawal. The "UMC" has not come out as a group calling for such, nor have people (I suppose) from Bush's actually local church (which the headline could also be interpreted as saying).

Joel Thomas said...

Churches and agencies should be free to speak up, but they must be careful to convey the denomination's official line that "only General Conference speaks for the United Methodist Church."

There is no guarantee that the media will notice or print the disclaimer, but at least the parties or agency taking a position has issued it.

Joel Thomas said...

Churches and agencies should be free to speak up, but they must be careful to convey the denomination's official line that "only General Conference speaks for the United Methodist Church."

There is no guarantee that the media will notice or print the disclaimer, but at least the parties or agency taking a position has issued it.

John said...

Dan, given those links, how do you think that the Left end of the blogosphere tends to understand the issue: that the offical UMC voice has called for a withdraw or that a handful of Methodists have?

John said...

Hmm. My comment really doesn't have a predicate. Maybe I shouldn't comment while fueled by two hours of sleep.

Dan Trabue said...

" Dan, given those links, how do you think that the Left end of the blogosphere tends to understand the issue"

Given that most may have read only the headline, I'd reckon they'd think that the UMC as an entity had decided to call for removal. That would be my guess.

Keith McIlwain said...

You are correct, sir; only the GC speaks for the Church. The media got it wrong (big surprise).

Wes said...

Seems like a similarity to MSM obfuscation as in NY Times headline "Pope Apologizes For Uproar Over His Remarks" which is true but not true. He may have apologized for the uproar but not for making the remarks.