Friday, January 19, 2007

Should President Bush Be Put on Trial?

The protest against President Bush establishing his presidential library at Southern Methodist University began as a small petition from a handful of faculty, but has grown much, much larger:

The petition includes the signatures of two current and eight retired bishops out of about 170 current and retired bishops worldwide. Five other Methodist ministers also signed.

In one day, the online petition drew more than 4,000 names. While many signed in jest, comments from others show the petition became a touchstone for feelings about President Bush. Some key Methodist clergy and campus leaders quickly denounced the petition, saying it didn't represent the views of a majority of Methodists.

The petition itself reads:

As United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate.

It seems to me that if George Bush has not conducted himself as a United Methodist should, a first step should be to put him on trial in a church court. If convicted, then the petitioners would be correct.

¶ 2702.3 of The Book of Discipline (2004) reads:

A professing member of a local church may be charged with the following offenses, and, if so, may choose a trial: (a) immorality; (b) crime; (c) disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church; (d) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (d) sexual abuse; (f) sexual misconduct; (g) child abuse; (h) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; (i) racial or gender discrimination; or (j) relationships and/or behaviors that undermine the ministry of persons serving within an appointment.

¶ 2703.4 describes judicial process specific to the laity:

In all cases, the pastor or district superintendent should take pastoral steps to resolve any complaints. If such pastoral response does not result in resolution and a written complaint is made against the professing member for any of the offenses in ¶ 2702.3, the pastor in charge or co-pastors (¶ 205.1) of the local church, in consultation with the district superintendent and the district lay leader, may appoint a committee on investigation consisting of four professing members and three clergy in full connection (both clergy and professing members must come from other congregations, exclusive of the churches of the respondent or the complainant). Committee members shall be in good standing and should be deemed of good character. The committee should reflect racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. When the pastor in charge is (or co-pastors are) bringing the charge, the district superintendent, in consultation with the district lay leader, shall appoint the committee on investigation. Five members shall constitute a quorum.

¶ 2705.4 details how the complaint process shall proceed for a layperson and ¶ 2714 describes the trial of a layperson.

So if the petitioners think that Bush has failed to be a faithful United Methodist, they should initiate this process.

So, a few questions for my readers:

  • Why has The Book of Discipline never been put online? I have to type out all of this stuff whenever I quote the BoD.
  • Should George Bush be prosecuted in the church courts?
  • And if so, on what basis?

Further thoughts from Dan Trabue and Stephen Fife.

(cross-posted)

14 comments:

Brian said...

I'm a liberal (I can freely admit that), but I think talk of putting Bush on trial (church or otherwise) is just as silly as putting Clinton on trial. There's a distinction between making a.) policy decisions we disagree with, b.) policy decisions that fail either in planning or execution, and c.) policy decisions that are criminal. Most of what Bush has done falls into a.) or b.), in my opinion.

The only question I'll hazard a guess to is the first - in my experience/opinion, the reason books don't appear online is because the publisher has a financial interest in their continued sales in print form. I don't think there is any other rational reason for not putting the discipline online. But then, I guess the question is whether rationality has anything to do with this?

But this is just a little rambling after consuming a few beverages that would apparently not be welcome on the campus of Asbury...

ymmv

John said...

The only question I'll hazard a guess to is the first - in my experience/opinion, the reason books don't appear online is because the publisher has a financial interest in their continued sales in print form.

Sheesh. How much bling bling does Cole Wakefield need?

I agree with your assessment. If we'd try Bush in a church court for his policy decisions, we'd have to do the same for Hillary Clinton. I like being in a denomination where both George Bush and Hillary Clinton are faithful United Methodists, to paraphrase the words of Bishop Scott Jones at the recent Congress on Evangelism.

matthew said...

Brian is right. My current district supernintendo and my current bishop were a part of a group that tried to get the last GC (or maybe 2000?) to put the BoD online.

The bottom line?

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

UMPH would lose too much money. Of course, it's not like we wouldn't buy our copies.

Wes said...

For what it's worth, you can get the BOD on CD-ROM from Cokesbury for $18.00. And for it's worth, all the rhetoric from SMU elites won't stop the library from being placed there. It's just another chapter in the blame Bush for everything bad that's ever happened or ever will happen saga.

Anonymous said...

As a United Methodist I do not want the presidential library at SMU, especially if it will include a "think tank". I believe Bush to be a warmonger and human rights violater. It is not necessary to put him on trial. Refusal to allow his library at SMU should be enough.

John said...

Marty, if there really is a case that Bush is a faithless United Methodist, then it should be quite easy to try and convict him in a church court.

If.

Matthew said...

Wes, that CD ROM is as worthless as anything I've ever seen. My Sr. Pastor asked me to get it so we could draft some documents and so I could copy the text for my ordination papers. IIRC, it took a couple of phone calls to the makers of the CD in order to figure out how to copy and paste.

I would still buy a deadtree version of the BoD even if it were online. I think most of us would if for no other reason than to have 40 years worth by the time we retire. And I prefer paper to digital. I'd just like an easily searchable BoD and the ability to easily copy and paste. The CD ROM has neither of those abilities from an ease of use standpoint.

And it's probably not compatible with a Mac which makes it doubly worthless.

Wes said...

Copied and pasted directly from the CD-ROM:
4. When respondent is a layperson—In all cases, the pastor or district superintendent should take pastoral steps to resolve any complaints. If such pastoral response does not result in resolution and a written complaint is made against a professing member for any of the offenses in ¶ 2702.3, the pastor in charge or co-pastors (¶ 205.1) of the local church, in consultation with the district superintendent and the district lay leader, may appoint a committee on investigation consisting of four professing members and three clergy in full connection (both clergy and professing members must come from other congregations, exclusive of the churches of the respondent or the complainant). Committee members shall be in good standing and should be deemed of good character. The committee should reflect racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. When the pastor in charge is (or co-pastors are) bringing the charge, the district superintendent, in consultation with the district lay leader, shall appoint the committee on investigation. Five members shall constitute a quorum.

In less than 10 seconds.

Anonymous said...

Sorry- I don't buy the notion that to ban the library requires putting Bush on trial and "excommunicating" him.

Look- if I had a member who made a fortune by investing in casinos, I wouldn't try to bar or ban or try that member. But since the Discipline is against gambling, I wouldn't let that member fund a building which would bear his or her name either.

Likewise, I don't want to put Bush on a church trial or ban him from membership in the UMC. However, since the invasion of Iraq did not meet any standard of Just War theory I've ever read and since Bush has yet to at least acknowledge that this was should have never happened, I see no reason to let him put his library with his name on it on one of our denomination properties.

John said...

If Bush's opponents have a case to make that Bush has specifically violated Methodist standards, they should not be afraid to prosecute him in church courts. Otherwise their claims are empty yelping. Let them prove where Bush has failed to be a true Methodist.

BruceA said...

I'm no fan of George W. Bush, but I don't think the petition has any merit. I don't see why it would be inappropriate for a Methodist from Texas to have his presidential library at a Methodist university in Texas.

Like you say, if they want to charge him with violating Methodist standards, they should do so. Otherwise, it's just a policy disagreement.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm? So much for grace from the "tolerant", "open-minded", "progressive" left. Nothing like politics over principle.

Respectfully,
Dark Gable

j2 said...

[OFF MAIN TOPIC]

pssst...a little bird told me that plain ascii text files exist for the last GC BoD and BoR. They have been spotted on a thing called the internet by a man with big, googly eyes.

If you encounter such a file you will need to refer to a printed copy of the BoD for copyright information and terms for acceptable use. Clearly, unauthorized use of such a file cannot be condoned.

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting that my bishop (Gwinn) signed the petition. He is definitely not a liberal. His closest academic relationship is with Asbury Theological Seminary where he currently serves as a Trustee.

Just for info, here is his explanation:

http://nccumc.org/docs/news/bishopspetitionresponse.htm

By the way, someone care to remind me of the HTML code for how to put links in comment boxes to avoid what I just did?