Monday, January 15, 2007

Surprise UMC General Conference Meeting Last Week

Despite the ongoing preparations of the Methoblogosphere for the UMC General Conference (expected to be in Fort Worth in 2008), I think that we were all taken by surprise by the sudden meeting and conclusion of this institution last week. Among various rulings:

The United Methodist Church President Bush's own denomination, has added its voice to the growing global chorus of disapproval - echoed strongly by many American Christians - towards the new White House policy backing a military 'surge' in Iraq.

The GC must have met, because only the GC can speak for the United Methodist Church. That, or Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, who has once again "accidentally" allowed himself to be misinterpreted to speak for the whole of the UMC:

"As the birthday of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. approaches, we are reminded of his prophetic words decrying the Vietnam War," said Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, in a statement at the end of last week."

Dr King stated that given the widespread destruction caused by that war, the people of Vietnam must have seen us as 'strange liberators.' So, too, is the United States viewed today by the people of Iraq," he declared.

Winkler called upon the US Congress to oppose sending more troops by withholding funds.

I look forward to Winkler's strident clarification of this repeated misunderstanding of his limited authority within the UMC.

Hat tip: Mad Priest


Anonymous said...

Sorry John, but from reading the article I suspect a third culprit (and one I have hammered for awhile now):

Shoddy reporting on the part of the news media.

Read the sentence you left out:
"On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the top executive for the church's social justice agency has called on United Methodists to say no to more troops in Iraq and to participate in a 27 January 2007 rally in Washington DC to end the war in Iraq."

John said...

I missed that. Good catch. It's a false headline.

I look forward to Mr. Winkler's attempt to clarify the record.

Henry Neufeld said...

Also, the statement on the GBCS web site includes the notice "The following is a statement of The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society issued by General Secretary Jim Winkler."

As I have been blogging recently about UM identity, I would note that another bump on my road into the United Methodist Church was an occasion when our local paper quoted the UM position on abortion, as presented to them by a church official, and the wording did not agree with what was in the Discipline A long-time Methodist explained to me about agencies and their activities.

I'm assuming the GBCS can make such a statement as long as they identify it as a statement of the board. My knowledge of church polity isn't up to answering that. Perhaps someone else can.

Anonymous said...

It seems like all public statements made by anyone NOT reading a Book of Discipline, ought to be qualified by: "The following is my opinion, not the stance of the UMC." But what we usually hear from the media is "UMC official says" or "Methodist Bishop says" and so on.
I also wonder how Mr. Winkler can keep his job considering just how many people on the web dislike the job he has been doing. Is it one of those jobs that is appointed for life by some secretive and elite council that nobody knows about, or something?

Anonymous said...

How cliche I know for me to respond to defend GBCS and Jim Winkler, but really -
GBCS is our social justice advocacy agency, and when we're responding to events during that four years in between, we're called to do so within the paramenters of what we believe based on the social principles, BOD, and BOR. Because media outlets don't understand the structure of the UMC and how it works doesn't mean that Jim is speaking or acting in appropriately or outisde of his/the board's authority. It would be a shame and a waste of agency's work if we expected them to be completely silent other than referring to discipline paragraphs for 4 years at a time....
And, General Secretarys can serve up to 12 years, but have to be reelected each year by the board, which Jim is, unanimously, every year. (And those board members are elected by jurisdictional delegates, who are elected by AC delegates, who are appointed by local churches. Conspiracy!)

John said...

Beth, I'll agree that the GBCS has a job to do. I'm not objecting to Winkler speaking out on social issues. But this is far from the first time that he's been misintepreted to speak for the UMC. Would it be so much trouble for him to call up news agencies after stories like this to clarify what his authority is and is not? Certainly conservative critics would have a lot less to bluster about if Winkler made a good faith effort to avoid misunderstanding.

Meddling Methodist said...


I know I'm a little late to comment, but I did have the opportunity to intern at GBCS while in seminary. I don't claim to have an inside track regarding the "truthiness" of some of what Winkler said, but I was rather amazed at how many times his words were misappropriated by media outlets that did not take the time to understand UMC polity or would simply ignore any qualifiers. Frankly, there simply wasn't enough time or resources to address every instance. What get's left is fodder for the blogosphere and easy target to vent denominational frustrations

Anonymous said...

For another look at how bad the media is look at the headline on yahoo! religion news in big bold letters:

Methodists: No Bush Library at SMU