Methodists Delay Vote Until Later This Week

by James M. Wall

The United Methodist Church has delayed a vote on a resolution on divestment from three US companies which “aid and abet”* Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The vote was initially set for Tuesday, but has been delayed until later this week.  There is speculation among General Conference delegates in Tampa, that a move will be made to limit debate on the final resolution to two short speeches on each side.

Supporters of divestment are hopeful they will prevail. Prominent Palestinian visitors have made convincing speeches in meetings around the Conference. The outcome, however, remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, while we wait, let us use our time creatively by pondering another vote scheduled in the US in November.

That would be the election between the incumbent US President, Barack Obama, and the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.  That election offers an ominous connection to the resolution process currently facing  United Methodist delegates in Tampa.

The November election campaign has begun. President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan overnight Tuesday where he was greeted by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Lt. General Mike Scaparrotti, Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (picture above.)

The President addressed an American television audience from an American air base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday night. He said that he had “traveled here to herald a new era in the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, “a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.”

In Kabul, Obama signed a ten-year strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan. That agreement has been the subject of extended discussions over the past several months.

No doubt, the trip was also designed to bring attention  to the one year anniversary of the successful US removal of Osama bin Laden from the political scene.

Monday, presumptive candidate Romney, eager to downplay the one-year anniversary, exposed his gross ignorance of the politics of the Middle East in an off the cuff response to a journalist’s question about  bin Laden.

His quick response, while shaking hands with supporters, was a flippant remark about former President Jimmy Carter.

His comment was too much for one of America’s leading Muslim authorities, Juan Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment. Cole, author of  Engaging the Muslim World,  is a Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

Professor Cole wrote on his blog:

“Mitt Romney said Monday that of course, he would have taken out Bin Laden and that “even Jimmy Carter would have made that call.’

Since Jimmy Carter ordered a brave and risky but failed military mission into Iran, that was a cheap shot on the part of someone who has never had anything to do with the military.

Moreover, Jimmy Carter made peace between Egypt and Israel and played a major role in reducing the number of Africans stricken by the Guinea worm from 3.5 million to 1,100. So Romney, who has mainly been sending our jobs overseas, isn’t good enough to shine Carter’s shoes.”

Cole is not a partisan politician. He is a careful, passionate scholar. But he is obviously worried about the 2012 presidential campaign, which could lead to a President Mitt Romney. In his blog, Cole offered this Romney gem from a Republican primary debate in 2007:

Romney: We’ll move everything to get him. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person — Osama bin Laden — because after we get him, there’s going to be another and another.

This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.

They ultimately want to bring down the United States of America.

Mull over the political ignorance and simplicity exposed in that comment. To Romney, Muslims are all alike, “Shia and Sunni, Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood.’

There is more from Tuesday ‘s blog posting from a clearly agitated Professor Cole as  he considers the presence of  a President Romney in the White House:

The real problem with Romney is not that he would not have taken out Bin Laden. It is that he sees the Muslim world as in the grip of a congeries of pan-Islamic Caliphate movements against which he wants to wage a Mormon jihad with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.

But in fact almost none of the movements he mentions has anything to do with al-Qaeda or a Caliphate. Romney supported Hosni Mubarak to the hilt and opposed the Arab Spring. He doesn’t understand the youth movements sweeping the Arab world. He lumps all kinds of unrelated, and changing, Muslim movements together with al-Qaeda.

He doesn’t even seem to understand that if he works to get rid of the al-Assad regime in Syria, he likely will be bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power there, one of the groups he is sworn to fight as fiercely as he would Bin Laden.

The problem with Romney is that when it comes to the Muslim world, he doesn’t have the slightest idea what he is talking about, and seems intent on alienating 1.5 billion Muslims, a fifth of the world. He wanted to substitute a crazy conspiracy theory for a tactical approach to getting Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership.

In this regard, the Obama campaign has correctly nailed him, but they haven’t gone far enough in emphasizing the truly creepy character of his [Romney’s] obsession with Muslims in general, far beyond the fringe al-Qaeda element.

How does this political campaign resonate with the United Methodist General Conference?

As a start, the two issues are joined with strong feelings on each side.

Delegates to the General Conference prepared a divestment resolution to submit to the committee responsible for considering financial matters. The resolution had been developed from resolutions from several national agencies and seven regional conferences.

The divestment resolution offered a small step toward supporting Palestinian freedom from Israel’s occupation. The resolution was narrowly focused to avoid entering a complex political issue with a simplistic solution.

As submitted, the resolution says:

The 2012 General Conference calls on The United Methodist Church to end its financial involvement in Israel’s occupation by divesting from companies that sustain the occupation.  The 2012 General Conference:

*calls for all United Methodist general boards and agencies to divest promptly from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard until they end their involvement in the Israeli occupation. These companies have been engaged repeatedly by the United Methodist general agencies, boards and annual conferences on this issue.”

Unlike Candidate Romney, there was no off-handed display of ignorance. Instead, the resolution was a forthright request that United Methodist pension funds be withdrawn from three US companies which had refused to cease participating in the occupation.

The response from the financial committee–I kid you not, gentle readers–was to gut the original and deliver to the General Conference a resolution that sounds familiar from previous Protestant “go slow” resolutions:

The 2012 General Conference calls on the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to explore serious peacemaking strategies in Israel and Palestine, including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.

Delegates who shaped the original divestment resolution promptly brought back their original resolution as a minority report. The conflicting resolutions, the Financial Committee solution–invest in Palestine, not divest from Israel’s occupation–and he original divest resolution, will do battle later this week.

President Jimmy Carter, by the way, has expressed his support for the original divestment approach. He is a Southern Baptist, which means he is not in attendance at the United Methodist General Conference. But his spirit remains with the divestment delegates.

Back on the political campaign trail, Mitt Romney continues with his personal attacks on President Obama, while the President uses Air Force One and his bully White House pulpit to strike back.

We can look forward to a long and  hot summer of shallow charges and counter charges designed to play on the emotions of competing factions.

And, oh yes, don’t forget to prepare for the next national religious gathering where another divestment resolution (citing the same three US companies) will be considered by the Presbyterian Church in the US.

The Episcopal Church will meet later this summer in its national gathering. Thus far, there is no sign that a resolution on divestments will trouble the Episcopal Church’s sedate waters.

The photograph above of President Obama arriving in Afghanistan, is from the AOL home page.

*–The term “aid and abet”, used in the opening paragraph above, is defined by West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, as

“To assist another in the commission of a crime by words or conduct. The person who aids and abets participates in the commission of a crime by performing some Overt Act or by giving advice or encouragement. He or she must share the criminal intent of the person who actually commits the crime, but it is not necessary for the aider and abettor to be physically present at the scene of the crime. An aider and abettor is a party to a crime and may be criminally liable as a principal, an Accessory before the fact, or an accessory after the fact.”

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in Middle East Politics, Obama, Politics and Elections, Presbyterian Church USA, Religion and politics, United Methodist Church and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Methodists Delay Vote Until Later This Week

  1. Roy's Blog says:

    Jim,

    I’ve forwarded this essay to my mailing list. My Bishop is on my mailing list. I trust he’ll do what he can to stir up ECUSA’s “sedate waters”.

    Peace,
    Roy

  2. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you for the update on the Methodist Vote.
    Palestinians are most thankful for President Carter’s steel backbone and traditional American values and for his continued support for genuine peace and justice in the Holy Land, as he simultaneously pursues America’s interests. He showed more courage, committment, and RESULTS in the Middle East than any other US Presidents who have preceeded him or came after him.
    Mitt Romney’s ignorance on Middle East issues is beyond belief and rest assured that he will outsource our Middle East foreign policy to Israel. By contrast, President Obama is more likely to take the right path in a second term Presidency.
    As they are about to vote, I pray that Methodists recognize that, taking this measured step of BDS, will eventually help in bringing peace, justice, and freedom for both, Palestinians and Israelis.

  3. This United Methodist is very grateful for James Wall’s detailed and insightful account of the efforts to act nonviolently in support of justice for Palestinians. Thank you.

  4. Fred says:

    It will be a great pity if the Methodists don’t approve this small step in opposing Israeli apartheid and oppression of people based on the fact that they are non Jews.

    Methodists and others call for socially responsible investments. Investing in companies that help Israel carry out its apartheid policies, seems like it should be an unopposed resolution. If such a small step against such a big crime (apartheid), can’t be opposed by a church with a long history of standing for justice, we have a huge problem here.

    Fred

  5. President Carter is once again offered up, this time by a Republican but at other times by Democrats, as a symbol of weakness. Yet, for these politicians who trip over one another to be more “populist” and more “Christian”, not one of them can hold a candle to Carter. Still residing in a three-bedroom ranch house in Plains, GA and advocating with every waking moment for the downtrodden, whether they are Palestinians living under occupation, poor Americans in need of housing or health care because their jobs have been out-sourced, Africans afflicted by guinea worms, or others across the world – he is an embodiment of grassroots American populism.

    And he did not fire a single shot as President, managed to sign a peace deal between Israel and its greatest regional threat, made sure that the hostages were not killed by a bombing campaign against Iran, and has since mediated countless conflicts. I’m pretty sure Jesus had something to say about peacemakers.

    Romney is a vaccuous, spoon-fed, ideologue with neither the knowledge of anyone or any culture outside his gated fiefdom in the northeast, nor a true understanding of the teachings of Christ. Not fit to shine President Carter’s shoes indeed.

  6. Sheila Samples says:

    James — this is a critical piece that, unfortunately, if it is even mentioned in the media will be just that — a mention. I headlined it at OpEd News (http://www.opednews.com/articles/Methodists-Delay-Vote-Unti-by-James-Wall-120501-658.html) in an effort to give it a wider readership.

  7. Bill Gepford says:

    AMEN, Jim!!!!

    Retired Presbyterian CLergy

  8. Colleen Jersild says:

    Colleen Jersild-Thank you for keeping us so well informed. I am forwarding this onto others.

  9. Bruce Arnott says:

    Very well said

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