Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > News Archive 2008 > July 2008 > News - July 2008
Delegates affirm leasing land for Bush center


Delegates to the South Central Jurisdiction affirmed a decision giving trustees of Southern Methodist University in Dallas permission to lease land to bring the George W. Bush Presidential Library to the campus.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Southern Methodist University.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
July 17, 2008 | DALLAS


A library, museum and public policy institute will be part of the President George W. Bush Center at Southern Methodist University. A UMNS
photo courtesy of Southern
Methodist University.
 

The owners of Southern Methodist University say a regional mission council was authorized to give the university permission to lease land to the President George W. Bush Presidential Center.

On July 17, the delegates to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference affirmed their Mission Council's action but also approved a petition protecting the integrity of both SMU and the jurisdiction itself by indicating that a proposed institute "does not speak" for either.

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference, which owns the university, says that it is "essential that the President George W. Bush Institute function in a manner that maintains the integrity of Southern Methodist University and the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church." 

The public policy institute is to be one of three parts of a presidential center that will also include a library and museum. The institute has been opposed by United Methodists across the country who fear it will be a partisan think-tank. Supporters have said it would be an independent research facility.


R. Gerald Turner

The delegates note that the South Central Jurisdiction and The United Methodist Church are dedicated to academic freedom. The conference instructed the university to give a status report to its 2012 meeting about its relationship with the both the Bush Foundation and the institute.

"We will gladly give the report in four years … with an emphasis on the institute," said SMU president Gerald R. Turner. "That fits well with what we would normally do anyway."

The 297 jurisdictional conference delegates from eight states have differing views on locating the Bush Institute at United Methodist-related SMU. Opponents argued that the Mission Council did not follow church procedure and that the South Central Jurisdictional Conference is the entity to approve land use. 

On July 16, while members of the opposition held briefings for delegates and the media, a petitions committee met for hours perfecting and rejecting three petitions about the policy institute and its relationship to the university and the jurisdiction.

In February, SMU officials approved giving the George W. Bush Foundation a 99-year lease to build a presidential library, museum and policy institute on school property. The lease is renewable up to 249 years.


Bishop Scott Jones

That action came 11 months after a closed executive session in March 2007 when the Mission Council voted 10-4, with one abstention, to allow SMU to lease up to 36 acres on the southeast side of campus to the foundation. The policy institute – over which the school would have no control – would be run by an independent board. The library and museum will be operated by the National Archives and Records Administration. The entire project is to be financed with a private fund drive conducted by the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Cost estimates hover around $500 million.

"Nearly every presidential library is created in controversy," said Turner, adding that the university and the Bush Foundation followed procedures in getting approval for leasing the land and "we acted in good faith."

President Bush and his wife, Laura, are United Methodists, and the first lady is a 1968 graduate of SMU.

Kansas Bishop Scott Jones, an SMU trustee, applauded the conference's affirmation for the Mission Council. He also acknowledged the concerns United Methodists in the jurisdiction and across the church have about the relationship between the Bush Institute and the university.

"I believe the leaders of SMU, both the trustees and university administration, carry the same concerns and, from my point of view as a trustee, this petition is very welcome."

But the Rev. Tex Sample, professor emeritus of church and society at Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Mo., said the South Central Jurisdiction made both a "big mistake" and "a serious transgression" in subsidizing “the political goals of George W. Bush."


The Rev. Tex Sample

During a press conference after the hand vote, Sample said the South Central Jurisdiction "will live to rue the day this happened." He expressed disappointment in the conference's position, saying President Bush's policies conflict with church teaching.

Copy of the petition's recommendation:

"The South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church understands that the institute does not speak for the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church or Southern Methodist University. The South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church is dedicated to academic freedom and instructs Southern Methodist University to report back to the 2012 South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church on the relationship with the institute and its impact on Southern Methodist University and the level of compliance of the foundation and the institute with the covenants of agreements protecting the integrity of Southern Methodist University and indirectly the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. Furthermore, the South Central Jurisdiction expects the institute to function in a manner that protects the integrity of both Southern Methodist University and the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn.,  (615) 742-5470  or newsdesk@umcom.org

Related Articles

SMU, Bush Foundation approve presidential library

Bush library opponents question process for approval

Methodists against Bush library lobby for vote

Church council blesses Bush library with land

Nearly 10,000 sign against Bush library at SMU

Commentary: Library could help even Bush foes

Regional bishops back SMU process on Bush library

Controversy intensifies over proposed Bush library at SMU

Resources

Southern Methodist University

United Methodist South Central Jurisdiction


Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Original text