|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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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