Daily wrap-up: Assembly OKs Taco Bell boycott, thanks Africa University
May 3, 2004
By Linda Bloom*
PITTSBURGH (UMNS) – United Methodists are saying “no” to tacos.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
The Africa University Choir sings during a presentation to the United Methodist Church's 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh.
the denomination is joining several other communions in the National
Council of Churches, as well as the council itself, in observing the
Taco Bell boycott initiated by the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee
The consumer boycott is in protest of Taco Bell’s refusal
to address the issue of alleged worker exploitation by its tomato
suppliers, including poor wages and a lack of fundamental labor rights.
Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans (MARCHA)
brought the boycott petition before the United Methodist General
Conference, which passed it without debate along with other items on a
Among the criteria for the lifting of the
boycott is for Taco Bell to “convene serious three-way talks” with the
workers and tomato suppliers. United Methodists will establish a
monitoring committee to assess the progress of negotiations.
boycotts are rare in the United Methodist Church and can only be
approved by General Conference, the top legislative body.
of Africa University want United Methodists to continue to say “yes” to
the church-related school in Zimbabwe. General Conference delegates
received a “thank you” May 3 for past support of the university. Bishop
Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, the school’s chancellor, said it already is making
an impact on the African continent.
school opened in 1992 with 40 students who met in converted barns and
chicken coops. Today, 1,283 students study education, agriculture,
business administration, health, science and theology in 30 debt-free,
state-of-the-art buildings. To date, the university has graduated 1,059
students from 24 nations.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Sun Kwang, flanked by other members of the choir from First United
Methodist Church in Flushing, N.Y., plays a Korean drum during worship.
Over the last four years, United
Methodists pledged $10 million to the Africa University Fund and the
institution is requesting the same levels of funding over the next
quadrennium. However, they are encouraging the church’s annual
(regional) conferences to pay their full apportionment. In past years,
giving has only totaled 90 percent of what was budgeted, according to
Lloyd Rollins, the school’s director of development.
apportionments (of $2.5 million per year) were paid, we would have, on
average, an additional quarter of a million dollars to spend on this
ministry,” Rollins said.
Conference delegates did vote May 3 to continue support for the Native American Comprehensive Plan, first passed in 1992.
to Ann Saunkeah, the plan’s executive director, the task force which
guides the plan has provided resources for Native American ministries,
fellowship and programs across the denomination. Some 19,000 United
Methodists identify themselves as Native Americans.
the plan over the next four years is budgeted at $1.1 million. Included
is a new emphasis on increasing youth and young adult participation in
The importance of racial and ethnic churches in
spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ was emphasized by Bishop Hae-Jong
Kim of Pittsburgh during the May 3 morning worship.
ethnic and racial identity is so important to one’s well-being,” said
Kim, the denomination’s first Korean-American bishop. “That’s why it’s
so important that racial and ethnic churches are there – because people
find identity in their churches.”
The bishop, who survived the
Korean War as a refugee with his mother, brother and two sisters, found
his own Christian identity when his mother converted to Christianity and
offered her four children to God. After coming to the United States,
Kim was ordained in the United Methodist Church.
gave us an identity…beyond a national identity,” he said, noting that
people have ethnic roots and roots to God. General Conference brings
United Methodists back to their Wesleyan roots. “It is where we come to
energize…to give us power to go into the world to serve God.”
A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin.
Jazz singer Etta Cox (left foreground) performs with the River City Brass Band during the Pittsburgh Area Night program.
In other business, the delegates:
- Acknowledged the problems facing today’s African-American family––
as violence within the geographic community, new and virulent health
problems, a high rate of cardiovascular illness and economic stress––by
mandating that the United Methodist Board of Discipleship identify or
create resources on these issues for local congregations.
two churchwide agencies to study the church’s worship needs, including
the need for resources to support congregational singing.
against petitions that would establish scouting committees at the
conference and district levels. Arthur Jones, North Texas Conference,
said the legislative committee working on the petitions was not opposed
to the Boy or Girl Scouts but did not think such a requirement was
necessary in the Book of Discipline, the church’s law book.
a resolution urging local churches to set aside a Sunday of their
choice to highlight the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission program,
which provides opportunities for individuals and groups to participate
in hands-on mission projects.
- Approved a “Concordat Agreement”
between the United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church of Puerto
Rico that will continue the special relationship between the two bodies.
- Overwhelmingly supported a plan to strengthen older-adult
ministries in local churches by creating a council on older-adult
ministries in each annual (regional) conference.
United Methodists sampled Pittsburgh’s cultural offerings as they
listened to the River City Brass Band and Jazz vocalist Etta Cox during a
May 2 concert at Heinz Hall.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.