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Commission seeks action on sports symbols, profiling


WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The United Methodist agency for monitoring racial concerns within the denomination and society will be sending at least six pieces of legislation to the church's highest legislative assembly next year.

The churchwide Commission on Religion and Race is again raising its concern about the use of Native American names and symbols for sports teams. When the 2000 General Conference met in Cleveland, the commission and the church's Native American caucus voiced strong opposition to the Cleveland Indians' name and Chief Wahoo symbol. In 1996, the General Conference termed such names and symbols "demeaning."

In a recent semi-annual meeting, the commission finalized a resolution that it will send to the 2004 General Conference, asking the assembly to call upon the denomination's general agencies, annual (regional) conferences and other church bodies to hold meetings and events in cities that do not sponsor sport teams with Native American names and symbols.

If approved by the 2004 General Conference as written, the church would also be committed to publicizing this policy.

In another General Conference resolution, the commission asks that the church's Council of Bishops send official communications to President George Bush, Congress and Attorney General John Ashcroft calling for the elimination of racial profiling. The resolution proposes educating United Methodists about the problem through annual conferences and local churches, and encourages them to work with law enforcement officials to eliminate profiling.

In addition, the commission has outlined a program for affirming the United Methodist Church's position on the rights of refugees, immigrants and undocumented people. It seeks to remind government officials of the church's position on this issue, to promote and distribute statements of these positions, to encourage the use of "To Love the Sojourner: A United Methodist Response to the United States Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986," and to call on local churches to seek ways to welcome and assist such people and to denounce their persecution.

A resolution titled "Economic Justice - The Imperative for the Church: the Minority Group Self-Determination Fund" seeks to increase the amount of this fund to $3 million a year for the 2005-2008 quadrennium. Established in 1970, the fund currently is budgeted at $862,500 a year. The fund supports church programs to help ethnic minority families and communities. The Commission on Religion and Race administers the fund, processing grant applications twice a year.

In another resolution, the commission expresses support for continuing the national plans for ministry with ethnic minority constituencies.

The commission is forwarding a resolution that asks the United Methodist Church to expand its racial identification language with regard to local congregation reports. Specifically, the resolution would include designations for biracial/multiracial people in such documents as annual conference or charge conference reports. Currently, churches that choose to report their congregations' composition have a more limited number of categories to work with: African American and black, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and white.

The commission has also endorsed a resolution created by MARCHA (Methodists Associated to Represent the Cause of Hispanic Americans) on behalf of children struggling to survive in the midst of violence and poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Two resolutions already on the books should be revised, according to the commission. The group is suggesting minor editorial changes and updating to Resolution 68, "Inclusiveness in All Dimensions of the Church." It is also proposing strengthening the language in Resolution 69, "Prejudice Against Muslims and Arabs in the U.S.A.," in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.

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