May 4, 2001
News media contact:
Thomas S. McAnally·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: For related coverage, see UMNS stories #219, #222 and #224. A photograph will be available.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (UMNS) - United Methodist bishops are calling upon President Bush and the U.S. Congress to refrain from development and deployment of a national missile defense system, which they call "illusory, unnecessary and wasteful."
On May 4, during the closing hours of their week-long meeting, bishops from the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines agreed that each would send a personal letter to Bush and members of Congress expressing concern for the missile defense system and would include a copy of a two-page resolution adopted by the council. The bishops approved the statement with no negative votes.
In their resolution, the bishops are adamant about the defense system but commend Bush for his commitment:
1. "to persuade Russia to join the United States in reducing nuclear arsenals to the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with our present and future national security needs and to lead by example by making substantial unilateral reductions, if necessary;
2. "to take a large number of missiles off hair-trigger alert, especially in light of the dangers inherent in the deterioration of the Russian military infrastructure."
Each bishop is asked to work with leadership in his or her respective area and with United Methodist and ecumenical groups to "resist development and deployment of the defense system."
The church's top legislative body, meeting in Cleveland last year, condemned the development and deployment of antimissile defense systems and called on the bishops and the churchwide Board of Church and Society to provide leadership, guidance and educational materials to assist United Methodists in "understanding and working for the goal and objective of nuclear abolition." The General Conference meets every four years and is the only body that can speak officially for the denomination.
The Council of Bishops includes 50 active bishops from the United States and 17 from other countries. Attending the council meetings are an additional 60 retired bishops who do not vote during business sessions. The United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with 8.4 million members. Another 1.1 million members reside in Europe, Africa and the Philippines.
Bishop William Oden of Dallas finished his one-year term as council president at the close of the Scottsdale meeting. The new president is Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle.
Fifteen years ago, the bishops were concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons and developed a document titled, "In Defense of Creation." More recently, they have mobilized the church through the Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty.
"The nuclear arms race is an issue of social justice for people throughout the world," the bishops say in their resolution. "Large numbers of children and the poor are shut out of the economic blessings of society as a result of the arms race."
They note that European nations vigorously oppose plans to deploy a missile defense system, "fearing the dangerously destabilizing impact of the loss of nuclear disarmament treaties carefully crafted over several decades."
In closing, the bishops call upon "all people of good will to join actively in the struggle to achieve peace with justice. We must join together to see that the untold billions of dollars proposed for a meaningless search for security through a national missile system are not once again taken from the mouths of children and the poor."
In four other resolutions, the bishops:
1. Asked Bush and the U.S. Navy to immediately halt all military training exercises, including bombing, on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Bishop Juan Vera Mendez of the autonomous Methodist Church of Puerto Rico was late arriving at the council meeting because of demonstrations in Puerto Rico against the renewal of military exercises in Vieques.
2. Called on the U.S. government, through Congress, to use all measures possible, including halting all funding to the Israeli government, to ensure that all human rights violations cease in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis; that the building of roads dividing Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza cease; that no more Jewish settlements are built in occupied territories; and the demolition of homes cease.
3. Urged Bush to formulate a U.S policy that "supports the good faith efforts of the two Korean governments to work for peace and unity."
4. Called for the dignity of workers as Labor Day Sunday approaches. Referring to the Social Principles of the church, the bishops affirmed the right of every person to a job "at a living wage that ensures their safety and right to collective bargaining."
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Full texts of the five resolutions follow:
NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE
The Council of Bishops recommends the following actions:
1. That each bishop send a personal letter to President Bush and members of Congress expressing concern for national missile defense and include a copy of the Council's resolution.
2. That each bishop work with annual conference leadership, Conference Boards of Church and Society, and ecumenical groups to resist development and deployment of a national missile defense system, and
3. That the council, through the General Board of Church and Society "provide leadership, guidance and educational materials to United Methodists" as called for in General Conference Resolution #315 of the Book of Resolutions, pages 782-785.
In a resolution titled "Saying No to Nuclear Deterrence," citizens from around the world at the 2000 General Conference of the United Methodist Church called upon "all possessors of nuclear weapons to . . . halt all efforts to develop and deploy strategic antimissile defense systems because they are illusory, unnecessary and wasteful." The resolution also calls upon the "Council of Bishops and the General Board of Church and Society to provide leadership, guidance, and educational materials to United Methodists, congregations, and conferences in order to assist them in understanding and working for the goal and objective of nuclear abolition."
Fifteen years ago, the threat nuclear weapons posed to the earth and its people caused the Council of Bishops to write "In Defense of Creation." More recently, vast numbers of children, the poor and oppressed suffering lives of cruel deprivation around the world, led the council to mobilize the church in the initiative "Children and Poverty."
The nuclear arms race is an issue of social justice for people throughout the world. Large numbers of children and the poor are shut out of the economic blessings of society as a result of the arms race.
Since children and all creation are endangered by the threat of nuclear weapons, the Council of Bishops, meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., April 29-May 4, 2001, commends President George W. Bush for his commitment to persuade Russia to join the United States in reducing nuclear arsenals to "the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with our present and future national security needs and to lead by example by making substantial unilateral reductions if necessary. We further commend President Bush for his commitment to take a large number of missiles off hair-trigger alert, especially in light of the dangers inherent in the deterioration of the Russian military infrastructure.
While commending President Bush for these initiatives, the Council of Bishops strongly objects to legislation passed by the U.S. Congress to deploy a limited national missile defense system "as soon as technologically feasible." We call upon the President and the Congress to refrain from the development of a national missile defense system because it is illusory, unnecessary, and wasteful.
Even if such a defensive system could be built, ways can be devised to defeat it. Effective countermeasures to NMD can be built inexpensively, using simple technologies. Biological or chemical weapons can be divided into dozens of small bomblets upon impact. Such numerous targets or many lightweight decoys could confuse and overwhelm the system. Weapons can be delivered in many ways other than by missiles, as shown in the bombing attack against the U.S. Destroyer Cole in Yemen.
United Methodist bishops across the world, some from nations once caught in old East-West tensions, fear re-escalation of those conflicts if the United States proceeds with plans to build the NMD. It could well mean the end of the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty which has been crucial to the attempt to end the threat of nuclear war. Without the treaty, countries could feel free to increase their nuclear arsenals. The present ability to do mutual on site inspections of nuclear arsenals, a key component in monitoring current arms control agreements, would be lost.
Present steps toward creating a missile defense system are creating profound tensions between the United States, Russia and China threatening to scuttle the nuclear arms reduction process. China has announced that it will upgrade its nuclear arsenal in the face of a U.S. missile defense system. Russia could halt the agreed upon reduction in its nuclear arsenal. With the collapse of its economy, its early warning systems and command and control networks are deteriorating, increasing the chance of accidental or unauthorized nuclear attacks.
European nations vigorously oppose plans to deploy a national missile defense system fearing the dangerously destabilizing impact of the loss of nuclear disarmament treaties carefully created over several decades.
We call upon all people of goodwill to join actively in the struggle to achieve peace with justice. We must join together to see that the untold billions of dollars proposed for a meaningless search for security through a national missile defense system are not once again taken from the mouths of children and the poor.
WHEREAS the General Conference and the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have consistently called for an end of the presence of the U.S. Navy on the island of Vieques, off of Puerto Rico;
WHEREAS for over 20 years our church has witnessed the great harm to the people of Vieques, to their land, ecology, health, unemployment, and loss of precious human life because of the bombing and military training by the U.S. Navy;
WHEREAS a cessation of live bombing, reparation of land ownership, clean-up of the environment had been agreed upon until a referendum was held whereby the people of Vieques would determine any or no future relationship with the U.S. Navy, which agreements had been reached by the U.S. government, the Puerto Rican government and the people of Vieques;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church urge President George W. Bush and the U.S. Navy to immediately halt all Navy training exercises, including bombing, on the island of Vieques. We implore President Bush and the U.S. military leaders to honor commitments already in place and in partnership with the Puerto Rican government.
WHEREAS the General Conference of the United Methodist Church has addressed the issues in the Middle East and Israel regarding the Palestinian people in resolutions titled: "The Building of Settlements in the Occupied Territories," "Economic Support for Palestinians," "The Middle East and North Africa," "Justice for the Rev. Alex Awad," "Holy Land Tours," and "Our Muslim Neighbors,"
WHEREAS the Social Principles states in Paragraph 164 on Basic Freedoms and Human Rights: "We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections and to the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, communications media, and petition for redress of grievances without fear of reprisal; to the right to privacy; and to the guarantee of the rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. The form and the leaders of all governments should be determined by exercise of the right to vote guaranteed to all adult citizens. We also strongly reject domestic surveillance and intimidation of political opponents by governments in power. ... The use of detention and imprisonment for the harassment and elimination of political opponents or other dissidents ... or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching and must be condemned and/or opposed by Christians and churches wherever and whenever it occurs."
WHEREAS basic freedoms and human rights of Palestinian people continue to be violated,
WHEREAS the building of new and expansion of existing settlements continues in Palestine,
WHEREAS the United States government has and continues to provide funding for the Israeli government and that funding supports the establishment of settlements in Occupied Territories (Palestine), the building of roadways through the Occupied Territories which divide the Palestinian lands,
WHEREAS the Palestinian and Israeli forces continue violent acts of terrorism and destruction, often inflicted upon innocent men, women and children,
WE THEREFORE CALL UPON the United States government, through Congress, to use all measures possible, including the cutting off of all funding to the Israeli government, to insure that the following conditions are met: 1. All human rights violations cease.
2. Building of roads for the purpose of dividing the Palestinian lands through the West Bank and Gaza cease.
3. No more Jewish settlements are built in occupied territories.
4. All home demolitions cease.
FURTHERMORE, WE CALL UPON the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to bring an end to all hostilities,
FURTHERMORE, WE CALL UPON all United Methodists to become educated on the issues, pray for all people of the region, and provide financial support to the Palestinian people through contributions to the General Board of Global Ministries.
AND FURTHERMORE, WE CALL UPON all United Methodist communities and churches to invite religious leaders (Jewish, Christians, and Muslim) into conversations in order to foster deeper understanding of the issues.
U.S. POLICY ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA
WHEREAS President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea and Chairman Kim Jong II of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea met in the DPRK's capital, Pyong Yang, for the three-day inter-Korean summit meeting June 13-15, 2000, and
WHEREAS the Pyong Yang Summit produced a broad agreement to work for peace and unity of a divided Korea, and;
WHEREAS the Committee (Council of Bishops) on the U.S. Policy on the Korean Peninsula continues to coordinate an effort to keep the Council of Bishops informed about Korean Peninsula peace efforts; and
WHEREAS continued holding of war games and exercises by the United States on the Korean Peninsula,
BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church urges President George Bush to formulate a U.S. government policy that supports the good faith efforts of the two Korean governments to work for peace and unity, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the council urges President Bush and the U.S. Government to desist from war games during these days of critical negotiations.
2001 LABOR DAY LETTER
"Woe to them who build their houses by unrighteousness and their upper rooms by injustice; who make their neighbors work for nothing and do not give them their wages." -- Jeremiah 22:13.
On this Labor Day Sunday we reaffirm our historic witness on behalf of justice and mercy for all workers as an expression of our devotion to Jesus Christ.
Our scriptural and Wesleyan tradition provide the foundation for our belief that God grants dignity to workers and their labor. The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church uphold the right of every person to a job at a living wage that ensures their safety and right to collective bargaining.
In the pursuit of justice and solidarity with workers, we commend the full text of "The Economic Community" as contained in The Book of Resolutions 2000, the official policy statement that guides the work and ministry of our church in the global and domestic arenas of this concern.
On this Labor Day 2001, let us pray and act boldly for workers around the world as a testament to the One who labored with his hands as a carpenter and who showed us the dignity and sacred worth of the work God gives us to do.