UMAction Briefing HomepageMark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy

November 1998


By Chairman David Stanley and Executive Director Mark Tooley

At its October 1998 meeting, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society approved a statement criticizing UMAction, the United Methodist committee of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. (Two Board members voted "no.") The Board claimed a September 21, 1998 letter from UMAction was "deceptive," but did not specify any deception or inaccuracy.

The Board also called UMAction "secular" even though all 12 members of UMAction's Steering Committee are long-time active, United Methodists.

The United Methodist Reporter (UMR), in an October 23 editorial, alleged four "significant inaccuracies" in our letter. We are glad to respond to the UMR's claims:

  1. The UMR said UMAction's letter fails to mention that no apportioned general church dollars are funding the renovation of the Board's headquarters building in Washington, DC. But our letter clearly said the Board "is now conducting a capital funds drive among potential United Methodist donors" to raise the full $7 million for the project. As our letter stated, this money would be better spent on missionaries, new church development, and feeding the hungry. Our chief concern is that the Board is harming our church by lobbying for extremist positions not supported by most United Methodists.

  2. The UMR noted that UMAction criticized the "left-wing" stances of the Board's General Secretary, Thom White Wolf Fassett. Not disputing our description, the UMR said it too was sometimes "uncomfortable" with Fassett's statements. But the UMR said "the function of prophets is to call the community of faith to account for its actions in light of the biblical witness..." We agree. However, Biblical prophets were controversial because they were faithful to God's Word. The Board and its staff are controversial because they repeatedly align themselves with the secular Left. Our letter cited specific examples: partisan politics, partial-birth abortions, Fidel Castro, and homosexual "marriage." Neither the Board nor UMR has shown any inaccuracy in those examples. We do not question the sincerity of the Board or staff. But they are wrong in claiming to speak for 8.5 million United Methodists on many political issues about which Christians may and do disagree.

  3. The UMR does not dispute our statement about the Board's role in shipping computers to Cuba but interprets this as merely humanitarian help. However, the shipment of computers was clearly political. "Pastors for Peace," a group that defends Fidel Castro, refused to obtain the necessary permits for shipping humanitarian supplies to Cuba. "Pastors for Peace" activists then tried to run computers across the Mexican border en route to Cuba until U.S. Customs agents confiscated the computers. "Pastors for Peace" then conducted a hunger strike in the Board's headquarters building as guests of the Board. General Secretary Fassett joined a press conference with "Pastors for Peace" to denounce U.S. policy toward Cuba. When the U.S. Treasury Department released the computers, "Pastors for Peace" leaders went to Cuba and received medals personally from Fidel Castro, who commended their "solidarity." UMAction supports responsible efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Cuban people. We especially support the Christ-centered ministry of churches in Cuba, which often endure persecution. But the Board's cooperation with a group that apologizes for Castro's communist dictatorship only contributes to Cuba's misery.

  4. The UMR criticizes UMAction for not mentioning the Board's work on gambling. UMAction has never said the Board is wrong on every issue. But its overall political agenda is often extremist and out of touch with most United Methodists. A poll published earlier this year by Abingdon Press reports that 64 percent of United Methodists call themselves "conservative." The UMR says the Board is carrying out the will of the United Methodist General Conference. But many of the resolutions that the Board cites to justify its actions were developed and lobbied for at General Conference by the Board and its staff. Why should United Methodists continue to finance a Board that behaves as a caucus group, using the church to promote its own political agenda?

We agree with UMR that the General Conference is responsible for allowing this situation to exist. This is why UMAction is asking the next General Conference to abolish the Board of Church and Society, to stop the damage it is inflicting on the church we love.

UMAction proposes to replace the failed Board with a Wesleyan social witness that reflects the informed consciences of United Methodists. We call for rewriting the "Social Principles" with local church involvement. Our church's social witness should (1) unite Christians rather than divide us; (2) produce real action that helps needy people; (3) focus on key issues where there is a clear Biblical, Christian position; (4) emerge from local United Methodist churches rather than national church agencies; (5) keep the church out of partisan politics; and (6) refuse to let any political faction (left-wing, right-wing or other) use the church to promote its agenda.

For a copy of UMAction's September 21, 1998 letter, or for more information about UMAction, write or call

UMAction 1521 16th Street Street NW Washington DC 20036 202-986-1440 202-986-3159 fax e-mail

Statement of The General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church

October 3, 1998

In the meeting of the General Board of Church and Society, October 1-4, 1998, board members were presented a September 21, 1998 letter written by David Stanley, Chairman, and Mark Tooley, Executive Director, of "United MethodistAction, the United Methodist Committee of the Institute for Religion and Democracy " (IRD). Contrary to what this name suggests, this group is not an official organization of The United Methodist Church. It is a privately funded, self-appointed, secular lobbying group based in Washington, DC that attacks the Bible-based, prophetic efforts officially authorized by the General Conference.

As the officially elected members and staff of the General Board of Church and Society, we are engaged in ministries mandated by the General Conference on behalf of The United Methodist Church. As such, we challenge the deceptive claims in the September 21, 1998 letter. We particularly decry the efforts of United MethodistAction to discredit the financial campaign to renovate the United Methodist building in Washington, DC, and thereby undermine the church's stewardship of a unique United Methodist treasure.

We affirm that it is our responsibility as The General Board of Church and Society to implement the actions and decisions of General Conference assigned to this agency, and we call on all United Methodists to reject IRD's efforts to undermine the Board which is duly elected to provide oversight in our mandate, stated in the Book of Discipline 1996 as follows: "The purpose of the board shall be to relate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the members of the Church and to the persons and structures of the communities and world in which they live. It shall seek to bring the whole of human life, activities, possessions, use of resources, and community and world relationships into conformity with the will of God. It shall show the members of the Church and the society that the reconciliation that God effected through Christ involves personal, social, and civic righteousness." (Par. 1002)

The Discipline further mandates: "The prime responsibility of the board is to seek the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the General Conference on Christian social concerns. Furthermore, the board and its executives shall provide forthright witness and action on issues of human well-being, justice, peace, and the integrity of creation that call Christians to respond as forgiven people for whom Christ died." (Par. 1004)

We believe that by God's grace we are being faithful to the mandate given us as Christians and as elected stewards of this ministry of The United Methodist Church. We invite genuine and honest dialogue about the ways we as Christians live out our faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan, President

wesley.jpg (14117 bytes)