May 132005
 

I’d like to share the following email that was sent to each member of Council of Bishop’s of the United Methodist Church. The Council met last week, and passed a number of resolutions, but seemed to ignore anything of an consequence to our world today. If you know me, you know I’m not too intimidated to take them to task.

Dear Bishop:

I read on the United Methodist Church website that, during last week’s Council of Bishops meeting, the Council of Bishops issued a number of resolutions on several issues, including capital punishment, Hunger Awareness Day and the sexual enslavement of Asian women by the Japanese military during World War II. I applaud your stand on each of these issues.

However, in spite of clear and convincing evidence that the United States is actively engaged in the torture of men, women and children, I was able to find no mention that the Bishop’s bothered to discuss this issue.

Most certainly, enslavement of any kind is cruel and unacceptable, and the Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during WW II is deplorable, but really, do you not believe this comes across a little like the school yard bully. This was something that happened over half a century ago. I suspect everyone involved who has not died is now quite old. I guess that made them an easy target. Yet, you completely ignored the acts of torture taking place TODAY under the direction of the executive branch of the U.S. Government.

I can discern no genuine reason for actions like this except when one understands the current Administration’s penchant for retaliation against those that might disagree with them. So, in this case, the only conclusion I can draw is that the Council was too cowardly to address this issue head-on because it might result in the withdrawal of Bishop Weaver’s invitation to deliver a prayer at the White House. I notice much was made of this on the UMC news service.

Unless you can give me a logical reason for the Council ignoring this clear evidence of U.S sponsored torture, I am left with the above as the only explanation for your lack of action. Can you please clarify for me why the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church believe it is all right for the United States Government to sponsor, engage in, and otherwise condone torture?

I am genuinely saddened by the state of religion in this country today, and the lack of substantive actions by the Council of Bishops to engage yourselves and the church in the issues we face TODAY.

Yours in Christ,
John Masters

I then included the text of a recent article about torture from Salon.com, and the link to the story.

UPDATE: I am pleased to note that I received several  responses from Bishops in response to my e-mail. Some were encouraging, and some saddened me further.

Bishop Whitaker of the Florida Area generally ignores my email’s. This time he responded, but he had an excuse to disclaim any involvement. Apparently, due to a death in the family, he was not only unable to attend, but hadn’t bothered to find out what actions the Council had taken after he left. Whitaker isn’t engaged in much beyond his sphere of influence. I’m sure you will hear more about him later.

Scott Jones, Kansas Bishop wrote on May 23. Bishop Jones was very kind in his remarks saying, “I too am saddened by the state of religion in the United States today…” Bishop Jones says he believes the Bishops acted on issues which the believed they could have an impact. I consider that a fair response.

Bishop Marcus Matthews apparently glanced at my message and replied simply that he was sorry I was offended by their actions. I replied to him that I was not offended by their actions, but saddened by their lack of action on this topic. In fact, if you notice, in the first paragraph of my letter, I state clearly that I applaud the actions they did take. In my reply to his reply, I’d checked “read receipt,” and apparently Bishop Matthews elected to delete without opening my reply.

Ann B Sherer joined with me in expressing her concern about the topic, but that was the extent of her response.

D. Max Whitfield wrote the most confusing response of them all. He reminded me that this was a gathering of Bishops from around the world, so only global issues were discussed. I replied explaining that the U.S. action’s seemed to be having a global effect, and certainly involved citizens from countries other than the U.S. He also made a comment about the General Conference being the only group “authorized” to speak on behalf of the United Methodist Church. That being the case, I had to ask why the Bishops were issuing any resolutions at all, and if they should not be withdrawn, and issued only with the consent of the General Conference? Will see if he has an answer for that. I hate when people try to baffle me with bullshit. It only makes me more aggressive.

Bishop Dick Willis is a newer Bishop, and had responded to a previous email I’d sent to them on this topic. He reports sharing my concern, and I believe may have an interest in the topic. Apparently, politics and the pecking order of the Council prevents new Bishops from having much influence.

There are 51 Bishops in the United States. My message was received by maybe 45 of those. While five responses may not seem like a lot, I’ll take it. The part that is discouraging seems to be that only a couple seemed concerned at all about the U.S. being engaged in torture. I just don’t understand.

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