by Mark Silva
President Bush already has chosen an architect for his presidential library, which is tentatively set for the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, alma mater of the first lady.
But Methodist bishops and ministers protesting the site-selection -- because of a public policy institute devoted to the aims of George W. Bush that will be attached to the library -- say they have not given up their fight.
A local council of Methodist church leaders already has cast a split vote in favor of hosting the library and institute at the campus controlled by the United Methodist Church. But library protestors say they will carry their appeal to a regional church conference next summer in Dallas.
The library foundation, in the meatime, has named SMU as the sole finalist as the site for the library, despite protests within the church and among many professors on campus who complain that a conservative think tank associated with the school will attract advocates of Bush's war policies and tarnish SMU's reputation for academic freedom and independence..
The South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet in Dallas from July 15-19, 2008. Opponents plan to appeal the Dallas-area church leadership's approval of the Bush library to the regional conference, which draws 290 delegates from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
A petition of bishops protesting the library has collected the signatures of 15 Methodist bishops and more than 10,800 Christians (mostly Methodists.)
Bishop Joe A. Wilson of Georgetown, Texas, says: "Even though the 21-member Mission Council approved by a vote of 10-4 the use of the SMU property for the Library and partisan Policy Institute, this decision must be ratified by the larger Jurisdictional Conference which meets in July of 2008... To place a partisan policy think tank, with no oversight by the church and university, on the grounds of a United Methodist institution, is an issue the Jurisdictional Conference must not take lightly."
Bishop William Boyd Grove of Charleston, W.Va.: "The placement of the George W. Bush Library and the establishment of an Institute to promote the policies of this president at Southern Methodist University would be a tragedy.. The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights, care for the environment, and health care.
"SMU is a university of the church and is home to one of our outstanding theological seminaries,'' Grove says. "Its United Methodist identity and its moral authority would be seriously compromised were it to be identified with the policies of George W. Bush in this way.”
Retired Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of London, Ohio, former bishop for the Methodist Church in Chicago, citing faculty concerns about the institute: "It is a great concern when a large number of the faculty at a United Methodist university question the educational value of a project.”
Bishop Susan Morrison of Rehoboth Beach, Del.: "Presidential libraries are created, partly, to celebrate the legacies of particular presidents. Since George W. Bush's leadership has been so problematic and contrary to much of our Social Principles, it does not seem appropriate to place this library in the midst of one of our celebrated educational institutions.”