Magazine article The Christian Century

Bush, 'Proud Methodist,' Opens a Door

Magazine article The Christian Century

Bush, 'Proud Methodist,' Opens a Door

Article excerpt

IT WAS A modest gesture, but some United Methodists hope that President Bush's first meeting with bishops in his own denomination will contribute to a new relationship with mainline church leaders.

While in Washington for a semiannual bishops meeting, Peter D. Weaver, president of the UMC Council of Bishops, and four colleagues had a private, ten-minute meeting May 3 with the president and aides at the White House. The five bishops then joined 13 other invitees from mainline churches whom Bush addressed briefly.

Two days later, Weaver sat together with Bush and first lady Laura Bush at the National Prayer Breakfast in the White House's East Room. Weaver, who leads United Methodists in the Boston area, gave the closing prayer at the multifaith event that included music by a choir from St. Olaf's College in Northfield, Minnesota.

"Laura and I are proud Methodists," said Bush in his remarks at the May 5 breakfast, echoing the sentiment he expressed earlier to the five bishops.

Bush said he "was very delighted to be meeting with us" and "was interested in things we were doing in the United Methodist Church," said Weaver, according to the United Methodist News Service. The delegation's agenda "was not to cover a laundry list of issues" in that short meeting, Weaver said.

Following the breakfast, Weaver concluded, "I think there is a new openness in the relationship." The other bishops with Weaver in the private meeting with Bush were John Schol of the Washington, D.C., area; Janice Huie, president-designate of the Council of Bishops; Ernest Lyght, council secretary; and Charlene Kammerer of the Richmond, Virginia, area.

Schol, credited with making the contact with the White House, told the CENTURY that after he became bishop of the Washington area in September he was made aware of past Methodist concerns over the lack of entree to the Bush administration. For example, before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 the White House rebuffed attempts by UMC bishops to explain their opposition.

This time "several of us worked to meet with the president, and the White House was quite willing to allow the meeting," he said.

Asked whether some United Methodists might become overly optimistic about gaining Bush's ear, Schol cautioned: "The president is very clear and forthright about what his agenda and commitments are. If any particular denomination thinks it is going to sit down and influence this president on domestic and international policy, it doesn't know how [he] operates."

In his May 3 remarks to the Methodists and other clergy, Schol said, Bush defended his controversial nomination of John Bolton as U. …

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