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May 6, 2000 GC-031

Daily Wrap-up: Church calls on U.N. to lift sanctions against Iraq

CLEVELAND (UMNS) – The United Methodist General Conference meeting here May 6 called on the United Nations to lift the 10-year-old economic sanctions against Iraq.

The sanctions are the "most severe penalty ever imposed on any nation," the resolution stated. The "burden of these economic sanctions falls squarely on the shoulders of the poor, the elderly and the children of Iraq." According to UNICEF estimates, the sanctions "are directly responsible for the deaths of five to six thousand children every month…," the resolution stated.

The Clinton administration is asked to help in getting the sanctions lifted and "assist in restoring Iraq to its previous status as a respected and prosperous member of the international community."

The resolution received a three-fourths majority vote by the 992 clergy and lay members of the General Conference. No debate occurred.

In another action, the conference offered prayers for peace in the Philippines and Sierra Leone. Rebel groups in both countries have seized hostages, according to news reports.

Delegates also offered a prayer in which they remembered last year’s shooting tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and in "thousands of other places in the world where our children are being slaughtered."

Taking up internal matters, the delegates rejected by a substantial margin a proposal to limit bishops to one term of eight years. Currently, bishops are elected for life and must retire between ages 66 and 70. They normally spend eight years in one assignment.

A report from the General Council on Ministries related stories of the church’s many mission activities. Programs cited ranged from a church in Columbus, Ohio, serving breakfast between 1 and 3 a.m. to Ohio State University students, to the removal of land mines in Mozambique.

Delegates also heard an extensive report on the growth of ministry among Korean Americans. The denomination has 500 Korean-American pastors and more than 400 Korean-American congregations.

The church’s ministry to Korean immigrants began in l903 in Hawaii. A task force is recommending a six-part program to strengthen the ministries. The proposal carries a price tag of about $3.2 million.

At noon, a gathering of about 400 people held a rally at the Cleveland Convention Center, where General Conference is under way, and vowed to open the total United Methodist Church to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. The rally was sponsored by the Reconciling Congregations Program, a national network of United Methodist churches and organizations that welcome people regardless of sexual orientation.

After singing, taking communion and cheering a handful of speakers, the gatherers formed a "circle of love" around the building. The circle, speakers said, was a reminder to the delegates working inside that "we are a part of this church, and we’ve been invited to God’s table." Several United Methodist bishops and other church officials participated.

During a May 5 dinner, leaders of the United Methodist Church and its related higher education institutions strengthened their commitment to provide quality education and supportive faith communities as they prepare students for life.

The covenant emerged as the result of conversations with bishops, college presidents, campus ministers and conference boards of higher education and ministry. The Rev. Roger Ireson, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the document is a way of affirming the denomination’s 250-year-old tradition of church-related education.

Many of the 992 delegates will attend church services May 7. More than 30 delegates are preaching in Cleveland-area churches.

That evening, the Ohio East Area, host to the conference, will sponsor music by the United Methodist-related colleges in Ohio in the famed Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra.

On May 8, the delegates will dig into more than 2,000 calendar items carrying legislative proposals that must be acted on before final adjournment May 12.

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--Robert Lear

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