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May 9, 2000          GC-048

Daily wrap-up: Delegates act on handguns, ‘Chief Wahoo’

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church’s top decision makers called for a “total ban” on most handguns and automatic weapons on May 9.

By a 724-205 vote, the 992 lay and clergy delegates to the church’s General Conference called for an end to “ownership by the general public of handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion kits and weapons that cannot be detected by traditionally used metal-detection devices.”

The assembly asked that the ban cover the United States and all other countries where the church has a presence. The United Methodist Church has 8.4 million U.S. members and 1.2 million more in the Philippines and parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. 

“Gun violence is killing America’s children,” the resolution asserted. “Gun violence in America’s schools has emerged as a growing and disturbing trend.”

During the 30-minute debate, a delegate from Illinois said she has a gun but is going to give it up. On the other side of the issue, a Florida delegate said he and members of his family had handguns and “the American people have a right to protect their homes.”

In other action May 9, delegates approved engaging the ownership of the Cleveland Indians baseball team in dialogue regarding the use of a caricature known as “Chief Wahoo” as a logo. The caricature is regarded as demeaning to Native Americans.

Citing the rapid development of research dealing with human cloning and the mixing of human stem cells with animals or human embryos, the General Conference asked the United Methodist Board of Church and Society to form a bio-ethics task force to advise the church on relevant ethical issues.

Delegates also turned down a bid to eliminate the Board of Church and Society, the church’s chief public policy agency.

Late on May 8, delegates elected six members to the Judicial Council, the church’s “supreme court.” The council will organize for the 2001-2004 quadrennium on May 11.

The Rev. Larry Pickens, Chicago, and the Rev. Keith Boyette, Fredericksburg, Va., were elected to eight-year terms, and the Rev. Jane Tews of Phoenix was named to fill out four years of an unexpired term.

Lay members elected to eight-year terms were Roldolfo Beltran, an attorney from the Philippines; Mary Daffin, an attorney from Houston; and James Holsinger, chancellor of the Chandler Medical Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. Holdover members are Tom Matheny, Hammond, La., now critically ill and in his eighth term as president; Sally Curtis AsKew, Bogart, Ga., council secretary; and the Rev. C. Rex Bevins, Lincoln, Neb. Beltran is the first council member elected from outside the United States.

In debate May 9, the General Conference turned down a number of proposals attempting in various ways to broaden the representation on the council so that each jurisdiction would have at least one member. A limit of two consecutive eight-year terms for members was approved.

With the elections, the Judicial Council has members from four of the five jurisdictions, and from outside the United States. Only the Northeastern Jurisdiction will not be represented.

Four members of the University Senate were elected May 9: Trudie Kibbe (Preciphs) Reed, president of Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Ark.; the Rev. Donald Maldonado Jr., president of Iliff School of Theology, Denver; the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky.; and Charlene R. Black, vice president for academic affairs and dean at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro.

Three of the church’s special programs were endorsed for reference to the General Council on Finance and Administration — the Native American Forum, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century and the Shared Mission Focus on Young People.

Delegates also approved two new efforts, a $3.2 million Korean-American ministries initiative and a $1.8 million Asian American Language Ministry Study.

Two proposals concerning the lifestyles of general agency staff were rejected as unnecessary.  One would have required staff to be “persons who model themselves after Jesus Christ.”

Turning to the environment, the delegates said the church and its members should “place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social and technological lifestyle to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.”

In a sermon during the May 9 morning worship, Bishop Richard C. Looney said that if the church is careless with God’s resources, it not only robs God and its neighbors, but also “corrupts its very soul.” 

 “We have no right to squander God’s gifts,” said Looney, who leads the church’s South Georgia Area. “We have no right to abuse God’s gifts.”

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-- Robert Lear

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