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Bishops’ resolutions address capital punishment, other issues

 


Bishops’ resolutions address capital punishment, other issues

May 9, 2005

WASHINGTON (UMNS)—The United Methodist Council of Bishops has adopted new 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.

The bishops met May 1-6 in Arlington, Va., for their spring gathering. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of the 10 million-member church, which has congregations throughout the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines. The church has 68 active bishops and more than 90 who are retired worldwide.

In their resolutions, the bishops:

  • Recognized Hunger Awareness Day. The council recognized the day, set for June 7 in the United States, as a time to unite with the poor and the people who minister to them. United Methodists are encouraged to pray for the poor and hungry, enter into ministry with them locally and globally, and lobby government officials in their behalf. The bishops noted that 840 million people worldwide struggle with chronic hunger—including 36 million in the United States—and that “the only factor hindering the creation of a hunger-free world is the political and more-conscious will to make it so.”
  •  Called for an immediate moratorium on capital punishment. They noted the United Methodist Church’s official opposition to the death penalty, and said they joined with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States, and other Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim religious organizations in calling for the moratorium. They resolved also to continue to engage with elected officials and other government leaders in working to end capital punishment. The bishops emphasized that the resolution applies to all United Methodists around the world.
  • Spoke in support of “comfort women.” During World War II, the Japanese military forced 200,000 women from Asian nations into sexual slavery. The bishops noted that the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries had recommended actions for implementing the Resolution on Comfort Women, passed by the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly. The bishops affirmed the Women’s Division’s leadership and said they urge the Japanese government “to bring justice to the survivors of sexual slavery who continue to suffer from their abuse.” The council also recommended United Methodists study and take actions to support the survivors.
  • Recognized the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in August 1945 by U.S. atomic bombs, effectively ending World War II in the Pacific. The bishops said they join in prayer for victims and survivors, and urged the governments of all nations that are developing or possessing nuclear weapons to stop further development and to vow never again to use such weapons as a way of solving international conflicts. They called on any government with nuclear weapons or on the verge of developing them to begin immediate negotiations with the rest of the world toward a complete ban. The council urged the study of its document, “In Defense of Creation—The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace.”

The bishops also approved a draft of a message for 2005 International Workers Day and Labor Day. The message was written in such a way that it could be used internationally at any time, said Bishop Ernest Lyght, secretary of the council and leader of the West Virginia Area. Different parts of the world celebrate a labor day at different times; the U.S. Labor Day falls on Sept. 5 this year.

In their message, the bishops applauded recent agreements with Mt. Olive Pickle Co. and Taco Bell aimed at improving conditions for migrant laborers who work for suppliers of those companies; the United Methodist Church had participated in boycotting those companies before the agreements were reached.

The bishops encouraged individuals, congregations and conferences to celebrate the gifts of farmer laborers and advocate for policies that provide a living wage and fair working conditions. The council called for governments to ratify measures that guarantee basic rights for migrant workers.

During business reports, the bishops heard from Bishop Hans Vaxby that the new seminary in Moscow is behind in its financing. The church has $134,000 in loans to be paid, and he needs $30,000 immediately to get the contractor out of the building by the end of the month, he said. The council collected an offering of $5,190 for the building.

Vaxby, newly elected bishop of the Eurasia Area, also reported that the episcopal offices have been moved into the new seminary, and the Moscow congregation, with an average attendance of 120, is worshipping and ministering there. “This is something we’ve looked forward to a long time,” he said.

Other highlights of the council’s meeting included receiving greetings from the Liberian ambassador to the United States, and visits by two small delegations of bishops to the White House and the mayor’s office in Washington.

The bishops began their weeklong meeting with a memorial service at Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Va., followed by a community dinner at Beth El Hebrew Congregation, also in Alexandria.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or
newsdesk@umcom.org.

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