Page 16 Bishop Thomas dies
James Samuel Thomas, the United Methodist bishop who broke racial barriers when he was assigned to an all-white annual (regional) confer- ence in 1964, died Oct. 10. Thomas was 91.
Funeral services were held Oct. 15 at Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
“In the loss of
Bishop James Samuel Thomas, the church has lost a truly great leader. He was a leader and a bishop without peer,” said Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.
“For me he was the perfect integra- tion of dignity, grace and passion for the gospel that anyone would want to aspire to be no matter how they were serving Jesus Christ. … He will be missed dearly but there will not be a moment in the next days or weeks that will go by that his memory and his teaching will not be evoked. I am grate- ful for who he was and who he will continue to be as he lives in our hearts.” Thomas spent 12 years in Iowa and another 12 in the East Ohio Conference before retiring in 1988. The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History honored him for his contri- butions in the Central Jurisdiction and for working to eliminate the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction. Of his life’s work, Thomas said, “I didn’t come to be a black bishop. I’ve always been black. I have come to be the best bishop I can be.”
The United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, created the Central Jurisdiction in 1939 so black leadership could only serve black congregations. It was a decision that many regard as a shameful chapter of church history.
ecumenical leader dies The church leader who helped shape the ecumenical vision of The United Methodist Church has died at the age of 90.
The Rev. Robert W. Huston was be- ing remembered as a devout Christian with a fierce passion for the unity of the church and a humble man who cham- pioned the gifts of women and young adults.
“There was no one in the whole world more knowledgeable about the ecumenical and interreligious scene than Rob Huston,” declared retired United Methodist Bishop Jack Tuell.
Illinois Great Rivers Conference — The Current National News Court sides with agency on use of endowment funds
By Heather Hahn WASHINGTON, D.C. (UMNS) -- The
United Methodist Church’s social action agency can use funds given to the church’s building on Capitol Hill for advocacy be- yond temperance-related issues, a District of Columbia judge has ruled. In her Oct. 6 decision, Superior Court
Judge Rhonda Reid Winston found “clear and convincing evidence” donations to the predecessor agencies of the United Meth- odist Board of Church and Society “were not restricted solely” to promoting temper- ance.
The 78-page ruling resolves a longtime
dispute over whether the Board of Church and Society was properly using rental fees and endowment funds related the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. At stake was about $1 million in annual rev- enue, said Jim Winkler, the board’s chief executive. “The most immediate impact is that
(the ruling) lifts the cloud of suspicion that has been hanging over the agency for 10 years about the ‘misuse’ of funds from the United Methodist building,” Winkler said. “I think the judge was crystal-clear on that count. It’s great to have that sense of abso- lution that money is being used properly.” The board’s trustees filed a request in
early 2007 for a judge’s declaratory deci- sion on the appropriate use of the building endowment funds. Specifically, the board sought a reformation of a 1965 Declaration of Trust to allow the use of the endowment fund for more than strictly alcohol-related matters. The judge ruled in the board’s favor.
She wrote that the authors of the 1965 trust declaration were mistaken in indicat- ing that gifts made in the early part of the 20th century were meant only for temper- ance purposes. “The exhibits clearly show that
throughout the years, the Boards were also authorized to, and did, perform substan- tial work on other ‘public morals’ issues,”
Winston wrote. n Intervenors’ concerns The case went to trial Oct. 6, 2008, and
Winston heard final arguments on Oct. 22 that year. The attorney general’s office for the
District of Columbia argued against the board. In addition, five individual United Methodists joined the case as intervenors, through a procedure that allows nonparties to have their voices heard in litigation. The five intervenors — C. Pat Curtin,
Carolyn Elias, Leslie O. Fowler, John Pat- ton Meadows and John Stumbo — are all United Methodists who were delegates at one time or another to the General Confer- ence, the denomination’s top lawmaking body. One of the intervenors, Curtin, is now deceased. The five were supported by the Coali-
tion for United Methodist Accountability, which consists of three conservative re- newal groups: Good News, the Institute on Religion & Democracy, and the Con- fessing Movement. The three groups have been frequently at odds with the Board of Church and Society over its advocacy work on social justice issues. The Rev. Rob Renfroe, the publisher of
Good News magazine and a former mem- ber of the Board of Church and Society, said the groups have not decided whether they will appeal the judge’s ruling. But he does not expect the disagreements with the board to end anytime soon. “I find it very difficult to believe that
people who originally gave money for this purpose to buy the Methodist building that they thought this money would ever be used to lobby for abortion rights or a par- ticular health-care plan,” he said. “These are all things the Board of Church and So- ciety has done.” Winkler has a different take. The board
is still involved in work advocating against drug and alcohol abuse as well as other so- cial issues. “I think social justice and evangelism are two sides of the same coin,” Winkler
said. “I think our church decided a long, long time ago to have our voice in the public arena. … So as faithful Christians, we are in the halls of power speaking on behalf of the marginalized and the poor as well as peace and justice.” n Changing work The Board of Church and Society is
the successor to the Board of Temper- ance, Prohibition and Public Morals and two other agencies of the former Meth- odist Episcopal Church. The temperance board led efforts to construct The Method- ist Building in Washington, completed in 1923 at a cost of $650,000. The Methodist Building, located next
to the Supreme Court and across the street from the U.S. Capitol, is the only nongov- ernment building on Capitol Hill and was the first national Protestant agency to lo- cate in Washington, according to the Board of Church and Society. At the dedication in 1924, the
building’s purpose was described as a “sentinel and a supporter for social reform in the Capital; a voice for the re- ligious community, a visible witness.” Its adjacent apartment and office complex, constructed in 1931, has been home to congressional representatives, Methodist bishops and Supreme Court justices. Over the past decade, some church
leaders have questioned the legality of us- ing income from the building assets for purposes other than addressing problems related to alcohol, Winkler said. That led the board’s trustees to turn to the court for resolution. “This is not a victory for the Gen-
eral Board of Church and Society; this is a victory for the entire United Method- ist denomination,” said New York attor- ney Fredrick K. Brewington, chair of the board’s trustees. “The reason we brought this action was to settle this dispute so that we wouldn’t have this conflict within our midst.”
*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.
Del Pino announces retirement as GBHEM head NASHVILLE –
By Vicki Brown
Jerome King Del Pino
The Rev. Dr. Jerome King Del Pino, gen- eral secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, announced Oct. 7 during the fall meeting of the Board that after consider- able deliberation and
prayer, he would retire Oct. 15. Bishop Marcus Matthews, presi-
dent of GBHEM, said John Lesesne, the agency’s treasurer and chief financial of-
ficer, will serve as interim general sec- retary while the Board’s Search Com- mittee completes the search for a new general secretary. “We thank Dr. Del Pino for his ser-
vice to the General Board of Higher Ed- ucation and Ministry and wish him well. We ask that Board members, staff, and the church pray for us during this time of transition,” Matthews said. Del Pino said the Board has faced
many challenges during his nine-year tenure, but added that he believes “we have made significant progress in imple- menting our Strategic Plan and in es- tablishing leadership development as a critical need in our church today.”
Bishop Matthews assured the Board
that both he and the Personnel and Poli- cies Committee will work closely with Lesesne to see that the important lead- ership development work of the agen- cy continues uninterrupted during the search for a new general secretary. The Board has contracted with the
Novak Consulting Group to assist with the search for a new general secretary with the goal of presenting a candidate to the Board by March 2011. The Board’s Personnel and Policies Committee, chaired by the Rev. Ramon Evangelista, will serve as the search committee.
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