From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Delegation Visits White House

Date 09 May 1996 16:07:05

"UNITED METHODIST DAILY NEWS" by SUSAN PEEK on Aug. 11, 1991 at 13:58 Eastern,

Note 2952 by UMNS on May 9, 1996 at 16:33 Eastern (5250 characters).

SEARCH:   Middle East, Lebanon, Palestine, Woodie White,
delegation, Liberia, White House

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Contact:  Joretta Purdue                      238(10-21-71P){2952}
          Washington, D.C.  (202) 546-8722             May 9, 1996

General Conference delegation
takes concerns to White House

     WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- A delegation of United Methodists led by
Bishop Woodie W. White, president of the denomination's Council of
Bishops, met here May 7 with three White House officials to
express concern about the Middle East.
     Acting at the direction of General Conference held in Denver
April 16-26, the delegation delivered a statement concerning "the
crisis in Lebanon and the occupation of Palestine" that was
affirmed by the nearly 1,000 delegates April 19.
     In addition, copies of four resolutions dealing with the
Middle East that were passed by the 1996 General Conference were
given to the White House representatives.
     Delegates had hoped their emissaries would reach the Oval
Office. Instead they met with three key staff members who are top
advisors to the administration on this area.  They are
Anthony Lake, national security advisor; David Satterfield,
director on the National Security Council's office on Near East
and South Asian affairs; and Leon Fuerth, national security
advisor to the vice president.
     Representing the United Methodist Church were White of the
Indiana Area; Bishop Judith Craig of the West Ohio Area; Ron
Bretsch, a professor of education from Norwood, N.Y.; the Rev. R.
Randy Day, pastor of Ridgefield (Conn.) United Methodist Church;
Kristen Dowdy, a college student from Fredericksburg, Va.; and Jo
Ann Fukumoto, a volunteer in social justice from Hawaii.
     They were accompanied by two staff members from the Board of
Global Ministries: Peggy Hutchison of the World Division and
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Anna Rhee, who
heads the Women's Division Washington Office. 
     Warned that the eight-member delegation would have only 20
minutes with the government officials, White said the conversation
was more than double that, reflecting Lake's interest.
     Several of the United Methodists said they were amazed that
Lake listened attentively, openly voiced opinions, and agreed and
disagreed with the church delegation. They said he appeared
surprised that Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had asked Craig to
pray for him, and Lake seemed pleased to learn that she does pray
regularly for the Arab leader.
     "I feel that we fulfilled the request of the General
Conference ... to a greater degree than I expected was possible,"
Craig said.
     She read the statement from the General Conference that
condemns terrorism, human rights violations and attacks on
civilians. It calls for Christians, Jews and Muslims to be free to
practice their faiths in Jerusalem and urges security for
Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese.
     Day expressed appreciation that the U.S. government and the
United Methodist Church both have worked for peace in the Middle
East for many years, but urged that the U.S. government keep "a
critical distance between all parties in order to be an honest
     Bretsch told the government advisers that American
perceptions of Palestinians have changed during the last 20 years
-- moving away from considering them stereotypical terrorists.
     He commented that "there will be no peace between Israel and
its neighbors until there is justice for Palestinians, as well as
for Israelis." 
     Dowdy spoke favorably of the visit, but, said on reflection,
she was concerned about the disparity in the amounts of aid given
to Israel and to the Palestinians. Others in the group cited
historical and political reasons for the difference and vowed to
make that a talking point in continuing correspondence with Lake.
     They said that because of the church's ongoing work by its
missionaries and other personnel, Lake seemed genuinely to value
their assessments of how the lives of people in the Middle East
are being affected by the church's efforts and the policies of the
various governments.
     While with Lake and the others, White also conveyed to the
White House staff the General Conference resolution on Liberia,
together with a cover letter addressed to President Clinton.
     At the mention of Liberia, Lake expressed frustration with
the unsettled situation and the commitment of the nation to assist
in facilitating the peace process there, White said.
     The delegation also raised the issue of Burundian Bishop J.
Alfred Ndoricimpa, who was denied a U.S. visa that would have
permitted him to attend the General Conference and Council of
Bishops meetings for the past year. Lake promised to have the
matter looked into.
     Fukumoto, who serves on her conference board of church and
society, said the experience made her "so proud to be a United
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