From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
United Methodist General Conference not moving from Cleveland
08 Oct 1998 15:15:22
Oct. 8, 1998 Contact: Thomas S. McAnally*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.
By United Methodist News Service
The group responsible for planning the 2000 United Methodist General
Conference has rejected an appeal that the large, 10-day gathering be
moved from Cleveland to protest depictions of Native Americans by the
Indians baseball team.
The church's top legislative body, including nearly 1,000 delegates from
around the world, meets every four years. It is scheduled to meet next
in Cleveland, May 2-12, 2000.
The 15-member Commission on the General Conference, chaired by Mollie
Stewart of Valhermosa Springs, Ala., said moving the conference at this
late date would be extremely difficult because of contracts and
commitments. However, the overriding reason for staying in Cleveland
seemed to be that presence rather than absence is the appropriate action
for the church to take in such matters.
Meeting in Cleveland Oct. 1-2, the commission was responding to a United
Methodist News Service story (UMNS #556) about recent action taken by
the church's Commission on Religion and Race, which monitors racial
inclusiveness in the church.
At a Sept. 24-27 meeting in Arlington, Va., the Commission on Religion
and Race asked the planning group to:
* move the 2000 General Conference to another city;
* "denounce the Cleveland baseball team's abuse of Native
American names" in letters to city and state officials and the team
* remove from the General Conference site-selection process any
city that has professional sports teams with Native American nicknames,
mascots and symbols unless the team is willing to discuss changing them.
The Commission on the General Conference took action regarding the
relocation request, but said it would wait for an official letter from
the Commission on Religion and Race before responding further.
Several members of the planning group expressed sympathy with the Native
American issue but said moving out of the city would not contribute to
"There are other ways to make a statement than moving or not being
present," said General Conference Secretary Carolyn Marshall, of
Veedersburg, Ind., echoing the sentiments of several members. "Let's
make our statement another way."
The Rev. Roberto Gomez, a pastor in San Antonio, said he objects to the
name of the Texas Rangers baseball team, remembering that the original
Texas Rangers killed his ancestors "in cold blood." Nevertheless, he
said "there are other ways of dealing with it (injustice) " than moving.
Noting they were in charge of "planning, not policy," some members
suggested that the Commission on Religion and Race be asked to consider
an appropriate way to address the concern during the conference.
The Rev. Kenneth Chalker, pastor of Cleveland's First United Methodist
Church, chairs the local host committee for the conference and is a
voting member of the commission planning the event. "There seems to be
an assumption by some that the people of Cleveland and United Methodists
of this area have never thought about this issue," he said. "This city
has been enormously divided over this issue for years, and our own East
Ohio Annual Conference has struggled with it."
Noting that the Chief Wahoo logo has tremendous commercial value,
Chalker said the only person who can change it is the team's owner,
Richard Jacobs. A resolution at the last East Ohio Annual (regional)
Conference sessions calling for elimination of the logo was defeated,
"Even the Native American community is split on the issue of name,"
Chalker added. "For some, it is not a pejorative term. The first Native
American to play on a team early in the century was here. It was in
remembrance of that that the team got its name."
Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot, joined the Cleveland club in 1897 and
played for three seasons, compiling a .313 batting average. A Cleveland
newspaper held a contest in 1915 and the name "Indians" was suggested by
a fan who said he was doing it to honor Sockalexis.
The location of the 1996 General Conference in Denver prompted Native
Americans to ask for an apology for the deaths of more than 200 Native
Americans caused by a Methodist lay preacher in the area more than 13
decades earlier. Delegates approved the statement of apology with little
On Nov. 29, 1864, a Cheyenne village camped on the banks of Sand Creek
in Colorado was attacked by the 1st Colorado Cavalry led by Col. John
Chivington, a Methodist lay preacher. More than 200 people, mostly women
and children, were killed and mutilated. Chivington not only received a
commendation for the attack but was honored as a hero and pioneer by
Coloradans and Methodists at his death in October 1894.
In other action during their Oct. 1-2 meeting, the Commission on the
General Conference selected the Rev. Cynthia Wilson-Felder as music
director for the Cleveland meeting (see UMNS story #566); heard a report
from the Rev. Mark and Laura Wharff of Modesto, Calif., who will be
recruiting and coordinating about 150 volunteer pages and marshals;
heard a report from a site-selection committee that visited Pittsburgh,
where the 2004 conference will be held; met Jay Voorhees, a student at
Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, who will be
the plenary producer for the conference; and approved tentative budgets
for both the 2000 and 2004 assemblies.
The 2000 event is estimated to cost $3.9 million, and the expense is
expected to swell to $5.1 million in 2004. Major costs are hotel and
travel expenses for the 1,000 delegates. About 160 delegates from
outside the United States are expected at the Cleveland meeting.
Simultaneous translation in at least six languages is also a major
The commission examined a budget with detailed line-item costs, which it
plans to submit to the church's General Council on Finance and
Administration (GCFA) and the conference delegates. The conference
manager is GCFA staff member Gary Bowen; assistant manager is Steve
"We want to be accountable and thorough," Stewart said. "The General
Conference represents a major expenditure of church resources, and we
want everyone to have the facts when they are called on to make
In other action, the commission asked that representatives of the
church's Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns join
them at their next meeting, April 16-18, in Pittsburgh, to discuss a
proposed "act of repentance" at the conference related to past racial
injustices in the denomination.
The commission is also planning to ask each annual (regional) conference
to submit one child's drawing reflecting the conference theme, "We who
are many are one body." The art would be included in visual
presentations during the event. Each annual conference will be
encouraged to have some type of competition from which the final drawing
could be selected.
The commission discussed how high school and college age delegates could
be more meaningfully involved in the complex deliberations. One
suggestion being considered is to request that each young delegate be
paired with one or more mentors -- delegates, or possibly bishops, who
have attended previous conferences. About 35 youth and young adult
delegates are expected at the 2000 conference.
United Methodist News Service
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