The United Methodist Council of Bishops met at a retreat center to write a congratulatory document to President Bush in his re-election. The council is made up of 130 bishops who represent 11 million members throughout United States, Africa, Europe, and Asia. The emphasis at that meeting in Georgia was on reconciliation and co-working.
The bishops signed a Bible to send to the President, a 200 year tradition, and offered up prayers to support the president and his family in his second term. The bishops spoke of working with Bush "to build bridges of understanding" (UMNS).
The meeting was also a time for battle wounds to be healed as they prayed for Sen. John Kerry and reconciliation within the nation, thanking Kerry "for the gracious way he has accepted the voters’ decision."
Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure of the Dallas area also emphasized reconciliation in a prayer saying, "God, help those who might be disappointed to find peace and tranquility.
Reconciliation is always possible." The Bush family is a member of Dallas’ Highland Park United Methodist Church, and Monsure is looking forward to building a close relationship with the president.
"I am looking forward to whatever is in the past being in the past,” he said. “I know that it will be four more productive years for the president and his cabinet as well as the people of the church to work together to bring about the kinds of changes that [Bush] would like to see,” he said about the upcoming four years.
The Washington Area spoke of co-working with the administration. "As the bishop of Washington D.C., I too want to establish a good working relationship with President Bush and the administration."
"I know the Council of Bishops wants to have an open line of communication with President Bush," said Bishop John Schol, of the Washington Area.
President Bush’s Methodist identity will hopefully enhance the relationship.
Schol notes that "It helps for there to be a pastoral relationship in which we can provide pastoral care and concern but also have an opportunity to be in dialogue about the nation and the world.”
"There are places where we share common interest and common hope," said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, of the Mississippi Area. "The United Methodist Church has desires for children to have fullness of life. I would hope that would be one place we could come together and have common commitment. The church could be a great resource, and we are a partnering people."
President of the council, Bishop Peter Weaver, talked of the relationship that the church and the bishops have always had with the president dating all the way back to Bishop Francis Asbury and President Washington.
Weaver continued, "Every time there is an election, whoever is elected, we express our prayers and invite the nation to be in prayer," Weaver continued. "We reach out to offer our counsel, our support and offer to continue to be partners in the pursuit of peace and justice and well-being for all of God’s children."
"We are grateful that President and Mrs. Bush are committed disciples of Jesus Christ, and we pray that they continue to grow in their discipleship."
Weaver emphasized that many top priorities for President Bush are also top priorities for the church, such as war and peace, terrorism and poverty.
And thus, "There is common ground for conversation," he said. "There are different perspectives, but I believe we all grow when we hear different perspectives."
The Council of Bishops’ statement:
Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Congratulates U.S. President George W. Bush
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church offers its congratulations to U.S. President George W. Bush as he assumes the presidency for a second term. We thank Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry for the gracious way he has accepted the voters’ decision. The Council represents 11 million United Methodists in the United States, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Our prayers are for President Bush, his wife, Laura, and their family, and for Sen. Kerry, his wife, Teresa, and their family, after the tightly contested presidential race.
We pledge to work with President Bush to build bridges of understanding that we pray will lead to overcoming the gulfs that divide the nation and the world.
In every nation, where free elections are held, they create crossroads of opportunities. This year’s U.S. election is no different. The election process reflected the nation’s concerns about moral values, economic well-being, and national security. It is of no small consequence that these are also worldwide concerns growing out of our understanding of Christian faith.
We will continue to keep our brother in Christ, and fellow United Methodist, President Bush, in our prayers. We look forward to building a constructive relationship with him as we shape a world where we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
Bishop Peter D. Weaver, President
On behalf of the Council of Bishops
Nov. 4, 2004
Epworth by the Sea, St. Simons, Ga.