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Commentary


No Surprise: Official Methodism Supports Communist Castro

by James A. Gibson III


Buried in the back pages of the March 3, 1923 issue of Time Magazine (the debut issue of that publication) is this curious piece of news from the world of religion:

        Methodists in Russia

The Russian Soviet government has requested that a committee be appointed from the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church to help reorganize the churches of Russia. The Soviet government has found in the social creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America the following principles: Protection of the worker from forced unemployment, old age pensions, minimum wage, reduction of hours of labor to the lowest practicable point, and the most equitable division of the product of industry which can be devised. (This creed was adopted by the Methodists in 1912).

Bishop Nuelsen of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who recently returned from Russia, reports that the Soviet no longer interferes with the worship of any sect that does not oppose the government. Three Methodist Episcopal bishops will go to Moscow in April to present the social creed to the government for approval and to co-operate in working out the destinies of the badly disorganized Russian Church.

Casual students of history may forget that, in 1923, Vladmir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader of the Russian Revolution, was still in power. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was barely six years old. It would appear that Official Methodism was one of the earliest American religious groups to jump on the left-wing, pro-Soviet bandwagon.

A quarter century later, in 1947, the Division of Foreign Missions of the Board of Missions and Church Extension of the Methodist Church (the predecessor to the General Board of Global Ministries) sent to some 22,000 Methodist clergy a curious little book by Jerome Davis, entitled, Behind Soviet Power. The book was commended by the president and chief administrator of the missions agency as making "a substantial contribution to understanding of Russia." However, as pointed out by the late Duke University professor Robert L. Wilson in his book Biases and Blindspots (Bristol, 1988), the book was little more than "transparent propaganda," an apology for the oppressive Soviet regime. Included in the volume was a chapter entitled, "Is Stalin a Dictator?" which excused that Soviet leader’s atrocities with such statements as:

Whether or not Stalin can be called a dictator depends on how the word is defined. From the American point of view he is no more a dictator than were Roosevelt or Churchill, who were not dictators at all. . . .

Just why Official Methodism saw it necessary to defend one of the most oppressive dictators of the twentieth century at the height of his bloody reign remains, even today, a question which denominational leaders have never come close to answering satisfactorily. But their love affair with the Soviet Union was still quite torrid when, prior to the 1980 General Conference, United Methodist layman David Jessup prepared a report which revealed that, between 1977 and 1979, United Methodist agencies had given "a total of $442,000 to a variety of politically leftist groups whose aims were questionable both from a perspective of democratic ideology and Christian theology" (Wilson, page 8). Of particular interest was a Women’s Division grant of $15,300 in 1977 and $6,500 in 1978 to the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, an organization which typified what opponents might call the "Blame America First Movement." In one of their publications, they asserted:

The Soviet Union--unlike the U.S. is literally surrounded by hostile powers and unreliable allies. . . . think about how frightening the world must look to a Soviet military planner--faced with an economically and technologically superior adversary (the U.S.) which perpetually pushes for an advantage in the arms race, which had intervened militarily or through its intelligence agencies in Indochina, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Iran to name but a few, which maintains a vast global network of military bases . . . and which has never even pledged not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, Official Methodism consistently sided with left-wing, pro-Soviet communist regimes--such as the Sandanistas in Nicaragua--throughout the 1980’s. When Soviet satellite countries fell one by one, and finally the Soviet Union itself, in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, denominational leaders found themselves in the embarrassing predicament of having their folly exposed for all to see. However, not one of Official Methodism’s leftist elite saw fit to repent or quietly resign. A decade later, most of them remain in positions of influence in both the denomination and various ecumenical agencies.

It should not be surprising, then, that among Fidel Castro’s most ardent supporters in the current controversy over six-year-old Elian Gonzalez are the same leaders of Official Methodism who have consistently supported socialist dictators in every hemisphere of the world. Cuba is one of the last remaining vestiges of pure, Soviet-style, oppressive communism (Chinese-style being equally, if not more, oppressive but that is another matter). It is implausible to think that these ardent defenders of partial-birth abortion, gay rights and left-wing totalitarianism have had a sudden conversion to family values. Returning Elian to his father is not the issue for Official Methodism’s opportunistic spokespersons. The present controversy merely opens the door for them to press their real agenda, namely, an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba and normalization of relations with the Castro government. Consistent with their past thinking, they blame the United States for the squalid conditions in Cuba while they embrace Castro as the embodiment of the Sermon on the Mount.

Regardless of one’s opinion as to whether young Elian should remain in America or return to Cuba with his father, the involvement of Official Methodism and its ecumenical cohorts in this matter ought to be suspect. Both sides in this dispute have exploited the boy and his plight for political gain. When church officials willingly (and eagerly) join in such exploitation, it is something worse than shameless--especially when those officials are the same discredited impostors who steadfastly refuse to learn the lessons of history.

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