My friend Andrew Weaver is probably weeping in heaven.
I thought of Andrew this morning when a little-noticed and quickly affirmed action gave the South Central Jurisdiction's Mission Council final authority to dispose of jurisdiction-owned property. The action marks the quiet end to a contentious effort six years ago to keep the George W. Bush Presidential Institute off the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
An SMU and Perkins School of Theology alumnus, Andrew was a United Methodist ordained elder and a clinical psychologist. Alone and with other writers, among them his wife the Rev. Carolyn Stapleton, Andrew produced dozens of books on counseling and pastoral issues dear to his heart. Full disclosure: My husband John and I are among Christian couples with longstanding marriages that contributed to one of Andrew's and Carolyn's books.
Like all of us humans, Andrew had his faults, chief among them his love of food and drink that contributed to his death. He also, at times, sought more publicity than I as a journalist felt comfortable in providing. But spending a few minutes with Andrew would convince most people that the reason he sought attention was more because a principle was at stake.
More than anything else, Andrew was one of God's prophets for justice and peace. Andrew agonized over the presidency of George W. Bush, whose policies threw the United States into war with Iraq under what are now widely considered false pretenses. As people of faith increasingly protested the war, I often saw Andrew whenever I reported on a church-related demonstration. Among these was Andrew's presence at Camp Casey, the demonstration outside President Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, TX, where Cindy Sheehan tried to get Bush to justify why her son Casey, a National Guardsman, died in the Iraq War.
The final straw for Andrew – and subsequently for another 20,000 SMU grads, United Methodists and others – was the news that SMU had negotiated a sweetheart deal to lease university land to the George W. Bush Presidential Institute. The prospect of a United Methodist-related institution of higher education such as SMU – technically owned by the South Central Jurisdiction – hosting a think tank and library that would continue to promote Bush-era warmongering and economic policies was scandalous to Andrew and others.
The issue was more than political. The moral crux of the matter, which SMU and South Central Jurisdiction leaders consistently refused to acknowledge, was the reality that opponents to the Bush Institute deemed its published goals as completely anathema to the United Methodist Church's doctrines of peace and economic justice.