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Official UM Gospel of Homosexuality, De-chlorinated Paper, Ant Control And Impeach Bush "Clearing Out Pews"

Excerpt: Methodists' focus on activism may be clearing out pews

The United Methodist Church of Minnesota, which held its annual conference in St. Cloud last week, has a knack for detecting and embracing the "social justice" cause du jour. When Minnesota Methodist leaders congregate, buzzwords like "celebrating diversity" are generally front and center. "I believe when you embrace diversity," ran a recent United Methodist advertisement, "you embrace God."

In the past, Methodist leaders have often focused on racism and sexism. This year, however, gay issues jumped to center stage. The Minnesota Annual Conference outdid itself, passing nine petitions on various aspects of the topic. The conference went on record as supporting both gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.

Still, the Minnesota United Methodist conference will have to work overtime if it wants to keep up with the top brass at the church's national headquarters. Leaders there have set the activist bar high indeed. Recently, Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, called for the impeachment of President George Bush, a Methodist himself. Winkler condemned America's "secret police establishment" and advocated slashing the U.S. defense budget by 80 percent. "The war on terror is a war of terror," he proclaimed.

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Women's Division is manning the barricades on other fronts. It has called on Staples, the office supply giant, to "permanently stock 'processed chlorine free' paper." It has urged its members to "Save the Filibuster," promoted eco-friendly ant control and sounded an alarm about the Patriot Act.

Nationally, the United Methodist Church lost about 3 million members between the late 1960s and 2003, according to church figures -- a nearly 30 percent drop. During the same period the U.S. population grew by roughly one-third.

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