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FBI Arrest Bishops Trespassing On Navy Island

United Methodists Respond to Arrests in Vieques, Puerto Rico

Bishop Juan Vera Mendez and Pastor Lucy Rosario of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico were among ecumenical leaders and peaceful protestors arrested this morning by the FBI, Federal Marshals, and U.S. military personnel on the island of Vieques. The US Navy uses the island for training and practice bombing. The action effectively broke negotiations between a religious coalition, the White House, and Congress.

Upset with US policy and these developments, Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer, Charlotte Area; Bishop Ricardo Periera, Cuba; Retired Bishop Isaias Gutierrez, Chile; Victor R. Ortiz, lay delegate from Puerto Rico; and Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society; spoke to the press Thursday, May 4. Bishop Felton Edwin May, Washington Area, read a statement by the Council of Bishops’ delegation to Vieques. Several other bishops and church leaders attended the briefing.

According to a statement by the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist concerns for the Vieques controversy date back to the Reagan administration. Protests have continued on the island of 9,500 inhabitants. Fassett identified the issues as colonialism, ownership, land use, health and safety. Bishop Gutierrez, president of the Council of the Evangelical Methodist Church in the Caribbean (CIEMAL), expressed concern for “my friend and colleague” Bishop Juan Vera Mendez, CIEMAL vice president.

Asked what was being done to gain release of those arrested, Ortiz said he heard that Bishop Mendez was released, but he knew nothing about the welfare of Pastor Rosario. On behalf of the Council of Bishops, Bishop William Boyd Grove signed a letter sent to the White House by the National Council of Churches, and Bishop Robert C. Morgan sent a telegram to Bishop Mendez. GBGM lawyers in Puerto Rico are providing legal services. Ortiz said the Puerto Rican delegation has a resolution to present to the General Conference.

- Patty Meyers, Daily Christian Advocate

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