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LOCAL Commentary :: Miscellaneous

Methodists Oust Activists From Pace Center

An exercise in "love thy neightbor as thyself"
Methodist style.
For many years, the Pace Center at VCU has been a combination free speech zone and housing for movement groups. An array of feminist ,queer, peace,homeless advocates have met there.No more.

With a Bible in one hand,their book of Social Principles in the back pocket and a foot in the rear of various groups the Methodist Board of the Pace Center has excommunicated the groups. The new official name is the Pace Center for Campus Ministry. The old name was Campus and Community Ministry.

According to Bishop Charlene Kammerer, a board member of the Pace Center, has this to say on the situation :

" However, the Board is responsible for making the campus ministry a priority. They have made a Board decision which the campus minister will support to build in more programming directly for the students and VCU campus." From an e-mail to the author.

There is no doubt that the Good Bishop and the Board have a perfect right to use their facilities as they see fit. Its the golden rule.
Those with the gold rule.

But it certainly is a strange turn for a church that bills itself as liberal , has a booklet called Social Principles as its guiding authority, and reduces it self from a campus and community ministry to just campus.

Love thy neighbor as thyself apparently does not apply to the homeless in the park across from the Pace Center. The only neighbors the good Methodists apparently want are the 25 or so middle class white Methodists who occasionally show up at the Pace Center.

Nor is it just political groups that are being kicked out. Narcotics Anonymous, a 12 step sister program to AA. is being shown the door.

This what the Social Principles of the Methodist Church say about drug addiction : " Drug dependent persons and their families are indivituals of infinite human worth deserving of
rehabilation,treatment and ongoing lifechanging recovery. "

Well, apparently that recovery wont happen at the Pace Center. Nor would we want Methodist
VCU students to be exposed to recovering addicts,
queers,peaceniks,feminists and those other neighbors.

The whole situation begs the most dreaded question in Christianity. WWJD. WHAT WOULD JESUS
DO ?

Another group, Food Not Bombs was given use of the kitchen facilities at PACE. That sounds like a good Christian thing to do. Let the anarchists
feed the homeless every Sunday, Christians supply the kitchen. Sort of outsourcing the work of Jesus.

Only one thing went wrong. The PACE Center cut off the gas two months before FNB was scehuduled to exit. The Rev AJ Gunthrie was never around to
address the problem or return calls or emails about it. Perhaps Food Not Bombs should have gone into special prayer session to get the gas back on.

The Legal Aid Justice Center meetings with homeless people over legal issues was also abrubtly cancelled by the Center.

The cutoff date for community groups is June 1.
On June 25, Pastors for Peace , a Cuba friendship group believes it has the facilities.
But personally, I would seek the advise of a higher power since June 1 is the community group date cutoff.

Personally, I am skeptical of the official Methodist Party line that the PACE Center is going to a student centered spiritual experience.
A more likely scenario is politics and money are
driving the deal.

politics from within the Church and VCU real estate deals.

The Methodist Church has a somewhat undeserved reputation as a liberal church. During the 1960s
it was active in Civil Rights and the the anti-war movement.

But the Methodist Church has skeletons in its closets too. Despite the opposition of its founder, John Wesley, Methodists in the South owned slaves,opposed Reconstruction Era rights for blacks, were segregated and did not ordain women until 1939.

And they had Bishop James Cannon, called the Dry
Messiah in the 1920s. He supported Prohibition and was the Jerry Falwell of his day. Bishop
Cannon had a most un-Methodist fortune to be convicted of stock fraud,gambling and an affair with his secretary.

Like other liberal Protestant sects, the Methodists are locked in combat with their internal right wing. In the Methodist Church, there is a group called the Confessional Movement which believes the Church should abandon
its alleged liberal social agenda.
There have been letters to the editor re/Methodist Liberals, show trials of LGBT ministers and members,constant debate over the Church being too liberal or conservative.

In reality, Methodists are not really that liberal. They will not allow Gay or lesbian clergy, are wishy-washy on abortion rights and have not been very active in anti-war movement.

In her email, Bishop Kammether denied any "negative assesment" of the groups there.


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