The Methodist Vote Reflects Diversity of American Opinion

April 27, 2004

Source: The Detroit Free Press

On April 27, 2004 The Detroit Free Press reported, "In the midst of a controversial war and a hotly contested election year, the global leaders of President George W. Bush's church will gather today in Pittsburgh for their first legislative conference in four years.

Delegates to the United Methodist General Conference say they are determined to send a strong message about terrorism and the war in Iraq to their church's most famous member before they adjourn May 7.The White House still is negotiating with church leaders on whether the president or first lady Laura Bush will make an appearance.

The question that has journalists and political analysts closely watching the conference is: How will this cross section of Americans work out issues that are bedeviling the whole world right now?

Interviews with many United Methodists in Michigan on the eve of the conference reveal a denomination as deeply divided as the voting public on issues from homosexuality to Iraq.

'The Methodists are fascinating to watch because they have the whole diversity of American opinion -- left, right and center,' said political scientist John Green, one of the nation's leading experts on religion and politics. Green, who teaches at the University of Akron in Ohio, plans to go to Pittsburgh to watch delegates work out these hot-button issues.

This is a church that embraces U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., as well as Vice President Dick Cheney. Four years ago, then-first lady Clinton addressed the last General Conference. A postelection study in 2000 of voting patterns among United Methodist clergy showed them evenly split between Bush and Al Gore, Green said.

'If you take Methodists as a group, they're very close to the middle of American politics, while at the same time reflecting the country's diversity: North to South, rural and urban, black and white, rich and poor,' Green said."