GBCS Gives UMC Support for Iran Nuclear Agreement

By Walter Fenton

The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church of Society (GBCS) has added its name to an open letter addressed to members of the United States Congress regarding the proposed nuclear agreement between the US and Iran, and five other nations (England, France, Germany, Russia and China).

According to the letter, members of the House and Senate who oppose the agreement would have the U.S. engage in “a disastrous act of self-sabotage.” The signatories cannot imagine that any Senators or Representatives would reject the present agreement and so “put the United States and Iran back on the path to war, threatening to further destabilize the entire Middle East.”

Finally, the missive closes by stating, “We strongly support the commendable leadership of the President and his administration, . . . [and] urge all Members of Congress to now fully support this deal and reject any congressional effort to undermine its implementation.”

We’re not sure when the leaders at GBCS became specialists in international relations and even more, the intricacies of a highly complex nuclear agreement. But whatever the case, the board has once again gone well beyond its mandate and, not surprisingly, come out in support of one of the most divisive and polarizing foreign policy issues advanced by the Obama administration.

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of GBCS and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of GBCS and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

All United Methodists are for the non-proliferation of nuclear arms and peace in the Middle East. However, people of good will and good faith can legitimately disagree over how to accomplish these important goals. Forty-three United Methodists currently serve as U.S. Senators or Representatives, and it is likely three out of every four of them will oppose the agreement.

“Now, here we are at the end of this process, and I am afraid we have endangered the goal of [Iran] not getting nuclear weapons,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, a United Methodist. “Negotiating an agreement to allow Iran to obtain intercontinental missiles, even if it’s eight years or five years out, is dangerous to the United States.”

Is GBCS confident that those who oppose the treaty are voting for “a disastrous act of self-sabotage,” and are for putting the U.S. and Iran “back on a path to war?” What makes the leadership so certain that they are right and the UM Senators and Representatives who will oppose the agreement are wrong?

Why is the leadership at GBCS even taking sides in this matter?

The board would serve the church better by providing background information and perspectives from all sides of an issue, along with enunciating relevant biblical principles. Where the General Conference has not spoken, GBCS should be reluctant to endorse particular policy solutions — especially when those policies are the subject of highly partisan debate. Such an approach would counteract the impression that many United Methodists have of GBCS as an advocate solely for Democratic Party agendas.

It seems reasonable for the leaders at GBCS, as private citizens, to affix their names to letters and petitions for various causes. However, they should not endorse something on behalf of the whole church that the General Conference never instructed the board to endorse. Their arbitrarily weighing in on political matters further erodes the low level of trust many United Methodists have for GBCS.

They would honor the will of General Conference and more fairly represent all the people of the UM Church by simply stating our denomination’s sincere hope and prayers for a world free of nuclear weapons, and for peace in the Middle East.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News.


  1. Fenton is right, that board doesn’t speak for me and shouldn’t even be involved.

  2. The GBCS has been using their Board for many political stances in the past. As no one holds them accountable to the Methodist Disciplines and Organization foundations, they get by with their agendas. The only entity that can speak for the Methodist Church is the General Council. What shall we say now, they are not being Honorable people to their duty and position that they hold to the Church or God..

  3. The GBCS is little more than an entity of the Democratic Party, consistently avdvocates and stands for the liberal agenda, and is involved in exactly the wrong causes.

  4. I agree with Walter Fenton. The GBCS should NOT be taking a positing on such a sensitive issue as this. By what authority do they claim to be experts on national defense?

  5. Ian McDonald says

    With all that is going on in the world this is what the GBCS comes out with?!!! The GBCS really is little more than an entity of the Democratic Party! If the GBCS wants to tow democratic the party line that’s fine for them as individuals. But with our brothers and sisters having been driven from their homes in the Middle East, the least they could do is advocate for those people instead of coming out with some missive that shows their complete lack of awareness about current events that need our attention.

    What a waste of apportionment dollars!!

  6. Rodney W. Pirtle says

    As an 81 year-old lifelong Methodist/United Methodist, I must cast my lot with Colin Powell in the belief that this agreement represents our best chance at ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapons capability. I also support this national United Methodist agenciy in its prophetic statement and position.

  7. It is unacceptable that the GBCS could make a statement supporting the Iranian Nuclear Deal or any other important issue in the name of the UMC as a whole. I definitely do not support that issue! Since when do they know better than the rest of us? They should be strongly reprimanded and replaced! It seems that too much of the liberal stance in the UMC is making the headlines these days and we need to be fighting back to stand for our traditions.

  8. Margaret stratton says

    The Methodist Church should discipline GBCS because they give the false assumption that all of us clergy and most of the congregations are leftist liberals. In fact multitudes of laity are conservatives and certainly wonder what is going on in the Methodist Church at large. Many of us do not support Obama’s descisions which has left our country extremely vulnerable in an increasingly violent world. We need to back Israel and stand up for her as her Muslim citizens are among the best treated Muslim citizens in the Mideast. Also Israel is NOT an occupier. They won their land in wars and also have a Biblical right to their land as it was given to them by God Almighty himself. The Methodist Church needs to get on the right side of what God reveals in the Bible. Ignorance of God’s word is no excuse. Those who pressure Israel to divide the land God has given the Jewis people will face God’s impending judgment.

  9. The organizational structure of the UMC was created to function on trust, integrity, honor, the golden rule, and faithfulness. Liberals have taken full and complete advantage of this structure to aggressively push their agendas. This board is just an example of that fact.

  10. Once again we have to thank the GBCS for their part in the decline of the Methodist church. I have served in the Methodist ministry for over 44 years and one of the main reason for people leaving or not joining our local church is this kind of misguided thinking from out committees. When will we ever clear the boards of this ingrained mentality and get some grass roots people back on who still believe in Gods word and are more interested in sharing the Prince of peace rather achieving world peace. They don’t speak for me and my congregation.

  11. Kim Mullican says

    This is exactly why many people are leaving the United Methodist Church. We have the General Board making decisions they are clearly not empowered to make, and we have funds from the UMW going to support an organization that funds causes that are not in keeping with the Book of Discipline. We are considering leaving this denomination because it no longer adheres to Biblical beliefs, although we are praying for revival and hoping that the church will return to the truth.

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