Letters: Give support to educational choice


A couple of weeks back I read in the Mississippi Catholic an article on “Congregations for Children” [CFC], the joint effort of the leaders of the Catholic, Episcopal and (United) Methodist peoples in this area on behalf of a common legislative program. Bishop Duncan Gray III was quoted as saying that the CFC members would “make pests of themselves [at the legislature] for a long time” to assure the enactment of that program.

Christians of good will, of course, can differ as to the wisdom of that agenda. For example, one item on that agenda is full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Plan (MAEP). Based on my family’s 12 years in the Jackson Public School System (JPS), I am fairly confident that the overwhelming majority of Episcopalians, Methodists and Catholics living within the corporate limits of the City of Jackson do not send their children to JPS schools. If the local public schools are not good enough for them, are they good enough for the children of those who lack the private school option?

With that in mind, isn’t it at least arguable that CFC’s political capital might be better spent lobbying for vouchers or other subsidies that would allow all Mississippians the same education choices that most Catholic, Episcopalian and Methodist children in the Capital City enjoy? Might not that be better than increasing funding to a school system so many Catholics, Episcopalians and Methodists have rejected? Note: I am not saying there is anything wrong with the MAEP or with sending children to public schools or with any other items on the CFC agenda. I am only suggesting that there is room within the bounds of Christian liberty for Christians to have opinions on those subjects other than the opinions advanced by the CFC.

On the other hand, there should be no room for debate among Christians that every child conceived has a fundamental right to life. Such was the universal Christian teaching for over 1,900 years. 

What is it about a group that calls itself Congregations for Children that causes it to unite with such public fervor to support legislation about which Christians may (and many do) legitimately disagree, yet maintain such public silence about abortion, which is certainly among the greatest evils inflicted on children in our day?

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is within two miles of the offices of the Episcopal, Catholic and Methodist leaders featured in the CFC article. Dozens of innocents are slaughtered there every week. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Congregations for Children would hold its next press conference or its next “Children’s Sabbath” on the sidewalk outside that one remaining abortion mill and demand an end to the egregious injustice that is abortion? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the members of the CFC, to borrow the words of the Episcopal prelate, would “make pests of themselves for a long time” until child murder is no longer tolerated by Christian laity and clergy in this state? Wouldn’t that be an even better way to advance the mission of Congregations for Children “to love, celebrate and advocate for children” than, say, lobbying to raise the cigarette tax?
James T. McCafferty III


In Gary Thompson’s response (Feb. 20 issue of the Advocate) to my criticism of our bishop’s political activities, Thompson speaks of Moses’ leading the Israelites out of Egypt and Jesus’ teaching that we should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned. I find it difficult to favorably compare lobbying the Mississippi Legislature for educational spending, Medicaid funding, etc. with any of Thompson’s examples. I suspect that the specific issues trumpeted by the bishop find favor with many of us, but I find her lobbying for them in her capacity as our bishop disconcerting and objectionable. By all means, let us do all we can to alleviate human suffering, but doing it in obedience to God’s commands and asking the legislature to do it in our stead are two entirely different things. Jesus healed the sick; he didn’t ask the government to do so.

Our denomination is not only failing to grow, it is losing membership in frightening numbers. If a seeker looking for redemption and a church home asked one of us what exactly The United Methodist Church stood for, what would we tell him? Do we mention all the social and political positions so grandly lifted up by much of our leadership? That’s great if we’re seeking members for a political action committee. Can we legitimately explain how our church can enhance his spiritual growth? Or must we tell him how effectively we deal with diversity, homosexuality and justice? Our dwindling numbers indicate that a lot of former (and perhaps some about-to-be former) United Methodists aren’t buying what we’re selling. How long until we have a going-out-of-business sale?

If “Citizen” Hope Morgan Ward feels compelled to lobby the Mississippi Legislature for political causes she feels strongly about, then I admire her for doing so; however, to do so as “Bishop” Hope Morgan Ward wrongly implies that she speaks for her flock. When it comes to any future lobbying for legislative action, I hope that she will make it clear whether she does so as “citizen” or as “bishop.”

In closing his letter, Thompson stated that “Jesus was not killed because he was ‘spiritual,’ ” with the implication that he was killed because he was political. Jesus posed no political threat to any government. He posed a significant political threat, however, to the leaders of the Jewish church. I suggest that he was crucified because of his obedience to God, not because of his politics.  As Thompson said, we are instructed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned. As United Methodists, let us be obedient to that instruction, rather than lobbying the Legislature to do it for us. Let us be men and women of action, rather than asking the legislature to increase the size of the government’s financial trough.
Marvin Speed


As many days come and go, I will always remember Martha “Twick” Morrison. Her attitude, personality and speech were those of a thoroughbred, spiritual giant. She had superior acumen. I worked on several conference committees with her, and the rewards are all highly acceptable. Twick always traveled on the right side of the road. Not always appreciated, but the truth. My last assignment was with the Religion and Race Committee. Without a doubt, she was well prepared for the duty. Her life and works spoke for her. My advice to you who had associations and contact with her is let your conscience be your guide.
George Washington