Bush Surgeon General Nominee (and Methodist Renewal Leader) Charged with Conflicts of Interest
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 03:39:28 PM EST
George Bush's nominee for Surgeon General has drawn a lot of heat for among other things, his crack-pot anti-gay views as a leader in the United Methodist affiliate of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.   But a new report may finally sink his already controversial nomination in a sea of conflicts of interest that have marked his career.
Dr. James Holsinger has also been a longtime leader of the Confessing Movement in the United Methodist Church. The Confessing Movement is a rightwing "renewal group" affiliated with the Washington, DC-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), whose purpose for a generation has been to divide and disrupt the historic churchs of mainline protestantism in the interests of advancing neoconservatism and the religious right.

Holsinger was elected to the highest court in the Methodist Church a time when the IRD-affiliated church "renewal" groups had launched efforts to use church judicial systems to enforce their notions of orthodoxy, particularly on matters related to homosexuality.

Now, an investigation Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D. and Lawrence H. McGaughey, Esq., and published at Media Transparency, shows that Holsinger used the sale of a United Methodist Church-owned hospital in Kentucky, as a cash cow for his personal ambitions. It took years of litigation by the church to find out what had happened to its money, only to learn that Holsinger had diverted millions to endow professorships at the Chandler Medical Center at the University of Kentucky where he served as Chancellor and fundraiser-in-chief.

Meanwhile, Weaver and McGaughy report Holsinger did not disclose to his fellow church justices that he he was party to significant litigation against the church in the state courts -- and thereby surface any potential conflicts of interest. The litigation cost the United Methodist Church (UMC) millions of dollars in legal fees to recover its assets. The article also raises questions about how those assets (that were not given away) were managed while under the control of Dr. Holsinger and his associates, some of whom apparently also had conflicts of interest.

Weaver and McGaughy report:

From the time of the sale of the property in July of 1995 until the [Kentucky Annual Conference of the UMC] KAC filed suit against the GSF on May 18, 2000, the foundation's trustees "refused to give an accounting of the proceeds from the sale to the Kentucky Annual Conference". In fact, as late as June of 2006 the lay and clergy members of the KAC felt compelled to pass a resolution formally seeking necessary "[i]nformation on assets, income earned, tax issues...investment practices, conflicts of interest, and other information" from the foundation.

The Good Samaritan Hospital (GSH) of Lexington, Kentucky, was one of dozens of hospitals built by the Methodist church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide care for the poor and indigent. The GSH had an unbroken legal and historic connection to Kentucky Methodism dating back to 1925. Photographic evidence presented in court showed that from 1968 until 1995, signs inside and outside of the hospital publicly proclaimed "The Good Samaritan Hospital of the United Methodist Church." Not surprisingly, the Kentucky courts repeatedly ruled that the hospital "was held in trust" for the KAC and that the church rightfully owns the assets.

It was only when Holsinger was named as Surgeon General nominee that the litigation came to an abrupt halt. Within a matter of days after his May 24, 2007, nomination, Holsinger resigned from the GSF trustees [the entity that controlled assets from the sale of the hospital] and the lawsuit, communicating through a spokesperson that to continue would be incompatible with an appointment as Surgeon General. Within a mere two weeks, the suit was finally settled, after seven years of litigation."

Read the whole report here.  

And as usual, yeoman work from Brother Andrew and the MT folks!

by Frank Cocozzelli on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 05:19:55 PM EST
It will be interesting to see if the self-described renewal groups have anything to say about this multimillion dollar diversion of church funds that have propped-up the career of the ethically challenged James Holsinger.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 10:18:03 PM EST
wants to divert as many of the mainline churches' resources away from social justice ministries, but I'll be interested to see whether they even try to justify Holsinger's unethical stewardship.  Thanks for bringing this to light.

by Rusty Pipes on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 05:57:42 PM EST
That would be something to see, wouldn't it?

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 09:02:27 PM EST

I like that you took the time to briefly define "renewal," and did so early on in your post. While the contributors to Talk To Action and most readers would have known what you meant by the "renewal" phrase as it appears in your title, anyone new to Talk To Action might not be as well informed.

by IseFire on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 12:05:49 PM EST
this is something I think we all struggle with.

A lot of people have been reading us right along, and follow how various terms are used. But you are quite right, there are new readers all the time, with a wide variety of knowledge and experiences.  

There is no one right answer to the matter of at what level to write at, and what to assume about the level of knowledge of our readers. My personal choice is to usually write in a widely accessible way, without dumbing down or over-explaining.

Thanks for raising this. It is good to regularly revisit these kinds of points so we continue to keep the site lively and accessible, and still move the conversation forward without always having to start at square one.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 03:14:47 PM EST

Holsinger was elected to the highest court in the Methodist Church a time when the IRD-affiliated church "renewal" groups had launched efforts to use church judicial systems to enforce their notions of orthodoxy, particularly on matters related to homosexuality.

by liaozhi123 on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 01:57:26 AM EST

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