Leaders of the United Methodist Church in the Baltimore-Washington area today urged all congregations to make their Sunday school classrooms "war toy free zones" by removing such toys from church play chests.
A resolution said that the "Rambo mentality" has "contributed to the lust of physical brutality, the dehumanization of human life . . . and promotes the glorification of violence over Christian values."
The resolution, adopted by more than 700 delegates to the church's annual conference, is the third antiwar measure taken in three months by Methodists, the nation's second largest Protestant denomination.
Last month, the church's bishops nationwide adopted a pastoral letter condemning nuclear war, including nuclear deterrence as a strategy of national security. And earlier this spring, the committee revising the denomination's hymnal voted to drop the old favorite, "Onward Christian Soldiers," because its war imagery is out of step with church policy today. "The Sunday schools are an excellent starting point to teach children and their parents that there are other toys to play with than things that pretend to kill people," said the Rev. John Scanner of Cumberland, Md.
The impact of the resolution may be largely symbolic, several ministers said. "We didn't buy any war toys to begin with," said the Rev. Peter Sun of Bethesda.
The resolution adopted today at the meeting on the University of Maryland-Baltimore campus condemned "toys that are sexist, racist and incredibly violent" and said that "war toy" sales in this country have increased 350 percent since 1982.
The Baltimore Conference includes about 240,000 members in 745 United Methodist churches in most of Maryland, the District of Columbia and parts of West Virginia. The annual meeting is about half clergy and half lay delegates who gather to assist Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel in formulating policies to run their churches.
Hanging like a cloud over other discussion here were unresolved issues stemming from the church trial and conviction last September of a black pastor, the Rev. John Carter, on sexual harassment charges.
Many blacks argued that racism was a factor in the widely publicized trial, which pitted the liberal church's blacks and women -- both of them articulate groups -- against each other.
Today, the Rev. James S. Webb Jr. of Baltimore, in making an annual report on the conference's Commission on Religion and Race, alluded to these tensions as a "highly volatile and explosive situation" in the conference.
Delegates approved a set of recommendations brought by Webb's commission to try to further racial balance in the church. One of the measures called for 15 "cross-cultural" exchanges, in which white pastors would swap parishes with black or other ethnic minority pastors for a 90-day period. Delegates also called for the church to give "special attention to the approximately 70,000 Hispanics" in the Columbia Road area of the District.
Another proposal, brought by the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, set up new procedures for election of delegates to the national church's quadrennial General Conference.
The purpose of the action was to increase the number of racial and ethnic minorities, women and handicapped persons in the pool from which delegates are finally chosen.
The church's longtime commitment to giving women and minorities a fuller role in the church was reflected in the choice of Judith L. Craig, bishop of Michigan, as the main inspirational speaker at the conference.
Craig, one of three women bishops in the church, was backed up by a white-robed choir of about 40 of the 90 women clergy of the conference. The women won an unaccustomed burst of applause at the recessional.