faith in action

Remembering Sen. Lugar

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a founding member of St. Luke's UMC in Indianapolis, Indiana, died April 28, 2019.

On Christmas Eve 2013, in his final year of office, Sen. Richard Lugar, a founding member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, reflected with Church and Society staff about the relevance of the United Methodist Social Creed and Social Principles to his public service.

“The United Methodist Church can be an enormously powerful source of current information,” said Lugar. “A determined pastor and strong lay group can really bring us up to speed on what is happening in Kenya or Zimbabwe, and what we might be able to do about it. And that’s important, that kind of information and practical advice on how to act and then strengthen our will to do so comes from the discipline of regular attendance. The fact that as a congregation, this is not a casual affair for us; this is a very important discipline in our lives.”

He spoke candidly about the moral challenges of serving in congressional leadership during a period of history that witnessed a profound move beyond Cold War ideologies and toward increased attention to dialogue, diplomacy and development as a means of securing peace.

He said, “One of the joys of serving in public life is the belief that you can make a difference. The other side of the coin is that you have to make decisions and they are likely to be recorded, as they are not private ones. Yes or no. History will indicate this is where he stood: this is what he said or didn’t say or ducked the issue. That’s probably an important discipline before God, that you have to stand up and be counted.”

While Lugar, perhaps, will be remembered best for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (better known as the 1991 Nunn–Lugar Act). Lugar also spoke with dignity and warmth for the role well-informed congregations can play in educating members and promoting peace through public engagement.

“I’m challenged frequently because the controversies we are debating in the Senate have enormous consequences, not just for Americans, but for people around the world! Should we develop a new weapons system, invest billions of dollars in items like that? If they are ever used, [they] are going to kill tens of thousands of people or more. Justified by the fact that other nations may have similar systems? These get into moral equations.”

He went on to add, “It has been my mission — informed by the United Methodist Social Creed and this early upbringing — to try to work with other countries systematically to take care of each other and every one of these weapons, to destroy them or to guard them or to convert them so that in fact there is the possibility for some peace and stability.”

Lugar’s legacy is reflected in his deep concern as well for people suffering from hunger and the need to pursue food security as a matter of human rights and sustainable development. He, along with Sen. Bob Casey, cosponsored the 2009 Global Food Security Act, supported the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as the 2004 African Growth and Opportunity Act,

“I’ve been involved in the worldwide fight against hunger,” he said. “This involves trade practices. It involves the kind of seed and fertilizer that might work. It especially involves the kind of markets for farmers and their ability to support themselves and their families. And it comes down to the guardianship of the earth. God created this earth, we are on it for a period of time to utilize it, to try to serve, [and] to try to grow in our own faith with all the resources God has given us. But we have an obligation to protect the earth, to protect that heritage for our children and for others that follow us.”

By any standard of measurement, Lugar lived a life of service with great distinction.