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Senator George McGovern

(Photo credit: The Wild Magazine)

By Mark Tooley

Hundreds packed the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on October 25 to honor Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate who died earlier this week. He was one of the last great prairie progressives who were deeply shaped by Social Gospel liberal Protestantism. The son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, McGovern himself studied for the ministry at a Methodist seminary. In his later decades he was active in the United Methodist Church, whose liberal policies replicated his own, and some of whose bishops openly backed his presidential bid against Richard Nixon.

Fueled by the 1908 Methodist Social Creed that was ecumenically endorsed by the old Federal Council of Churches, early 20th century liberal Methodism by the 1920s and 1930s was anti-war, suspicious of capitalism, and supremely confident about perfecting society through reforming legislation. Young McGovern must have eagerly…

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