March 2001 -- A quarterly news letter for United Methodists


bullet Guest Column: A LIBERAL’S TESTIMONY
bullet Our Mission


Guest Column:


"I became ‘personally opposed’ to abortion, but still favored a woman’s ‘right to choose.’ All of this changed one afternoon during college ..."

Before I knew I was a Christian, I knew I was a Democrat. From my father I learned, rather early in life, to favor governmental assistance for the poor, oppose institutional prejudice, and take the "pro-choice" position in matters of personal morality. Like many good Americans, I became "personally opposed" to abortion, but still favored a woman’s "right to choose."

All of this changed, however, one afternoon during college when a pro-life pamphlet was slid underneath my dorm room door. Contrary to much of the pro-abortion rhetoric I had heard during the Reagan years of the 1980’s, this small pamphlet argued simply that abortion was directly linked to the destructive, consumeristic practices of America. Just as Americans were destroying the environment through unbridled consumerism, so also was America destroying innocent lives, all in the name of "convenience."

"My God," I thought to myself, "what have I been supporting? If abortion is truly wrong for me, then I must also logically hold that abortion is wrong in itself." By being pro-choice, I have been supporting a consumer-driven world of choice above all else that has resulted in the deaths of millions of unborn infants, many of whom have died through the use of abortion as a means of birth control.

Now, many years later, the "abortion pill" has recently been approved by the FDA. The consumer-driven cult of convenience has placed death in a bottle. As concerned Christians, whether liberal or conservative on other issues, how are we to respond to this new phase within the abortion issue?

First, given the drift of the American judicial system toward what many are beginning to call "a judicial usurpation" of genuinely democratic process (Richard John Neuhaus and others), it is not clear at this point if Christians should or even can attempt to repeal abortion laws through democratic means. Given twenty-eight years of increasingly entrenched debate following Roe v. Wade, the hope of addressing the abortion issue in a decisive way through governmental action looks dim indeed.

Second, because so many abortions are performed as a means of birth control, churches should do everything in their power to offer not only viable, but more attractive options than abortion to women who are considering it. For a fast-food society nurtured on convenience above all else, such works of mercy are sorely needed. As Mother Teresa once offered, "I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted." Any genuinely Christian church should be willing to do the same.

Finally, because many faithful Americans, like myself, have often inadvertently supported what Pope John Paul II calls the "Culture of Death" of abortion and capital punishment, more education is needed concerning these issues. Understanding abortion as being linked to and symptomatic of our nation’s rapacious, consumeristic, economic practices is one good place to start. Through such proactive education, even cradle liberals, like myself for years, can have their minds changed.

?Rev. Robert Joseph King (4548 Hickory Road, Apt. 3C/Mishawaka, IN 46545/(219)-272-9403/ is an elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church and a Ph.D. student in Moral Theology at the University of Notre Dame.♥


"I am a real person, just as a small piece of bread is real bread."

On the clear, cold morning of January 22, 2001—the twenty-eighth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision—United Methodists from across the United States gathered for the annual Lifewatch Service of Worship. The service took place in Simpson Memorial Chapel, which is located in The United Methodist Building, which is across the street from the United States Supreme Court, which is on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Participating in this annual service, one is reminded that Christians are most certainly a people of two kingdoms. After all, from inside the chapel, one can glance out a chapel window and see the Supreme Court building across Maryland Avenue.

As usual, the service was thoughtfully ordered and enthusiastically led by The Reverend Paul R. Crikelair, the pastor of Goodwill United Methodist Church of Elverson, PA, and a long-time, faithful leader of the Lifewatch ministry. The preacher of the service was The Reverend Harold D. Lewis, Sr., who is the pastor of Lincoln Park United Methodist Church of Washington, DC. (Both Rev. Crikelair and Rev. Lewis are married to Janets, and both couples are now expecting their seventh children. Talk about coincidence...and providence!) By preaching this sermon, Rev. Lewis displayed considerable courage. After all, he is a pro-life pastor in The United Methodist Church, which officially remains a pro-choice denomination. Furthermore, he is an African-American pastor; so his sermon was in strong tension with the pro-choice position of most of the current national leadership of the African-American community in the United States. Rev. Lewis’ powerful sermon, entitled "I’m a Miracle, Not a Mistake," follows.

"‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.…’"
(Jeremiah 1:5)


"In the movie ‘Look Who’s Talking,’ starring John Travolta, we witness unborn children and infants communicating with each other. According to medical science, this is biologically and scientifically impossible. However, this thought-provoking movie makes one wonder if there is a language, undetectable to human ears, that babies, born and unborn, can speak. The other thought-provoking concern that comes to mind, while watching and witnessing this movie, is the question regarding the compre-hending and computing of information by babies, born and unborn. This movie has the convincing conclusion that babies, born and unborn, are just as human, and are just as much a part of the human experience, as we adults are."

Diary of an Unborn Baby

"Consider this diary of an unborn baby.

October 5:

‘Today my life began. My parents do not know it yet, but I’m here already. And I am a boy. I shall have black hair and brown eyes. Just about everything is settled, even the fact that I shall love sports and fishing.’

October 19:

‘Some say that I am not a real person yet, that only my mother exists. But I am a real person, just as a small piece of bread is real bread and a grain of sand is real sand. My mother is real, and so am I.’

October 23:

‘My mouth is just beginning to open now. Just think, in a year or so I will be laughing and then talking. I know what my first word will be: Mommy.’

October 25:

‘Today, my heart began to beat all by itself. It will beat gently for the rest of my life without ever stopping to rest! And after many years it will retire. It will stop, and I will die.’

November 2:

‘I am growing every day. My arms and legs are beginning to take shape. But I have to wait a long time before my legs will raise me up to my Mother’s arms, before they will allow me throw a baseball or to catch a football or to bait a fishhook or just hold my Daddy’s hand.’

November 12:

‘Tiny fingers are beginning to form on my hands. Funny how small they are! I’ll be able to play the piano someday or strum a guitar with them.’

November 20:

‘It wasn’t until today that the doctor told my Mom that I am living under her heart. Oh how happy she must be! Are you happy to know that, Mom?

November 25:

‘My Momma and Daddy are probably thinking about a name for me. But they don’t even know that I am a boy. I want to be named after my Daddy. He seems like such a wonderful man. I’m still getting bigger.’

December 10:

‘My hair is growing. It’s smooth and black and curly. I wonder what kind of hair my Mom and Dad have.’

December 13:

‘I am just about able to see. It is dark around me. When Momma brings me into the world, I know it will be full of sunshine and beauty. But what I want more than anything is to look into my Momma’s eyes.’

December 24:

‘I wonder if Momma hears the whispering of my heart? Some babies come into the world a little sick. But my heart is strong and healthy. It beats evenly. It sounds like a little drum in here. Momma, you have a healthy little boy.’

December 28:

‘Today my Mother had me killed. She thought I was a mistake. I wish someone had told her I was a miracle.’"

The Atrocious Act of Abortion

"Brothers and sisters, one of the greatest indictments against the human race is the atrocious act of abortion. Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized unrestricted abortion on January 22, 1973, in all fifty states, during the nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, medical, social, or otherwise (based on the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton), there have been more than 38 million abortions in this country. (Alan Guttmacher Institute)

"Consider American war casualties. The following data represent the number of Americans killed in American wars.

  • During the Revolutionary War, 25,324 were killed.
  • During the Civil War, 498,332 were killed.
  • During World War I, 116,708 were killed.
  • During World War II, 407,316 were killed.
  • During the Korean War, 54,246 were killed.
  • During the Vietnam War, 58,655 were killed.
  • During the Gulf War, 293 were killed.
  • During the War on the Unborn, 38,010,378 were killed.

"Now, let us ask ourselves: How many of those aborted babies would have been scientists? How many of those aborted babies would have been doctors? How many of those aborted babies would have been lawyers? How many of those aborted babies would have been teachers? How many of those aborted babies would have been engineers? How man of those aborted babies would have been presidents of colleges, universities, institutions, or the nation?

"Because of these 38 million abortions, there will be some songs never composed. There will be some books never written. There will be some inventions never invented. There will be some miracles never performed. There will be some ideals never born.

Only 2-3% of the 1,000,000 teenagers who will become pregnant this year will offer their children for adoption.

"We know that most people are tired of hearing the jargon from both sides about whether or not abortion should be legal. We want you to take for yourselves this opportunity to review the undisputed facts as concluded by the medical and scientific communities, and then make up your own minds about the issue.

  • *Did you know that every third unborn baby in America now dies from abortion? That’s 1.6 million babies every year. That’s 4,400 each day. That’s one every 20 seconds.

  • *Did you know a woman can legally abort an unborn child at anytime, during her nine-month pregnancy, for any reason? Ninety-eight percent of abortions are done as a means of birth control or to eliminate an unplanned pregnancy. One percent of abortions are performed because of rape or incest. One percent of abortions because of fetal problems. Three percent of abortions because of the mother’s health.

  • *Did you know that the average abortion procedure takes 5-10 minutes? The average wait for adoption takes 2-10 years? Over 8 million couples in this country are ready and waiting to adopt. Only about 50,000 babies are placed by adoption each year. Only 2-3% of the 1,000,000 teenagers who will become pregnant this year will offer their children for adoption, and over 40% will choose abortion. (National Committee for Adoption)

  • *Did you know that over 10 million African-American babies have been aborted since 1973?

  • *Did you know that an estimated $500,000,000 is grossed each year from abortions? (Fortune)

  • *Did you know that aborted fetuses (that is, fetal collagen) can be found in over twelve leading shampoos, five hand creams, and various other beauty products across the United States?

  • *Did you know that forty-seven United States Senators voted to protect dogs from being experimented on with poisonous gas but then voted down an amendment to stop federal funds from being used for abortion? (Chattanooga News-Free Press)"


"When one defines the term abortion, it is usually referred to as the premature expulsion of a human fetus, whether naturally spontaneous, as in a miscarriage, or artificially induced, as in a surgical or chemical abortion."

"There is now a new language being used by secular humanists to distort and confuse the facts in order to hoodwink the American people and persuade us to believe the lies regarding abortion. The new language is called ‘secularistic.’"

"The New Secularistic Language is a play on words. The words ‘unborn child’ are referred to as ‘fetus.’ The word ‘life’ becomes ‘moment of viability.’ The words ‘fornication’ and ‘adultery’ become ‘sexually active.’ ‘Pregnancy’ is referred to as a ‘biological accident.’ ‘Abortion’ is called a ‘medical procedure.’ ‘Abortion on demand’ is simply called ‘pro-choice.’"

"St. Paul wrote to the Colossians: ‘See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.’ (2:8)"

What Does the Bible Say?

"Are there any Biblical texts tailored to teach us what God’s position is on the absurd and asinine act of abortion?

"Exodus 20:13: ‘You shall not kill.’

"Proverbs 6:16-17: ‘There are six things which the Lord hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood...’ (And there is no blood as innocent as the blood of unborn babies!)

"Isaiah 59:7: ‘Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood...’

"Psalm 106:37-38: ‘They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.’

"Jeremiah 32:35: ‘They built the high places of Ba’al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’

"Leviticus 20:1-2: ‘The Lord said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, Any man of the people of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones." Molech was a pagan god that child sacrifices were made to, as a part of their religion. God made it clear that this practice was strictly forbidden and detestable. For our God is a God of life. Our God is a God of love. Our God is a God of help and happiness. Our God is a God of and for children.

"The critical question for today is this, Is modern-day abortion a sacrificial practice to Molech? Psalm 127:3 says that ‘[children] are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.’

"Here is a question. What advice would you give to a pregnant mother who was married to an abusive alcoholic? She has already had three miscarriages. She currently has three other children, and one of them is severely retarded. Does she abort the baby, or does she keep the baby? If you say abort the baby, you just aborted Ludwig van Beethoven.

"When an abortion is performed, which ends a pregnancy by destroying and removing a developing child, we are saying by way of that act: return to sender! Return to sender, as if the baby is an unwanted or misdirected package. Return to sender, as if the baby was ordered from some catalog. Return to sender, as if the baby is a piece of merchandise that can be canceled."

I’m a Miracle and Not a Mistake!

"As we look at the text for our topic today, we discover that the text is tailored to teach us that unborn babies are not only human but also divinely given. Brothers and sisters, we have a revelation for you. Babies do not come from us; they come through us. Babies are not mistakes; they are miracles. According to God, the baby is divinely designed and cosmically created long before she is in the womb. The womb is just the area where God announces His creation.

"Our text, Jeremiah 1:5 says: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you...’ Now this text should teach and tell all of us that every baby is handcrafted by God Himself. Every baby has been consecrated and set aside for a divine purpose in the providential will of God. Every baby is a masterful miracle made in heaven. Every baby has a unique plan on this planet.

"Psalm 139:13-16 describes it this way: ‘For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.’

"The same God whose mind and power fashioned the stars, the same God whose mind and power fashioned the seas, the same God whose mind and power fashioned all the animals, that same God with that same mind and power fashioned, crafted, and created every baby intentionally and individually. No one else will have that baby’s makeup. No one else will have that baby’s eyes. No one else will have that baby’s voice. No one else will have that baby’s fingerprints. Can’t we hear that baby crying out from her mother’s womb?

"I’m a miracle and not a mistake! Out of 500 million sperm, the only one that made it conceived me! It swam upstream against a violent current! I’ve lived underwater for nine, long months! I’m a real person with a real purpose!

"I’m a miracle and not a mistake! If you abort me, my book will never be written! If you abort me, my song will never be sung! If you abort me, my story will never be told! I want to live! I want to help somebody! I’m a miracle and not a mistake!

"Church, that unborn baby is not a matter of choice, it’s a child. That unborn baby is not a mistake, it’s a miracle on a mission for the Master. If Noah would have been aborted, who would have built the ark? If Moses would have been aborted, who would have led Israel out of Egypt? If David would have been aborted, who would have slain Goliath? If Esther would have been aborted, who would have gone to see the king?

"If Jesus would have been aborted, who would have died for my sins? Who would have picked me up and turned me around? Who would have been my doctor in a sick room? Who would have wiped the tears from my crying eyes? Who would have risen from that dusty grave with all power in His hands?

"Was Jesus a mistake or a miracle?"♥


That unborn baby is not a mistake, it’s a miracle on a mission for the Master.

Last September five male students in southeastern North Carolina at Wallace-Rose Hill High School—three of them varsity football players—were involved in an abusive incident that involved a twelve-year-old girl. On October 6th of last year, four of the teenagers pled guilty to the misdemeanor of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. On January 3rd of this year, the fifth teenager pled guilty to the felony of second degree statutory rape. The legal system has assigned the five proximately just punishments for their crimes.

The local newspaper, The Wallace Enterprise, gave this criminal case appropriate attention. Two page-one, above-the-fold stories—in the September 21, 2000, and the January 8, 2001, editions —presented the facts of the case, the trial, and the sentence.

Needless to say, this was an unfortunate and outrageous incident in the Wallace-Rose Hill community. But why was it unfortunate? And why was it outrageous? Perhaps more constructively, what were some of the lessons—the moral lessons—that can be remembered (or perhaps learned for the first time) from this sad incident— Three will be described.

First, the role of men—real men, moral men—in society is to provide for and protect women and children. At their best, men are self-controlled; they manage their God-given strengths, abilities, and resources to care for others. Male teenagers are men in training: they are in the process of learning to direct their energies in constructive, self-giving pursuits.

In this case, the five young men acted like predators, not protectors. They misused their power—and, in addition, three of them misused their status as athletes—to use one weaker than they. Not only did they violate a preteen girl, not only did they violate North Carolina law, but also they violated the very essence of authentic manhood.

Second, women have a special dignity in God’s creation. They have the God-given responsibility to maintain their purity and virtue by saying No to men not their husbands. Engaging in nonmarital affairs, women allow themselves to be degraded, used, and then discarded. Casual affairs, indeed all premarital and extramarital affairs, are a violation of true womanhood and seriously harmful to the women involved.

And third, a community is wise to instruct its young people to live not only legally but also morally. Certainly, all people, including children and youth, live under the rule of law. Under the rule of law, alleged criminals are taken to court, tried, and, if found guilty, justly punished.

But the legal system is not the only instructor in the Wallace-Rose Hill community. There are other moral tutors on the scene—for example, parents, grandparents, school administrators, teachers, coaches, and athletic boosters—who should ask more, much more, of their young charges than the law requires. Again, when crimes are committed, legal and just punishments should follow. But the larger community should consider these legal punishments to be the bare minimum. In various ways and means, the other involved instructors should discipline the criminals as well. That reinforces the moral standards of the community and teaches young people what the community expects of them. By turning all discipline over to the legal system alone, the community sets a low moral bar and a demoralized social tone for its young people. It is the hope of the Church, that the combination of legal punishments and moral disciplines will lead the convicted to see the error of their ways, seek God’s forgiveness, and have their lives turned around and renewed by divine grace.

Why, you might ask, should the Church be interested in these matters and these lessons? Because the Church is responsible for addressing the moral realities of this world. Because of Jesus Christ, the Church knows what it means to be human, what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, and what it means to instruct young people in the way they should live. Furthermore, the Church has the responsibility to speak the truth in love about the idols of society—such as the will to power among men, the will to please among women, and the will to win at all costs (e.g., by playing high school athletes who admit to committing crimes). If these idols are not named and addressed, they can rule and ruin a community. For such idols, when they are worshipped, harm people. And about the harming of God’s people, especially the little and the least, the Church is always concerned. (PTS; a version of this article first appeared in the 2/01 Newsletter of the Rose Hill United Methodist Church.)♥


Is it not odd just to say sexuality is a gift? What kind of gift is this?

In the December 2000 issue of Lifewatch, Bishop Matthews observes how often we hear that "sexuality" is "God’s good gift." He is right. We often hear this refrain. It sets one to thinking.

Sure, one cannot argue against this oft-said claim because God has indeed created us the way we biologically are. Who is going to say that sexuality is not from God? But the statement has become a mantra. That is always dangerous, because it suggests we are not thinking. So, here is an attempt to do some thinking about sex.

First, I do not recall reading in the Bible or in the Church Fathers or in medieval theologians or in the Reformers or in the old catechisms that sexuality is a "gift" from God. Maybe "gift" is a word used of sexuality only in the 20th century. But why?

Second, the churches have nothing to say if they just reiterate the culture. Right now the culture says that sex is good, great, fantastic, etc. The culture’s constant message is "Do it." Cautions about sexuality are few and far between in public life. So, what are the churches doing when they say that sexuality is God’s gift? I suppose they are attacking their own past, perceived prudishness; but their sexual hang-ups are long since dead. So what is the point of countering a position no longer taken seriously, especially when its opposite is thriving everywhere? Do not the churches have something they can add to what we learn from the general culture? In fact, if the culture loves something, is that not a reason for the churches to think twice before joining in? Are not the churches supposed to be a bit counter-cultural on some things?

Third, is "God’s good gift" really a helpful or accurate expression? Sexuality is often a source of guilt, confusion, and jealousy. It often makes us perceive others as objects for our own use. It is the impulse behind the pornography industry, with all its assorted evils. It is implicated in adultery and all its ugliness. It is implicated in STDs and their heartaches. It is implicated in pregnancies outside marriage and their often tragic outcomes. It often holds people in its grasp so that they claim to do things they do not really want to do; so we now have talk of sexual addiction and porn addiction.

Furthermore, sexuality is often a source of pain for young or unmarried or divorced Christians who find their sex drive nothing but a torment because it has no legitimate outlet. Just look at all the heartbreak, misery, and broken expectations this thing has wrought. Is it not odd just to say sexuality is a gift? What kind of gift is this? Maybe the churches need to say that, while sexuality is not evil in itself, in a fallen world it is all too often out of control. What the churches and the culture may need is not reiteration that sexuality is a good gift but honest recognition that it is fraught with difficulties.

So, at the end of the day, is not sexuality much more a challenge to responsibility than a gift to be celebrated?

—An Untenured Faculty Member of an American Divinity School♥


bullet Back in December of last year, Duke University adopted a new policy that now permits same-sex union services to be performed at Duke Chapel. We were, to say the least, very disappointed by the adoption of this university policy. For years, we had thought that Duke was truly different. We had thought that, with the support of the distinguished, evangelical-catholic faculty of The Divinity School, Duke Chapel would be able to resist the cultural current of same-sex legitimation. Turns out that we were mistaken, that the evangelical catholicism of The Divinity School was overruled by the procedural liberalism of the university. Hence, the disappointment.

bullet The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is a pro-choice political lobby. Its membership includes a couple of United Methodist general boards—namely, the General Board of Church and Society, and the General Board of Global Ministries/Women’s Division. At the end of last year, RCRC announced that it will sponsor a new program, entitled "Spirituality and Sexuality in the African-American Church," at United Theological Seminary, which is a United Methodist school in Dayton, OH. The Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, who is president and CEO of RCRC, said this program will aim to ready clergy to respond to issues that are having an impact on the African-American community. (UMNS, 12/21/00) Since a disproportionately large share of abortions in America involves African-American babies, one would hope that this program would seek to reduce the numbers of such abortions.

bullet Despite his "safe, legal, and rare" rhetoric, Bill Clinton was the most pro-abortion President in American history. Just for starters, back in 1993, on his first Monday in the White House, Clinton used an executive order to strike down the "Mexico City policy" that President Reagan had instituted to block U.S. funds to groups that provide abortion counseling and abortions overseas. Now the Mexico City policy is back. On January 22, 2001, on his first working day in the White House, President George W. Bush reinstituted the Mexico City policy by executive order. In this highly significant symbolic and substantial policy move, President Bush is signaling a break with the radically pro-abortion Clinton years. In Bush’s words, read to the tens of thousands of participants in the pro-life March on Washington by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ): "We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. We know that this will not come easily or all at once, but the goal leads us onward, to build a culture of life, affirming that every person [at] every stage and season of life, is created equally in God’s image." (NYT, 1/23/01) Amen.

bullet As mentioned above, the Lifewatch Board Meeting took place in The United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill on the afternoon of January 22. Judging from papers left in the conference room, one could reasonably conclude that Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) had met in the same room for its National Board Meeting on January 19-21. Evidently, ADA had engaged in some anti-Bush actions on January 20, Inauguration Day. At least that is what the "Hail to the Thief" posters suggested.♥


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