March 2003—A quarterly news letter for United Methodists


Contents

bullet GUEST COLUMN: FIGHTING LIKE CHRISTIANS
bullet MODEL RESOLUTIONS FOR THE 2003 ANNUAL CONFERENCES
bullet YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
bullet BOOK ORDER FORM
bullet SEND LIFEWATCH TO A FRIEND!
bullet Our Mission

GUEST COLUMN: "FIGHTING LIKE CHRISTIANS"

On January 22, 2003, a version of the text below was preached by Dr. Sondra Wheeler—who is the Martha Asheby Carr Professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC—during the Annual Lifewatch Service of Worship at Simpson Memorial Chapel in The United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. Lifewatch is grateful to Dr. Wheeler for this excellent sermon. The Lifewatch community—in fact, The United Methodist Church—will certainly be strengthened, in Christ, because of it.

Scripture Readings: Luke 18:10-14; Romans 12:1-5, 9-18, and 21

"[T]hose of us who see ourselves as fighting for the truth of the gospel…may come [to Romans] to find out how to fight like Christians."

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is universally acknowledged to be his theological masterpiece. It is the place in which the central lines of his thought are developed in most detail, and where they reach their most eloquent and influential expression. It is no accident that momentous shifts in the history of Christian thought have traced to the reading of this classic text of the faith. Here Augustine found the core of his newborn Catholic theology; here Luther found again the living heart of the gospel, when it had been obscured by centuries of complication and corruption; here a thousand thousand modern searchers have found both conviction and faith, moved by Paul’s proclamation of universal indictment and universal pardon.

Having said all that, it is not exactly an easy read. The structure of the letter is complex, and the twists and turns of Paul’s argument surprise the reader again and again. Part of the reason for the challenges of Romans is that Paul has not been to Rome, and he writes here to a community of strangers to explain and defend his preaching of the gospel. But the larger and deeper root of the difficulty arises because this is a document flung like a bridge across two chasms, two deep and painful divides that cleave the people of God and challenge the very intelligibility of God’s self-revelation to humankind. The first chasm is between those who accept the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and those who reject it. This is found by Paul in its most painful form in the failure of so many Jews to believe in the Messiah who had come to them, a grief and a mystery with which this letter wrestles throughout. And the second chasm, while not so wide is every bit as perilous, for this is the fracture within the community of those who do believe. It is the divide within the church between those who understand Christian faithfulness to be ordered by the fulfillment of Torah, and those who see their faith as the freedom to do away with all that, to set the law aside as finally beneath them.

In regard to the church, Paul has before him a double task: (1) to forge a connection across the divide; and (2) to tell both sides that they are wrong, wrong frequently in what they think, but wrong especially in how they understand the importance of what they think, and wrong, most of all, in how they treat those with whom they disagree. And it is to Romans, therefore, that those of us who see ourselves as fighting for the truth of the gospel and the shape of Christian faithfulness may come to find out how to fight like Christians.

How Paul Fought

The immediate questions at issue in the Roman church concern diet and the observance of special days. We, at our distance of two millennia, are tempted to conclude that this is a squabble about trivialities, nothing like our own deeply serious struggles over matters of life and death. But if we think so, we are wrong. The dietary dispute is about the acceptability of meat which has been offered in sacrifice to other gods. It is about the possibility that partaking of such food will involve these new believers in nothing short of idolatry, the violation of the first and greatest commandment. And what Paul calls "the honoring of days" has to do with the keeping of the Jewish calendar of observances—including probably the Sabbath, also the subject of command and part of what marks Israel as the bearer of God’s gifts and promises to His people. The issue in the church at Rome is about the God to whom we belong, and how we bear faithful witness to that, about the inheritance we carry and how that memory is cherished and passed on. It is as near to the bone as any church fight in history.

Thus it is particularly surprising that Paul has so little to say about his actual position on the matters in contention. The question of the observance of days elicits no judgment from him at all, and the matter of diet gets one, summary sentence near the end of the discussion (14:14). Instead, he focuses his attention on what is required of each side toward the other. "Those who eat [whatever meat is offered] must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before their own Lord that they stand or fall." (14:3-4a, NRSV)

Instead of taking a stand and using his authority as an apostle to pronounce judgment, Paul condemns the heedless self-righteousness on both sides, each willing to cleave the body of Christ in the certainty of being in the right. He recalls both sides to the undisputed center of Christian existence, the spiritual worship of God in which the believer is unreservedly placed at God’s disposal (12:1). Then he tells them, you may prove what is the will of God, good and acceptable and perfect." (12:2) And immediately Paul tackles the pride which has infiltrated the divided community, begging all parties "not to think of themselves more highly than they ought but with sober judgment" (12:3), bearing in mind that they are one body, and so members of one another (12:5).

Paul’s concern is first and foremost to reset the bitter disagreement within the church in its proper place: it is a fight about how to honor God, not about whether to do so. It is a fight about the shape of Christian faithfulness and how we know it, not an argument between those who revere Christ and those who do not. And so it must be conducted as a dispute between siblings, not as a holy war to be undertaken with any weapons we can lay hands on. It must be conducted in a fashion suitable to those who remember the grace in which they stand, who know that the gulf that divides them from the holiness of God utterly dwarfs any moral difference between them and those who are their opponents on this issue. It must, in short, be conducted in humility and charity: without arrogance, without presumption, without even the cast-iron certainty that makes us sure that we have nothing to learn form the other side and nothing to correct on our own. So he advises: "Let love be genuine...outdo one another in showing honor...never be conceited... Repay no one evil for evil...If possible, insofar as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all." (12:9-18) And over all stands the exhortation, "Do not be conformed to this world." (12:2)

Our Fight Today

"And so [this fight] must be conducted as a dispute between siblings, not as a holy war to be undertaken with any weapons we can lay hands on."

Standing here, I know how hard this is to apply to our own situation and our own most painful debate, how difficult even to listen to the suggestion. But the fact remains that there are those who support our national policy of essentially unlimited resort to abortion, and believe that they must do so out of Christian conviction. However deeply convinced we may be that they are wrong, however tragic and disastrous we may find that conclusion to be, we go wrong more fatally still if we neglect the truth that we have brothers and sisters who are our opponents on this issue—and remain our brothers and sisters still.

It is no easier for us to learn from Paul’s admonitions now than it was for the Roman church 2,000 years ago. In fact, it may be more difficult yet, for we have other models for how to fight much nearer to hand than the one Romans offers. The world is only too happy to teach us its ways of fighting: how to use sound bites and partial truths to capture public sympathy, how to score points on television or in the legislature, how to demean or demonize our opponents, how to cloak ourselves in a righteousness that Paul has already told us none of us possesses. But if we in the church resort to such means, we may destroy the body in the name of excising the cancer that threatens it. That will be true even if we can be sure that our cause is perfectly just and our motives perfectly pure. And the world that taught us so to fight will watch avidly the spectacle of the church tearing itself limb from limb. But Paul has warned us, "Do not be conformed to this world."

And if we fail to heed him, Paul would not be surprised. For he knew all too well the human tendency to hate and despise those with whom we deeply disagree. He knew our tendency to take our own truth to be self-evident, so that all who will not see it must be either malicious or stupid. He had already experienced the remarkable readiness of passionate advocates of one or another position within the church to make their own issue the dividing line between the real and the fake Christians, and to consign the others to outer darkness. Nor would he be surprised to find in the midst of all this moral passion a readiness to ignore our own complicity and hardheartedness, our share in the evils we deplore.

Faithful Engagements

So what, then? Are we to hold our peace, to say nothing and do nothing when it seems the church we love has gone badly wrong? When it has yielded its testimony about the giftedness of life, forgotten the compassion on the needy and helpless to which God calls it, all to accommodate a world in which care yields to expediency? That is not what Paul says either. Rather, he tells us that we are to hate what is evil while holding fast to what is good, that we are all accountable to God, that all stand alike convicted or excused in the court of their own conscience, and that those are blessed who have no reason to condemn themselves for what they have approved. The alternative to fighting as the world would have us is not indifference or paralysis, nor is it agnosticism about moral questions or falsification of our own convictions. It is honest, prayerful, accountable discernment.

"[W]e must think and speak and act with consistency and charity..."

But fighting as Paul would have us do it does require us first to heal ourselves, first to address our own real readiness to be hospitable to life, especially when it presents itself in people less innocent and appealing than infants. We would have to ask ourselves the difficult questions: whether we are not too busy to care for the children born to others, too concerned about our own financial welfare to support public spending to care for those children after they are born, too preoccupied to provide their half-grown parents the adult support and guidance and discipline they might have needed to avoid unprepared pregnancy altogether. In terms of the public world we share, it means that we must think and speak and act with consistency and charity, expressing our commitment to life not just in our rhetoric but in our actions. And that means putting our time and money where our mouths are, not only in donations to crisis pregnancy shelters but also as we participate in forming social policies about child care and medical insurance, housing and job training, family leave and community care for single and abandoned mothers.

Fighting like Christians means taking seriously all that our opponents on this issue, especially those within the church, have to teach us about the heavy and unequal burdens that women bear, and about the sly duplicity of our judgments about men and women and sex. It means coming to grips with the deadly indifference that allows us to pass each other unseeing on the street, to ignore the rising number of homeless families, to remain ignorant about the realities of mothers struggling to raise children alone. Only as we are willing to hear and grapple with the truths that others tell us can we claim to practice the hospitality toward life to which we call our brothers and sisters, and only then that we can speak our own truths with clarity and credibility in a world grown weary of posturing on all sides. Only thus can we undertake to overcome evil with good.

Finally, to fight like Christians means that we hold on to a difficult, even a scandalous truth, one near to the heart of the gospel: that what unites us to those within the church who oppose us, our common standing as sinners saved by grace, is deeper and more fundamental than all that divides us, even on a matter as grave and important as this. So now, at the end, it is my privilege to invite you to this table, the table that we have not laid, but that has been laid for us. Amid conflict and pain, in the midst of the struggle to see and speak and live according to the truth, it remains the sign of the oneness of all Christians, the testimony to what God in Christ has done for us all. We come, as all Christians come, not "trusting in our own righteousness, but in [God’s] manifold and great mercies" ("Prayer of Humble Access," A Service of Word and Table IV, The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 30), eager, in Paul’s words, "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3)


MODEL RESOLUTIONS FOR THE 2003 ANNUAL CONFERENCES

The 2003 round of Annual Conferences is just around the corner. To help you prepare for your 2003 Annual Conference and for the 2004 General Conference, Lifewatch has prepared two model resolutions, which are below. To advance the Gospel of Life in The United Methodist Church, you might consider submitting one or both of these resolutions at your 2003 Annual Conference.

Remember that these resolutions are model resolutions. That is, the language of these resolutions is not chipped in granite. Rather, Lifewatch encourages you to edit them in ways that you deem best, that you deem most faithful to the Gospel of Life.

If you decide to submit one or both of these resolutions to your Annual Conference, please act as soon as possible. Many Annual Conferences have deadlines for submission of resolutions that are weeks in advance of the dates of their Annual Conference sessions. For logistical details—such as resolution-submission deadlines and methods—check with your conference office.

In the first model resolution below, an underlining indicates a proposed addition to present language in The Book of Discipline, and a strike through indicates a proposed deletion from language in the Discipline.

MODEL RESOLUTION I

RESOLUTION: AMENDING THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE’S PARAGRAPH ON ABORTION (161J)

WHEREAS, the Church through the ages has consistently witnessed and ministered to protect the unborn child and mother from abortion;

WHEREAS, in continuity with past Christian teaching, The United Methodist Church declares belief in "the sanctity of unborn human life" and "the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother" (The Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161J);

WHEREAS, Paragraph 161J, as presently written, has allowed the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries/Women’s Division to promote and support pro-choice law and politics, which clearly contradict the teaching and practice of historic Christianity, as well as "the sanctity of unborn human life" (The Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161J);

WHEREAS, The Book of Discipline’s Paragraph 161J, if amended as below, can clearly lead The United Methodist Church—including bishops, clergy, and laity—to rejoin historic Christianity on life and abortion in aspiring to protect the unborn child and mother;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 2003 session of the Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church hereby charges its Conference Secretary, using the entire rationale stated above, to petition, in a timely and appropriate manner, the 2004 General Conference to amend Paragraph 161 of The Book of Discipline to read:

"J) Abortion—The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But wWe are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy abortion. While acknowledging, iIn continuity with past Christian teaching, that all human life is a gift from God, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may seem to justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures But Wwe cannot affirm abortion, especially as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of whether there are conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel."♥


MODEL RESOLUTION II

RESOLUTION: WITHDRAWING THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH FROM THE RELIGIOUS COALITION FOR REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE

WHEREAS, the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries/Women’s Division are presently members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC);

WHEREAS, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice advances:

(1) an absolute sexual and reproductive freedom (including abortion): "Your sexuality is a blessing, not a curse, and your need to express it is to be honored, not despised... You, and no one else, are ‘called’ to figure out what this unwanted pregnancy is about. And you are to do it without guilt or shame..." (RCRC’s Considering Abortion? Clarifying What You Believe, p. 3)

(2) the idea of the person as a sovereign moral agent isolated from others, from Christian community, and from tradition: "...place both hands over your heart and imagine or remember a time when you were feeling full of love, relaxed, and happy. Notice how your body responds. Where in your body do you experience sensations of warmth, relaxation, softening, and expansiveness? This is where your Truth resides. Listen to this place as you seek to discover what is right for you..." (RCRC’s Abortion: Finding Your Own Truth)

(3) the trivialization of the moral status of unborn human life: "The biblical portrait of person, therefore, is that of a complex, many-sided creature with godlike abilities and the moral responsibility to make choices. The fetus hardly meets those characteristics... The abortion question focuses on the personhood of the women, who in turn considers the potential personhood of the fetus in terms of the multiple dimensions of her own history and future." (Paul Simmons in RCRC’s Prayerfully Pro-Choice: Resources for Worship, p. 117)

(4) the legitimacy of abortion as a means of birth control: "The bottom line is that if someone does not want to have a child they should not be forced into it." (Whoopi Goldberg quoted approvingly in RCRC’s Prayerfully Pro-Choice: Resources for Worship, p. 35)

(5) the holiness of abortion: "...a woman has made a good and holy decision to have an abortion." (Diann L. Neu’s "Affirming a Choice" liturgy in RCRC’s Prayerfully Pro-Choice Resources for Worship, p. 82)

(6) a pro-choice God who blesses all human decisions: "You are to claim your godlike, God-given role in creation by saying yes or no, secure in the knowledge that whatever you decide, after having honestly sought what is right, God will bless." (RCRC’s Considering Abortion? Clarifying What You Believe, p. 7)

(The above agenda points and representative quotations are from Holy Abortion? A Theological Critique of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, by Michael J. Gorman and Ann Loar Brooks, Wipf and Stock, Eugene OR, 2003)

WHEREAS, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s moral and theological agenda contradicts The United Methodist Church’s teaching on sexuality, life, and abortion at each of the aforementioned points:

(1) on an absolute sexual and reproductive freedom: "Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are only clearly affirmed in the marriage bond." (The Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 161G) "We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection." (The Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 161J)

(2) on the idea of the person as a sovereign moral agent in isolation: "...a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel." (The Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 161J)

(3) on the trivialization of the moral status of unborn human life: "Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion." (The Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 161J)

(4) on the legitimacy of abortion as a means of birth control: "We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control..." (The Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 161J)

(5) on the holiness of abortion: "Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion." (emphasis added, The Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 161J)

(6) on a pro-choice God who blesses all decisions: "...no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral." (The Book of Discipline, Article VI of The Articles of Religion, Paragraph 103);

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 2003 session of the Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church hereby charges its Conference Secretary, using the entire rationale stated above, to petition, in a timely and appropriate manner, the 2004 General Conference to withdraw immediately the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries/Women’s Division from the membership of the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Rights, and to prohibit any United Methodist agency, board, commission, or entity from supporting and/or joining the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (or any other organization dedicated to pro-choice education, research, and/or advocacy).♥


YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT

Holy Abortion? A Theological Critique of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is a powerful and scholarly critique of the moral and theological thinking that motivates RCRC’s pro-choice work. Nearly completed, Holy Abortion? will soon be published as a brief book. Our best guess is that the book will be ready for distribution by April 1st. If you are especially eager to receive a copy of this book, please contact Mrs. Ruth Brown at Lifewatch headquarters in Dothan, AL.

♥ The United Methodist Church’s official teaching on abortion is found in The Book of Discipline (2000) in Paragraph 161J. The teaching is ambiguous. And in the end, it is politically pro-choice. Unfortunately, the phrase "prayerfully pro-choice," which has been employed by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and its predecessor organization, is probably an accurate, bottom-line summary of our current denominational teaching. Prayerfully pro-choice. The phrase suggests that people should say their prayers and then make their own choices (even to obtain abortions). But then again, prayer should lead those who pray closer to God’s will—not into a autonomous-assertiveness mode. Prayer should lead those who pray toward respect and protection for God’s gift of children. Prayer should lead those who pray toward ministry to those threatened by abortion. Prayerfully pro-life makes some theological sense. Prayerfully pro-choice does not. (Nor does our Discipline’s Paragraph 161J.)

Mr. Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of our denomination’s General Board of Church and Society [GBCS], recently stated: "We witness to powers and principalities in state capitals, Washington and at the United Nations not because we seek special favor or legislation for The United Methodist Church, or believe that salvation is derived through lobbying, but because our faith in the risen Christ compels us to call institutions to accountability on behalf of the children, the widow, the weak and the impoverished." (Wesleyan Christian Advocate, 11/01/02) Were Mr. Winkler and GBCS to speak to protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion, their witness in behalf "the least of these" (Matthew 25) would become more comprehensive, more consistent, and more compelling.

To which Mr. Winkler and GBCS might well reply: "But our witness, in the political sphere, must be based on what General Conference adopts regarding abortion in United Methodism’s Social Principles."

To which Lifewatch would respond: "If the Social Principles’ paragraph on abortion (161J) does not lead the General Board of Church and Society to witness and work to protect unborn children and their mothers, then the Social Principles’ paragraph is flawed and needs correction. After all, classical Christian teaching has always and everywhere—that is, until the late 20th century in oldline Protestantism in the United States—opposed abortion."

♥ Back in December 2002, it was claimed that the first human clone, named Eve, had been born. This claim evoked strong responses from Dr. Amy Laura Hall and Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, both of whom teach theological ethics at Duke Divinity School.

Said Dr. Hall: "Christians and Jews alike believe that God, in God’s strange wisdom, meant for creatures to be born through the union of two and not the ingenuity of a medical team. Particularly at this time of year [near Christmas], Christians must be reminded that our hope for the future resides not in the birth of a child [from] a laboratory, but the birth of one child [who was placed] in a manger in Bethlehem."

Said Dr. Hauerwas: "The report of a baby girl born through cloning may or may not be true. What is true, however, is that the very attempt to clone a human being is evil. The assumption that we must do what we can do is fueled by the Promethean desire to be our own creators. That the allegedly cloned child is to be called Eve confirms the god-like stature these people so desperately seek.

"This is not just another immoral act, but the ongoing attempt to be more than human. Such attempts to flee our condition as God’s good creatures cannot help but result in profound inhumanity. Even to imagine that we should clone a human being is a sign that, as the novelist Walker Percy put it, we are ‘lost in the cosmos.’" (North Carolina Christian Advocate, 1/14/03)

♥ Believe it or not, Planned Parenthood, a major provider of abortions in the United States, sells holiday cards. Believe it or not, the front of one such card carries the message "Choice on Earth." Believe it or not, Planned Parenthood hawks this card by claiming that it "sends an inclusive seasonal message for people of all faiths." Believe it or not, The Reverend Mark Bigelow of the Congregational Church of Huntington, NY defends this card by arguing it "in no way mocks Christianity. One thing I know from the Bible is that Jesus never said a word against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy...[H]is compassionate stance toward all individuals causes me to believe that he would want us to do what we can to ensure that women have full access to all necessary medical care in order to have happy and healthy families. Jesus was for peace on earth, justice on earth, compassion on earth, mercy on earth, and choice on earth." (National Right to Life News, December 2002)

"Choice on earth"? That phrase says much more about Planned Parenthood’s ideology than about the Incarnation. After all, according to Planned Parenthood, the greatest good on earth is choice—that is, the ability to choose an abortion. And after all, such choice is good for Planned Parenthood’s business.

Different than "choice on earth" is peace on earth. That peace came in the Christ Child born of the Virgin Mary. That peace is personified in Jesus Christ. That peace, through Jesus Christ, is made available to all the world. As the Body of Christ, the Church believes, confesses, lives, and offers that peace on earth. And that peace is made possible through God’s gracious choice.

♥ "I don’t intend to down play the seriousness of the recent and ongoing scandals [in American Catholicism]. A society cannot ‘live with’ the sexual abuse of children and adolescents—a horrifying sin in which children are used by adults as objects of sexual gratification. This abuse, whether accomplished by force or by seduction, will scar the child throughout his or her life. But the outrage stirred up by the media seems hypocritically out of place. The media is itself a major factor in producing a culture that sees human beings, even children, as sex objects. For decades it has exuded the notion that sexual self-control is neither desirable nor perhaps even possible.

"This corrupt notion of the human being as some ‘thing’ to be used, rather than some ‘one’—a person—to be respected, leads to many forms of abuse. It is behind the methodical destruction of the lives of babies by abortion and abortifacients—babies sacrificed for sex! There is no sense of scandal over this. In fact, our society defends the murder of its most helpless and innocent members as a civil right and a social benefit because it is convenient to eliminate them or to use them for experimentation and making ‘products.’

"The awful nature of sex crimes against children should highlight—not obscure—the fact that our sex-soaked, anti-life society has been robbing children of their innocence for decades. Those children who escape death in the womb are introduced into a society that seems bound to destroy their person dignity—body and soul!" (Theo Stearns, T.O.P., Catholics United for Life, September 2002)

♥ Abortion is probably the most contested moral issue in American public life, and it has been for nearly thirty years. Therefore, when abortion is discussed with a racial slant, things can get explosive. But the facts demand the risk.

LifeDate, which is put out by Lutherans for Life, has drawn together some startling information on abortion and the African-American community. For starters, from 1882 to 1968, 3,446 African Americans were lynched; from 1973 to 1998, 12 million African-American babies were aborted. In addition, blacks make up 11% of the U.S. population, yet they account for 33% of American abortions. Furthermore, for every 3 African-American children born, 2 are aborted. No wonder that nearly 80% of abortion clinics are located in or near predominately minority neighborhoods. (Fall 2000)

As The United Methodist Church faithfully witnesses and works against discrimination based on race, we should be alert to the disproportionate destruction of human life that abortion is bringing to the African-American community. Abortion statistics seem to reveal a most vicious form of racism. The Church’s Gospel of Life is the best cure for this continuing but subtle evil.

♥ The United Methodist Church’s Bioethics Taskforce has completed a draft statement entitled "The Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research." You can find the draft statement in Christian Social Action (January/February 2003, pp. 24-26). Last December, Lifewatch sent a letter, which suggests changes in the draft statement, to the Bioethics Taskforce. For your information, the Lifewatch letter is posted at www.lifewatch.org.

Mrs. Elizabeth Schwarzer is a resident journalist—that is, an editorial columnist for The Carteret County News-Times and a talk-show co-host on WTKF-FM in Morehead City, NC—in the neighborhood of your scribe. In the last couple of years, she has been pregnant twice. The first pregnancy ended tragically, the second happily. Though she claims to be politically pro-choice, she writes in this powerfully pro-life way about her experience of pregnancy: "In the course of the past year, I have learned how much they [in a ‘liberal Boston prep school’] didn’t teach me.

"I did not know that at 10 weeks, a fetus has a face and arms and legs. I did not know that the sight of my unborn child on the sonogram screen could compel from me a visceral maternal instinct so powerful it made me dizzy. Until I was told that the baby on the screen was dead, I did not know that I could love a simple fetus and be its mother.

"Just four months later, by that same sonogram screen, I learned that it is possible for a 12-week fetus to squirm exactly the way a laughing baby squirms.

"I was totally unprepared for the fact that at 17 weeks, an unborn baby can demonstrate joy. My baby astonished me by leaping and dancing when I drank lemonade. Until then, I did not know that fluids ingested by the mother go straight to the amniotic sac and that babies drink amniotic fluid. My unborn child loves lemonade, and I love feeling her dance when I drink it.

"I did not know that unborn babies recognize voices. The first time my child leapt at the sound of her daddy’s voice at the end of the day might have been coincidence. But she does it every time. And when he talks to her at night, we watch the little lump of her body swing across my abdomen to be closer to him.

"I did not know that unborn babies feel fear. I learned this in the back of a puddle-jumper flight to Boston when the engines started with a roar and I felt the happy baby within me stiffen. Too late, I realized how frightening and strange the vibrations must be. I could feel my child’s fear in her rigid silence in my womb" (News-Times, 9/4/02).

Mrs. Schwarzer, we thank you for these inspiring, wonderful lines about God’s gift of life.♥

 

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Or print form and mail to: Lifewatch/512 Florence Street/Dothan AL 36301.

Lifewatch is published by the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

 

Our Mission:

Out of obedience to Jesus Christ, the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS) “will work to create in church and society esteem for human life at its most vulnerable, specifically for the unborn child and for the woman who contemplates abortion.” Therefore, TUMAS’s first goal is “to win the hearts and minds of United Methodists, to engage in abortion-prevention through theological, pastoral, and social emphases that support human life.”

 

Lifewatch is published by the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, a network of United Methodist clergy, laity, and churches. It is sent, free of charge, to interested readers. Editor, Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth: 111 Hodges St., Morehead City NC 28557 (252)726-2175.Administrator, Mrs. Ruth Brown: 512 Florence Street, Dothan AL 36301 (334)794-8543/E-mail: cindy@lifewatch.org Web site: www.lifewatch.org

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