3/1/99 -- A quarterly news letter for United Methodists


Contents

CATHOLIC BISHOPS CALL ALL TO LIVE THE GOSPEL OF LIFE
THE 1999 LIFEWATCH SERVICE
THE CHURCH'S HISTORIC TEACHING ON ABORTION: A SKETCH
PRO-CHOICE AND PRO-LIFE?
YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
THE LIFEWATCH SERVICE OF WORSHIP
LIFEWATCH'S MODEL RESOLUTION
BOOK ORDER FORM
SEND LIFEWATCH TO A FRIEND!

 

 

CATHOLIC BISHOPS CALL ALL TO LIVE THE GOSPEL OF LIFE

"We are now witnessing the gradual restructuring of American culture according to ideals of utility, productivity, and cost-effectiveness... When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting. We are arguably moving closer to that day... Like the cross of our Lord, faithful dedication to the Gospel of life is a 'sign of contradiction' in our times."

With these powerful, prophetic words, the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops issued a clarion call to all who believe in the dignity and sanctity of human life. Taken from "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics," which was released late in 1998, these words are representative of the insight and vision of this document. Unfortunately, it makes me ashamed, ashamed that our own United Methodist bishops, as well as leaders of so many other Protestant denominations, have failed to speak such words themselves.

The bishops blame the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, (rightly, I think) for creating the cultural environment in which we now tragically find ourselves: "Nations are like ecosystems... Taking a distorted 'right to privacy' to new heights and developing a new moral calculus to justify it, Roe has spread through the American political ecology with toxic results."

As one would expect from the Catholic bishops, however, "Living the Gospel of Life" is not merely about abortion and euthanasia, though it stresses those issues. Rather, we live the Gospel of life, they remind us, "when we live in solidarity with the poor of the world, standing up for their lives and dignity," when we live a "consistent ethic of life" that respects and protects all human life from its inception to its final moment. The bishops target inconsistency in any form, whether on the right or the left. On the one hand: "Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence, and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment." And on the other: "The failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community."

What the bishops are trying to do in this statement is to apply John Paul II's encyclical of five years ago, "The Gospel of Life," to the American situation, especially to lay Catholics who hold political or social responsibility and try to separate their private opposition to, say, abortion from their public views and actions. But that message, they suggest, is for us Protestants, too. In my view, it is a message especially for pastors and lay people who compartmentalize their faith and their views on so-called "matters of private choice." (I think Bonhoeffer called that "cheap grace.") The bishops remind us that private but not public opposition to racism or sexism makes no more or less sense than the same attitude toward the taking of innocent human life.

For those of us who accept the Gospel of life, the document urges us to live it, to "participate in building the culture of life," and it enumerates the virtues we need to do so: courage, honesty, humility, perseverance, prudence, and, of course, faith, hope, and love. The bishops call on women, especially, to promote the Gospel of life with a "new pro-life feminism." It would have been good, and quite courageous, had the bishops specifically called also on Protestants to create a new pro-life Protestantism.

Nothing in this document is radically new or surprising. Critics will charge the bishops (and people who sympathize with their views) with narrow-mindedness, patriarchalism, and/or intolerance of cultural and ethical pluralism. But I think the bishops will, in the end, be proven right, for one must be very hard of heart indeed not to see their fundamental point: "We have been changed by our culture too much, and we have changed it not enough. If we are leaven, we must bring to our culture the whole Gospel, which is a Gospel of life and joy... Those who would claim to promote the cause of life through violence or the threat to violence contradict this Gospel at its core."

A very ecumenical perspective, I submit.

Dr. Michael J. Gorman/Dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology, and Professor of New Testament and Early Church History at St. Mary's Seminary & University/5400 Roland Avenue/Baltimore, MD 21210-1994heart.gif (1031 bytes)


THE 1999 LIFEWATCH SERVICE

The Lifewatch Service of Worship was held on January 22, 1999, at the Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Washington, DC. (The service did not take place, as it usually does, in The United Methodist Building, because it is currently undergoing renovation.) Lifewatch is grateful to the Lincoln Park Church and to her pastor, Rev. Harold Lewis, for their gracious hospitality. The Lincoln Park Church and Rev. Lewis hosted not only the Lifewatch Service of Worship but also Lifewatch's Annual Board Meeting.

In especially fine fashion, Rev. Paul R. Crikelair, pastor of the Goodwill United Methodist Church in Elverson, PA, ordered and led the Lifewatch service. Gloria White, on very short notice, played the piano and played it well. And Dan White (12556 Mary Powell Lane/Herndon, VA 20171/(703)-266-7976), a Mission Society missionary headed for South America, preached the sermon of the morning. Before preaching, White played an educational video on the unborn child's life in the womb. This film is now routinely shown to many medical-school classes. At the conclusion of the video, White preached his sermon, entitled "Being the Good Samaritan to the Mother and the Child."

He noted: "I am afraid that we have been told in the church, and we have been told in society, for far too long, that our neighbor is either the woman or the baby. In the political debate that surrounds this city on the issue of abortion, one or the other can be our neighbor, but both cannot. We are pro-life, which means pro-baby; or we are pro-choice, and they say that's pro-woman. We are pro-death or pro-life; it is one or the other. But you cannot have it both ways, it is suggested. You cannot have two neighbors at the same time, one on either side of you. Only one is our neighbor at a time. Is it not striking that, when the church begins to look at these issues through political eyes, things begin to get redefined in our mind?

"It is possible, I propose to you today, to have two neighbors. We have seen the plight of the neighbor, the plight of the person on the road who has been beaten up, in this video on life in the womb. Imagine a suction tube coming into that beautiful little area where the baby is growing up and death occurring shortly thereafter. If that is not our neighbor, and if we are not supposed to reach out to that neighbor, I do not know who our neighbor is."

Later in his sermon, White declared: "I believe that there are those on the left who go out of their way to the point of being illogical to say that the baby in the womb is not our neighbor. And there are those on the right who go out of their way to say that the mother is not our neighbor. The right also says, 'Let us just pass a few laws.' I'm not against those laws, but that is not the end of it for the church. The question is, 'Who is my neighbor?'

"There is a way to pull these together, to say that the mother is our neighbor and the child is our neighbor. But we, as Christians, must reject political talk and begin speaking in terms of mission. Abortion is a mission opportunity for the church, not an issue for politics.

"For us, the Body of Christ, the question is how much can we support nonjudgmental, nonpushy crisis pregnancy centers. But in a sense the church ought not be supporting crisis pregnancy centers. We should be a crisis pregnancy center, for our own members and then for the community..."heart.gif (1031 bytes)


THE CHURCH'S HISTORIC TEACHING ON ABORTION: A SKETCH

Here we are. Ecclesial sons and daughters of John Wesley. Living at the very end of the Second Millennium and nearing the dawn of the Third. And confronting a culture of death, including the sin of abortion.

We are not the first Christians to confront abortion. Far from it. From the first years of the primitive, apostolic community, the Church has had teaching, solid teaching, substantive teaching, unambiguous teaching, on abortion. In our time, which lacks memory of what happened eighteen days ago let alone what happened eighteen centuries, decades, years, months, or weeks ago, the historic teaching of the Church in any area is all too easily forgotten. Thanks be to God that our forgetfulness does not thereby eliminate the truthful teaching of those who have gone before us.

So, the teaching of the Church on abortion still stands. It remains. And our privilege, our duty, in The United Methodist Church and in the power of the Holy Spirit, is to recover it, relearn it, remember it anew, and abide by it. By doing this, we United Methodists will increase our solidarity with the Church that stretches back to the apostles, that extends forward until the Kingdom comes, and that reaches around the world.

This exercise in remembering is not likely to capture many headlines in the church press next week. But still, it is a crucial, necessary, constructive exercise.

In what follows, we will allow the Tradition of the Church to speak. It is worthwhile to recall that this Tradition is not man-made stuff. Rather, it is what God gave to the Church and to her teachers as they applied Holy Scripture to their times and places. Since all Christians take (or should take) this Tradition seriously, and since United Methodist Christians find Christian truth from Church Tradition, we should give it our undivided attention. This is not easy for us. Most of the time, we would rather speak than listen. But listen we must.

The following sketch of the Church's historic teaching on abortion is organized around the categories and names noted in Lifewatch's Model Resolution on abortion, which was published in full in the last issue of Lifewatch (see the 12/98 issue or our Web site). It is hoped that this sketch will ground the Lifewatch community more firmly in the Gospel of life as we continue to strive to resist the culture of death.

THE EARLIEST WITNESSES

This sketch begins by noting the People of God's basic assumption about life, which is embedded in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. This assumption has been briefly summarized by Ronald B. Bagnall: "In contrast to other nomadic peoples, the Israelites were not allowed to leave behind those who had become a burden or a bother. In contrast to other Mediterranean peoples, Christians also were not allowed to discard or disregard either those whom they begot or those who begot them." (Lutheran Forum [Winter, 1998])

In the primitive churches of the first century, an instructional document on Christian morals and congregational discipline, entitled The Didache, circulated. It had this to say about life and abortion: "There are two ways; the one is that of life and the other is that of death. There is a great difference between the two ways. The Way of Life is this: first, you shall love the God Who made you; second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Everything that you do not wish to be done to you, do not do to another!...

"You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not corrupt children. You shall not practice sexual promiscuity. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not mix poisons, not secure an abortion or kill the unborn child...

"The Way of Death consists of this: murders, adulteries,...

"The Way of Death is the way of those...who kill their children by abortion and destroy God's creatures, who turn their backs on the poor and oppress the afflicted... Save yourselves, children, from all these!" (What the Church Fathers Say About..., Volume 2 [Minneapolis: Light & Life, 1998])

Around 70 A.D., the Epistle of Barnabas was written and read in very early congregations. It included this commandment: "You shall not destroy your conceptions before they are brought forth, nor kill them after they are born." (What the Church Fathers Say About... [Minneapolis: Light & Life, 1996])

In the second or third century, the Epistle to Diognetus claimed that "[Christians] marry like everybody. They beget children, but they do not throw away what is begotten. They set a common table, but not [a common] bed [coitus]. They happen to be in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh..." (What the Church Fathers Say About..., 1996)

Tertullian, an African Church Father, wrote around 223 A.D.: "The life in the womb may not be destroyed." (What the Church Fathers Say About..., 1996)

In the fourth century, St. Basil the Great, one of the Cappadocian Fathers, declared: "The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. The hair-splitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. In this case, it is not only the being about to be born who is victimized, but the woman in her attack upon herself..."

(What the Church Fathers Say About..., 1996)

To be sure, this sketch includes only a few statements from the early Church on life and abortion. There are many others that could be offered. However, these statements point out a moral consensus. Orthodox scholar Alexander Webster has underlined this consensus: "[Abortion] is one of only several moral issues on which not one dissenting opinion has ever been expressed by the Church Fathers." (Paper delivered at the Consultation on the Church and Abortion, Princeton, 1992)

REFORMATION WITNESSES

The early Church's consensus on abortion held throughout the Middle Ages. It also held firm during the Reformation period. For example, Martin Luther asserted: "For those who have no regard for pregnant women and who do not spare the tender fruit are murderers and infanticides." (What Luther Says: An Anthology [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959])

John Calvin followed the tradition on life and abortion that he had received: "If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his most secure place of refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy the unborn in the womb before it has come to light."

(Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950])

As a part of the English Reformation and as the father of Methodism, John Wesley continued the Church's teaching on abortion. Robert B. Mussman has described Wesley's position: "The killing of infants Wesley called 'the basest of murders.' In his powerful indictment of the depravity of the Indians in Georgia, 'except perhaps the Choctaws,' he called them 'murderers of their own children, it being a common thing...for a woman either to procure abortion, or to throw her child into the next river, because she will go with her husband to the war.' He related that a woman deserted by her man often would kill the children she had borne him. Wesley charged those involved in the violent persecution of Methodists in Cork of 'not sparing even those of tender years, no, nor women, though great with child; but, with more than Pagan or Mahometan barbarity, destroying infants that were yet unborn.'

"For [John Wesley] abortion was the murder of unborn children." (The Candle of the Lord: The Ethical Teachings of John Wesley [Salem, OH: Schmul Publishing, 1992])

MODERN WITNESSES

Karl Barth, the great systematic theologian of the twentieth century, carried on the Church's understanding of life and abortion: "The unborn child is from the very first a child. It is still developing and has no independent life. But it is a man and not a thing, not a mere part of the mother's body... He who destroys germinating life kills a man... The fact that a definite No must be the presupposition of further discussion cannot be contested, least of all today." (Church Dogmatics [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961])

Writing in a culture that devalued life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian asserted: "Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind... All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder."

(Ethics [New York: Macmillan, 1955])

Albert C. Outler, the great United Methodist ecumenist and historical theologian who taught for years at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, displayed allegiance to the Great Tradition on life and abortion with this: "The issue comes down to this: whether or not human-personal life is a real continuum and whether or not it is truly sacred. For if it is, then fetal life, infant life, senescent life, even when 'unwanted', deserves humane care and compassion, even when pitted against the personal values of youthful or adult lives. And I believe that our continuing scruples against infanticide and euthanasia are the residues of an older conscience that where human life is at stake, life outweighs utility. Once that conscience goes, the only barriers between us and Auschwitz will be societal moods that, on their record, can give us very little real security." ("The Beginnings of Personhood: Theological Considerations," Perkins Journal [Fall 1973])

United Methodist Paul Ramsey, who taught and wrote Christian ethics at Princeton University, demonstrated his disagreement with abortion on demand, and engaged the ecclesial and secular powers that be, with these words: "...On two Sunday mornings within the past month I have opened my New York Times and found facing me full-page ads placed by something called the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights [now known as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice]. Listed among the sponsors was the United Methodist Church.

"No ifs, ands or buts. It did not say these five bishops by name or for that matter fifty. It did not say such and such conference or Methodist body in N.Y. State. It did not say the Washington Office, or for that matter the whole, Board of Church and Society. I could easily distance from any such group within our church. I could say they didn't speak for me, nor did they claim to do so. The ad said, plain as day, the United Methodist Church! That's the problem.

"For, you see, I don't want to have to take out ads saying that the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights doesn't speak for the Methodist Church, and so not for me, and not, perhaps, for you. Besides, that organization isn't supposed to observe the Discipline. Methodists are, and all our boards and agencies.

"One ad was scandalous in its equation of the freedom of elective abortion (now a holocaust of 1,400,000 a year, afflicting as a main group teens and pre-teens) with First Amendment religious liberty. It was stupidly ill-informed about the variety of bills and amendments now before Congress. There were no nuances for difference of specific opinion as to the least worse solution of this terrible problem..." (11/9/81 Letter from Ramsey to The Circuit Rider, Good News, and the New Jersey Relay)

In Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Ramsey noted elsewhere, "the [U.S. Supreme] Court opened the door to weighing human lives according to comparative worthiness, or something called 'meaningfulness.'

"Ineluctably we pass from abortion to infanticide, whether the justices know it or not. Ineluctably, because many of the reasons alleged to justify permissive abortion have equal force in justifying the killing of neonates in hospital nurseries." (Letter to the New York Times from Ramsey on 1/24/73, two days after Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton)

At a prayer breakfast in Washington, DC, Mother Teresa of Calcutta had this to say about life and abortion: "I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts." ("Whatever You Did unto One of the Least, You Did unto Me" in The Right Choice: Pro-Life Sermons [Nashville: Abingdon, 1997])

CONCLUSION

Of course, the above is only an outline of the Church's historic instruction on abortion. Of course, only a few sources are cited. Of course, the quotations are taken out of context. Of course, there are qualifications that might be added here and there. But one thing is clear: Over the centuries, the Church has had straightforward, consistent teaching on life and abortion.

And it is time that The United Methodist Church receive and teach this part of the Great Tradition of the Church. This is our hope. This is our prayer. This is our witness. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


PRO-CHOICE AND PRO-LIFE?

For better or for worse, United Methodism is always searching for the middle. We are a pragmatic people. We are a compromising people. We, as a church, reflect our nation's democratic ethos, which is always in search of the middle. We are a people of the cultural, ideological, political, and theological middle.

Therefore, it is not surprising to find United Methodists who say they are both pro-choice and pro-life at once. Consciously or not, they are doing the United Methodist thing: they are grasping for the middle. With great sincerity, they claim to be personally pro-life and politically pro-choice, or something like that. Nice try. But no enchilada.

To this attempt at compromise and conciliation, "Living the Gospel of Life" [reviewed above] responds: "This [position] is seriously mistaken on several key counts. First, regarding abortion, the point when human life begins is not a religious belief but a scientific fact, a fact on which there is clear agreement even among leading abortion advocates. Second, the sanctity of human life is not merely Catholic doctrine but part of humanity's global ethical heritage, and our nation's founding principle. Finally, democracy is not served by silence. Most Americans would recognize the contradiction in the statement, 'While I am personally opposed to slavery or racism or sexism, I cannot force my personal views on the rest of society.' Real pluralism depends on people of conviction struggling vigorously to advance their beliefs by every ethical and legal means at their disposal." (24, emphasis in the original)

The bottom line is this. The United Methodist Church, out of faithfulness to God and to the Gospel of life, should take sides regarding abortion, without embarrassment and without hesitation. After all, the Evangelicals, the Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Southern Baptists, and most other Christians have taken sides regarding abortion. And Methodists have, every once in a while, taken sides before, for example, on labor and poverty, on racism and sexism. It is time for United Methodism to forsake the middle and to take the side of life. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT

heart.gif (1031 bytes) The most visible United Methodist in the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, spoke on January 22nd at a National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League luncheon in Washington, DC. While 100,000 pro-life people peacefully marched to demonstrate solidarity with innocent and helpless people, she denounced the "domestic terrorism" against abortion clinics, their doctors, and their workers. Pro-life United Methodists certainly join her in that denunciation. She was specific: "In the last 10 years there have been seven murders, 38 bombings, 146 cases of arson, and 733 cases of vandalism..." (New York Times, 1/23/99) To be sure, that violence against people and property is terrible. However, one might wonder about the approximately 15,000,000 unborn children whose lives were taken by abortion during the same ten years. Or the number of women who have died, due to botched abortions, in the clinics; needless to say, there were more than seven.

Violence against the unborn does not justify violence against abortionists. At the same time, violence against abortionists should not blind us to the violence routinely committed against the unborn and their mothers.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) The Institute for Religious Values held a conference, entitled "Exploring How the Jewish Comunity Can Work to Reduce Abortion," at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law on November 12, 1998. Lifewatch was invited to attend in an observer status. And observe we did. Several brilliant rabbis made presentations during the day; and Ben Stein, the actor and law professor, was the luncheon speaker. Especially interesting was the presentation by Rabbi David Novak, who teaches at the University of Toronto. (By the way, Novak knows more Christian theology than many pastors and priests.) Rabbi Novak claimed that, according to the Jewish tradition, only God is truly autonomous. That is, according to Jewish teaching, it is not truthful for people to understand themselves as "autonomous individuals", making their own decisions, developing their own truths, blazing their own trails, doing their own things; only God is free to do all of that as He sees fit. Novak also mentioned that, due to their experience of the

Holocaust, Jews should be particularly dedicated to including the unborn in the community of care and restricting abortion.

During the last year, some of the Jewish political commentary on the Clinton scandals has been morally insightful and strong. It is obvious that the moral tradition of Judaism has great riches to offer the American public square, and, now, to the pro-life movement.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) "There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of [a] higher order than the right to life...that was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned.

"What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually? It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind. Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth." (Catholic New York, 1/21/99)

This strong statement against abortion was made by The Reverend Jesse Jackson. In 1977. Yes, times have changed. And unfortunately, so has the thinking of this man.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) Jeff and Pam live in North Carolina. Both of them work in a human-services agency. And they are United Methodists. Their pastor, in a letter, notes that they are "good, talented, responsible, Christian people." Currently, this young, married couple is seeking to adopt a child. They are working through The Children's Home Society of North Carolina. For more information, or to give them information about a child they might adopt, please call their social worker, Ms. Nancy Gunn, at (336)-274-1538. Thank you for taking the time to respond to this announcement.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) If you or someone you know is pregnant, down, and out, do not give up hope and give in to abortion. Instead, call one of these numbers and move in the direction of life and love:

  • America's Crisis Pregnancy Helpline: 800-67-BABY-6

  • Bethany Christian Services: 800-238-4269

  • Birthight: 800-550-4900

  • The Nurturing Network: 800-TNN-4MOM

  • Pregnancy Hotline: 800-848-LOVE

  • Several Sources Foundation: 800-NO-ABORT heart.gif (1031 bytes)


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 to interested readers. Editor, Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth: P.O. Box 177, Rose Hill NC 28458 (910)289-2449/Administrator, Mrs. Ruth Brown: 512 Florence Street, Dothan AL 36301 (334)794-8543/E-mail: cindy@lifewatch.org  Web site: http://home.sprynet.com/sprynet/tumaslw

3/1/99 For United Methodists

It is a message for those who compartmentalize their faith and their views on so-called "matters of private choice."

PLEASE JOIN US ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH IN PRAYING AND FASTING FOR LIFEWATCH' S CONTINUING MINISTRY.

 

Plan Now for a Group from Your Church to Affend

THE LIFEWATCH
SERVICE OF WORSHIP

Friday, January 22, 1999
9:30 a.m.

Simpson Memorial Chapel
The United Methodist Building
100 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, DC

Also, please remember you are invited to attend Lifewatch's Reception at 3:00pm and Annual Board Meeting at 4:00 p.m. in The United Methodist Building.

 

LIFEWATCH'S MODEL RESOLUTION

As The United Methodist Church prepares for yet another season of Annual Conference sessions in 1999 and yet another General Conference in 2000, the Lifewatch community can and should be preparing to lead our denomination toward a more faithful witness on life and abortion. With that challenge in mind, we offer the following model resolution.

Lifewatch invites and encourages you to bring this resolution to the floor of your Annual Conference session this coming spring or summer. You might have your local church approve it and submit it to your Annual Conference. Or you might gather a group from your District or your Conference to endorse it and send it in. Or you, as an individual, might offer it to your Annual Conference. Whatever means you employ, please make sure that this resolution is brought to a vote during the 1999 session of your Annual Conference.

To get this model resolution to the floor of your Annual Conference next summer, you will need to submit a copy of the resolution, edited for your home conference, to your conference office before your conference's resolution deadline. Some deadlines, we understand, are as early as mid-January 1999, so it would be good to get cracking on this project immediately, if not sooner.

Your effort, in service of the Gospel of Life, might well assist General Conference 2000 in stepping away from United Methodism's present pro-choice, indeed pro-abortion, position. Your effort, in service of the Gospel of Life, might well help General Conference 2000 to break ranks with the culture of death and join the culture of life.

Our thanks to Ruth Brown, James A. Gibson, Michael J. Gorman, John E. Juergensmeyer, Rob Richey, and Marc Rogers for their wise counsel and helpful assistance in crafting this model resolution.

Also, thank you for your careful attention, your prayerful consideration, and your affirmative response. And may the Lord be with you as you advance this Christian witness for life.

RESOLUTION: AMENDING THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE'S PARAGRAPH ON ABORTION (65J):

WHEREAS, the Church has witnessed and worked, through the ages, to protect "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40), including unborn children and their mothers; that is, from the Didache to the Church Fathers, from Martin Luther and John Calvin and John Wesley to Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Albert Outler and Paul Ramsey to Mother Teresa, the teachers and teachings of the Church have consistently promoted protection of the unborn and their mothers;

WHEREAS, Paragraph 65J of the 1996 Book of Discipline states belief in "the sanctity of unborn human life" and "the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother;"

WHEREAS, Paragraph 65J on abortion, as it now reads, is morally ambiguous; therefore, this paragraph is incapable of rendering moral guidance on abortion that is consistent with historic Christian teaching and with its own affirmations; this is particularly tragic in American society, which has counted over 35 million abortions performed since 1973 and now averages approximately 3,800 abortions performed each day;

WHEREAS, Paragraph 65J's moral ambiguity has allowed The United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, along with the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, to affiliate with and support the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a political lobby that advocates abortion on demand in American society and contradicts Paragraph 65J's own assertion of "the sanctity of unborn human life;"

AND WHEREAS, Paragraph 65J is sufficiently ambiguous to allow United Methodist leaders to support, in a public way, the continued legal status of partial-birth abortion, a procedure which only the most radical advocates of abortion approve;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 1999 session of the _______________ Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church hereby charges its Conference Secretary, using the entire rationale stated above, to petition General Conference 2000, in a timely and appropriate manner, to amend Paragraph 65J of The Book of Discipline to read:

"Paragraph 65(J) Abortion--Human beings are created by God. The beginning of life human lives and the ending of life human lives are the God-given boundaries of earthly, human existence. While Not only have individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, but also, through much of history, they now have had the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will would be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn all human life, including the unborn, as God's gift, as affirmed in Scripture, tradition, and experience, makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But We 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. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic and rare conflicts of, where the life of the unborn child with directly and immediately threatens the physical life of the mother, that may seem to justify abortion, and in such cases encourage clergy and congregations to pray for and support such mothers and their families. support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. We deplore the use of the cruel form of late-term abortion known as 'partial-birth abortion,' in which the infant is killed as she is being born; and we believe it should be illegal, except in cases where the mother's life is threatened. We also deplore the murdering of those who perform, and who assist in the performance of, abortions; such murdering violates basic Christian teaching. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries (including the ministry of forgiveness) to those who terminate a pregnancy for any reason, and hospitality ministries (including the ministry of adoption) to those in the midst of a crisis difficult pregnancy, and to those who give birth. We recognize that governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian teaching conscience, and affirm that such laws and regulations should not permit or advance, among the citizenry, a casual disregard for unborn human life. In a culture which devalues human life, the Church is a community of life, offering the life-giving, life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.

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."

[In this paragraph, boldface type indicates insertion, and strikeout note deletion.]

Submitted by _______________________

[The text of this model resolution can be copied from the Lifewatch Website: http://home.sprynet.com/sprynet/tumaslw/ ]heart.gif (1031 bytes)


PLEASE JOIN US ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH IN PRAYING AND FASTING FOR LIFEWATCH'S CONTINUING MINISTRY.

 

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/e, 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."

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