06/1/98 -- SPECIAL EDITION: Annual Conference petitions and prophetic opportunities


Contents

Here are ideas to help you be a faithful witness for the gospel of life in your annual conference.



Guest Column:

OUR CONFERENCES: GETTIN' READY

The Lifewatch community believes The United Methodist Church has the potential to be a bold witness to the world, a loving and hopeful Christian body that protects and nourishes every human life at every stage of life. Unfortunately, we believe that United Methodism's current position on life and abortion-as stated in The Book of Discipline (1996) and in The Book of Resolutions (1996)-is ambiguous at best and, at worst, is advancing the culture of death against unborn children and their mothers.

Therefore, in this special-edition issue of Lifewatch, we will set before you three basic plans, which contain many ideas, through which you might offer faithful witness for the gospel of life in your annual conference. We hope and pray that these plans will be helpful to you and to your annual conference.


PLAN #1: Set up a Lifewatch table at your annual conference.

United Methodists who are dedicated to protecting unborn children and their mothers are everywhere. They are looking for a place to join others in common cause and to find outstanding resources for teaching and preaching. A Lifewatch table at your annual conference would attract such pro-life United Methodists to pray, and to discuss conference legislation and many other related matters.

Lifewatch is currently looking for people who will witness for life at their annual conferences by staffing resource tables to distribute educational materials that advance the gospel of life and love. How about you doing this at your annual conference?

Lifewatch stands ready to provide you with newsletters, brochures, and theological documents that will help your Lifewatch table to have a very positive impact on your conference. Lifewatch can also help you with the logistics of pulling together an effective exhibit.

As soon as possible, you should receive clearance from your annual conference to set up such a display. After all, your conference might have strict policies regarding the distribution of materials and displays from "unofficial" United Methodist groups. If you are interested in setting up a table at your annual conference, please call Lifewatch's Outreach Coordinator, Mrs. Kim Turkington, at (606)-271-1735.


PLAN #2: Write, submit, and present an annual-conference petition.

Lifewatch encourages you to check with your pastor or district superintendent about how to write a petition (or resolution) for your annual conference. Many annual conferences set a deadline-usually one month prior to the conference-for submitting petitions. Therefore, you must act quickly.

Through experience at many annual conferences, Lifewatch has learned that short, to-the-point petitions have a much greater chance of passing annual-conference votes than do long, deeply theological petitions. Here are a few samples that you might consider for use in your conference.

 

Petition A: from the 1997 Kentucky Annual Conference

WHEREAS, the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church has adopted Children and Poverty: An Episcopal Initiative; and

WHEREAS, the Bible and Christian Tradition teach that all children, including unborn children (e.g., Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus), are a part of the human community; and

WHEREAS, the Council of Bishops states that "child sacrifice has been taboo among the world's great religions for at least three thousand years" and that children "are the most vulnerable citizens;"

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the __________ Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, when studying, discussing, and implementing Children and Poverty: An Episcopal Initiative, will understand children to include unborn children.

[Because of the good work of Linda Collins and others, the Kentucky Annual Conference adopted a version of this petition on June 5, 1997.]

 

Petition B: from the 1997 North Carolina Annual Conference

WHEREAS, the baptismal vows of The United Methodist Church include: renunciation of "the spiritual forces of wickedness," rejection of "the evil powers of this world," and acceptance of "the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves" (The Baptismal Covenants I, II, and IV from The United Methodist Hymnal); and

WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church's resistance to evil, injustice, and oppression, in the power of the Holy Spirit, begins in the Church's life; and

WHEREAS, partial-birth abortion (or intact-dilation-and-extraction abortion) is an evil, unjust, and oppressive act;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the __________ Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, out of faithfulness to the Church's baptismal vows, hereby declares that, beginning __________, the Insurance Committee continue not to recommend an insurance plan that will cover the performance of partial-birth abortion except when only this abortion procedure will save the life of a mother.

[This petition was adopted by the North Carolina Annual Conference during its 1997 session.]

 

Petition C: Petition B redirected to American society

WHEREAS, the baptismal vows of The United Methodist Church include: renunciation of "the spiritual forces of wickedness," rejection of "the evil powers of this world," and acceptance of "the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves" (The Baptismal Covenants I, II, and IV from The United Methodist Hymnal); and

WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church's resistance to evil, injustice, and oppression, in the power of the Holy Spirit, extends beyond the Church to the greater society; and

WHEREAS, partial-birth abortion (or intact-dilation-and-extraction abortion) is an evil, unjust, and oppressive act;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the __________ Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church directs its bishop to write to our U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators to express the Annual Conference's desire that they vote to override President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

 

Petition D: to be forwarded to General Conference 2000

The __________ Annual Conference hereby petitions the 2000 General Conference of The United Methodist Church to amend Paragraph 65J of The Book of Discipline to read: "...We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion and to seek alternatives available to mothers in crisis pregnancy situations. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries..."

 

Petition E: to be forwarded to General Conference 2000

The __________ Annual Conference hereby petitions the 2000 General Conference of The United Methodist Church to amend Paragraph 65J of The Book of Discipline to read: A...Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion causes us to reject abortion on demand. But we are equally bound..."

 

Petition F: to be forwarded to General Conference 2000

The __________ Annual Conference hereby petitions the 2000 General Conference of The United Methodist Church to insert the following sub-paragraph after Paragraph 66C ("Rights of Children") in The Book of Discipline:

D) Rights of Unborn-Unborn children are now acknowledged to be human beings in their own right deserving special obligatory treatment from adults and society in general. Thus, we support the development of adoption agencies, counseling services for expectant mothers, and church centers for ministry to and with unwed mothers, all of which are designed to guarantee that every child has a right to life and to development as a part of a loving family and faith community. These rights we affirm as theirs, regardless of the actions or inactions of their parents.

[A version of this petition was submitted by Rev. Riley Case of the Northern Indiana Annual Conference to the 1996 General Conference.]

Remember that these petitions should serve only as models for you to consider. In your hands, these models should be molded to fit the context and constraints of your annual conference.


PLAN #3: You can become a General Conference delegate.

Anyone can become a General Conference delegate. The United Methodist Church's next General Conference, in the year 2000, will take place in Cleveland, OH. Believe it or not, it is not too early to start campaigning to be elected a delegate to General Conference 2000.

If you are interested in becoming a General Conference delegate, start at this year's annual conference to move in that direction. Your action principles should be three: pray, learn the process of your annual conference, and be an aggressive Christian

First: Pray. Begin or continue to pray for reform and renewal of The United Methodist Church. As you pray, witness, and work for reform and renewal, you are fighting a spiritual battle. But first of all, it is our Lord's battle, and He uses us as instruments of change for His truth. When defending God's truth about life and His created order, you will face many disappointments, feelings of insufficiency, and frustrations which come from dealing with people who disagree with us. Through these painful moments, the power of God will keep you steadfast and stable through your participation in seasons of prayer. Lift up the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, through all that you do when facing these difficult times. Pray, pray, and pray!

Second: Learn the process.

  1. Face the fact that, whether you like it or not, our churches and conferences are governed by political processes. Most conferences operate under Robert's Rules of Order. Even though these rules can be intimidating at first, they are quite easy to learn and practice. Find out how your conference operates and conducts its business.

  2. Find like-minded friends who, you believe, are well informed and equipped to speak persuasively about the gospel of life. Find brothers and sisters who will support your efforts.

  3. Find allies in your conference who have previously been elected to Jurisdictional Conference or General Conference. Ask them for campaign ideas. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many people really want to help you. By getting to know clergy and laity who are pro-life, you will form enduring friendships and will be able to strategize more effectively. Through collective counsel, you will be able to get good advice, enlarge your circle of influence, and gain a working knowledge of the rhythm of your conference (e.g., the timing of ballots, voting patterns, the easiest time to win a majority, and so on).

Third: Be an aggressive Christian.

  1. You may wish to write campaign letters to each annual-conference lay delegate. Have your pastor and the chair of your congregation's Administrative Board/Administrative Council/Council on Ministries sign your letter. Your Conference Council on Ministries will supply you with a mailing list of clergy and/or lay delegates to your annual conference. And remember that campaign letters are appropriate for church-related campaigning, for they can be informative as well as persuasive. (You should know that most candidates for bishop print expensive brochures and do extensive mailings.)

  2. Work with allies. Encourage your friends to vote with a solid plan of mutual support.

It is our prayer that greater numbers of pro-life United Methodists will be involved in the election process to serve as faithful witnesses for life, regardless of the political outcome. We are, to be sure, a minority on all of our denomination's general boards and agencies. More allies are needed.

Will you help us? God will help us and bless us, as we set our hearts, minds, and hands in directions faithful to His Word and will. [Some of the above section is taken from the very helpful article, "How I Became a General Conference Delegate and How You Can Too," by Joe Kilpatrick (Good News, March/April 1995).]

One concluding word to you. Godspeed.

- Rev. Bill Hughes/Christ United Methodist Church/3801 Harrodsburg Road/ Lexington, KY 48513/(606)-223-1303


WELCOME, MRS. KIM TURKINGTON

Identifying some rather pressing ministerial and organizational needs, the Lifewatch Advisory Board took action at its January 22, 1998, meeting to establish the position of Outreach Coordinator. Our Outreach Coordinator will: (1) represent Lifewatch at various events, (2) develop promotional materials, and (3) help plan our strategy for General Conference 2000. Also, let it be known, the Advisory Board chose Mrs. Kim Turkington of Lexington, KY, to fill this position.

Mrs. Turkington has already proven her outstanding abilities by voluntarily representing Lifewatch with an exhibit at the 1997 session of the Kentucky Annual Conference, at the Ecumenical Coalition of Women and Society Summit, and at the RENEW Conference, the latter two of which were held in Washington, DC. An MBA, Mrs. Turkington has extensive business experience. But more importantly, she is deeply devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ and to ministry that protects His precious gift of human life. The small stipend she will receive-$100 per month plus expenses-cannot begin to approach the value her gifts and dedication will bring to the ministry of Lifewatch in The United Methodist Church.

Help us welcome Kim to Lifewatch. You will find more information, including her addresses (e-mail and the other kind), on the Lifewatch homepage. (RB)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


EXTIRPATION-
PAST AND FUTURE

An American history buff in the Rose Hill United Methodist Church recently gave our UMYF a tour of his Civil War artifacts. At one point of his presentation, the guide pulled out and displayed two small books. He called them "Testaments." While the pocket-sized books were being passed around for closer examination, we discovered that one of them was actually an 1860 edition of The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York, Carlton & Porter). That is, this small book-which is approximately 5" X 3" X 1/2" (compared to today's Discipline, which measures roughly 9" X 6" X 1")-was The Book of Discipline, so to speak, of the northern branch of American Methodism.

Having divided in 1844 over the issue of slavery in church and society and awaiting the beginning of the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church (that is, the northern Methodist Church) of 1860 was dedicated to stating its communal position on this conflicted matter with clarity. And that it did, on page 266 of its Doctrines and Disciplines:

"Question: What shall be done for the extirpation [i.e., eradication, pulling out by the roots, or total destruction] of the evil of slavery?

"Answer: We declare that we are as much as ever convinced of the great evil of Slavery (sic). We believe that the buying, selling, or holding of human beings, to be used as chattels, is contrary to the laws of God and nature, and inconsistent with the Golden Rule and with that Rule in our Discipline which requires all who desire to continue among us to 'do no harm,' and to 'avoid evil of every kind.' We therefore affectionately admonish all our Preachers and People to keep themselves pure from this great evil, and to seek its extirpation by all lawful and Christian means."

It will be a great day when, likewise, the evil of abortion is "extirpated" from the church and society, from the United Methodism and United States, of our day. That will happen, of course, in God's providence and by God's grace. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


PLEASE JOIN US,

ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH,

IN PRAYING AND FASTING

FOR LIFEWATCH'S CONTINUING MINISTRY.


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
P.O. Box 177
Rose Hill NC 28458
(910)289-2449

Administrator, Mrs. Ruth Brown
512 Florence Street
Dothan AL 36301
(334) 794-8543
cindy@lifewatch.org

TASKFORCE OF UNITED METHODISTS ON ABORTION AND SEXUALITY
1322 Marie Avenue
Ephrata PA 17522

ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED


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