6/1/99 -- A quarterly news letter for United Methodists
heart.gif (1031 bytes) It's time to get political


Contents

ADOPTION: DOING THE WORD
LET'S GET POLITICAL
A LETTER, AT LONG LAST
YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
THE LIFEWATCH SERVICE OF WORSHIP
LIFEWATCH'S MODEL RESOLUTION
BOOK ORDER FORM
SEND LIFEWATCH TO A FRIEND!

 

 

Guest Column:

ADOPTION: DOING THE WORD

With around 3,800 unborn children dying each day in abortions, we need to encourage United Methodists to adopt, not abort. To choose life, not death! A version of the following article was written for the United Methodist Adoption Agency to be used as a bulletin insert on Adoption Sunday. However, after reading the article, the agency's board decided not to print it. The reason given was that some United Methodists would object to a couple adopting a child when they already had children.

Twenty years ago, before I knew Christ, I drove my pregnant girlfriend to an abortion clinic. Then and there we ended the life of our child. For years, I ran from this fact. I wanted to hide what I had done. I wanted to forget about it and pretended that it had never happened.

But then I encountered Jesus. My encounter with Jesus happened about seven years ago. I was married then, with twin boys age six.

One day my wife came to me and said, "I want a divorce." This came as a shock to me, but it should not have. I had become obsessed with my work and with trying to make money. I had emotionally abandoned my family, and divorce was the consequence. I think God was sending me a wake-up call; but was I listening?

After months of fighting in court over custody of our twins, I lost. The judge took my children away from me. Now God had my full attention. I was finally broken. God the Father allowed me to feel how had He felt when He allowed His Son to die for me. I got on my knees and asked Jesus to take control of my out-of-control life, and He did. In time, God reconciled my marriage and put my family back together. Praise be to God!

Two years later, abortion came up in my life, once again, as our denomination, The United Methodist Church, struggled with the issue at General Conference. Confronted with abortion again, I was different this time. God had changed my heart and mind. I knew abortion was wrong and that honest "prayerful consideration" of abortion would never lead a person to take the life of an innocent child. When I surrendered my life to Jesus, I had asked Him to forgive me of my sins, and He did. I was forgiven for taking the life of my child. And I was free to talk about what I had done and wanted to talk about what Jesus had done for me.

"[B]e doers of the word, and not hearers only..." (James 1:22, RSV). God wanted me to take action on what He had shown me. My wife, Carla, and I had been remarried for about three years, and God had blessed us with another child. However, we knew that there were children that might be aborted unless someone came forward to adopt. We began by expressing to a crisis pregnancy center that we were willing to adopt any child that needed a home. We surrendered this to God and asked for His will to be done.

Within a few months we were contacted. We never dreamed that God would work that fast. We had no idea how we would take care of two babies born a month apart. But God is sovereign and knows what He is doing. God led us to the United Methodist Adoption Agency and Carla Proctor. Carla reassured us that everything was going to be okay, and it was.

Christopher James Thompson is now five months old. His first name means "Christ bearer." What a blessing he is to us. Every smile brings great joy to our hearts. His birth mother stated that she wanted Christopher to have a father. That is quite a responsibility for me, but God is a God of second chances-for me to be a dad and for Christopher to have a dad. Praise God!

-Don Thompson/belongs to Christ United Methodist Church of Memphis and attends Shiloh United Methodist Church of Somerville/4950 Yum Yum/ Somerville, TN 38068-4526heart.gif (1031 bytes)


LET'S GET POLITICAL

"There is too much politics in The United Methodist Church," many people often lament with a disapproving nod of the head.

That lament deserves two comments. First, politics is a fact of Church life. That is, politics always has been in the Church; politics always is in the Church; and politics always will be in the Church. Until the Kingdom of God comes in glory, that is. (And even then, there will be politics-the perfect politics of the Kingdom and the King.) The dream of having a denomination without politics is a pipedream that comes from overspiritualized wishful thinking. Again, politics is a fact of Church life. Therefore, we need to grow out of our spiritual wishfulness. We need to face up to the reality of Church politics. And we need to respond to the politics of the Church out of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, His Gospel, and His Church.

The lament about too much politics in United Methodism deserves this second response: the issue is not whether there should be politics in the Church; instead, the issue is whether the Church's politics will be good politics or bad politics. Again, the real political issue confronting The United Methodist Church is this: do United Methodists practice good politics or bad politics in our denomination? Bad politics in the Church involves only grabbing and exercising power, as if power is all that counts, as if truth matters not in the least. Bad politics pursues one and only one end: power. Bad politics subordinates everything under the sun to power. On the other hand, good politics in the Church should involve: trusting God's providence (even when God's rule over the Church's life seems to be millions of miles away); knowing the truthfulness of the Tradition of the Church; serving the Church's Tradition in the congregation, the Annual Conference, and the General Conference; playing by the rules of the local church and the conferences; holding party spirit and individual ambition to a minimum; keeping the faithfulness and good of the church as primary goals; and accomplishing all of this with good cheer and with strong confidence in the work and will of God.

So, members of the Lifewatch community, we should get used to playing politics in The United Methodist Church. But in the process, let us make darned sure that we are going to play good politics-not bad politics.

CONGREGATIONAL POLITICS

In your local church, as you doubtless know, politics play a role. So the question becomes: what can you, as a United Methodist who knows that the Christian faith leads the Church to protect the unborn child and mother, do in your congregation? Well, just for starters, consider the following.

  • Take your pastor to lunch-even a hamburger will do. During the luncheon, encourage him/her to preach and teach the Gospel of life. You might even give your pastor a copy of The Church and Abortion or The Right Choice: Pro-Life Sermons (see the order form in this issue) to assist him/her in the preaching and teaching task.

  • Suggest to your Administrative Council, Administrative Board, or Council on Ministries that your congregation declare itself a Sheltering Church-that is, a church that is anxious to provide aid and comfort to a pregnant woman tempted by abortion. Best of all, lead your council or board to assist such a woman in need.

  • Encourage the Finance Committee of your congregation to contribute $100 or $1,000 or $10,000 to a local crisis pregnancy center that supports pregnant women tempted by abortion.

  • Propose to your Administrative Council, Administrative Board, or Council on Ministries the Lifewatch Model Resolution (call or visit the Lifewatch Web sit for a copy) which revises Paragraph 65J in The Book of Discipline. If the resolution passes your council or board, have it submitted to your Annual Conference for consideration.

ANNUAL CONFERENCE POLITICS

Your Annual Conference is another place for political action in The United Methodist Church. Consider attempting one of following actions.

  • Arrange for a personal conversation with your bishop, so that the two of you can thoughtfully discuss United Methodism's presently unfaithful response to the crisis called abortion. (Again, a conversation over lunch might be in order, and maybe a hamburger will do. And the gift of a book might be called for.)

  • Submit Lifewatch's Model Resolution to your Annual Conference. If you plan to do this, act on your good intention immediately. The deadline for the submission of such resolutions to Annual Conference is usually well in advance of the dates of the conference itself. As soon as humanly possible, call your conference office for details on the submission of such resolutions.

  • Vote for General Conference delegates who are pro-life (or who are at least willing to hear and seriously consider historic Christianity's case for protecting the unborn child and mother). Do not be too timid to ask General-Conference-delegate candidates, "What do you think about The United Methodist Church's current position on abortion?" If they are supportive of our denomination's present position, you might offer them a friendly challenge; that is, you might speak to them the truth, in love, about the lovelessness of abortion and about how our denomination (with Paragraph 65J) is presently promoting such lovelessness. If they are dissatisfied with our church's present position, you have discovered persons who might well make good delegates.

HOW TO BECOME A DELEGATE

Have you considered becoming a candidate for General Conference delegate? If so, you might consider these principles.

  • Seek election as a way to serve Christ and His Church, not as just another ego trip. Pray about this challenge. Discern God's leading to run or not to run. Speak honestly with a Christian brother or sister who will help you to discern your motives, and your gifts and graces, for the task of being a delegate.

  • Learn campaign strategies from a brother or sister in your Annual Conference. Ideally, this brother or sister has been elected, at least once, to serve as a General Conference delegate. Take his/her advice on campaign strategies. At a minimum, it is essential that you obtain a letter of recommendation from your pastor (if you are a layperson) or from a widely respected clergyperson in your Annual Conference (if you are a clergyperson), and that you write a resume (which includes your picture and) which clearly states your position on crucial matters facing our denomination (including life and abortion); then send copies of this letter and your resume to all the delegates of your Annual Conference (that is, if you are a layperson, send copies to all lay delegates; and if you are a clergyperson, send copies to all clergy members). In addition, you should have other key leaders in the Annual Conference write letters that support your election to their friends. Forget the smoke-filled-room stuff. Wash your hands of compromise and unrealistic campaign promises. Be open. Tell the truth about where you stand on the Church's teaching on life and abortion. Campaign with humility, with hopefulness, with a sense of humor, and with the firm conviction that the life of The United Methodist Church is in God's hands. Enter the campaign with prayer, and end it with prayer. And offer up to God the final outcome-no matter what it is.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At the end of a day, when we stop, take a step back from The United Methodist Church, and consider our church's position on abortion, it is almost unbelievable that we have to swim against the stream, witness intentionally for the protection of unborn child and mother, and work politically to change our denomination's official, pro-choice policy. Again, this is almost unbelievable. Since abortion has been consistently and continually resisted by historic Christianity through the ages, since the matter of abortion has been settled in the Church for centuries, we should not have to be arguing about this matter in the conferences of our church. But that is the way it is. And therefore, we must be political. Again, some of us may not want to be political, but we must be. Out of faithfulness to Jesus Christ and to His Gospel.

Over the centuries, politics has been understood as the way a community decides how it should best order its life together. In The United Methodist Church, every layperson and every clergyperson has a role to play in this political task.

Unfortunately, in our day in the United States, politics has come to be considered, by some, a dirty word and a less-than-honorable endeavor. And for good reason. Too often, particularly at the national level, politics has been reduced to spin, to manipulation, to power plays, to operating without principle. Therefore, it is important that our politics in The United Methodist Church take a higher road.

Though the Lifewatch community is a tiny, pro-life minority within an officially pro-choice denomination, we have reason to become politically active in a hopeful way. After all, we are on the side of the Gospel of life, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are are on the side of the witness of Scripture. We are on the side of Great Tradition of the Church through the ages. We are on the side of Christian experience and reason. And we are empowered and humbled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, brothers and sisters, enter the fray that is the politics of The United Methodist Church. But keep the faith all the while. Most importantly, strive for holiness along the way. This holiness is not a born of a pietism that yearns to escape the rough and tumble of Church politics. Rather, this holiness is tough enough to endure the many demands and disappointments of political engagement-all in service to Jesus Christ, the Word of life, and to His Church. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


A LETTER, AT LONG LAST

The Rev. Mr. Paul T. Stallsworth
Rose Hill United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 177
Rose Hill, NC 28458

February 9, 1999

Dear Paul:

We do extraordinarily little, if anything, related to The United Methodist Church's position on abortion. The church has spoken and we are under mandate of the General Conference to function within its guidelines.

The RCRC [Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice] organization is probably a coalition in need of reorganization. We do not have a relationship with it except in name only. While I do not agree with your interpretation of its mandate-to assure "abortion on demand"-it has very little relationship to our primary ministries. In fact, if RCRC were supportive of abortion on demand, we would not be a member of the organization, and I would certainly consider its position as being in conflict with that of The United Methodist Church. I think the General Conference spoke to that.

As to "late-term abortions" and the RCRC-organized attempt to deal again with it legislatively, I believe that we have made our statement about the intricate legal implications of these machinations. There is no need to continue to reassert this legal point of view. The Judicial Council in the case of West Virginia actually supported my legal interpretation of this issue, which I have taken great pains to share with those at odds with the position of The United Methodist Church. We have never supported the legal protection of late-term abortions; we have supported the viability of laws that would not place the United Methodist position on abortion outside of the law.

You may be surprised to know that I think the Lifewatch recommendation for amending Paragraph 65J is pretty much on target. I do not agree with certain provisions or observations-such as the purpose of RCRC-and there is other language needing work, but it is about time that we made this policy a United Methodist policy. It always has been, of course, in spite of your group or any others asserting otherwise. It has always been misunderstood and taken out of the context in which it was cast. If a rewrite will clarify our position on the issue and place a burden of responsibility [on] clergy and other ministers of the church, I am for it. [emphasis added] As you probably know, I have been advocating throughout the United States that "Each church adopt one." That is, every church must become a means of caring for women who have a pregnancy that is at risk of being aborted for purposes of birth control or gender selection or any other reason except for the medical indices we generally accept. The problem is that congregations and clergy are not prepared to deal with this phenomenon of care and, possibly, adoption.

Thank you for your letter, Paul. Best wishes as you carry out the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Sincerely,

Dr. Thom White Wolf Fassett
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church
100 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002


This letter contains many, many points of theological and moral confusion. Just for starters, Dr. Fassett says "we [the General Board of Church and Society, or GBCS] are under mandate of the General Conference to function within its guidleines" [first paragraph]. If GBCS can advocate changing The Book of Discipline’s position on homosexual practice, why can it not advocate changing the the Discipline’s position on abortion? For another example Dr. Fassett depicts RCRC as an organization that does not promote abortion on demand [second paragraph]. However, RCRC’s political lobbying efforts are aimed at making abortions more widely and easily available to every pregnant woman at every stage of pregnancy; that seems to us like abortion on demand. For yet another example, Dr. Fassett states that "we [presumably GBCS] have supported the viability of laws that would not place the U.M. position on abortion outside of the law" [third paragraph]. Lifewatch is under the impression that the Church’s calling is to conform her teaching to the love and law of God, and to witness for justice [especially for the least of these] in the political arena; the Church’s calling is not to sit around and worry about whether or not United Methodist positions are outside United States laws.

Just one more comment must be made. In the underlined portion of the letter, Dr. Fassett admits that Paragraph 65J of The Book of Discipline , as it now reads, is in need of revision. Furthermore, Dr. Fassett notes that he is, in the main, in agreement with the revision offered in the Model Resolution by Lifewatch. We are thankful for this word from Dr. Fassett, and we hold him to it in the months and years ahead. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT

heart.gif (1031 bytes) The National Right to Life News is the excellent newspaper of record for the pro-life movement in the United States. And we are pleased that this important periodical is edited, and edited very well, by a United Methodist brother, Mr. Dave Andrusko. If you have not seen it, you should know that the January 22nd commemorative issue of National Right to Life News is a very special issue. Thanks to the able assistance of Ernie Ohlhoff, it contains a noteworthy section on the theme, "We Are the Sheep...Where Are the Shepherds?" This section offers many helpful suggestions on "how to work with your pastor, priest, or rabbi to bring [him/her] actively into the pro-life fold" and much else. For your copy, send $1.00 to Mrs. Ruth Brown/Lifewatch/512 Florence Street/Dothan, AL 36301. You will find this issue both interesting and inspiring.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) The Reverend Benjamin S. Sharpe, Jr. is the pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church (327 Mcfayden Drive/Fayetteville, NC 28314-0937). On Epiphany III, January 24th, Rev. Sharpe concluded his sermon, "The Least of These," with these stirring words: "The Christian family has always cherished the worth and life of those the rest of society would reject.

"We are the people who, when the Romans would throw their unwanted newborns on the garbage heaps outside their cities, would go out by night, bring those children in, and love and raise them.

"We are the people who were always known for the way we honor life. In a second-century, anonymous document called the Letter to Diognetus, we read these words: 'Christians...marry and have children just like every one else; but they do not kill unwanted babies.'

"We are the people who do not kill the unwanted because we know that every life is precious and wanted by God.

"We are the people who know that our bodies do not belong to us. 'Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body." (I Corinthians 6:19-20, RSV)

"Still today, it is God's call to the Church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner. It is when we embrace the single mom who is considering having an abortion to provide her and her children with the necessities of life that we are encountering Jesus. It is when we plead for the life of the unborn saying, 'We'll raise your child and provide him a home and love,' that we are fulfilling the mandate of the Gospel.

"'Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier and a Christian. One cold winter day, as he was entering a city, a beggar stopped him and asked for alms. Martin had no money; but the beggar was blue and shivering with cold, and Martin gave him what he had. He took off his soldier's coat, worn and frayed as it was; he cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar. That night he had a dream. In it he saw the heavenly places and all the angels and Jesus in the midst of them; and Jesus was wearing half of a Roman soldier's cloak. One of the angels said to him, "Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?" And Jesus answered solftly, "My servant Martin gave it to me."'

"As we reach out to women, families, children, and the unborn in crisis, we will experience unutterable joy because we will encounter Jesus Christ face to face. In moments of ministry, we will hear Jesus say, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'" (Matthew 25:40, RSV)

heart.gif (1031 bytes) Speaking of Priests for Life, we should also mention its newest Defending Life Series. The television programs that make up the Defending Life Series are hosted by Father Frank Pavone, include guests, and focus on pro-life concerns. Airing on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), the programs of the series can be seen on Mondays at 4:30 a.m. (ET), on Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. (ET), and on Saturdays at 11:00 p.m. (ET). Yours truly was interviewed by Fr. Pavone concerning the witness of Lifewatch and the ecumenical side of the pro-life witness; that program will be [or was] broadcast during the week after Easter Sunday. Try to catch as many of these these programs as you can. They will inform and edify you. Really.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) As the editor of Lifewatch, I receive some very interesting mail. For example, the following is taken from a letter from Mrs. Mary Hull Naumoff (430 Orr Villa Drive-#1102/Orrville, OH 44667): "I am a retired attorney. We had twelve children. One died at birth. I was already pro-life, but this event gave me great concern for women who have an abortion believing the lie that a fetus is not a child, and who must then face the guilt they feel when they realize what they've done. I had no guilt, for my child died from a deformity which came at the moment of conception-not from an abortion. Yet I was depressed from the loss of my ninth child, until I was strengthened by God.

"Someone once asked me if I weren't contributing to the population explosion. I replied, 'My children will contribute more to the world than [taking] the bread they eat.'

"Today those eleven children have seventeen college degrees. There are three lawyers, two doctors, an occupational therapist, a Christian music teacher, a Christian substitute teacher, a Christian realtor, a Christian trained to be a teacher who has home schooled and been a Bible Study Fellowship leader, and a devoted mother, trained to be a teacher who has home schooled her four sons, each for part of their schooling..."

What a beautiful witness to the Gospel of life!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 congregations.

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 3630/ (334)794-8543/E-mail: cindy@lifewatch.org Web site: http://home.sprynet.com/sprynet/tumaslw

 

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.

 

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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