September 2000 -- A quarterly news
letter for United Methodists
|Guest Column: A TESTIMONY
In 1973 I was a middle-class, single, 23-year-old college student. After a
"one-night stand," I learned that I was pregnant. There was no one to whom I
could turn. Alone, I went to the university medical center and had a D & C abortion.
Afterwards, I walked homeagain, alone.
|"Abortion virtually guarantees the devastating
damage our Social
Principles say we want to avoid."
A year later, despite precautions, I was pregnant again. My boyfriend wanted nothing to
do with the whole situation, so he gave me half the abortion fee. I drove myself to a
clinic an hour away, had the abortion, and drove home alone. That was the end of the
relationship with that man. And that was the end of my problem, I thought.
In 1976 I married and settled in another state. We joined a United Methodist church,
and I became active in its UMW. At a UMW meeting in the early 1980s, during a discussion
of abortion, I admitted, even bragged about, my two abortions. I did not mention any
details, or that my thoughts and feelings about the abortions were eating away at my
Months later, I shared my experiences of abortionand the pain, guilt, and fears
they caused?with a friend. I was convinced that God hated me and would punish me with no
more children. My friend listened and cared. In the midst of many tears, we prayed for
Gods forgiveness. And forgiveness came. I remember that moment as if it happened
From personal experience, I know that abortion virtually guarantees the
"devastating damage" our Social Principles (Par. 65J, 1996 Discipline)
say we want to avoid.
If I were the only woman to experience these consequences of abortion, then my
testimony could be ignored. Unfortunately, there are millions of women, like me, who have
had abortions and who have suffered similar, or worse, consequences. Planned
Parenthoods Alan Guttmacher Institute admits that 90% of the women who have had
abortions would not have done so had they believed they had another option.
All women who face unplanned pregnancies need people who will care about them and their
As followers of Jesus Christ, as The United Methodist Church, we can and we should love
[With a Lifewatch letter, a version of this article was
sent to every 2000 General Conference delegate. By the grace of God, may its truth
continue to have a redeeming impact on The United Methodist Church.]
METHODISM OPPOSES PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION:
GOOD NEWS AND SOBERING NEWS
The 2000 General Conference of The United Methodist Church
votedby an overwhelming majority of 622-275to oppose partial-birth abortion.
Here is the exact wording of the legislative action: "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." In the 2000 edition of The Book of Discipline, United Methodisms
book of church law, this sentence will be added to the present paragraph on abortion
(Paragraph 65J in the 1996 Discipline).
To United Methodists and to others who are dedicated to the Gospel of Life, this is
certainly good news. General Conference 2000s action against partial-birth abortion
marks a milestone in The United Methodist Churchs official position on abortion. At
the same time, our elation should be qualified, for by approving a sentence against
partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist Church has taken just one, short step toward
fully protecting the most helpless and vulnerable among usthe unborn child and
mother. What follows are the reasons for this double response.
REASONS FOR REJOICING
opposing partial-birth abortion, the United Methodist Church joins the ecumenical
community on this issue.
Here are five reasons for rejoicing over the 2000 General Conferences rejection
of partial-birth abortion.
First, by opposing partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist Church breaks ranks
with the pro-choice/pro-abortion political lobby. Before this legislation against
partial-birth abortion was passed by General Conference, The United Methodist Church had
been officially and unquestionably pro-choice on abortion, for decades, and silent on the
partial-birth procedure. The Book of Disciplines pro-choice paragraph and its
silence on partial-birth abortion allowed United Methodist leaders and general-church
boards to support political lobbies which are sustaining the legality of all abortion,
including this particularly repulsive form of late-term abortion. In this way, certain
United Methodist leaders and boards provided religious cover, religious legitimation, to
those who are maintaining the legal status of partial-birth abortion. Therefore, certain
United Methodist leaders and institutions directly collaborated with the Culture of Death.
However, now that the anti-partial-birth-abortion language has been added to the Discipline,
The United Methodist Church is no longer a partial-birth-abortion collaborator. Therefore,
The United Methodist Church officially opposes what, a matter of months ago, she was
supporting?the radical, pro-choice/pro-abortion political lobby.
Second and more specifically, by opposing partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist
Church now lives in tension with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).
RCRC basically advocates, in the political halls of the powers that be, for the legal
availability of abortion on demand. For example, RCRC has worked Capitol Hill to maintain
the legality of partial-birth abortion. Two United Methodist boards?namely, the General
Board of Church and Society and the Womens Division/General Board of Global
Ministries?are affiliated with RCRC. However, since United Methodism now officially
opposes partial-birth abortion, the church as a whole now officially disapproves of some
of RCRCs political work.
Third, by opposing partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist Church joins the
ecumenical community on this issue. The vast majority of Christian communionsthe
Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, the Evangelical Protestant churches, and
some Mainline/Oldline Protestant churches (now including The United Methodist
Church)are staunchly opposed to this form of abortion.
Fourth, by officially opposing partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist Church
encourages her own bishops, district superintendents, and pastors to be more truthful in
addressing Gods gift of human life and the sin of abortion. This General Conference
action gives official, denominational permission to United Methodist leaders to serve more
faithfully the Gospel of Life and to oppose more vigorously the Culture of Death.
Fifth, by opposing partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist Church shows that she
is able to overcome the maneuverings of the small but well-organized
pro-choice/pro-abortion minority within the denomination. By refusing to compromise the
anti-partial-birth language it passed (by adding a health-of-the-mother exception) and by
refusing to refer the sentence to the General Board of Church and Society (where the
sentence most certainly would have been altered beyond recognition or totally eliminated),
General Conference displayed some real determination against the pro-choice/pro-abortion
strategies that have long held sway in United Methodisms General Conferences.
REASONS FOR REALISM
of this sentence does not fundamentally change the hearts and minds of key church leaders,
many of whom remain oblivious to the evil of abortion.
While passage of this sentence is to be admired, there is still much work to be done,
with regard to abortion, in The United Methodist Church.
First, the anti-partial-birth-abortion sentence is added to a basically pro-choice
statement on abortion. This addition leaves in place a presumption for abortion on demand.
It leaves unchanged a theology which elevates the "sovereign self," when
considering the matters of life and abortion, above the sovereign God. It leaves the
pregnant woman to make up her own mind about abortion?as long as she prays and consults
with others during her decision-making, and as long as she does not use the partial-birth
In other words, the legislative action on abortion by the most recent General
Conference is a compromisea decent compromise, a constructive compromise, a helpful
compromise, but still a compromise. The Faith and Order legislative committee considered
all petitions related to abortion. By a margin of two to one, most of Faith and
Orders roughly one hundred delegate members were theologically evangelical and/or
orthodox. In addition, several of the committees members are strong, articulate
voices for the truth of the Gospel within United Methodism. And Faith and Order was
chaired by a pastor who was at least fair, and perhaps sympathetic, to the Gospel of Life.
Even with these seemly pro-life advantages, Faith and Order behaved rather
disappointingly: it bunched together tens of petitions which proposed major, pro-life
rewrites of United Methodisms teaching on abortion and denied the entire bunch the
committees seal of approval (i.e., a vote of concurrence). Then General Conference
went along with Faith and Orders decision to dismiss the petitions that involved
Given Faith and Orders and General Conferences fatigue after legislatively
dealing with the issue of homosexuality, this compromise becomes rather understandable.
However, at the end of the day, while coming out strongly against partial-birth abortion,
General Conference had affirmed a paragraph on abortion that is filled with theological
problems and moral confusions. That is, General Conference, as usual, behaved in an
institutionally conservative way: it did the easy thing (oppose partial-birth abortion)
and avoided the hard thing (revise the paragraph on abortion to reflect classical,
Second, passage of this anti-partial-birth-abortion sentence puts The United Methodist
Church slightly ahead of the American political culture. And that is good. But should not
the Church be more determined in its faithfulness to the God of Life and the Gospel of
Life, and more comprehensive in its opposition to abortion? Stated differently, passage of
this sentence, in theory and hope, offers protection to only a limited number of unborn
children and their mothers. Instead of attempting to protect thousands of children and
mothers, by opposing partial-birth abortion, The United Methodist Church should be joining
other churches in attempting to protect hundreds of thousands, by opposing most or all
Third, adoption of this sentence does not fundamentally change the hearts and minds of
key church leaders, many of whom remain oblivious to the evil of abortion. It is
amazing?yes, amazing?that United Methodisms Council of Bishops, as a council,
continues to remain silent about the abortion crisis in church and society. More
specifically, when the United States Supreme Courts Stenberg v. Carhart
decision voided Nebraskas ban of partial-birth abortion, the Council of Bishops and
individual bishops of the church were given a golden opportunity to speak against this
form of abortion on the basis of the new statement in The Book of Discipline.
Unfortunately, the Council of Bishops and individual bishops, to date, are still silent on
the Nebraska decision and partial-birth abortion.
Again, much more witness within and from The United Methodist Church, on behalf of the
Gospel of Life, is called for. It is most encouraging to note the tens of pro-life
petitions submitted to General Conference 2000. They indicate a tremendous amount of
theological and moral energy among pro-life United Methodists. That energy will need to be
sustained in the years to come.
there is a pressing need for pro-life United Methodists to hold faithfully to the truth,
to persevere in speaking and living the truth, and to be patient in truth all along the
The 2000 General Conference made a decisive announcement to The United Methodist Church
and to the world. This was the announcement: The United Methodist Church is standing with
the unborn child and mother who are threatened by partial-birth abortion. Therefore, the
pro-choice/pro-abortion establishment within The United Methodist Church no longer speaks
for the church. To be sure, the new pro-life voice of the church, willing to oppose only
partial-birth abortion, is a bit timid. But from now on, by the providential grace of God
and through the power of the Holy Spirit, that voice will gain confidence. In time, United
Methodisms voice will speak more comprehensively with clarity, truth, and love about
the gift of life and the evil of abortion.
Therefore, there is a pressing need for pro-life United Methodists to hold faithfully
to the truth, to persevere in speaking and living the truth, and to be patient in truth
all along the way. In the wake of the United States Supreme Courts June decision, Stenberg
v. Carhart, this counsel to faithfulness and truthfulness is especially pressing.
Therefore, "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke,
and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching... As for you, always be steady,
endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy
4:2 and 5, RSV)
Should United Methodists be celebrating, with unrestrained and unqualified joy, the
decision of the 2000 General Conference on abortion? Perhaps, if the celebration lasts for
10 minutes or less. But when the brief celebration ends, let us admit that United
Methodism adopted legislation on partial-birth abortion that should be taken for granted
by any communion that is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Therefore,
in the years to come, but beginning with this year, The United Methodist Church has much
work to do for the Gospel of Life. (PTS)
YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
Dr. Sidney Callahan is a
psychologist and author. To the question, Do you still call yourself a feminist?, she
responded: "Oh, yes, I do. Feminism began with an analysis of the abuse of power and
the impulse to fight inequality. My going on to take a pro-life position was a natural
extension of feminism, just making it deeper." In speeches, Dr. Callahan has been
known to declare: "Women will never climb to equality and social empowerment over
mounds of dead fetuses." Graphic enough. And true enough. (Focus on the Family,
In April, the United States House of Representatives voted, 287-141, to ban partial-birth
abortion. During or soon after the political debate, Representative Henry J. Hyde (R-IL)
declared: "[When our society allows abortion, w]e treat the unborn as a thing, a
desensitized, dehumanized, depersonalized thing to be discarded with the other junk."
Rep. Hyde went on to note that, in the debate over the partial-birth abortion ban,
"[w]e are not debating policy options. This is a debate about human dignity." (New
York Times, 4/6/00) Thank God for the clear, consistent, reasonable, and truthful
voice of Rep. Henry J. Hyde.
Some time back, Robert George debated Stanley Fish at an American Political Science
Association convention. George is a Princeton professor, and Fish is a deconstructionist
theorist. In prior work, Fish had argued that the case for abortion is based on
"scientific facts," while the case for life is based on "religious
conviction." Before their debate, George had sent Fish a copy of his paper. On the
day of their debate, Fish shocked the assembly by tossing Georges paper on a table
and declaring, "Professor George is right, and he is right to correct me. Today the
pro-life position is supported by scientific evidence." According to one report, most
in the audience were stunned. Their number must have included Robert George. (Charles
Colson, NOEL News, Fall 1999)
As noted in June 2000 issue of Lifewatch, John Cardinal OConnor, died in May.
During the homily of the funeral mass on May 8th, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston noted:
"No one proclaimed what Pope John Paul II has called the Gospel of Life with greater
effectiveness than Cardinal OConnor. It was in proclaiming that Gospel of Life that
he became a national and international figure.
"...He was eloquent and unremitting in his defense of the life of the unborn as
well as his support of the value of human life to the moment of natural death. Perhaps his
most lasting testament in support of life will be the work of the Sisters of Life, a
religious community he founded and loved so dearly.
"As he was dying last Wednesday, as a result of a disease with terrible
consequences, he bore witness one last time to the moral evil of euthanasia and
"He preached most powerfully, by his example, the necessity of seeing in every
human being, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death and
every moment in between, particularly in the poor, in the sick, in the forgotten, the
image of a God to be loved and to be served. What a great legacy he has left us in his
constant reminder that the Church must always be unambiguously pro-life." (New
York Times, 5/9/00)
At that point, the massive congregation assembled in New York Citys St.
Patricks Cathedral rose to its feet and applauded for nearly two minutes. Belatedly,
the Lifewatch community joins the applause.
One more note on John Cardinal OConnor. During a May 5th Mass for Cardinal
OConnor, Auxiliary Bishop James F. McCarthy suggested the following legacy for the
cardinal: "He saved lives?lives of the unborn, lives of the hungry, the lives of
victims of war and violence, and the lives of the unloved and forgotten. He saved lives,
and he allowed God to save souls." (Catholic New York, 5/11/00)
Mr. Bob Casey died on May 30, 2000. May he rest in Gods peace and glory.
In 1986 and 1990, Mr. Bob Casey was elected to serve as the governor of Pennsylvania.
Furthermore, he was a liberal Democrat?and powerfully pro-life. How could that be? you
wonder. Because he understood the mission of the Democratic Party to be helping
"those in the dawn of life, those in the shadows of life, and those in the twilight
of life," as Casey recalled Hubert H. Humphrey saying. (Catholic New York,
You might remember that, in 1992, then-Gov. Bob Casey offered to make a speech at the
Democratic National Convention in New York. But Bob. Casey "was not permitted on
camera for fear that his sour note on abortion would disturb the symphony of unity"
at the convention (New York Times, 6/1/00, which quotes Walter Goodman from 1992).
Later, in October of 1992, Bob Casey had been invited to speak at the Cooper Union
School of Architecture in New York City. His speech was to be delivered in the
schools Great Hall; 132 years earlier, Abraham Lincoln had stood in the same hall
and questioned the Supreme Courts views on slavery. Unfortunately, pro-abortion
demonstrators shouted down and silenced Casey?with, for example, "Murderers [that is,
those who make illegal abortions necessary] have no right to speak." Therefore, he
was unable to deliver the text of his speech "Can a Liberal Be Pro-Life?" (NYT,
While Mr. Casey was the governor of Pennsylvania, Matthew Scully wrote speeches for
him. On June 1st, two days after Mr. Caseys death, Mr. Scully had a column on Casey
on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. Scully on Casey: "I never
heard him speak a cruel word [about] anyone, but when he talked of the abortion industry,
mocking its terms of defective children and terminations and
hard cases, it was with utter contempt. It was a language he didnt
understand, a spirit alien to everything he believed and his party once professed. Abortion,
he always said, is not a question of when life begins. It is a question of when love
begins. No insignificant person was ever born, and no insignificant person ever
dies." [emphasis added]
Last May we received a postcard from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
(RCRC). The postcard announces RCRC pro-choice events at the Democratic and Republican
National Conventions. It reads:
SAVE THE DATE!
2000 Is a Pivotal Year--
Keep the Faith for Choice!
"Affirming Faith, Affirming Choice"
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Interfaith Convocations and Rallies
At the Democratic and Republican National Conventions
2 p.m. Sunday, July 30,
First Presbyterian Church,
201 S. 21st Street, Philadelphia
4 p.m. Sunday, August 13,
St. Johns Episcopal Church
514 Adams Blvd., Los Angeles
Become a sponsor. Contact us now!...
Thanks, but no thanks. Lifewatch does not care to support this effort in
behalf of the Culture of Death. Though it is unfortunate that The United Methodist Church
remains affiliated with this pro-choiceindeed, this pro-abortionoutfit.
This is interesting. Some time back there was that bizarre incident, reported in popular
media, of one Allan Zarkin. Seems that he carved his initials into the abdomen of a
Caesarean patient. As one might expect, most coverage did not indicate that Mr. Zarkin is
also an abortionist. After being fired by his previous place of employment for the
initial-carving fiasco, he was hired by a Long Island, NY, abortion center. In short
order, it was investigated and shut down for state health violations. From abortions to
initial carving to abortions. Mr. Zarkin appears to have no respect for the dignity of
mothers or their unborn children. May God have mercy. (LifeLines, Pennsylvania
Pro-Life Federation, 5/4/00)
This is a good idea. Help sponsor a regional baby shower that would support the work of a
pregnancy center in your area.
For example, for seven years, the "Biggest Baby Shower" has been held
annually in and around Sarasota, FL. This year brought in 40-50 shopping carts full of
goods that will assist three pregnancy help centers.
To set up your local baby shower, all you have to do is: ask a local church or
department store to host the event; advertise the event over radio stations (evangelical
and others), through church bulletins and newsletters, and in newspapers; request diapers,
formula, baby clothes, blankets and crib sheets, baby furniture and accessories, baby bath
items, maternity clothes, booties, strollers, car seats, playpens, and high chairs; hold
the event; and then transport the goods to the pregnancy center in your area. Press
coverage of this yearly event has been instrumental in changing many hearts and minds on
life and abortion. If you would like more details about putting together such an event,
please call Cindy Wright at (941)-753-0401.
Now there is some discussion about developing a "National Baby Shower."
Sounds like a very good idea to us. Information on the national effort can be obtained
from Allan F. Brewster/10709 Oak Drive/Hudson, FL 34669-2150.
While a high school student, Jennifer Savage was raped. She became pregnant and, by the
providence and grace and power of God, kept the child. As you might guess, she has a
wonderful story of redemption to tell. You can watch her story on a video entitled
"Unconditional Love," which is available for $10.00 from Carpenters
777 Carpenters Way/Lakeland, FL 33801. Or you can contact her (at Rock the Boat
Ministries/P.O. Box 26177/Colorado Springs, CO 80936/(719)-572-1516) to offer her witness
before your church or group.
PLEASE JOIN US ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH IN PRAYING AND FASTING FOR
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Lifewatch is published by the Taskforce of
United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
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
is published by the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality,
a network of United Methodist clergy, laity, and congregations.
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