September 2001 -- A quarterly news letter for United Methodists


Contents

bullet Guest Column: ADOPTION THEN, ABORTION NOW
bullet ON EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH
bullet YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
bullet BOOK ORDER FORM
bullet SEND LIFEWATCH TO A FRIEND!
bullet Our Mission

 

Guest Column:

ADOPTION THEN, ABORTION NOW

“Now I know beyond question, I was not abandoned to adoption. I was rescued by it.”

As one who was adopted as an infant, I never looked too hard, really, for information on my birth mother. But while in my late twenties, I did learn that she lived in Kansas City. The information I gained on my birth father puts my birth mother’s decision for adoption in perspective. He was young, a soldier from Ft. Leavenworth. I was conceived in the late summer of 1946, less than a year after the close of World War II. I have their names – Robert and Faye – and their addresses, now fifty years out of date.

This information, little as it was, satisfied me at age twenty-seven. From it, I fashioned in my mind a failed romance between a young Kansas City girl, sixteen at my birth, and a lonely, nineteen-year-old, left-over, World War II enlistee stationed at Ft. Leavenworth. Dashing, they were, Robert and Faye, and evidently star-crossed, as my imagination has pictured them all these years; kids, that’s all, just teenagers. She vulnerable and pretty and foolish, obviously vulnerable enough and foolish enough to let her head get turned by – well, he was, wasn’t he? – a handsome guy in a uniform. He, again in my imagination, was far from home, seeking company. Ft. Leavenworth is not a great place for a weekend pass. Kansas City is the place to be, the Kansas side if your pass doesn’t let you cross the state line into Missouri. And there they met (at a soda fountain?), a fateful meeting that led to the assignation that led to me. Or perhaps they attended Wyandotte County High School together– Robert was only eighteen in 1946–and being romantically incautious while he was on leave, that was how I came to be. It could have happened like that.

Some years ago I wrote about being adopted, the first time I had ever made public comments on the subject. In that essay, too, I told of the imaginary scenario I had constructed in my mind: pretty girl, lonely soldier, failed romance, doomed love. Writing about it stimulated all the old, nagging questions I thought settled. They have unexpectedly resurfaced.

I now know more of my birth.

My birth father indeed was a young soldier at Ft. Leavenworth. His family forced his enlistment after he impregnated (raped?) his sixteen-year-old step-sister, my birth mother. I am the result of sexual predation, of step-sibling incest. I never knew why my mother could not keep me, would not keep me. Now I know, and the knowledge has been comforting, in a way. I learned it; and, strangely perplexed this need never arose before, I forgave Faye.

But the knowledge has also left me uncomfortably disconcerted. No longer was my birth the result of an ill-fated liaison. It was something else, alien and other, distasteful. Now I know beyond question, I was not abandoned to adoption. I was rescued by it.

When I acquired my birth-parents’ names and addresses twenty-four years ago, I did it thinking to seek out my mother. I decided otherwise, to respect her privacy, to avoid hurting my parents, for a number of reasons. But it was also just after Roe v. Wade, when the enormity of abortion was gaining a sharper clarity. Her privacy was one thing, but there was another reason too. I feared a second rejection, feared hearing in some form or other that, had she had the choice in 1947, she would have chosen abortion. With my romantic fiction, I at least had the notion that, given a choice, she might have chosen me, the child that she and Robert made in love. But I was not made in love, and possibly I was conceived in violence. Would she today have once hesitated over abortion were it available?

As the abortion business has become ever bigger in the years since, I have grimly pondered the fate of Faye’s pregnancy were it to occur now under circumstances like those of a half century ago. The law then protected me. Not today. Today, hers would be a “problem pregnancy,” a “crisis pregnancy,” an “unwanted pregnancy.”

It was all that, of course, and more in 1947. Carrying her pregnancy, thinking of me in her womb, might have been awful in different moments. But there were more social supports for young women with “problems” like that. Society may have regarded unmarried pregnant girls with less compassion or tolerance than today, but their babies lived. Whatever the difficulty, the shame, the discomfort, the fear; whatever dread she experienced, whatever she endured was worth it for her, for me, for my own children. I was born. The laws, the courts, the physicians, the churches, all worked to ensure that once Faye was pregnant, I would be born.

Not today. Today, not even my own church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is able to flatly say that unborn babies like me should live. No woman has an absolute right to abortion, so my church says in its social statement on abortion. But it goes on, conversely, to say that no fetus has an absolute right to birth. The woman decides – after, of course, appropriate moral reflection with sympathetic listeners; but she decides. Pregnancies created in circumstances such as those of Faye and Robert in 1947 are in 1998 now fair targets for “morally responsible” abortions, according to my church. Even stranger, were either Robert or Faye or their parents beneficiaries under the ELCA health plan (which means pastors and salaried church workers and their dependents), Faye’s 1998 abortion would be a reimbursable medical expense. The ELCA health plan will not pay for an elective breast implant but, under the right conditions, will pay to abort someone like me. When it comes to my birth, the church that values my baptism is ambivalent, at best, about my right to live in the womb.

Abortion is personal to me, as personal as my adoption. It is personal not only to the woman who aborts, but to me; to me, to the unborn children like me, it is personal. It is our person that is in jeopardy.

I had a fear of abandonment, the psychiatrist told me, a fear of death, of rejection. Gosh, whatever gave her that idea?

–Pastor Russell E. Saltzman is the editor of Forum Letter. This article is derived from “A Fear of Abandonment,” which appeared in the May 1998 issue. He can be reached at 10801 Ruskin Way/Kansas City, MO 64134-2931 or at Saltzman@integritynetwork.net.♥


ON EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH

The name of our newsletter, Lifewatch, suggests that we are interested in watching or monitoring matters related to human life. The news of summer 2001 was filled with stories about the politics of embryonic stem cell research. Therefore, it would be wise for us, as Christians, to consider the medical and moral issues related to this matter. Human at Conception

Day 5 Human Embryo (blastocyst)
Advanced Fertility of Chicago

The matter of embryonic stem cell research leads us to recall that conception – the union of sperm and egg, which soon develops into an embryo – is the beginning of a unique human being. Again, conception is the beginning of a unique human being. That is not a particularly Christian teaching. Nor is that a generally religious position. Instead, that is a scientific or medical observation. Any standard, respected medical textbook related to human reproduction will state this fact. For example, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th Edition) states on p. 2: “The intricate processes by which a baby develops from a single cell are miraculous... This cell [the zygote] results from the union of an oocyte [egg] and sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being...” On p. 18 this claim is repeated: “Human development begins at fertilization...”

(Father Frank Pavone, “Confused about Stem Cell Research?,” 7/16/01 column for Priests for Life)

This point – that conception results in a tiny human being – is also made clear by Father Robert J. Sirico. In an editorial for The Wall Street Journal, Fr. Sirico writes that “science tells us the human being doesn’t begin as a ‘non-human’ entity from which a human life is later ‘produced.’

“At every stage of development, human beings (whether zygote, morula, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, infant, or adult) retain their identity as an enduring being that develops through the stages of life. From conception, we possess the genetic blueprint necessary for development; we are beings organized for maturation as members of the human race.

“In short, the self-directing human organism that each of us is today is the same human being that was created when we were conceived. None of us ‘became’ a human being at some point after conception. Each of us was a human being from the point at which we became a distinct organism – that is, conception.” (7/11/01, emphases added)

The Humanity of the Embryo

The Holy Family (the Doni tondo)
Michelangelo Buonarroti

Because conception begins the development of a new human being, the embryo, which soon results from the union of one male reproductive cell and one female reproductive cell, is a human being. And because the embryo is a new and tiny and developing human being, the embryo has human dignity and is worthy of the respect and protection of the human community. Such dignity is not won or earned by the abilities of the human being. Nor is such dignity assigned by government or by bioethicists assumed to know about these matters. Such dignity is a given. Indeed, dignity is given by God to each and every human being; and this human dignity should be acknowledged, respected, and protected by the people, communities, institutions, and governments that surround each and every human being. Therefore, a human embryo should not be allowed to be treated as just a dispensable, discardable, destroyable carrier of stem cells. In other words, the life of a human embryo should be respected in the same way that the life of any other human being – a toddler or a teenager or a twentysome-thing, a middle-aged man or an elderly woman – is respected.

United Methodist Teaching

Presently, The United Methodist Church does not have specific teaching on embryonic stem cell research. United Methodists are awaiting such targeted and authoritative teaching. The 2000 General Conference passed a resolution which should, in due course, lead to the formulation and adoption of this teaching. The relevant resolution reads: “In light of the rapid development of biotechnology and related research, including, but not limited to, research dealing with human cloning and the mixing of human stem cells with animal or human embryos, we recommend that the General Board of Church and Society form a bioethics task force to advise the church on relevant ethical issues.” (89. Bioethics Task Force, The Book of Resolutions.) Even as this article is being written, the General Board of Church and Society is probably pushing ahead on this project.

That said, it must be admitted that United Methodism has adopted positions that are skeptical about research on embryonic stem cells. For example, the Social Principles currently state that “[t]he [prevailing medical research] standard requires that those engaged in research shall use human beings as research subjects only after obtaining full, rational, and uncoerced consent.” (“The Social Community”/“Medical Experimentation,” Paragraph 162L,” The Book of Discipline, 2000) Since an embryo cannot offer consent to experimentation, the church presumably believes that such research should not be permitted.

Furthermore, Paragraph 162M of The Book of Discipline increases the church’s skepticism about embryonic stem cell research. It boldly states: “Genetic therapies for eugenic choices or that produce waste embryos are deplored.” This disciplinary sentence makes clear that The United Methodist Church respects the human status of the embryo and, by extension, resists its destruction, which occurs in embryonic stem cell research.

In addition, “New Developments in Genetic Science”—which was adopted by the 1992 General Conference, and amended and readopted by the 2000 General Conference—decisively declares: “We call for a ban on medical and research procedures which intentionally generate ‘waste embryos’ which will knowingly be destroyed when the medical procedure or the research is completed.” (90, The Book of Resolutions).This statement would appear to deny The United Methodist Church’s blessing of embryonic stem cell research, which treats the embryo as mere tissue from which stem cells can be extracted, as mere tissue which can be thrown away as any other medical trash.

The Politics of the Matter

“Genetic therapies for eugenic choices or that produce waste embryos are deplored.”

—Para. 162M: The Book of Discipline

Taken together, the aforementioned United Methodist statements led Mr. Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of United Methodism’s General Board of Church and Society, to urge President George W. Bush to continue “an extended moratorium” on federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Mr. Winkler noted that he is pushing for a moratorium “on the destruction of human embryos for the purpose of stem cell or other research.” (Newscope, 7/27/01)

Winkler’s statement is joined, amplified, and deepened by outstanding Roman Catholic statements on the same matter. For example, on July 12, 2001 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops delivered a letter to U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators in Washington, DC. Signed by the president of the conference, Bishop Joseph A. Florenza of Galveston-Houston, the letter notes: “We know that speculations about the possible benefits of such research, and mistaken views about the status of the human embryo, have led many to urge you to abandon your convictions. We believe it is more important than ever to stand for the principle that the government must not treat any living human being as research material, as a mere means for benefit to others.

“You can make a difficult but correct decision now – or set the stage for all-but-impossible decisions in the future for yourself and your successors, as a research enterprise impatient with moral limits increasingly leads us into a culture of death.” (New York Times, 7/12/01)

Whatever the Bush Administration decides about stem cell research, the medical and moral facts of the matter remain. The embryo is a tiny, developing human being. As such, the embryo should not be used as material for the possible benefit of another human being. To destroy one human being for the sake of another is to engage in a utilitarianism that is ruthless and corrupt. This kind of utilitarian calculus should be resisted by all governments dedicated to justice, by all peoples devoted to goodness, and by all churches driven by life and love.

This is not an anti-science position. All United Methodists, all Christians, and all people of good will certainly favor medical science experimenting on adult stem cells, which does not involve the destruction of a human embryo. The medical use of these stem cells – which have the potential to grow into any human cell or tissue, and thus might repair or replace damaged organs – hold great promise for the healing of many disabled and sickly people. This science is a part of the Culture of Life.

However, a science that exploits tiny, developing, defenseless human beings for the good of others is a science that is part of the Culture of Death. (PTS) ♥


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


YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT

Your prayers for Lifewatch’s ministry are crucial. Especially, we ask you to pray for our hoped-for, Capitol Hill witness, who will carry the message of Lifewatch to congressional offices. Thank you for remembering this particular ministry in your prayers.

Lifewatch is most certainly a collaborative effort. Many of you, our readers, give so generously and faithfully that this journalistic instrument can advance the Gospel of Life among an increasing number of United Methodists. Furthermore, Ruth Brown in Dothan, LA (that is, “Lower Alabama”), and Steve Wissler in Ephrata, PA, do wonderful work in covering the administrative and publishing bases. Yours truly tries to take care of editorial matters; and the operative word is tries.

From December of 1993 until June of this year, Lifewatch was edited in the Pastor’s Study of the Rose Hill United Methodist Church in Rose Hill, NC. During that nearly eight year stretch, around 30 issues were submitted, from Rose Hill, for publication. Those issues were put together by this editor, who first and last during that time served as the pastor of the Rose Hill United Methodist Church. Let it be known that the Rose Hill Church – which is a vibrant, loving, engaging, diverse company of God’s people – was a wonderful congregation to serve and a good location for editorial work on Lifewatch. The Rose Hill Church provided a “freedom for ministry” (Richard John Neuhaus) that made room for journalistic witness to the Gospel of Life through Lifewatch. Therefore, this pastor and editor is deeply thankful to God for the eight-year pastorate in Rose Hill.

In June of this year, led by the Holy Spirit, Bishop Marion Edwards and his cabinet appointed this pastor to the St. Peter’s and Broad Creek United Methodist churches in and near Morehead City, NC. Formerly pastored faithfully by an outstanding evangelical-orthodox clergyman, Reverend David A. Banks, the St. Peter’s and Broad Creek churches now gladly and proudly provide the ecclesial location for the editing of Lifewatch. Therefore, the Lifewatch editor’s new address is 111 Hodges Street/Morehead City, NC 28557, and the new telephone number is (252)-726-2175. (As you can tell, the editor remains a stubborn CO [that is, a conscientious objector] when it comes to e-mail.)

Letters to this editor really are interesting and appreciated. Every once in a long while, an expression of hate arrives through the mail. Usually these letters are unsigned and vulgar, and they indicate that the newsletter is fulfilling its Gospel of Life mission. Then there are those letters that point out the fact that Lifewatch serves an evangelistic purpose in The United Methodist Church today. Their writers express dismay that The United Methodist Church is often neutral on (or against) the Gospel of Life, while Lifewatch is steadfast in its commitment to the same Gospel. Because of Lifewatch, these people remain in the United Methodist community. Yes, it is disturbing that official United Methodism is somewhat slow to awaken to the Gospel of Life. But turning hearts and minds, one by one, to life in the Gospel, even at times through the witness of Lifewatch, God is definitely at work throughout The United Methodist Church.

The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church is confessing steadfastly the faith of the Church catholic in our denomination. Today there is no higher calling in our church and society. Even so, The Confessing Movement and its witness have their detractors. For example, Reverend Peter L. DeGroote took this shot at the movement within United Methodism: “In the Church today there are many seeking to gain control of denominations and institutions by demanding a return to what they call the ‘central doctrines of classical Christianity.’ They bear the burden of demonstrating that they are not calling for a return to the same triumphal religious ideas that inaugurated Christian Europe to several centuries of oppression, subjugation, and enslavement of other peoples. The results of that were colonialism, cultural imperialism, genocide, slavery, segregation, and holocaust. They too thought of their violence as holy wars and their justifying language was not unlike the language of today’s white supremacists.” (“White Supremacists Cloak Bigotry in Theology,” Christian Social Action, March/April 2001) We beg to differ. The Church, renewed in the central doctrines of classical Christianity, in “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), becomes a civilizing and healing agent for good in the world. The Wesleyan movements in England and America are fine examples of this historical reality. Enough said.

One of the great Biblical theologians of our time is Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier. A few years ago, Dr. Achtemeier wrote this in response to the charge of pro-life Christians being single-issue people: “There is a specific content to the Christian faith, which the Church summarized in its Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, and which it set forth in the Council of Chalcedon. That content, which comes to us through the Scriptures, has to do with God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It tells of God as the Creator and Owner and Sustainer of all life. It proclaims that God in Jesus Christ wills life for us and not death, and so has redeemed us from sin and death by Christ’s cross and resurrection. It holds that God claims us as his own in baptism, and takes us into his Church as adopted children, and sets us under his command to love and trust and obey him as our Lord. And it promises that God in the Holy Spirit is always with us to enable us to walk in that newness of life to which we are called. We claim all of these truths, and many more growing out of them, when we join the church.

“But very often in our society, some issue arises that contradicts what we believe as Christians. The issue can have to do with anything – with war, sexuality, capital punishment, women’s rights, social justice, poverty, hunger – any one of those crucial questions with which modern Americans are forced to deal. And when an issue, such as abortion, arises that we perceive to contradict everything we believe to be central to the content of the Christian faith, then we speak out. We cannot believe that our bodies are our own, and that we are our own lords. We cannot believe that God wills death for the children he has created. We cannot believe that the Church of the risen Lord has any business paying for death, as the Presbyterian Church (USA) does by paying for abortions in its medical benefits plan. So we speak and write and work. And we do so, not as one-issue people, but as Christian people.” (Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier, Presbyterians Pro-Life News, Spring 1995).♥

 

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

 

Our Mission:

Out of obedience to Jesus Christ, the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS) "will work to create in church and society esteem for human life at its most vulnerable/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."

 

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

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