April 23, 1998
Dear Rev. Stallsworth:
I enjoy reading the Lifewatch newsletter. It is a real
eye opener to some realities going on in The United Methodist Church, of which I was
In the recent "Special Edition" of
Lifewatch(6/1/98), there were many suggestions for getting ready for sessions of our
annual conferences. I have concerns about Petition B from the North Carolina Annual
Conference. It states that the conference Insurance Committee should not recommend
coverage for "partial-birth abortion except when only this abortion procedure will
save the life of a mother."
"Save the life of the mother" is an old
slogan and an old trick. Let's look at what partial-birth abortion really is. It is
infanticide. Read the brochure "Partial-Birth Abortion: Inches from
Infanticide" by Carol Everett, a former abortion-clinic owner for
information on the procedure. It takes three days to commit this type of infanticide. So
let me ask you, How is a mother's life going to be saved if it takes three days to perform
the procedure? Think about this: If you had chest pain and difficulty breathing, would you
want to wait three days to call 911 and get to an emergency room to see if you were having
a heart attack? If you suddenly found half of your body paralyzed, would you wait three
days to find out if you had had a stroke? Truly, if a mother's life is in danger due to
pregnancy complications in the last months of pregnancy, the appropriate, life-saving
treatment is Caesarean section, as the pamphlet, quoting doctors, indicates. There is
never a need to do a partial-birth abortion to save a mother's life. That is my first
My second point is that this procedure does not protect
the mother or baby. Instead it protects the abortionist from the psychological trauma he
would, most likely, incur if he had to see the little baby's face scream when he sucked
out her brains. Society calls someone a coward if he shoots an adult in the back. In this
case, in a clinical setting, a baby is being stabbed in the back of her neck by an adult,
but no one sees the coward.
My third point is that I learned from Dr. Bernard N.
Nathanson at the Speak Out Illinois Conference, on January 17, 1998, that this procedure
is actually not an abortion. He said that, in standard medical textbooks on abortion, an
abortion is defined as a separation of the fetus from the mother up to and including
twenty weeks. After twenty weeks, it is called a delivery, preterm or premature.
In my volunteer work at a crisis pregnancy center, I
recently read a file which indicated one of our clients went to Kansas to end a late-term
pregnancy. It was a five-day procedure! Giving birth would have been much quicker!
I do hope that you can see that partial-birth abortion
is unacceptable. Period. We must be on guard against the world encouraging the Church to
accept partial-birth abortion, even for a moral-sounding reason. Partial-birth abortion is
always a dangerous and unnecessary procedure.
By the way, Brenda Pratt-Schafer is an RN who saw the
awful, partial-birth abortion procedure, and she has put out a video on her experience.
Also, Dr. Jack Wilke's latest book, Why Can't We Love Them Both, has some
information on this procedure.
Janet M. Klein
[Ms. Klein previously attended Ravenswood
Fellowship United Methodist Church in Chicago.]
In the United States, the great moral debate of the
18th and 19th centuries was slavery. For more than two centuries, our nation pondered
whether or not people of color were fully alive. If they were fully alive, 100% human
beings, then Thomas Jefferson's words were clear: they had the inalienable right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Declaration of Independence). We, as a nation,
finally decided that slaves must be given the freedoms and the rights of persons of the
On the way to that clear realization (and,
unfortunately, some in our nation are still on the road to realizing it), our society
passed through many steps. One of those steps was the 3/5 Compromise. The South argued,
paradoxically, that slaves should be counted as full human beings when a national census
was taken every ten years. The North, seeking voting power, contended that slaves did not
count at all.
The result was the morally repulsive 3/5 Compromise.
The Constitution said that, in the census, a slave was to be counted as 3/5 of a human
being (Article 1, Section 2). Likewise, most state laws gave the slave at least some
rights, though not nearly as many as the white man.
Praise God that we now know that the only moral
position is that people of color, whatever their color, are 100% alive, full human beings.
As such, we are all endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. Because of this God-bestowed dignity to the person, the
government must do everything in its power to protect the life of all human beings.
The 3/5 Compromise on Abortion
The abortion debate in this country is following the
same repulsive moral path as the 3/5 Compromise on slavery. American law, in essence,
states that the baby inside the womb is 3/5 alive.
Following this logic, the courts have now decided that
the unborn have some rights but not others. If a pregnant woman is killed by a drunk
driver, then the driver can be tried on two manslaughter charges, not one. If, however,
the baby is unwanted by the mother (though thousands of couples stand in line for years to
adopt and thereby demonstrate the baby is wanted), then the mother may drive that same car
to an unregulated abortion mill without being prosecuted. The unborn have some rights but
not others. Therefore, they are 3/5 alive in our society.
More important is the confusion over when life begins.
At first, the debate concerned viability. If a fetus can survive outside the womb, it is
alive and worthy of protection by the government. Later, some argued for partial-birth
abortion. Viability arguments went out the window because many partial-birth abortions are
performed on babies who can survive outside the womb. In the confused minds of those
favoring partial-birth abortion, the line separating who is alive from who is not moved.
Suddenly, the unborn are only 1/5 alive and deserving of no constitutional protection
until the act of birth is complete.
Steven Pinker's famous, or infamous, article in The New
York Times Magazine ("Why They Kill Their Newborns," 11/2/97) moved the
line again. He argues for neonaticide. This allows the mother to take two or three weeks
after the baby has been born to decide whether the little one will live or die. If the
mother decides the baby must die, Pinker says the justice system must always show
"mercy" to the woman. Pinker wants even a newborn baby to be considered 3/5
When does the line stop moving? When do we, as a
nation, say unequivocally that blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and the unborn are all
100% alive? That is, 5/5 alive, not 3/5 alive. When do we, as a nation, say that all have
a constitutional right to be protected?
The 3/5 Compromise in the Constitution was morally
repulsive. Figuring out when a child is alive or giving certain rights while others are
withheld is also morally repulsive. If we, as a nation, cannot figure out from the Bible
that all unborn children are alive, let's at least look at videotapes of sonograms. The
baby is alive. From the moment of conception, there is life. There is life, full life.
This full life must be protected by the Constitution and the courts. The unborn have as
much of a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we do.
Let us not offend the Creator, as the writers of the
Constitution did, by declaring any of our Lord's creations to be only 3/5 alive.
Missionary to Peru with The Mission Society for United Methodists
The following is part of an April 8th letter from
Richard R. Haight, who is the president of Over Twenty-one, Inc. (9434 Horizon Run Road/
Gaithersburg, MD 20879). Mr. Haight named his group Over Twenty-one because, he claims,
"it is the overage who are responsible for all alcohol problems." His letter
makes many instructive claims, comments, and connections.
"About a year ago, I looked up what The Book of
Discipline has to say about abortion, adoption, and the use of beverage alcohol. On
abortion, the Discipline is so wishy-washy that it makes no sense at all. In fact, it
seems to say that abortion in many cases is okay, particularly when there is a 'crisis
pregnancy.' Pardon me, but what the heck is that? When I complained about this to our
local bishop, Felton E. May, he told me that, while he did abhor partial-birth abortion,
he did not see anything wrong with the Discipline's paragraph on abortion (Paragraph 65J).
Quite frankly, I could not understand his position--particularly after I looked up the
church's position on adoption.
"The Discipline's paragraph on adoption (Paragraph
65K) begins: 'Children are a gift from God to be welcomed and received. 'Either they are,
or they aren't. We cannot have it both ways, and God gives no one a 'choice.'
"From personal experience, I can say unequivocally
that adoption is better than abortion. My wife and I have been married for 54 years. We
put our first daughter up for adoption, for I was in the Army, had no money, and neither
set of our parents was willing or able to take care of the child. She found us in 1991.
What a joy! Our second daughter never knew she had a sister, and both are now quite close.
My father-in-law wanted to have the child aborted, but I said No. We made the right
decision. Abortion is not an answer; it's just one more problem.
"Over Twenty-one, Inc. was founded by me in 1984,
after the death of our youngest son at the hands of a drunken driver. I asked God to tell
me why my son was dead at 20. He did! My son is dead because adults have the ridiculous
and silly concept that they can drink, but the young cannot before they celebrate an
arbitrarily set number of birthdays.
"You may wonder why I include alcohol in this. It
is because many pregnancies occur when passions are enflamed by alcohol. I do not have any
statistics on it, but I would bet it is a substantial number..."
Mr. Haight has a wonderfully clear view of the world as
it is. May his number increase and Over Twenty-one, Inc. flourish.
Over several of the weeks of the summer of 1998, your
editor has been developing a list of several points about United Methodism today. To be
sure, these points were not received from atop a lofty theological perch such as Mount
Sinai. Quite the contrary. They were made from a pastor's study on the coastal plain in
eastern North Carolina. Even so, perhaps they will be worthy of note.
(1) Apparently, some contemporary United Methodists
cannot say No to anything. Abortion on demand, more or less, continues in
American society. Re-imagining theologies, in hard and soft forms, live on in some
American churches and seminaries. And same-sex "marriages" are performed in some
congregations. All the while, some United Methodists just tolerate these matters. That is,
they cannot bring themselves to offer a convincing No in response to them.
Evidently, to declare No would come across as too negative or unloving.
However, let us remember that the baptismal vows of The
United Methodist Church ask baptismal candidates and sponsors if they are capable of
saying No to certain realities, ideas, and deeds. "Do you renounce
the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent
of your sin?... Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil,
injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?" (emphasis
added) Presumably, by responding affirmatively to these questions, baptismal candidates
and sponsors promise to say No when No is in order. To say No
where No is due is not negative; it is truthful. To say No, in love,
where No is warranted is not unloving; it is an act of love. To say No,
in the state of Christian hope, is a first step toward redemption.
(2) Apparently, according to some United Methodists,
there are no enemies on the left. Routinely, these United Methodists spot real or imagined
enemies on the theological right. Such enemies are usually called "right
wingers," "members of the Christian Right," "fundamentalists,"
"Biblical literalists," "homophobes," "bigots," and
"anti-choice fanatics." To be sure, when hatred motivates and drives those so
named, the names are in order, for such people truly are enemies of the Church and the
Gospel of Christ.
However, let us remember that there are also enemies of
the Church and the Gospel on the theological left -- even if they are not recognized as
such by most United Methodist elites. Those who are not bothered in the least by abortion
on demand, those who want to deconstruct the confessions and creeds of the Church, those
who contend there is no place for moral law in the Christian faith, and those who argue
Christian truth is scarce or nonexistent are real enemies on the left. And unfortunately,
all too often, hatred is a motivating force among those on the left.
(3) Apparently, according to some United Methodists,
"distraction" is one of the most pressing threats facing our church today. These
United Methodists worry that all the attention given to the discussion of homosexuality,
abortion, and doctrinal fidelity will distract congregations from their primary task of
making disciples of Jesus Christ and coming to the merciful assistance of the least of
these. Granted, if the discussion is, in reality, nothing but both sides throwing verbal
rocks at the other side, then the discussion is a total distraction and an absolute waste
However, if the denominational discussion of
homosexuality, abortion, and doctrine leads The United Methodist Church into greater
faithfulness to the Gospel, then the discussion will prove fruitful and not at all
distracting. That is, if United Methodism, led by our bishops, district superintendents,
and pastors can reclaim historic Christian teaching on homosexuality, abortion, and basic
doctrine, then those trapped in the sins of homosexuality and abortion and those cornered
by heretical teaching will have a greater chance of graceful, restorative deliverance. The
Christ-driven deliverance of real people including but not limited to practicing
homosexuals, those tempted by homosexual practice, abortion providers, women tempted and
seduced by abortion, unborn children threatened by abortion, and heretical pastors and
laity is, of course, the basic mission of the Church. This kind of deliverance has
everything to do with making Christian disciples. This kind of deliverance is not
(4) According to some United Methodists, The Book of
Discipline is the book above all books. Their words suggest that, as it now reads, the
Discipline is the be all and end all of the Christian faith.
However, if the Discipline is the last word on all
matters pertaining to the Church's faith, why is it that most of it is open to revision by
majority vote of General Conference every four years? Certainly, the Discipline contains
much that is constitutive and constructive of Christian existence in the modern world.
However, it must be admitted that the current Book of Discipline also contains at least
one section that is in error, and that is Paragraph 65J on abortion. Paragraph 65J is in
error because it is out of line with historic Christianity. Paragraph 65J is in need of
reform because it contradicts what the Church, following the lead of Scripture and Spirit,
has taught about abortion through the ages.
(5) According to some United Methodists, the Social
Principles of The Book of Discipline are guidelines for instructional purposes; that is,
they are not binding on the church. This was the argument used by those who defended and
exonerated Reverend Jimmy Creech, who faced the church trial in Nebraska for performing a
However, the United Methodists who contend that the
Social Principles are for instructional purposes only are often the ones who treat the
paragraph on abortion, Paragraph 65J, as if it was binding church law. They use Paragraph
65J as the means of sustaining The United Methodist Church's affiliation with the
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (a radically pro-abortion, political lobby),
protecting United Methodist leaders in supporting abortion on demand in American politics,
and ruling out of order annual-conference resolutions that denounce partial-birth
Perhaps the above points will encourage thinking about
others that need to be made. Better yet, perhaps the aforementioned points will stir us to
redoubled prayers and efforts in behalf of the Gospel of life in The United Methodist
The following is the press release that Lifewatch sent
out May 29, 1997, after Judicial Council Decision Number 821 was handed down.
For Immediate Release Re: Judicial Council Decision
The 1997 Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference
approved a resolution entitled "Partial-Birth Abortions." The resolution
"condemns" the performance of partial-birth abortion and calls for sending
copies of the same resolution to the President of the United States and to the West
Virginia members of the United States Congress. Bishop S. Clifton Ives, of the West
Virginia Area, ruled the resolution conforms to Paragraph 65J of the 1996 Book of
Discipline, the Discipline's paragraph on abortion. Bishop Ives' ruling was appealed to
the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church.
Regarding the West Virginia Annual Conference's
"Partial-Birth Abortions" resolution, the Judicial Council reasoned that the
resolution: (1) gives insufficient attention to Paragraph 65J's concern for the life and
well-being of the mother, and (2) considers partial-birth abortion always medically unfit
and/or morally wrong for use, since it employs the language of condemnation. Therefore,
Judicial Council Decision Number 821, handed down on April 25, 1998, reversed Bishop Ives'
ruling and found the West Virginia Annual Conference resolution not in conformity with the
1996 Book of Discipline.
Judicial Council Decision Number 821 is a deeply
disappointing and profoundly disturbing ruling. This ruling ignores the obvious evil of
partial-birth abortion, which is actually not abortion but infanticide, according to some
politicians (such as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan [D-NY]). In addition, this ruling
neglects the fact that the American Medical Association (AMA), in May of 1997, endorsed a
legislative ban of partial-birth abortion. AMA Executive Vice President P. John Seward,
M.D. noted that partial-birth abortion is "a procedure we all agree is not good
medicine" (May 19, 1997 letter). It is because this procedure always takes the life
of the child, and because it is never necessary for the preservation of the life or
well-being of the mother, that it "is not good medicine." Furthermore, this
ruling undercuts Christian unity, for the vast majority of communions oppose this abortion
procedure. This ruling also cuts against John Wesley's charge, to the Methodist people,
"to reform the nation, particularly the Church, and to spread scriptural holiness
over the land" (The Book of Discipline , Par. 60, p. 43). A people concerned
with scriptural holiness, out of the love of God and love for neighbor, should be opposed
to the taking of innocent human life. And last but not least, this ruling has a chilling
effect on annual conferences that are compelled to witness for the Gospel of life. Indeed,
it limits the ability of annual conferences to exercise conscience in a way that is formed
and informed by historic Christianity.
Because Judicial Council Decision Number 821 turns a
blind eye to the lethal realities of partial-birth abortion, violates Christian unity and
Wesleyan directive, and undercuts faithful witness by annual conferences, it should not be
accepted by United Methodists. While the historic Church was committed to rescuing
abandoned and threatened children, this ruling keeps The United Methodist Church silent as
the lives of innocent, defenseless children are brutally taken. This ruling accommodates
the culture of death. This ruling should not stand.
Lifewatch is very
fortunate to have several new Advisory Board members. New to the board are: Dr. Michael J.
Gorman, Dean, Ecumenical Institute of Theology, Baltimore, MD; Dr. John E. Juegensmeyer,
Juergensmeyer and Associates, Attorneys at Law, Elgin, IL, and Associate
Professor, Judson Baptist College; Reverend Marc
Rogers, First United Methodist Church, Eastland, TX; Reverend Louis A. Timmons, Atlantic
United Methodist Church, Atlantic, VA; and Mrs. Kim Turkington, Lifewatch Outreach
Coordinator, Lexington, KY. We are grateful to the new board members for their willingness
to assist and support the ministry of Lifewatch, and we warmly welcome them to their new
positions of leadership.
Mission and Ministry
is a quarterly magazine published by Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. "To equip
the saints for ministry" is the stated purpose of the quarterly. The current issue of
Mission and Ministry is published with the National Organization of Episcopalians
for Life (NOEL), and it is entitled "Life Matters." Its sixty pages are full of
excellent material on how the Church most faithfully responds to the gift of life and to
the evil called abortion. "We have tried [in this issue of the magazine],"
writes editor David Mills, "to balance a reminder of the seriousness of abortion with
a description of the overwhelming grace of God in offering forgiveness and healing to
those who have aborted their children." Accounts of God bringing healing out of the
sin and death of abortion, a survey of the Church's historic teaching on abortion, an
article on abortion as an assault on women, critiques of the false gospel that promotes
abortion, and suggested resources for pro-life ministry are included in this outstanding
publication. It must be claimed that this magazine is equivalent to a book on the Church's
faithful response to abortion. For your copy, send your request for "Life
Matters" with a $3.00 check, made payable to "Mission and Ministry," to:
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street
Ambridge, PA 15003.
This issue of this magazine will further equip you for
Professor Jean Bethke
Elshtain teaches at The Divinity School of the University of Chicago and writes many good
articles and books about cultural, political, and theological matters. Earlier this year
she was interviewed on "News Odyssey" about Dr. Richard Seed, the United
Methodist who has announced that he intends to clone a human being. In the interview,
Prof. Elshtain noted that Dr. Seed, with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is one of the "Bobbsey
twins of moral disorder." Why? Because "we are not called to be the arbiters of
life and of death. And even as Dr. Kevorkian thinks he is an arbiter of death, Dr. Seed
seems to think he's an arbiter of life."
According to the interviewer, Dr. Seed has said
"that it was God's will [for man] to do the cloning, because God gave man the
intelligence to do it." To that, Prof. Elshtain responded: "God gave us our
intelligence...to serve...and to think about the issue of [humanity's] limits...not just
for the things we can do, but of things we should not do." Furthermore, she added
that "if Dr. Seed understood God properly, he would know that we are creatures who
are invited into the process of co-creation...but we are not called to be God; we are
called, in some humble sense, to be like God." (Transmitter, March 1998).