9/1/99 -- A quarterly news letter for United Methodists


Contents

DOORS
THE KEVORKIAN LESSON
WAXING POETIC
1999 ANNUAL CONFERENCE REPORTS
1999 ANNUAL CONFERENCE REFLECTIONS
A MODEL PETITION FOR GENERAL CONFERENCE 2000
RCRC WATCH
SO WHAT?
YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
LIFEWATCH'S MODEL RESOLUTION
BOOK ORDER FORM
SEND LIFEWATCH TO A FRIEND!

 

Guest Column I:

DOORS

In July of 1985, my husband and I paraded through the front door of Methodist Hospital in Minneapolis. We came to give birth to a beautiful baby girl, Bonnie Joy. Six years prior to that life-giving entrance through the front door, I had quietly slipped into the back door of Methodist Hospital, also known as The Meadowbrook Women's Clinic. Single, lonely, frightened, I had come to "terminate" an "accidental pregnancy." I had come to abort a baby. This is the story of those two doors.

When I entered through the front door, they insisted that I ride in a wheelchair. The nurse called me "Mrs. Woodley" and wheeled me past a nursery room brimming with living, breathing, screaming babies. Babies with names. Babies with freshly washed faces. Babies carefully wrapped in blue and pink blankets and little white capes.

Everything about my hospital room invited, embraced, and welcomed babies. Painted in bright pastel colors, the walls boasted little teddy bears dancing and smiling at me. Delicate, ruffled curtains graced the windows. The decor quietly said, "This is a time for celebration. We will take care of you and your baby."

In stark contrast, when I entered the back door (that is, The Meadowbrook Women's Clinic), they insisted that I, first of all, pay the bill. Then the nurse gave me a number and directed me to a plain waiting room. Little teddy bears did not dance on the walls. Actually, anything baby-like—baby curtains, baby noises, baby colors, baby names—was strictly forbidden. Instead, the decor sternly commanded, "This is not a time for celebration. Take care of your business, and go home."

Shortly after entering the front door, my nurse strapped a monitor on my belly. As she tightened the belt, her calm, relaxed eyes met my fear-filled eyes. Gently touching my hand, she offered her reassurance: "I know you're nervous, honey, but don't worry. Here we don't take any chances with babies." She silently studied the monitor's printout, and then confidently informed me, "Don't worry. The heartbeat is strong. Your baby is alive and healthy." For the next twenty hours, three nurses took turns methodically recording and analyzing the rapid little heartbeat.

By this time I knew all about little heartbeats. During our prenatal classes, I discovered that at a mere three weeks after conception, my baby's heart began to beat and pump blood. If necessary, an electroencephalogram could have detected brain waves at about eight weeks. My classes also taught me that at ten weeks from conception a tiny Bonnie Joy was closing her delicate eyelids, puckering her lips, responding to touch, and forming a fist.

Of course, in 1979, when I entered the back door for an abortion, all of these well-documented medical facts were carefully avoided. Nobody talked about baby heartbeats, blood, brain waves, eyelids, lips, or fists. Instead, they spoke softly and solemnly about "unwanted tissue," "inconveniences," and "choices." It (the baby, that is) was an intruder—a formless, featureless, undifferentiated blob, but still a dangerous intruder. The attitude was simple: let's remove it.

Not so behind the front door. After nearly twenty hours of grueling but unsuccessful labor, a young doctor was urgently called into my room. Jody, my third nurse, whispered anxiously to the doctor. Then he sat by my bed, deep in thought, his eyes lost in charts and papers and printouts. His eyes did not quite meet mine as he spoke carefully and logically: "Things are not going according to plan. I do not want to alarm you, but the baby is in distress. We have two problems. First, there is meconium in the womb. To complicate matters, the baby's head is posterior. We need your permission to do an immediate C-section." Sensing our fear, ignorance, and confusion (after all, what exactly did the doctor's description of the baby's condition mean?), the doctor glanced at my husband and quickly added, "We will do everything possible to protect mom and the baby. We have the resources to keep both of them safe."

After that, I recall only a blur of frantic activity. They ushered my husband out to a waiting room. Nurses rushed about my room. Bags were hooked on to my bed. Somebody ordered anesthesia. Two orderlies hustled me down to surgery. The entire staff could only think of one thing: save lives—a mother and a baby are in distress.

When I went through the back door, a mother and a baby were also in distress, but no one came to save us. When the abortion "procedure" was over, as I rested on the bed at The Meadowbrook Women's Clinic, I noticed a poster taped to the ceiling. In bold, stark letters, it read, "IF IT WEREN'T FOR PLANNED PARENTHOOD, WHERE WOULD YOU BE TODAY?" Even more than the abortion, the poster nauseated me.

Filled with anger and frustration, I began to weep quietly. "You did not help me," I thought. "You had the resources, but you did not protect me or my baby. You found the cheapest, easiest, quickest solution possible: you simply vacuumed the new life out of my womb. You helped my boyfriend pursue his career. He wants to become a United States Senator. You protected him and his dreams. Why didn't someone try to protect the baby and me?"

Today Bonnie Joy is twelve years old. Somehow we (my family, church, and society, and Methodist Hospital) found the resources to save her life. That is what they always do inside the front door. If necessary, they race against time, spare no expenses, employ cutting-edge technology to preserve a tiny life. Less than 1,000 feet away, a few floors down, and one wing over, inside the back door, tiny lives are quietly and efficiently destroyed. That is what they always do behind the back door. The door of life and the door of death exist side by side.

Twelve years ago I left the front door holding a beautiful baby girl. Six years earlier I exited the back door with empty arms and deep wounds in my soul. After the abortion, I attempted to cover those wounds by pointing other women to the back door and trying to protect them from the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy. I thought it was the only way to freedom and healing.

Actually, it took a third door to heal my back-door wounds. For a society so confused about life and death, this door provides direction. For women wounded by abortion, this door provides forgiveness and hope. For those whose hearts are coarsened by an easy abortion culture, this door provides the power to repent and receive a new heart. By entering through this third door, we join a radically different community, a fellowship committed to protecting the life of both mother and baby.

"I am the door," Jesus said, "if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9, RSV) He is the true door of life. Now I will spend the rest of my life pointing confused young women to the true door of life and freedom, to Jesus Christ.

—The above was told by Mrs. Julie Woodley, who founded Restoring the Heart Ministries, and was written by Rev. Matt Woodley, the pastor of Cambridge United Methodist Church/3220 Vine Street South/Cambridge, MN 55008/(612)689-3192 heart.gif (1031 bytes)


Guest Column II:

THE KEVORKIAN LESSON

I have watched, with great interest, the recent trial and conviction of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He was on trial for the "mercy killing" of a man that was aired on "60 Minutes." He had assisted in many such deaths but had always escaped conviction, because he had not actually administered the agent that caused death; the one desiring death had. But this time was different. This time Dr. Kevorkian acted as "the angel of death." And thankfully, the courts finally convicted him.

Don't get me wrong. Having worked for a time as a part-time chaplain with hospice, I have long been a supporter of the rights of the terminally ill. Hospice care does nothing to lengthen life; instead, it provides as much quality of life as possible for the time remaining before death comes. It values life rather than devalues life. Euthanasia, as well meaning as it is, cheapens the value of life; therefore, it cannot be supported scripturally or morally.

BEFORE THE TRIAL

Before the trial took place, I was pleased to read an editorial in our denominational paper, The United Methodist Review, which took this very same position. How gratifying it was to read such a Biblically sound position on the euthanasia debate in a United Methodist publication. However, as I read the article, I was struck by how schizophrenic our denomination has become. The logic used so well to make the point against euthanasia is quickly forgotten when the subject of abortion is raised. Let me quote just a few sections of that editorial on euthanasia; please note that I have substituted the language of abortion for the language of euthanasia.

"If [abortion] becomes a legally acceptable alternative to [unwelcome pregnancy], it also will become a cheap and publicly acceptable form of disposing of the most vulnerable of society... It is far more efficient in society to kill unwanted and undesired people than to care for them with tax dollars... We believe the fundamental argument against [abortion] is it lowers the value of life in all human beings. Life becomes void of ultimate meaning and intangible worth, with an economic value attached to it that comes nowhere near its infinite value... As Christians we believe there is so much more to life than the physical and the functional; life also carries meaning and well-being given to us as a precious gift from God." ("We Reject the Goal of 'Dr. Death,'" 12/11/98)

OFF THE FENCE

Until this year, regarding the subject of abortion, I, as a United Methodist pastor, have sat on the fence. Defending a pro-choice position while lamenting the necessity of abortion, I have supported the Social Principles' statement on the subject (Paragraph 65J, The Book of Discipline, 1996). An editorial I wrote, which made that very case, was published in the Review about ten years ago. Yet I was opposed to euthanasia. I held the awkward position of being pro-choice on abortion, but pro-life on euthanasia. And it caused me spiritual turmoil.

However, just about a year ago, I preached a series of sermons on the seven churches of Revelation. As I preached about the warnings to the churches to beware of false teachers, God convicted me. He caused me to see that I have been a "false teacher" in the church when it came to my position on abortion. God caused me to see that human life is human life, and that it is a gift of God. To devalue life at any stage, either at the moment of conception or at the release of the spirit with the last breath, is to devalue all of life. To terminate life because it is undesirable, unwanted, or inconvenient is to try to play God.

I now am a pro-life United Methodist pastor. Euthanasia is wrong. And if euthanasia is wrong, then so is abortion. I could not have it both ways. And neither can our denomination.

—Rev. John B. Gill III/Carlson Memorial United Methodist Church/P.O. Box 310/LaBelle, FL 33975/(941)675-0656 heart.gif (1031 bytes)


WAXING POETIC

The Day of Easter, the Sundays of Easter, and the presence of the Risen Christ most certainly stir up all kinds of creative energies and juices in Christians throughout the Church. That was especially the case with one United Methodist pastor in eastern North Carolina.

After Easter Sunday, Rev. Kevin Baker and his family took leave from the busy life of Reconciliation United Methodist Church (P.O. Box 52326/Durham, NC 27717-2326/(919)286-5722) and landed at Camp Don Lee near the water. About his vacation, Rev. Baker wrote: "During our stay at the camp, I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with words in my head that would not leave me. I realized I was not going to sleep until I got up and wrote them down. I am not a poet, and do not pretend to be. So this was unusual for me.

"Since we seem to live in a time of holocausts for both the born and the unborn, I felt that I should share these words with someone."

The following is what Rev. Baker wrote during those first hours of Easter Monday 1999.

VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS

You have formed me in Your image,
yet science cannot see
the presence of Your Spirit
that breathes life into me.
Mathematics takes a turn
careful inventory of each and every part
skin and cells, blood and water—am I not more than their sum,
since I am the Master's art?
Dawn may yet elude me
as I wait to greet the light.
I fear my presence—an inconvenience,
and for my life I cannot fight.
So I bid farewell to those unknown
from one who is the same,
a love not shared, a life not lived
it's me—the one who bears no name.

Kevin Baker
Easter Monday
April 5, 1999

This editor hopes that Rev. Baker has some more restless nights—during Easter Season or not. Poetry that honors God and man just might result again. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


1999 ANNUAL CONFERENCE REPORTS

When General Conference 2000 convenes in Cleveland, OH, on May 2, United Methodists around the world will be prayerfully hoping for the resolution of the many controversies currently confronting the denomination. Prominent among these controversies are: organizational restructuring, apportionments, ministerial obedience and disobedience, global evangelism, and social witness. A review of Newscope's 1999 annual conference reports indicates two social concerns will once again dominate the coming General Conference agenda. Do the two really have to be identified? Did anyone guess something other than abortion and homosexuality? Here we attempt to offer our brief analysis of annual conference actions regarding these two major challenges to the church.

While detailed analysis of individual annual conference actions are not readily available, the brief summaries provided by Newscope offer insight into the general climate of the conferences on these two pressing matters. The following analysis is based primarily on Newscope reports. However, calls to the Lifewatch office, from persons in various conferences involved with resolutions, also provided behind-the-scenes insight.

ABORTION

At least eleven annual conferences voted, in one way or another, to increase the church's protection of unborn children. That protection, according to Newscope summaries, most frequently was stated in terms of opposition to partial-birth abortion. Though the Newscope summaries were quite brief, which often makes it difficult to know precisely the actions taken, they suggest that many resolutions were, more or less, patterned after the model resolution presented by Lifewatch (see Lifewatch, December 1998). This assumption was strengthened by a number of calls to the Lifewatch office as resolutions were being editorially constructed.

Conferences taking a more pro-life position included: Alabama-West Florida, Central Texas, Florida, Illinois Great Rivers, Kansas West, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, South Georgia, and South West Virginia. Southern New Jersey also opposed partial-birth abortion, though it maintained a relationship with pro-abortion alliances, as you will see.

Those conferences voting to retain the current pro-choice stance included: the Dakotas Conference and Southern New Jersey. As stated above, Southern New Jersey sent a mixed message, for it voted to continue support for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which supports the legality of the partial-birth abortion procedure, even as the conference approved a resolution deploring the use of partial-birth abortion.

HOMOSEXUALITY

The great divide in this debate centers around the apparent dilemma about how the denomination can best acknowledge all persons are subjects of God's love and redemption, while maintaining that, based on Scripture and Tradition, homosexual behavior is sin.

Conferences voting to uphold the current position of the Discipline include: Alabama-West Florida, Baltimore-Washington, Central Texas, Eastern Pennsylvania, Holston, Illinois, Kansas West, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Arkansas, North Carolina, North Georgia, North Texas, South Georgia, Tennessee, Western New York, and Western North Carolina.

Conferences voting to make the church more accepting of homosexual practice include: California-Nevada, California-Pacific, Kansas East, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Oregon-Idaho, Pacific-Northwest, and Wyoming.

The Dakotas Conference voted to retain the current Discipline's language but rejected adding the performance of same-sex unions as a chargeable offense.

Admittedly, this is an incomplete report. Not every annual conference action was reported in Newscope, nor did the Lifewatch office have personal contact with every conference. Even the summaries in Newscope did not always clearly indicate the actual votes taken. That is, several reports simply stated that a certain number of resolutions were considered, and rejected or approved, without identifying their contents. This is not a criticism of Newscope. After all, Newscope receives its summaries from journalistic representatives from the annual conferences. Indeed, by making this information available to the general church, Newscope provides an important service.

From Newscope's annual conference summaries, certain trends can be identified across the general church. But not until General Conference 2000, through the assembled 1,000 delegates, will the official positions of the church be established for another four years. Let us commit ourselves to pray for the General Conference delegates from our annual conferences, for they have been given solemn responsibilities. And as we move forward to May 2, 2000, be much in prayer that General Conference 2000, the Spirit of God in Christ, and the power of the Gospel will unite to guide The United Methodist Church into the Third Millennium with the renewing vigor demonstrated by the brothers Wesley.

—Ruth Brown/Lifewatch Administrator heart.gif (1031 bytes)


1999 ANNUAL CONFERENCE REFLECTIONS

A defining moment of the 1999 session of the South Georgia Annual Conference came on Wednesday morning. The conference was considering a petition to the General Conference calling for reformation of The Social Principles' Paragraph 65J, The United Methodist Church's statement on abortion. It was a defining moment not because of what it said about the division of the conference over the issue in question, but because of what it said about two generations of pastoral leadership and their vastly different approaches to ministry. While neither the present generation nor the rising, younger generation are homogeneous, there does appear to be a distinct difference between the two.

The majority of the present generation of pastoral leaders sees abortion as essentially a political issue. Thus, any statement the church makes on abortion must take into consideration certain, presumed, political realities—such as the assumption that no law restricting abortion that does not include "hard-case" exceptions such as rape, incest, and the life of the mother, will ever be sustainable. Therefore, the church, in addressing the issue, must be pragmatic and politically expedient, conceding that such hard cases may justify abortion. In the minds of the present generation, the main question is, "What abortion law ought the church be advocating?" The church, like the issue, is viewed through essentially political lenses.

The majority of the younger generation views both the issue and the church through entirely different lenses. From its perspective, abortion is essentially a ministry issue, and the church is the vehicle for doing ministry. These pastors are less concerned with passing laws and more concerned with saving lives. Perhaps because they have not been corrupted by "the system," this rising generation of pastoral leaders has little use for the rather more pragmatic arguments of their elders. The politics of the issue aside, the main question on the minds of the rising generation is, "How might the church best witness for the sanctity of human life in the midst of a culture saturated with death?" Answering this question requires prophetic compassion, not political savvy.

The present generation of pastoral leaders, at least in South Georgia, is not the radical fringe which seems to have taken control of several sectors of United Methodism. Our present leaders are generally conservative, well-intentioned folk who wish to preserve some semblance of unity within the conference. Nevertheless, their pragmatic approach to ministry has become an unwitting obstacle to the prophetic ministry of compassion which the church ought to be doing at this critical moment in its history. For the state legislatures, the United States Congress, and the courts, hard-case exceptions are matters for debate and compromise. For the Church of Jesus Christ, hard-case exceptions are exceptional opportunities to share the message of the Gospel, which can transform every human life, without exception.

—Rev. James Gibson/Marshallville United Methodist Church/P.O. Box 186/Marshallville, GA 31057/(912)967-2282. A version of this article first appeared on The Unofficial Confessing Movement Web site: www.ucmpage.org heart.gif (1031 bytes)


A MODEL PETITION FOR GENERAL CONFERENCE 2000

What follows is a "model petition" that is being submitted to General Conference 2000. "Model," in this case, does not suggest perfect. Rather, "model" suggests that this is the format a General Conference petition might follow.

Proper submission of a petition includes sending three (3) copies of the petition to: Petitions Secretary Sheila McGee/P.O. Box 801/Nashville, TN 37202. Petitions must be signed by the sender, who should include his/her address, local church, or denominational board or agency relationship. The deadline for the Petitions Secretary to receive petitions is December 3, 1999.

PETITION TO GENERAL CONFERENCE

On Abortion

To the members of the 2000 General Conference of The United Methodist Church:

We petition that Paragraph 65J, which presently reads:

"The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel."

Be amended as follows:

"Human beings are created by God. The beginning of [life] human lives and the ending of [life] human lives are God-given boundaries of earthly, human existence. [While] Not only have individuals [have] always had some degree of control over when they would die, but also, through much of history, they [now] have had the awesome power to determine [when and even] whether new individuals [will] would be born. Our belief in the sanctity of [unborn] all human life, including the unborn, as God's gift, as affirmed in Scripture, tradition, and experience, makes us reluctant to approve abortion. [But] We are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother[, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy]. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic and rare conflicts [of,] where the life of the unborn child [with] directly and immediately threatens the life of the mother, that may seem to justify abortion, and, in such cases, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel. [support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.] We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. [We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion.] We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy for any reason, and hospitality ministries (including the ministry of adoption) to those in the midst of a [crisis] difficult pregnancy, and to those who give birth. We recognize that [G]governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by [the informed] Christian teaching [conscience], and affirm that such laws and regulations should not permit or advance, among the citizenry, a casual disregard for unborn human life. Therefore, we deplore the use of the cruel form of late-term abortion known as 'partial-birth abortion,' in which the infant is killed as she is being born; and we believe it should be illegal, except in cases where the mother's life is threatened. Also we deplore the murdering of those who perform, and who assist in the performance of, abortions; such murdering violates basic Christian teaching. In a culture which devalues human life, the Church is a community of life, offering the life-giving, life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. [Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.]"

(insert, [delete])

Rationale:

Through its preaching, teaching, and works of mercy, the Church through the ages has consistently and faithfully protected the unborn child and mother. Departing from historic Christian teaching, because of Paragraph 65J of the 1996 Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church now maintains an ambiguous position on abortion. Indeed, Paragraph 65J is currently used to justify the participation of United Methodist agencies in political efforts that support and advance abortion on demand, including partial-birth abortion. United Methodism's ambiguity on abortion—indeed its neglect or rejection of historic Christian guidance on abortion—is especially lamentable in a society that has over 3,800 abortions performed each day and over 1,300,000 abortions performed each year. To amend Paragraph 65J as proposed above would eliminate The United Methodist Church's ambiguity on abortion and help the church to minister, in life-transforming and life-saving ways, to the unborn child and mother.

Submitted by:

Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth (Elder and Member of the North Carolina Conference) and the Administrative Council (adopted on 8/8/99: Yes 10, No 0, and Abstained 0)

Rose Hill United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 177, Rose Hill, NC 28458-0177 heart.gif (1031 bytes)


RCRC WATCH

RCRC stands for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Three United Methodist institutions belong to RCRC. Two of them are official denominational institutions, while one is a denominational caucus group. On the official side, the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries/ Women's Division belong to this coalition. On the unofficial side, the Methodist Federation for Social Action is a member.

"So what?" you ask. "What difference does it make? Denominational boards and caucuses belong to all kinds of different coalitions. What's the big deal?"

The problem is that the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is a pro-choice lobby. That is, RCRC works to make sure that American law remains pro-choice, that abortion on demand is politically protected in American society.

"Oh, come on. RCRC is not that radical," you say.

Well, RCRC describes itself in this way: "The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is the national pro-choice voice of religious communities. Comprised of 42 mainline faith organizations, the coalition works to ensure reproductive choice [that is, abortion] through education and advocacy." (Press Release, 5/15/98, emphasis added) In its own words, RCRC declares itself to be pro-choice. Furthermore, RCRC states that it is striving to perpetuation "reproductive choice" or abortion. In addition, RCRC admits that its work is, in part, "advocacy" or political lobbying.

HOW RADICAL?

To get a deeper sense of how radical RCRC actually is, consider this from RCRC's Web site: "Rather than admit their three-year campaign of misinformation and lies about late-term abortion has failed, the Roman Catholic bishops are trying another, equally questionable tactic—direct political pressure on Roman Catholic politicians. Their statement, 'Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics' [for a review, see Lifewatch, 6/99], displays their weak understanding of religious pluralism and their willful ignorance of sexuality and women's reproductive health needs and concerns." ("The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Calls on the Catholic Bishops to Halt Their Attacks on Religious Freedom, as Well as Freedom of Reproductive Choice")

Let's try to get this straight. RCRC is accusing the Catholic bishops of lying about partial-birth abortion. Again, RCRC is calling Catholic bishops liars. That is a pretty serious charge—especially when no evidence is provided. And needless to say, this charge is seriously anti-ecumenical. Then RCRC calls the mildest form of church discipline of its politicians a "questionable tactic." It seems that RCRC is the party that does not understand pluralism, for pluralism insists that a church can teach and discipline in ways it deems loving, truthful, wise, and faithful to the Gospel. Remember the First Amendment? Remember religious liberty?

ANTI-CATHOLICISM

Finally, RCRC asserts the Catholic bishops are ignorant about "sexuality and women's reproductive health needs and concerns." While containing more than a touch of anti-Catholicism, this claim is intended to pander to ideological feminists. After all, only ideological feminists, not women in general, believe that abortion is one of their basic health needs. After all, according to the polling data, women are more pro-life than men. After all, according to the same data, young, single, sexually active men are found to be the most pro-choice group of all—for self-evident reasons.

All of this points out that the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is not a nice organization that encourages polite dialogue about abortion. Rather, RCRC is an aggressive, hard-edged political lobby that works to ensure that abortion will remain available as just another medical service for consumers in American society. And The United Methodist Church, through three institutions, is a member of this pro-choice outfit. That is, our church is currently a collaborator. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


SO WHAT?

Lorena Rodrigues Bottum recently visited a park in her Washington, DC, neighborhood. While there, she engaged in some small talk with other mothers watching over their children.

"[T]he older woman explained: 'The same week that Bob got his warning that we have to go overseas, I missed my period. And I thought to myself, "Oh, no, not another abortion!"'

"'Oh, I know,' said the other. 'It's so expensive, and you feel sick for days afterwards.'

"'And right in the middle of moving. But it turned out to be a false alarm.'"

Ms. Bottum continues: "Proponents of abortion rights typically insist that abortion is a traumatic decision for women and not undertaken lightly. But the fact is that my neighbors in the park are not moral monsters. Neither are they moral philosophers, of course. They're ordinary, middle-class, stay-at-home mothers, best described not so much in positive terms as in double negatives: not unfriendly, not unkind, not unintelligent, not uneasy. Somehow, modern America has allowed them to develop the ability to casually discuss their multiple casual abortions with a stranger."

According to Bottom, a majority of Americans could be considered "good people." That is, "good, ordinary people who are innocent mostly because they've never been tested."

"The mother by the sandbox who saw no moral difficulty in having an abortion to avoid an unpleasant time packing: She's good people. And that's exactly the problem with the current abortion situation. It's the problem ignored by President Clinton when he made his famous declaration—recently echoed by Gov. George W. Bush—that abortion should be 'safe, legal, and rare.' So long as abortion is legal, it will be neither an agonizing decision nor a rare one. Those good, ordinary, middle-class mothers from their park in Georgetown...they'll always fail that test." (Wall Street Journal, 3/12/99)

The Church of Jesus Christ—including The United Methodist Church—exists, in part, to create people who will pass various moral tests. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT

heart.gif (1031 bytes) The Reverend Robert L. Kuyper has worked diligently with Transforming Congregations for years. Transforming Congregations, as many of you know, leads The United Methodist Church toward the position of historic Christianity on homosexual behavior—that is, love the sinner, and assist God's Spirit in transforming the sinner out of sin. His witness, thanks be to God, has been, is, and will be faithful and true to the Gospel. Recently Rev. Kuyper was discovered to have a tumor. Surgery has been completed, and radiation treatments are underway. At this time, Rev. Kuyper is both thankful, and he is hopeful about his prospects. But do keep him in your prayers.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) The Reverend George Anderson, who is the pastor of Mt. Oak United Methodist Church in Mitchellville, MD, received the very first Pastor Walter Collette Award for outstanding pro-life leadership in congregational ministry. Initiated in 1998, this annual award honors the late Pastor Walter Collette, who once directed Maryland Pastors for Life. Lifewatch congratulates Rev. Anderson for receiving this significant honor. (Pro-Life Maryland News, Summer 1998)

heart.gif (1031 bytes) It was Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) who said: "There are issues of transcendent importance that you have to be willing to lose your office over. I would think of several that I am willing to lose my office over. Abortion is one. National defense is another. And strengthening, not emasculating, the concept of equal justice under the law." (NOEL News, April 1999) Certainly, Lifewatch's main concern is not politics. But we are more than happy to pass along, now and then, a strong and inspiring political statement. And by the way, are there not "issues of transcendent importance" that would cause Christ's ordained clergy and baptized laity to make similar sacrifices?

 heart.gif (1031 bytes) Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who has assisted around 130 people in committing suicide, was recently found guilty of the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk. You might have seen Kevorkian's murder of Mr. Youk on television, thanks to ratings-greedy "60 Minutes."

After sentencing Dr. Kevorkian to 10 to 25 years in prison, Judge Jessica Cooper had this to say to Dr. Kevorkian at the end of her official statement: "This trial was not about the political or moral correctness of euthanasia. It was all about you, sir. It was about lawlessness. It was about disrespect for a society that exists and flourishes because of the strength of the legal system.

"No one, sir, is above the law. No one.

"So let's talk just a little bit more about you specifically.

"You were on bond to another judge when you committed this offense. You were not licensed to practice medicine when you committed this offense, and you hadn't been licensed for eight years. And you had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did, and dare the legal system to stop you. Well, sir, consider yourself stopped." (New York Times, 4/14/99)

It is good to see justice done, and the Culture of Death checked, every once in a while.

(By the way, on page 21A, near the aforementioned Kevorkian story in the New York Times, a pro-life ad appeared. It read: "ABORTION/Isn't it the ultimate in/CHILD ABUSE?/Paid for by Committee of Concerned Parents/of Rye, NY.")

heart.gif (1031 bytes) Paula Kissinger was the mother of you know who. On November 15th of last year, she died at the age 97. In the New York Times obituary (11/16/98), this story was reported: "Several years ago, she fell in her kitchen and was unconscious for several hours. She was put on a life-support system, but when doctors wanted to remove it, her son Henry refused. When the doctors explained that she wouldn't be able to think or speak, he replied, 'You don't know my mother.' After being unconscious for days, she awoke and asked him, 'What day is it?' When he told her it was Tuesday, she said, 'Cancel my 10 o'clock dentist appointment.'" Yes, God gives us life even to cancel dental appointments...

heart.gif (1031 bytes) Response is an official United Methodist publication that is put out monthly by the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries. The February 1999 issue was built on the theme of opposing hate in the world, in American society. Oppose hate. That is something all of us must do. Indeed, that is a cause all Christians, all congregations, all denominations should join. However, in reading the articles contained in this issue of Response, one might tend to think that all hate in American society emerges from the cultural, political, and religious right. That is, one might conclude that no hate and no haters can be found on the left (or in the middle).

It is a shame that some of our denominational leaders are still operating under the worn-out, debunked principle of "no enemies on the left." For hate can in fact be found on the right, on the left, and in the middle. It does not take a Harvard-trained sociologist of sin (or various social pathologies) to discover as much.

When Christians oppose hate, we must make sure that we do not practice hate ourselves. Using this standard, consider "Looking for Hate in All the Wrong Places," the Response article by The Reverend Meg A. Riley. It includes a picture of Dr. James Dobson. The picture's caption notes that "James Dobson is founder of Focus on the Family, a right-wing organization that attempts to influence U.S. politics." Depicted in this way, Dobson is not someone you would want to visit your Sunday School class. But in fact, Dr. James Dobson is an evangelical Christian who is mightily resisting the moral and cultural decline in our nation. Therefore, to associate Dr. Dobson with "a right-wing organization" says much more about the writer making the accusation than about the good doctor going about his public business.

Riley's article states: "When Focus on the Family leader James Dobson promotes the anti-choice movement through the pages of his monthly magazine, it is women who have had abortions who talk about how horrible it was for them, how much they suffered. They want abortion outlawed so other women will not suffer as they did. The removal of choice for all women is put forth as a loving, compassionate act." This comment appears under the subheading "Disguising Hate." It suggests that Dobson's language of compassion functions as a cover for hate. However, to rescue unborn child and mother from abortion is an act of authentic compassion—compassion for the unborn child who would most certainly die at the hands of an abortionist, and compassion for her mother who would most probably suffer from post-abortion afflictions of various kinds. This compassion is not a cover. This compassion is real compassion.

But then, in the article's description of its author, we read that Rev. Riley "serves on the national [board] of...the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice" (RCRC). Remembering that RCRC is a radically pro-choice political lobby, we should not have expected Rev. Riley to disguise her disgust, if not hatred, for Dr. James Dobson and for the compassion he offers. It is a sadness that one of our United Methodist publications thought it wise to carry her article, with its unfortunate arguments and attitudes, into many a Methodist home.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) Back in March, a conference entitled "In God's Image: Called to Build a Culture of Life" was held at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law in Washington, DC. It was convened by John Cardinal O'Connor (Archbishop of New York) and Bernard Cardinal Law (Archbishop of Boston). And it was a powerful event for the hundreds who attended.

In his opening remarks, Cardinal O'Connor wore proudly the common defamations of being pro-life. In passionate, yet measured tones, he declared: "Call me a right-wing fundamentalist. Call me a religious nut. This charge means nothing. To claim the right to kill the innocent is to claim the right to be God." (Washington Times, 3/4/99)

The Cardinal continued: "This is what I ask of each one of us. We are not simply anti-abortion, as we're so often called in the media. We are pro-life, pro the mystery of life, pro the joy of life. We are impelled by joy to bring this message to the world." (Catholic New York, 3/11/99)

heart.gif (1031 bytes)Due to the death of a sister in Christ at the Rose Hill Church, your editor was able to attend only the last day, March 5th, of the aforementioned conference. Taking the Metro to the Catholic University stop, I spotted the front-page headline in The Washington Post: "Justice Blackmun Dies, Leaving Rights Legacy—Roe v. Wade Was Court Benchmark." (As you probably know, even many pro-choice legal scholars question Roe's reasoning and claims. For example, Stanford University's legal professor John Hart Ely has noted that what "is frightening about Roe v. Wade is that [its] super-protected right is not inferable from the language of the Constitution, the framers' thinking respecting the specific problem [at] issue, any general value derivable from the provisions they included, or the nation's governmental structure." Indeed, he has contended that Roe is a "very bad decision" because it is "not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.") The Post's headline captured Blackmun's contribution to American society nicely: by writing the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, Justice Blackmun had indeed left an abortion-rights legacy. The first paragraph of the article noted that Roe had "radically transformed American society and politics." And it might be impolitely added that Blackmun's Roe decision had "radically transformed" the earthly destiny of some 35 million unborn children whose lives were ruthlessly and prematurely taken. For your information, Harry Blackmun was a member of the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, DC. He was also a twelve-year member of the United Methodist Publishing House's governing board. (Newscope, 3/12/99)

Lifewatch does not rejoice in the death of Harry Andrew Blackmun. As we did not join those who expressed, in various ways, hatred toward this man during and after his tenure on the United States Supreme Court. But we do find it interesting that Blackmun died during a conference dedicated to building a Culture of Life. Let us hope and pray that the Culture of Life in the making will continue to gain momentum in the midst of this Culture of Death, which Justice Blackmun helped create.

heart.gif (1031 bytes) This is from Father Frank Pavone, who heads up Priests for Life: "Joy in our pro-life work is born of the fact that all we do is motivated by love: love for preborn children, love for their mothers and fathers, and love also for those who oppose what we stand for, whether they be in government, the media, or the abortion industry itself.

"Confident joy springs from the fact that this mission we have of restoring a Culture of Life is God's mission before it is ours. It is a mission we receive from the One who has all power to fulfill it and chooses to fulfill it through us.

"How, then, can we not be confident? It is the Holy Spirit who fills us! It is the same Spirit who breathed over the waters and brought forth life out of chaos and darkness. It is the same Spirit who has spoken through the prophets, the same Spirit who descended upon the womb of Mary, the same Spirit who anointed the Lord Jesus and raised Him from the dead! The same Holy Spirit who sent the apostles sends us, and He has lost none of His strength. This, indeed, is the same Spirit who descends on bread and wine to transform them into the Son of God, and who will descend on our own tombs to raise us from the dead!

"I am sometimes asked whether I become depressed dealing with abortion all the time. I would, I reply, were it not for one fact: I am proclaiming the victory of life. Let us do so together, with all the joy and confidence that the Holy Spirit brings." (Priests for Life, November-December 1998)

heart.gif (1031 bytes) Hope burns eternal in your editor's heart. Last winter, when Lifewatch carried the article "Obstruction of Justice" (12/98), my hope was running especially high. This editor sincerely thought that the article, which contended that our Council of Bishops is standing in the way of The United Methodist Church speaking and doing the truth about abortion, might cause a bishop or two to engage the argument offered. Well, as it turned out, we did receive one response from a bishop. He is retired and living in Lake Junaluska. NC. He sent a postcard and requested that his name be removed from the Lifewatch mailing. It was a little humbling. Though humbled, we remain as hopeful as before.heart.gif (1031 bytes)

 

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 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://lifewatch.org

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