December 2002—A quarterly news
letter for United Methodists
“OUR [VERY] LAST CHILD”
One of the joys of editing Lifewatch is the new, unexpected
friends it brings. Growing up in Garden City, KS, I did not know Mr. Cliff
Hope, one of the lawyers in our town. However, as of late, Mr. Hope has
become a reader of this newsletter and a friend. Earlier this year he
completed a long essay entitled “An American Primer: A Guide to the Duties
of Good Citizenship.” Its section on “Respect for Life” contains this
wonderful description of the respect for life found in his own household.
In February, 1973, about one month after the Roe v. Wade
decision on January 22, my wife confirmed that she, at the age of 48, was
pregnant. It had been twelve years since our last child was born. In due
course―in late July―our fifth daughter was born. Five months later, we
celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Actually, we had other plans for 1973. Our eldest daughter was in
graduate school, and our only son and another daughter were in college. Of
the two daughters still at home, one was in high school and the other in
junior high. My wife and I were registered to attend the World Peace
Through World Law conference in August in Abidjan, port city of Ivory
Coast. We even had talked of joining the Peace Corps or some other
voluntary service, taking our 12-year-old daughter with us. Pregnancy
brought an end to those plans. Abortion was never considered.
In the town of 15,000 where we had lived for 24 years, there was, of
course, something of a buzz about our late expectation―a ripple of
snickering, surprise, and disbelief―and some outright curiosity and
concern about whatever would we do about our “predicament.” At the same
time, there was an outpouring of support and congratulations. And prayers.
A number of people, mostly women, approached my wife to reassure her.
“My mother was your age when I was born,” one said proudly. Others, too,
talked about late-in-life births in their families.
Our family doctor, a man of few words, was unruffled. He figured the
due date and allowed that the mother-to-be was healthy―not overweight, did
not smoke, and got plenty of exercise. A good risk for a late pregnancy.
After a moment of silence, he said, “You know, I have an aunt and uncle
who had a son when they were in the late 40s...best thing that ever
happened to them.”
Our time as the “talk of the town” was brief. I was reminded of it in
the fall of 1989 when friends of ours, a prominent couple in a nearby
farming community, learned they were expecting a fourth child when they
were certain their family was complete. Their three sons were in school.
The mother-to-be, younger than 48 by several years, laughed as she
said, “The day our news started circulating was the day the Berlin Wall
fell. But no one talked about that where we lived. They were talking about
After our daughter was born, we knew there were some who wondered if
she “was all right.” By the grace of God, she was indeed.
In relating our family story, I am not saying that others should allow
an unplanned child to be born just because we did. But I am saying this:
whether such a child is allowed to be born should not depend on the mere
wish or whim of the mother or both parents. In these times, no mother is
forced to keep an unwanted child. Thousands of couples are longing to
adopt a child or children. Adoption [should be] an alternative….♥
LET THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH!
More and more, it seems, United Methodists are prone to picture The
United Methodist Church as a “big tent.” That is, we United Methodists are
likely to understand our denomination as a large umbrella under which
various versions of, and interest groups within, United Methodism live,
sometimes compete, and sometimes conflict with each other. According to
this view, the organizational structures of The United Methodist Church
work mainly to keep the peace between the many United Methodist styles,
groups, and causes. This is the “big tent,” or the Church of Choice, at
the denominational level.
More locally, there are some United Methodists who want their
congregation to serve as a voluntary association in which they can
religiously express themselves and their preferences. In other words, they
desire a church where they can, above all else, exercise their own
choices. When it comes to church doctrine, church morals, church worship,
church government, and so on, they do not want any givens. Instead, they
want their say, their voice, their vote, their way. These folks want, more
than anything else, the congregation to be a “big tent,” a local version
of the larger Church of Choice.
But there is a problem with this way of thinking. The Church of Choice
runs counter to “the one holy catholic and apostolic Church” (The Nicene
Creed), the Church of Christ. For the Church of Christ has a way of
believing together, a way of living together, a way of worshiping
together, a way of being together. For the Church of Christ is communal,
historic, and eschatological―while the Church of Choice is basically
individualistic and consumeristic.
Writing about Erik Peterson (1890-1960) and his theological thinking
about the Church, Michael J. Hollerich summarizes: “The reality of
Christianity requires public, open, objective demonstration. Its doctrines
are not scholars’ opinions or subjective projections of individual
religious feelings. Its worship is a ritual which links earth and heaven.
Its community is not merely a voluntary association of like-minded
individuals, but a public, authoritative, and quasi-political reality, the
earthly ekklesia of the heavenly polis...” (Pro Ecclesia,
Let’s translate in this way. The Church of Christ has doctrine to be
known, preached, and transmitted. The Church of Christ has morals to be
practiced and learned. The Church of Christ has faithful worship to be
offered up weekly. The Church of Christ has commandments, laws, rules, and
etiquette to be heeded. All of these facets of the Church are gifts from
the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, and His Spirit; and they are to be
employed graciously, under Christ’s Lordship, and in His Spirit’s power.
By God’s grace, The United Methodist Church can become, more fully and
more faithfully, the Church of Christ. At the same time, United Methodism
can set aside the self-understanding and the habits of the Church of
Choice. And to the degree that United Methodism becomes the Church of
Christ, we will be able to serve the redemption of more women like Mary
Ann Emanuel, and to produce women and men of Christian character like Mr.
and Mrs. Cliff Hope.
In the end, the Church of Choice has little, beyond passing fads and
fantasies, to offer. The Church of Christ, on the other hand, offers
life―life in this world, life in Christ, and life with all the saints in
glory. (PTS) ♥
YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
● We are still needing a person to serve as a Lifewatch contact or
representative in each Annual Conference. Through educational,
legislative, pastoral, and organizational means, each Lifewatch contact
will help to advance the Gospel of Life within his/her Annual Conference.
If you would like to volunteer to be a Lifewatch “contact person” in your
Annual Conference, please communicate with Mrs. Cindy Evans, our Publicity
and Outreach Coordinator, at 1564 Skyview Drive/Holts Summitt, MO 65043/
● Lifewatch will soon be represented on a Focus on the Family
radio program. In November, your scribe, as part of a panel of oldline
Protestants who are witnesses for the Gospel of Life, will have been
interviewed. The program will then be aired during January of 2003. You
are invited and encouraged to tune in.
● The Reverend Paul R. Crikelair has been one of the most
faithful servants of the Gospel of Life in The United Methodist Church.
For years, he has ordered and presided at the Annual Lifewatch Service of
Worship on January 22nd in Washington, DC. Now Rev. Crikelair has put
together a booklet entitled “Breaking the Silence: Snapshots of
Pro-Life Sermons by a United Methodist Pastor.” In this booklet, over
twenty sermon titles, texts, and summaries are offered for consideration
by the working pastor. This is a very helpful, brief resource for
homiletical reflection and preparation. For your copy, send $2 with a
request to: Rev. Paul R. Crikelair/Goodwill United Methodist Church/104
Church Road/Elverson, PA 19520.
● Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, KS is one of the most notorious
abortionists in the United States today. Last January, to celebrate the
anniversary of Roe v. Wade, he offered free-of-charge abortions.
According to reports, thirty-two women signed up for the free abortions.
This is reason for sadness and for prayers for God’s mercy. This is also
bracing evidence of the reach of the culture of death in our society.
● The conversation has finally begun! First, Bishop Joseph C.
Sprague, of the Chicago Area, made his case explaining―or better,
explaining away―some of the central, Christological truths of the faith of
the Church. (Bp. Sprague’s intentions were good: he was interested in
persuasively presenting the faith to the skeptics of our day. But the
consequences of his good intentions were disastrous: he undermined the
very faith he intended to advance.) For months Bp. Sprague’s colleagues on
the Council of Bishops remained silent about Sprague’s theological case.
But then, out of the Florida Area, Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, the
newest kid on the episcopal block, defended the faith of the Church by
writing a very gentle but yet devastating critique of Bp. Sprague’s case.
Then Bishop Marion M. Edwards, of the Raleigh Area, joined the
discussion. Bp. Edwards strongly defended the apostolic faith against the
errors emanating from Chicago. Finally, there is serious conversation,
among our bishops, about the truth of The United Methodist Church’s faith.
Thanks be to God! Could a serious conversation, among our bishops, about
The United Methodist Church’s position on life and abortion soon follow?
Lifewatch certainly hopes and prays so.
● The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) met in October
for its fall board meeting. During the meeting, several petitions, which
were prepared by GBCS staff and aimed at the 2004 General Conference, were
considered. One petition would have diluted The Book of Discipline’s
opposition to partial-birth abortion. This petition would have added the
words or health to the Discipline’s current language, so
that the amended sentence would read: “We oppose the use of late-term
abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and
call for the end of this practice except when the physical life or health
of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or
in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life.” (Paragraph
161J) The committee dealing with this proposed petition voted 4 to 3 to
recommend removal of the entire sentence against partial-birth abortion
from the Discipline. The justification for removal was that “the
denomination, as stated in the Discipline, takes a pro-choice
position on abortion. [The church’s sentence against partial-birth
abortion means that the church is] opposing a medical procedure that is
available for women to choose.” The new petition, for removal, was sent to
the full board. Several board members disagreed with this petition and its
rationale. Most tellingly, it was pointed out that the GBCS has gone on
record as being strongly opposed to human cloning; for GBCS, at the same
time, to favor partial-birth abortion would make for moral non-sense. When
the final vote was taken, the petition for removal was defeated by a vote
of about 15 to 6, with some directors absent and others abstaining.
Remember that General Conference 2000, by a vote of 622-275, placed a
strong statement against partial-birth abortion in The Book of
Discipline. Therefore, it is most encouraging to note the recent vote
of GBCS to maintain the current position against partial-birth abortion in
● Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier was one of the outstanding, Biblical
theologians of our time. She was a tireless preacher of the Gospel, a
faithful teacher of the Church catholic, an author or editor of more than
twenty books and countless articles, and a regular contributor to
Presbyterians Pro-Life News. On October 25th she went on to glory to
join the Communion of the Saints. This is from her column, entitled
“Prisoners of Hope,” in the Fall 2002 issue of PPL News (which is a
reprint of her Winter 1995 column): “[The Word from the God of hope] says
that the guilt of the past can be forgiven and done away. There can be a
new beginning. ‘If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation’ (II
Corinthians 5:17, RSV). Those who have aborted a child can find release
from their guilt. Those who have engaged in sexual sins can find that old
life of immorality put away forever. Those who have sanctioned abortion’s
slaughter, for seemingly supportable reasons, can be granted a whole new
understanding. A fresh start! Once more a beginning! Those are granted by
the God of hope!
“And so too does the God who meets us in Jesus Christ transform our
present. Now we are not on our own anymore. There is a Wisdom beyond us
who guides us, and who can bring right out of even our wrong. There are
Everlasting Arms which can carry us when we think we cannot go on. There
is a Love that will not let us go even when we are most unlovable. And
yes, there is a Spirit [who] can bind us together in community, so that no
pregnant woman ever again need feel alone, without help and with no one to
whom to turn. To every woman facing a crisis pregnancy, the God of hope
extends his Word: ‘Fear not, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 43:5)―through my
Spirit, through my Church, through every pro-life group who values you and
“Given such a God of hope, then the future is full of promise, isn’t
it? For now the prison cage has been opened, and we are no longer captives
to our evil society. Nothing now is inevitable. Death does not have the
last word. God is at work, the God of life, who brought Jesus Christ from
the dead. He works toward the time when the death of abortion will be no
more, when every tear of crisis pregnancy will have been wiped away, when
the sorrow and pain occasioned by the loss of every child will be a thing
of the past.
“The God of hope is also the victorious God of the future. And so we
prisoners of the love of that God and of his hope press on in certain
Thanks be to God for the faithful life and ministry of Elizabeth
BRING YOUR CHURCH GROUP TO ATTEND…
THE ANNUAL LIFEWATCH
SERVICE OF WORSHIP
Sermon by Dr. Sondra WheelerMartha Asheby Carr Professor of
Wesley Theological Seminary
January 22, 2002 (Wed.)―9:30-10:30 a.m.
The United Methodist Building
100 Maryland Avenue, NE―Washington, DC
The United Methodist Building
HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!
[For easier admission to The United Methodist Building
on January 22nd, you might bring this issue of Lifewatch to Capitol
JOIN US ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH IN PRAYING AND FASTING FOR
LIFEWATCH’S CONTINUING MINISTRY.
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, 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.”
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:
firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: