By Jessica Brodie
This June, Annual Conference members will vote whether to ask The United Methodist Church to withdraw two of its agencies from the Religious Coalition For Reproductive Choice.
The RCRC is a national community of religious organizations and individuals dedicated to achieving reproductive justice through education, organizing and advocacy; coalition members include the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women.
The resolution calls on the South Carolina Conference to ask the 2016 General Conference to withdraw these agencies immediately from membership in the RCRC because they believe the coalition’s work surrounding abortion rights is in direct conflict with what the denomination’s Book of Discipline says about abortion (see below). The resolution was submitted by four Upstate churches: Memorial UMC in Greer, Covenant UMC in Greer, Gramling UMC in Campobello and Slater UMC in Slater.
“We should not be actively supporting any group that is working against the sacredness of life and the sanctity of unborn life,” said Bill Clute, primary author of the resolution who is a member of Memorial UMC and the chapter director of Reasonable Faith in Greenville, a Christian apologetics ministry. “This is not a fight against abortion; the Book of Discipline already makes the statement on abortion. We just need to adhere to the Book of Discipline.”
The resolution maintains that the RCRC condones abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, that it opposes parental notification laws and that it lobbies the government and participates in legal action for the preservation of partial-birth abortion, all of which go against what the Discipline advocates, Clute said.
“If the Book of Discipline has any value, then we should not be involved with this organization,” Clute said.
The resolution also notes that other mainline denominations with positions on abortion similar to that of the UMC have either never chosen to be members of the RCRC or have severed past ties with the group.
Clute said the resolution has been a long process and was not rushed in any way; the churches that ultimately submitted the resolution had numerous meetings about their involvement before stepping up.
The full text of the resolution is online within the pre-conference materials at www.umcsc.org/AnnualConferences/2015/2015PreConferenceMaterials.pdf, along with the other resolutions that will go before the body. See pages 79-85 for the full text.
Abortion: What does the UMC’s Discipline say?
“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 and the unborn child.
“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 by certified medical providers. We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics (see Resolution 3184).
“We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. This procedure shall be performed only by certified medical providers. Before providing their services, abortion providers should be required to offer women the option of anesthesia.
“We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion. We entrust God to provide guidance, wisdom, and discernment to those facing an unintended pregnancy.
“The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. 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.
“We mourn and are committed to promoting the diminishment of high abortion rates. The Church shall encourage ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies such as comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support of initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.
“Young adult women disproportionately face situations in which they feel that they have no choice due to financial, educational, relational, or other circumstances beyond their control. The Church and its local congregations and campus ministries should be in the forefront of supporting existing ministries and developing new ministries that help such women in their communities. They should also support those crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women explore all options related to unplanned pregnancy. We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption. (See ¶ 161L.) We affirm and encourage the Church to assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion.
“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, family, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.”
—From Para. 161J, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2012