Uniting for Life
United Methodism Opposes Partial-Birth
By Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, Pastor of Rose Hill United
The 2000 General Conference of the United Methodist Church
voted by an overwhelming majority of 622-275 to oppose partial-birth
abortion. Here is the exact wording of the legislative action:
"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
In the 2000 edition of The Book of Discipline (United
Methodism's book of church law), this sentence will be added
to the standing paragraph on abortion (Paragraph 65J in the
To United Methodists and others who are dedicated to the
Gospel of Life, this is good news. General Conference 2000's
action against partial-birth abortion truly marks a milestone
in the United Methodist Church's official position on abortion.
At the same time, our elation should be qualified, for by
approving a sentence against partial-birth abortion, the United
Methodist Church has taken just one small step toward fully
protecting the most helpless and vulnerable among us - - the
unborn child and mother. What follows are the reasons for
this double response.
REASONS FOR REJOICING
Here are five reasons for rejoicing over the 2000 General
Conference's rejection of partial-birth abortion.
First, by opposing partial-birth abortion, the United Methodist
Church breaks ranks with the pro-choice/pro-abortion political
lobby. Before this legislation against partial-birth abortion
was passed by General Conference, the United Methodist Church
had been officially and unquestionably "pro-choice" on abortion
for decades, and silent on the partial-birth procedure.
The Book of Discipline's "pro-choice" paragraph and
its silence on partial-birth abortion allowed United Methodist
leaders and general-church boards to support political lobbies
which are sustaining the legality of all abortion, including
this particularly repulsive form of abortion. In this way,
certain United Methodist leaders and boards provided religious
cover, religious legitimization, to those who are maintaining
the legal status of partial-birth abortion. Therefore, certain
United Methodist leaders and institutions directly collaborated
with the Culture of Death.
However, now that the anti-partial-birth abortion language
has been added to the Discipline, the United Methodist Church
is no longer a partial-birth abortion collaborator. Therefore,
the United Methodist Church officially opposes what, a matter
of months ago, she was supporting - - the radical, pro-choice/pro-abortion
Second and more specifically, by opposing partial-birth abortion,
the United Methodist Church now lives in tension with the
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). RCRC basically
advocates, in the political halls of the powers that be, for
the legal availability of abortion on demand. For example,
RCRC has worked Capitol Hill to maintain the legality of partial-birth
abortion. Two United Methodist boards - - namely, the General
Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division/General
Board of Global Ministries - - are affiliated with RCRC. However,
now that United Methodism is officially opposed to partial-birth
abortion, the church as a whole now officially disapproves
of some of RCRC's work.
Third, by opposing partial-birth abortion, the United Methodist
Church joins the ecumenical community on this issue. The vast
majority of Christian communions - - the Roman Catholic Church,
the Orthodox churches, the Evangelical Protestant churches,
and some Mainline/Oldline Protestant churches (now including
the United Methodist Church) - - are staunchly opposed to
this form of abortion.
Fourth, by officially opposing partial-birth abortion, the
United Methodist Church encourages its own bishops, district
superintendents, and pastors to be more truthful in addressing
God's gift of human life and the sin of abortion. This General
Conference action gives official denominational permission
to United Methodist leaders to serve more faithfully the Gospel
of Life and to oppose more vigorously the Culture of Death.
Fifth, by opposing partial-birth abortion, the United Methodist
Church shows that she is able to overcome the maneuvers of
the small but well-organized pro-choice/pro-abortion minority
within the denomination. By refusing to compromise the anti-partial-birth
language it passed (by adding a health-of-the-mother exception)
and by refusing to refer the sentence to the General Board
of Church and Society (where the sentence most certainly would
have been compromised beyond recognition or totally eliminated),
General Conference displayed some real determination against
the pro-choice/pro-abortion strategies that have long held
sway in United Methodism's General Conferences.
REASONS FOR REALISM
While passage of this sentence is to be admired, there is
still much work to be done with regard to abortion in the
United Methodist Church. It leaves unchanged a presumption
toward abortion on demand and a theology which elevates the
"sovereign self," above the sovereign God when considering
the matters of life and abortion.
Nevertheless, it is most encouraging to note the tens of
thousands of pro-life petitions submitted to General Conference
2000. They indicate a tremendous amount of theological and
moral energy among pro-life United Methodists. That energy
will need to be sustained in the years to come. In the wake
of the United States Supreme Court's June decision in Stenberg
v. Carhart, which struck down Nebraska's legislative ban
of partial-birth abortion, this counsel to faithfulness and
truthfulness is especially pressing.
Bearing Witness to Life
By Rev. David L. Adams, NPRC President
In the days following the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling in
Stenberg v. Carhart that overturned the Nebraska law
banning partial-birth abortions, I spoke with quite a few
faithful pro-life Christians who were frustrated and tired.
I understood their frustration, but I could not share their
On the cross Jesus has already won the fight. He sent us
into the world to bear witness to His victory and the truth
of God's Word. Understanding this makes a big difference in
how we think about what we do.
If we view ourselves as fighting a battle, then our primary
goal becomes winning. When our goal is winning we can be tempted
to adopt a strategy which requires sacrificing principles,
bending the truth, or cutting the moral corners, in the belief
that the end justifies the means. Anything goes, as long as
we win. By contrast, when we focus on witnessing, our primary
goal becomes faithfulness. Our ends must be good, but
our means must also be righteous. Only that which is faithful
to the teaching of Christ can be tolerated. "For what profit
is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his
own soul?" (Mt. 16:26).
How we think about our task also affects how we measure our
success. A battle-oriented perspective leads us to measure
our success in terms of fights won and fights lost. Since
few of us can bear up under the burden of frequent losses,
this leads in turn to frustration and burnout. By contrast,
those who understand that their task is to bear witness realize
that even those things that appear in human terms to be defeats
become joyous victories in Christ when we understand that
victory lies not in the outcome but in the witness we bear.
The way that we understand our task also affects the approach
that we use. Those who operate within a battle-oriented framework
adopt a confrontational approach. Battles create adversaries.
They are about beating an opponent or being beaten, about
us vs. them. By contrast, the witnessing approach is
redemptive. Those who operate in this way see others not as
opponents to be beaten, but as persons for whom Christ died,
and sinners whom He longs to save.
There are those who wrongly believe that it is enough if
they speak the truth, even if they speak it in a way calculated
to offend and drive the hearer away from Christ. A faithful
witness to Christ is not only one that is correct, it is also
one that is appropriate.
As Paul writes (Col. 4:5-6): "Walk in wisdom toward those
who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always
be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you
ought to answer each one."
We bear witness to Christ in the world by speaking the truth
in love. In Him is Life, and we bear witness to His Truth
and His Salvation when we speak the truth about the sacredness
of each human life.
Plan Consultation on End of Life Issues
By Rev. Ben Sheldon, Executive Director of NPRC
Clergy often face difficulties and problems as they seek
to minister comfort and encouragement to people who are seeking
help as they near the end of life. Recognizing this challenge,
Presbyterians Pro-Life (PPL) is hosting an ecumenical consultation
on a Pastoral Response to Those Who Are Seriously Ill or Dying,
October 5-7 in Baltimore.
End of life decisions are becoming more and more a common
dilemma in the lives of families in the churches. The issues
are often complex and troubling.
For example: what about "heroic measures" to prolong life?
What about the cost of long-term care when the inevitability
of death is inescapable? What about decisions when your loved
one cannot make the decision?
The purpose of this gathering is to engage parish pastors
in discussion of the biblical and theological basis for a
Christian ethic on end of life questions and to enable them
to develop skills in preaching and teaching on these topics
so that they can guide people facing these decisions.
The main presenters will be Dr. Nigel Cameron of Trinity
International University and author of Death Without Dignity;
Dr. James Edwards of Whitworth College and author of When
God Breaks Into Your Life; Mr. Richard Doerflinger, editor
of Life at Risk: A Chronicle of Euthanasia Trends in America;
Dr. C. Ben Mitchell, also of Trinity International University
and editor of the New International Dictionary of Bioethics,
and Dr. Gilbert Meileander of Valparaiso University and author
of A Primer for Christians.
Other presenters include: Dr. James V. Bachman; Rev. Parker
T. Williamson, and Bishop Bertram Schlossberg. In addition,
several medical people, doctors and nurses will participate.
For further information, call PPL at 703-569-9474.
NPRC Members Present Workshops
at NRLC Convention
Church communities can be one of the most effective places
for pro-life education, yet many are still silent on this
pressing moral and spiritual issue of our day. NPRC board
members addressed this challenge in several workshops June
30 at the National Right to Life Convention held in Arlington,
The popular workshop entitled, We are the Sheep, Where are
the Shepherds? was led by Rev. David Adams with presentations
by panel members Revs. Ben Sheldon, John Brown, Kirk van der
Swaagh, and Frank Pavone, plus Shannon Royce, Kathleen Sweet
and Ernest Ohlhoff.
These experienced pastors and leaders referred to several
factors that keep pastors from dealing with pro-life issues:
1) seeing it framed as a political issue rather than a spiritual
and moral issue; 2) lack of in-depth knowledge about the issue;
3) fear of displeasing people in the congregation or causing
"controversy;" 4) having too many issues to deal with; 5)
thinking it is not a problem present in their particular congregation.
Practical and spiritual advice for overcoming these problems
was offered both in this workshop and in three others, including
Overcoming Pro-Abortion Opposition Within a Congregation
or Denomination, presented by Revs. Ben Sheldon, John
Brown, and Dennis Day; Increasing Local Pro-Life Effectiveness
in Pro-Life Denominations, presented by Rev. Frank Pavone,
Shannon Royce and Ernest Ohlhoff; and Religious Outreach:
Establishing a Pro-Life Presence in Community Churches,
presented by Ernest Ohlhoff.
Fundamental to encouraging more pro-life work in a church
is prayer, love, respect and active support for the pastor;
providing awareness of the hurt caused to women and families
by abortion; and education on the fundamental nature of this
issue, its effect on other issues, and the factual details
about abortion and euthanasia. Use of church statements and
documents, the history of opposition to abortion, statistics
on abortion in the local community and crisis pregnancy support
Tapes of these workshops and other materials for pro-life
work in churches are available from NRLC: 202-626-8800, ext.
142 or 155.
Priests for Life
Challenges Voters and Candidates
Fr. Frank Pavone, PFL National Director
Priests for Life, a member group of the National Pro-life
Religious Council, is in the midst of a nationwide effort
to educate believers about their political responsibility,
and about the fundamental role that right to life issues play
in any campaign.
The project relies heavily on the document of the US Catholic
Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life (1998). In the document,
the bishops challenge believers who are "in positions of leadership
-- whether cultural, economic or political -- to recover their
identity as followers of Jesus Christ and to be leaders in
the renewal of American respect for the sanctity of life"
(n.7). They likewise challenge elected officials who are "pro-choice"
"to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well
being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others
into serious sin" (n.32).
Priests for Life, with the cooperation of National Right
to Life and many diocesan offices, has sent excerpts of this
document, in the form of camera-ready bulletin inserts, to
Churches across America. The document itself, as well as explanatory
brochures and audio tapes, are also available from Priests
Press conferences, ads in national papers, and appearances
in the secular media, are also part of this project of Priests
for Life for what it calls "the most significant election
our country has faced, and one which will affect the mission
of the pro-life movement for an entire generation."
Christians Must Oppose
By Rev. Gary G. Dull, Pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Altoona,
Recently an elderly lady in my congregation called me late
one night because she was unable to sleep. I could tell that
she was extremely upset because of the quiver in her voice,
so I immediately asked her what was the problem. In a broken
voice she related how her own personal physician had encouraged
her that very day to place her life into his hands. As her
pain and discomfort continued he would be able to provide
the proper medication that would effectively reduce her pain
and enhance her death in the event she would become "too ill
Certainly, my friend has a number of physical problems including
blindness, arthritis, and heart trouble, but she loves the
Lord and wants to live as long as possible on the earth in
order to serve Him. However, if her doctor would have had
his way, he would have led her to agree to physician-assisted
suicide. Needless to say, she changed doctors.
Because this incident was close to me personally, I was shocked!
But in speaking to a physician friend of mine, I found that
such circumstances are not uncommon, even though they may
be unethical or illegal. Upon hearing that, I have been concerned
about how many doctors actually may bring death upon those
"too ill to live" without the knowledge of the victim or the
Without a doubt, the desire for physician-assisted suicide
is on the increase all across the nation and if it becomes
a legal form of "practiced medicine," many lives will come
to a tragic end due to the perverted belief of ungodly doctors.
This would be a sad condition to experience in a nation that
was founded on Biblical principles, and for "life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness."
Now I understand that many promote physician-assisted suicide
as "mercy killing." But nowhere in scripture is "mercy killing"
called for or even allowed! In fact, scripture calls for the
preservation of life. Physician-assisted suicide shows a total
disregard for the sanctity of human life that was created
by God alone (Genesis 2:6,7). This plays into the destructive
philosophy of Satan to "steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10a).
There is no doubt that such an evil action against the ill
and elderly gives God-like power to man (Job 1:21), violates
the very nature of the life of God (Genesis 1:26), justifies
murder (Exodus 20:13), prevents some from experiencing the
sufficient grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and stands
against historical and traditional Christian thought. Anyone
who supports or makes no effort to prevent physician-assisted
suicide is a friend of the world, not of God (James 4:4),
and stands guilty before the standards of God's heavenly council
to which accountability will eventually be given (2 Corinthians
5:10). One cannot be neutral or indifferent on this subject
and still remain biblical to any extent whatsoever.
If physician assisted suicide is allowed, our society faces
the danger of uncompassionate killing of the innocent for
"so called" medical, financial, and personal reasons. Who
knows, even perhaps you or I could become a victim of someone
who doesn't believe we have much to offer to society any longer.
And so we would simply be "assisted" to die.
"Death With Dignity Act"
On November 7, citizens of Maine will vote on an assisted
suicide initiative called the "Death with Dignity Act," which
is similar to Oregon's law permitting assisted suicide.
Over the past several decades, many Protestant Christians
have become practically silent on issues that relate to truth,
morality, and life. Because of that, our beloved nation has
deteriorated to the point of promoting many philosophies that
are opposed to the Word of God and thus the forces of evil
are being exalted. This trend must stop!
The issue at hand is the DEATH WITH DIGNITY ACT, which asks
"Should a terminally ill adult who is of sound mind be allowed
to ask for and receive a doctor's help to die?" This act would
legalize physician-assisted suicide. Here is the place to
start taking a strong stand for what is biblically and morally
correct. Every pastor, educator, attorney, philosopher, indeed
everyone who calls himself a Christian, should unite and fight
against any act that legalizes physician assisted-suicide.
Only God can bring into existence and only God has the right
to end it.
Speak the truth about physician-assisted suicide so that
society may be led to practice the truth about this important
issue. The responsibility is on the shoulders of every Christian
to represent God's will in this matter. If you do not accept
the responsibility to stand for what is biblically correct,
the blood of many innocent people may be upon your hands and
you will give an account to God for your sin of omission (James
4:17). So please make the choice for life and the truth of
NOEL's Pro-Life Resolutions
Pass at the Episcopal General Convention
By Georgette Forney, Executive Director of NOEL
The 73rd triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church
in July concluded ten days of meetings. NOEL (the National
Organization of Episcopalians for Life) proposed seven pro-life
and pro-family resolutions for the Episcopal Church of the
USA to adopt as policy.
NOEL was very encouraged and pleased when both the House
of Deputies and the House of Bishops approved all seven. Here
is a brief overview of the five life resolutions proposed
Protection of Born Alive Infants asks for the National Concerns
Standing Commission to address this beginning of life issue:
Do babies born alive during an abortion procedure have legal
In addition, a resolution calling for a moratorium on research
using stem cells from human embryos (Protect Human Embryos
from Stem cell Research) has been referred to the same commission
for further study.
Practice of Infanticide raises awareness of the need to address
the current trend of babies being abandoned and calls for
the establishment of "safe drop off zones."
Raising Awareness of Adoption affirms the value and positive
choice of adoption for women facing unwanted pregnancies and
urges Congress to pass legislation that makes adoption counseling
A resolution passed by both Houses, entitled Ministry to
Men and Women Suffering from Post-Abortion Stress, calls for
clergy to become more informed about the needs of those suffering
after an abortion and how to minister to them. NOEL is thrilled
this resolution was passed and will use it in their efforts
to educate and equip clergy and laity to minister to those
hurting after an abortion.
The resolutions were created in an effort to raise awareness
of critical issues the church needs to address. These also
provide the opportunity to begin a church-wide ministry effort
that shares God's love, the Gospel and the hope of reconciliation
for those who feel spiritual isolation and fear judgment after