Missed opportunity to vote for life

One of the disappointments of this past General Conference was that delegates were not given the opportunity to require United Methodist organizations to end their affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) and the United Methodist Women (UMW) are both listed as a “member organization” on the website of the abortion-rights lobbying group. A petition which called for GBCS and the UMW to withdraw from the RCRC was passed by one of the Conference’s legislative committees. In a highly noteworthy development, the committee vote was 42 to 32. And it seemed certain that there were sufficient votes on the floor to ratify the petition. However, the vote was never brought to the entire Conference for a vote.

This was one of the key lost opportunities in Tampa. It was an ideal time to remind those outside our church that RCRC and United Methodism hold two very different values on human life.

The RCRC supports the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason. The official position of United Methodism does not. The RCRC supports abortion as a means of birth control. United Methodism does not. The RCRC supports gender selection abortions. United Methodism does not. The RCRC supports the gruesome late-term procedure often referred to as “partial birth abortion.” United Methodism does not.

Two distinct values on life. That is the difference between the Church and a political lobby in Washington D.C.

It is not uncommon to hear progressives say that a nation will be judged by how it treats the most vulnerable among us. I don’t argue with that premise. But I do argue for consistency.

None are more vulnerable than the unborn, at least not in the United States. One in every five pregnancies is terminated before birth. No other group is as likely not to survive the next nine months as are the unborn. Not the poor. Not the homeless. Not persons with cancer. Not AIDs patients. No one.

One in five. That means you have a better chance of surviving a round of Russian Roulette than you have of surviving conception in the USA.

And yet the groups in our church that most pride themselves on defending the weak and the vulnerable lend their name and their influence to a radical organization that in the name of religion supports any abortion at any time for any reason. That seems, to put it charitably, less than consistent.

The Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women have claimed that their connection to the RCRC is a moderating influence on the coalition. So one may ask, “How, after your many years of attaching the name of The United Methodist Church to the RCRC have you caused it to moderate its position?”

Our local church apportionments pay for the work of the GBCS, to the tune of $2.65 million a year, so we have a right to know. How has your association with the RCRC made it more moderate? Has the Coalition, because of your influence, ever lobbied for any restrictions on abortion? Has it changed its stance on partial birth abortion or has it stated clearly that terminating a pregnancy because of gender is morally wrong? Does it no longer lobby for laws requiring Americans who oppose abortion to pay for the procedure through their taxes?

I served on the General Board of Church and Society for two years. I cannot remember one report stating how our influence as a member organization of the RCRC had moderated the Coalition’s support of abortion. In fact, I can’t remember any report stating that we had even tried.

We have been told that GBCS and the UMW are simply advocating for equal rights. If wealthy women can afford an abortion, then it is only just that poor women have access to the same procedure. It’s the law of the land after all, we’ve been told, like it or not, so our UM representatives are only promoting justice by supporting the RCRC and equal access to abortion.

Something else that’s the law of the land is the right to bear arms. In fact, it’s guaranteed by the second amendment to the Constitution. I’m probably the only Texan you’ll ever meet who doesn’t own a firearm. Never have and don’t think I ever will.

But the right to own a gun is the law. For consistency’s sake, it seems that GBCS and the UMW would lobby for the US government to provide weapons to those who can’t afford one. Isn’t it a matter of justice? If wealthy folks can afford an AK-47, why shouldn’t the poor have the same access?

Crazy argument, right? But no crazier than saying  that we as a denomination “deeply regret”  so many pregnancies end in abortion, but as long as some in our society can afford to terminate their pregnancies, it’s only just that the church insist that all persons be provided with that right – and the funding to do so – for any reason at any time.

Abortion is an emotional and difficult issue. And there are valid questions that need to be discussed and there may be issues where persons of good faith will not agree: cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk.

But is there any question that United Methodist organizations should not support (even through the use of our name) a coalition whose views are radical and contrary to our official position? I think the only question is whether United Methodist congregations can in good faith financially support organizations that do.

Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News.