An Open Letter of Resignation and Regret

Harriet Olson CEO of UMW. Photo by John Goodwin.

Harriet Olson CEO of UMW. Photo by John Goodwin.

by Walter Fenton –

The delegates at the 2016 General Conference, by an overwhelming vote, determined to severe all links between The United Methodist Church and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).

The effect of the vote was to direct the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) and United Methodist Women (UMW) to immediately inform RCRC that they were withdrawing their membership from the organization that staunchly defends abortion services.

In the weeks after General Conference United Methodists noted that both GBCS and UMW were still listed on RCRC’s webpage as member organizations. Letters and emails were forwarded to both GBCS and UMW inquiring whether they had, as directed by the General Conference, informed RCRC of their withdrawal.

Now, in “An Open Letter to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC),” the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, GBCS’s General Secretary, and Harriet Jane Olson, the UMW’s General Secretary and CEO, have informed RCRC of the church’s decision. But many United Methodists will find the letter disturbing.

Rather than writing a brief letter informing RCRC of their withdrawal and the GC delegates’ reasons for instructing them to doing so, Henry-Crowe and Olson have instead written a letter of resignation and regret.

In a pique, the authors write, “The United Methodist Church continues to support the need for comprehensive education on matters of sexuality. Yet we were directed to withdraw from this Coalition whose work supports just that…. We regret that we will no longer be there to share [the United Methodist theological framework and carefully nuanced position on abortion] with you.”

“Even though we will not be members of RCRC,” they said, “we continue our commitment to the reproductive health of women and girls…. We encourage the [RCRC] to continue its important work so that women have safe, legal and affordable access to care they need.”

According to Henry-Crowe and Olson, they were forced to abandon an organization that simply shared the UM Church’s laudable concern for the reproductive health of women and girls. What is never mentioned in their letter is precisely why the delegates voted for withdrawal: RCRC’s advocacy for unfettered access to abortion.

As one commentator said about their letter, “Had I made these sort of supportive statements about an organization for which my employer directed me to cut ties, I would have been terminated immediately.”

Unfortunately, leaders in some parts of our church still seem more interested in representing the views of a progressive elite rather than the concerns of rank-and-file United Methodists.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News.       



  1. George Nixon Shuler says

    Not accurate. This was a bone thrown to the extreme right wing and nothing more. It had absolutely nothing to do with abortion except for the right-wing’s opposition to choice due to their

    • Harcourt Mudd says

      @George Nixon Shuler
      Did the legendary black beast of arrrggghhh cut you off?

      Let me finish it for you: “…belief that the Trinity and the Bible command that all human life is precious.”

      I don’t think God recognizes this “extreme right wing” notion. Seems to me after reading His words that He doesn’t like it when we humans treat “the least of these” like medical waste destined for Dr. Jekyll’s body shop.

    • Licensed Local Pastor says

      This was voted on at General Conference how is this a, “bone thrown to the extreme right wing and nothing more.”?

  2. There will always be individuals within the walls of the Church who do not understand and/or misrepresent the claims of the Gospel on all believers. Those people deserve our prayers and our love, but not our consent. (1 Peter 3:15)

  3. I spent some time on the RCRC website; it did not take too much time for me to conclude that severing all ties was the correct decision. I am not impressed with the letter, which I read in full. RCRC already has a plan in place for a campaign that invites United Methodists to join the RCRC as individuals or even as annual conferences. Individuals need the freedom to do what they need to do, but the fact they are asking annual conferences to join sounds like a complete ignoring of the intent of the vote–that the UMC not be officially linked as a supporting organization; that alone speaks to a program that does not operate with integrity.

  4. Licensed Local Pastor says

    Just saw on the UM Reporter that the Oregon-Idaho Annual conference Responded to General Conference by voting to not consider orientation or sexual identity that exclude LGBTQ persons from ministry. in a statement that they had crafted together which is similar to the ones put out by New York, Baltimore-Washington, Pacific Northwest and Northern Illinois Conferences.
    They also voted to maintain a connection with the RCRC. The schism has begun and these conferences and their Bishop’s will lead the charge to break the denomination apart. Why ask the Bishops to lead and then go your own way basically thumbing your noses at the rest of the connection.

  5. Sorry to see you go, but is amazing that turtle eggs of sea turtles are protected by federal law, but human eggs are treated as if they should go down the garbage disposal.

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