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UMC withdraws from interfaith pro-abortion rights group

The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, Indiana Conference, introduces a petition from the Church and Society legislative committee regarding The United Methodist Church's association with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The vote took place May 19 at the denomination's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo courtesy of Maile Bradfield, UMNS

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) The United Methodist Church has decided to withdraw from an interfaith group that advocates for abortion rights.

Delegates at the church’s General Conference voted 425 to 268 on Thursday (May 19) to terminate its membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which opposes abortion, said in a statement that the move is proof that the UMC is “moving away from other liberal, declining, ‘mainline’ denominations.”

Coupled with delegates’ rejection Friday of a section in its Book of Resolutions titled “Responsible Parenthood,” Lomperis said, “It was arguably the most productive conference ever from a perspective particularly focused on the pro-life issue.”


RELATED: 6 things to watch at the Methodist General Conference


In 1973, the UMC helped start the coalition, which includes religious organizations and individuals dedicated to reproductive rights, including abortion, comprehensive sex education and contraception, according to its website.

The vote was a response to a petition for the United Methodists’ membership to be withdrawn from the coalition. The petition described it as “a one-sided political lobby that opposes all disapproval or limitation of abortion” and said its advocacy often directly contradicts the church’s Social Principles.

“Our United Methodist Church has a carefully nuanced official position on the difficult issue of abortion. It is not as strong as some of us would like nor as clearly pro-choice as others would like,” said the Rev. Beth Ann Cook of the Indiana Conference, presenting the petition.

“This group is neither nuanced nor moderate.”

The Social Principles recognize “tragic conflicts of life with life” that may justify abortion, but reject abortion as means of birth control, gender selection or eugenics, as well as the use of late-term abortion.

The General Conference eight years ago narrowly had decided to remain part of the coalition, Cook said. Four years ago, a committee voted to withdraw from the coalition, but plenary sessions ended before it could be considered.

Responsible Parenthood, voted down 445 to 310, called for a full range of reproductive health services to be available to women, including abortion. It had been in the Book of Resolution in various forms since 1976.

But resolutions must be readopted every eight years, and United Methodist Women took the opportunity to update its statistics and make it more applicable to women outside the U.S., according to Harriett Jane Olson, general secretary of the organization. Olson noted going into the vote that United Methodists had been refining their stance on abortion since the 1970s, but she said the resolution “contains so much more that helps women thrive. Women’s health is so important to the health of families and the nurturing of children.”

Responses to Thursday’s vote in particular came not just from United Methodists at the General Conference, but also from prominent Christian leaders on social media. The Rev. Chuck Currie of the United Church of Christ invited those who “want a church that honors moral agency of women” to his church, while Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, thanked the church for cutting ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

The coalition responded on its Facebook page, saying it does not see the decision as binding for all members of the church.

“We welcome Methodists who share our views to stand with us and to use our resources and programs to benefit their churches and communities. In doing so, they will join a broad range of other denominations speaking out for women’s reproductive freedom on religious grounds,” the statement said.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

51 Comments

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  • One can see the orchestrated effort of fundamentalists to break up and steer mainline denominations towards increasingly reactionary positions.

    The net effect of this is to undermine progressive religious based poliitical actions from within. It also contributes to the dissatisfaction sane people have with religion. It is apparent that most people do not share the vehemence against abortion as the typical fetus worshipper.

  • I worship only the TRIUNE God. He is Holy and deserving of our RESPECT.

    LIFE is precious.~ We are created with a purpose to bring great glory to the Almighty we must submit to His ways and protect the little image bearers.~ Yes, little, YOUNG ones is what “fetus” means in Latin.
    Stop justifying your slaughter of littles.
    We are life givers and life savers.

  • It simply doesn’t make sense to me that anyone would afford the same status to a fetus that is 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months old with a child. Or try to tell me that women haven’t been ingesting herbs or doing whatever they could to halt a pregnancy that wasn’t desired since time began. But rather than supporting women to make their own decisions while making birth control and maternal support readily available, we would halt safe abortions, and send women back to coat hangers, iffy, illegal pharmaceuticals and back alley quacks. I lost a great aunt to a botched illicit abortion, and nobody can convince me this would be God’s best idea. What happened to “safe, legal and rare.” That is a goal I would agree with.

  • I do not have to accept your definition of a “little.” You cannot convince me that 2 cells, 8 cells, 28 cells are a “little.” At some point in the march to viability we can discuss our definitions, but asking me to accept your definition, sorry, no.

  • How about DNA that defines human being.

    BEATING heart at less than 16 days gestation. Babies are unique masterpieces of our Creator! RESPECT, cherish and protect persons no matter how small!

  • With all due respect Juliette, there is DNA on your morning coffee cup. But not a human being. Capital letters aren’t persuading me either.

  • I might gain a modicum of respect for the UMC if they amputated the hopeless fundamentalist faction. The fact that the UMC is not doing that tells me that are more concerned with maintaining power in numbers than with advancing the principles of human decency. If principles were their driving force, why would it matter how many members there are in their organization, especially when the fundamentalists are retarding the UMC’s progress..

  • Again the first quote is from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, an extreme right wing political pressure group which has no interest in religion except to further its political agenda. Well funded, they are good at destabilizing churches and generally promoting conflict. Why are they invited to comment? Follow the money to see who’s behind their efforts and what they are really about.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  • A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. A pregnancy loss after the 20th week is called a stillbirth.

    Someone wrote, “Babies are unique masterpieces of our Creator!” Of course. But why then should miscarriages and stillbirths occur? Could they be considered as being of a natural or divine origin?

    If the creator can allow this to happen, shouldn’t we continue to allow a pregnant person to make a similar personal decision?

  • This is the exact reason that religious organizations will become less and less prevalent, in the future. They continue to put everyone and everything in a box. There is no personalization or individuality. God and you is a personal existence and can be enhanced by others, and that only comes through love.

  • Life is not precious to anti abortion people. The lives of pregnant women are of no concern to them. The lives of people once born are of no concern to them. Only gestating fetuses get consideration.

    Without religious fanaticism, it is a position without support. Neither rational nor sensible. It requires dishonesty, immorality and a ridiculous sense of narcissism. Juliette thinks she is of such moral character that she is entitled to make personal decisions for all women.

  • A person is born. Until it is,born, it is inseparable from its mother. One need not care whether a fetus is a human. One only has to care about it’s independent existence. It has not rights greater than its mother.

    One does not protect a fetus without attacking it’s mother. You don’t care about it’s mother or any born people. Therefore people should not care about your concern for a fetus.

  • The Bible has plenty of passages supporting abortion and even instructions for it. The anti abortion position is a stretch and wild interpretation at best.

  • We are living in a fallen, sinful world. But we also have to see life as a gift and deserving of our protection. As a nurse we do everything within our human means to extend and protect those wonderful gifts. In my 34 years I have seen life extended from 28 weeks down to 23-24. AMAZING! I have personally lost three children to spontaneous miscarrage. But they were very much loved and deeply wanted. We never intentionally destroy a living human being. We strive to honor and assist that wee one by every means possible to protect him/her.
    Babies have eternal souls (no matter what age.) Yes, babies are persons and worthy of rescuing.
    We all were granted the dignity to be born, and should willingly do the same for the most innocent & helpless in our society.

  • LIFE is very precious and valuable to this ANTI abortion person.
    I would not like such a blanket statement stated~ I adore and appreciate each little life in the womb. I may not seem rational to you, but honestly I do desire everyone to value and respect the wonderful miracle of human birth and LIFE.
    Adoption is a beautiful option and many homes are willing and ready to love those children. (I have ten, one of whom is severely handicapped but just if not more so worthy of my devotion and unconditional love.)

  • You have no regard for the only life which keeps a fetus alive. so it is dishonest for you to say LIFE is precious to you. Only gestating life matters.

    Pregnancy is a private choice, not subject to your opinion or will, unless it is your own. It takes a certain level of egotism to claim that all people must live as you demand or that you have any right or say in the matter. You desire to force people to consider birth the way you do. It is neither moral nor rational to do so.

    You wont consider a word I say. You are far too wrapped up in your own self-righteousness and ego to think about such things.

  • I care for the expected beautiful mothers. (physically, emotionally and spiritually.) Yes, I am a birth lover.
    Babies are the joy of the future. We all need to hold them in great esteem.
    God gives life and only He has the authority to take it.
    Hillary and the entire democratic party platform stands for death.
    If we don’t stand for the most vulnerable who will?
    “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.” Mother Teresa

  • Then produce them and I will give you one hundred scriptures that say the opposite. It is sad that you would condone killing even viable children in the womb for no reason. You have a vile worldview.

  • Actually you will give me 100 scripture quotes stretched and selectively interpreted to fit that goal. Biblical writers did not consider one born or alive until their first breath.

    A fetus is not the same as a born child. Key to fetus worship is blithely ignoring the concept of autonomy. A fetus has rights a woman does not. The inability to acknowledge they attack women to further their beliefs is vile.

    You are a self righteous immoral, dishonest narcissist. One who believes they have a say in something so personal, intimate and none of their effing business as whether a woman keeps her pregnancy.

  • you are welcome to your beliefs. You are not welcome to force others to abide by them. Don’t like abortions, don’t have them.

    Don’t like other women having abortions? Tough luck, it is none of your business. Being a self righteous Christian does not entitle you to trespasses on the lives of others.

  • I am very discouraged by this move. The RCRC is not a “pro-abortion” organization. It is a pro-choice organization. It’s position is simply that women must have the power to control their reproductive choices. The members of the organization respects the dignity of women recognizing that access to sex education, birth control and abortion are vital to a woman’s ability to obtain an education, work at their professions and maintain good health for themselves, their children and their families as a whole.

    The accusation that the organization is politically liberal in the face of the conservative language used by the petitioners who oppose the UMC’s support of a woman’s choice is laughable. There is no evidence that any of the situations described by the anti-choice/anti-woman petitioners are anything but exceptional occurrences. Codifying them is part of the piece-by-piece attack on abortion rights which is the current mode of attack adopted by the ultra-conservative religious groups in this country.

    Speaking of this country, how many of the delegates who voted to withdraw from the RCRC were from Africa or South America? Abortion is as much a cultural issue as a religious issue and those continents aren’t noted for recognizing a woman’s right to make any choice. How many were men?

    One of the reasons that I chose to worship at a Methodist church fourteen years ago was its wonderful history of equal treatment of women and it’s support for reproductive choice. After many years in a male dominated “Bible believing” church, Methodism fed my soul and strengthened my relationship with God. I’m beyond sad to have to consider leaving my church.

  • Abortion should never be seen as a form of birth control or gender selection and if this coalition argues that it should then the UMC acted honourably by leaving so morally bankrupt a inhumane lobby.

  • But nothing to that effect has ever been stated. But a good strawman is tough to waste. So more likely than not this is just more of the reactionary elements of the sect steering it out of mainstream beliefs.

  • NO ONE is dictating what YOU do with your uterus. Stay OUT of other people’s lives! START ADOPTING UNWANTED CHILDREN ….. BAN THE DEATH PENALTY …. STOP THE WARS AND CARNAGE. BAN GUNS AND GUN VIOLENCE!!!

  • YOU need to RESPECT the choices of other people for their own families. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

  • “dedicated to reproductive rights, including abortion, comprehensive sex education and contraception.”

    As the article states, this is what the group does, advocate for full knowledge and lives for girls and women. Providing these options for women and girls is really quite simple and quite humane, but those who’d like to control women’s lives twist and distort it.

  • No not selectively..because the all back up one another. They all are the truth. The goal is to follow the scriptures that God gives us…to worship Him in all things. A fetus is a human being. Does not matter how small…it is a human and it is alive. God values all His creation..and that in the womb..is His creation. We are to love our bodies and respect them…they belong to God…everything belongs to Him…even the life He created in the womb. Who is attacking women? The woman who gets an abortion is attacking not only herself but killing another human being.
    I am a sinner saved by Gods Grace. Nothing I have done saved me. And nothing I have done can’t be forgiven by God.
    Because I am against women killing unborn children…I am a narcissist? LOL
    What about personal responsibility? What about the woman thinking before she spreads her legs. Thinking about what could happen should she get pregnant. I find it so sad you condone all abortion…even late term on healthy unborns in the womb. If anyone is sick…it is you.

  • As I said, you will stretch and proof text and,selectively quote to support your position. http://reverbpress dot com/Bible-supports-abortion/

    The “concern for life” among the anti abortion crowd is by its nature selective and senseless. Born people are unworthy of consideration. Women have no say in their own lives or decisions. Concern for those after birth is nil. Your position is hypocritical preening. All done to give one a sense of alleged self righteous superiority. That you somehow have the right to decide what is right for all women.

    Who is attacking women? You are. You are trying to run their lives because you magically think you are entitled to and know better. You are trying to devalue her existence and interests to the point you can pretend it isn’t there. You don’t like abortions don’t have one. You don’t like others having them, tough luck. It’s not your call to make. Those who respect lives of others, born people would understand what are proper personal boundaries. You do not.

  • Yes, it is my and all or our business. We are the Church and we must represent and be Christ followers. Do no harm is in the oath I took.
    This is a moral issue and the personhood/science clearly shows the expectant mama is expecting a CHILD!

  • No it isn’t. You would like it to be. But that is just your ego talking. A key point of fetus worship is the ridiculous notion that claiming to be self-righteous and moralizing, means everyone has to defer to your opinions and must consult you on their personal decisions.

    It shows a basic lack of respect for the lives of others. Only your opinion matters. Everyone else must abide by the all powerful and moral Juliette. Christians like yourself love to attack and commit various trespasses on others in the name of their faith.

  • Juliette, dear, invisible megalomaniac middle-east deities are irrelevant to a large portion of the population. It is a continual annoyance to the sane among us, that the rabid religious fail to understand that the freedom of religion means freedom to practice your religion ON YOURSELF. Not on other people.

    Your belief in a deity has nothing to do with how women live their lives.

    Honey, up to 80% of human embryos fail to implant in a uterine wall and are flushed from sexually active women during menses. Gynecologists state that half of those embryos, had they implanted, could have developed into viable fetuses; they just missed the 6-12 day window of favorable implantation in the uterine lining (Drs. Michael Sandel; John Opitz, President’s Council on Bioethics; Toby Ord, 2008, The Scourge: Moral Implications of Natural Embryo Loss). March of Dimes estimates that half of embryos that do imbed spontaneously abort. Sexually active women are often unaware they have conceived and aborted, and don’t think it unusual if there is a heavy period or clumping. But you don’t agonize over the millions and millions of perfectly viable embryos that are shed every year from sexually active women; you are only concerned with an embryo, which may or not exist, that a woman may choose not to gestate.

    Abortion is a routine natural bodily process in a woman’s reproductive system. Since implanted as well as un-implanted viable embryos are flushed from sexually active women, what difference does it make if a woman chooses to un-implant her own embryo? None.

  • Numbers 9:11-16: “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children.”

    [Translation: god makes all the women miscarry (abort) and makes them infertile and dries up their breast milk so those babies that are born, will die of starvation.]

    Numbers 31:17: Moses telling the following “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.”

    [Translation: here we have the big Mo’ (who is god’s hitman), to off all the infant boys, and the women who might be pregnant (abortion by death).]

    Hosea 13:16: “Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”

    [Translation: here we have god’s wrath by having women getting their fetuses ripped out of their bodies (aborted).]

    Exodus 22:17: You should not let a sorceress live.

    [Translation: an educated woman with self esteem.]

    Deuteronomy 22:20-21: Cut to the chase—kill women who are not virgins.

  • mousie is a young earth creationist–no comprehension of science. mousie thinks that dinosaurs rode on the mythical Noah’s ark and that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

  • Faith is a relationship. I know a holy and yet PERSONAL Lord God Almighty. He is the only One I know desires a intimate relationship with all people. Yet, many refuse to humbly submit to His ways & design.
    Spirituality we were made to worship (CONNECT) with Him.
    Do not resist His love for you. Submit and be richly blessed.

    This article is about a “religious” organization. The Methodist Church (Charles & John Wesley.)
    The (Christian) Church has a Head. The Body listens and serves (obeys) the Head. My Supreme Authority is Christ and His Word.
    It is beautiful, because we were made in the Image of God. The enemy of darkness wants to destroy God’s creation. I will pray for hearts to be soft and hunger for the abiding and intimate relationship with their Maker so they will have sweet peace and life FOREVER more. You will spend eternity one of two places. We humans do die and I prefer knowing without a doubt where my soul will be.

  • The title is misleading, perhaps intentionally. The article is promoting the IRD position, as evidenced by the lead quote from John Lomperis, an IRD employee. The RCRC is a women’s faith based health organization. Only as a last resort, after all other options have been exhausted, is abortion even discussed.

    In case you missed it…
    The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s
    Attack on the United Methodist Church

    Video: https://vimeo.com/381786
    Transcript: http://tinyurl.com/h4sg2pp
    ___

  • “Dear imaginary sky daddy that lives in the clouds, we lift our spaghetti colanders to drain the starchy waters from your noodliness. Please accept these ignorant imbeciles, who believe myth and fantasy, written by 2000 year old goat herders, who explained away anything they didn’t understand as magic, into knowledge, and not idiocy. We ask that you allow them to bathe in the warmth of your delicious sauce. May they be touched by your noodly appendage. ‘Ramen!

    Yes, you really do sound this ridiculous”.–Al

  • Actually, I’ve studied this matter extensively and challenge BOTH of you, Sp. & AZ. to provide all of these texts PRO & CON abortion that you have found in the bible, as I can’t find that many. As for people like AZ who imagine that A FEW bible passages condemn abortion, I show how MISTAKEN they are at http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/ChristianChoice.html . (retired UMC)

  • I left a link with a bunch of them a few posts back. Replace “dot” with a period. To save time. 🙂

  • Thanks for responding SP, but the page you are recommending is really sophomoric.
    I’d be willing to bet that AZ’s “one hundred scriptures” turn out to be nothing but the handful of passages that I have shown on my web site are nothing but “duds”.

  • The whole idea of proof-texting the Bible to support a position is sophmoric by nature. The whole subject is sophomoric. If the anti-abortion crowd had any respect for people and did not consider themselves entitled to control the lives of others, this conversation would not exist. Their position requires far too much dishonesty (like pretending there is no clear bright distinction between born and unborn) and far too much malice (s1utshaming and pretending that the considerations of a woman are irrelevant are essential).

  • “Only He has the authority to take it”

    So as long as we are being consistent, are you a pacifist/pro gun control/anti death penalty?

  • Using your logic, mass-murder would be acceptable since natural disasters (legally termed “Acts of God) kill en’mass.

    Setting ourselves up as our own ultimate authority is nothing new; it’s been happening since the beginning of humanity—see Genesis 3—but doing so ALWAYS leads to misery.

    We must pray sincerely seeking His wisdom. “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” “If you will abide in My word, then you shall truly be My disciple, and you shall know truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

    Treat others as you would be treated. Yes? Well, if you were an innocent helpless baby still in the womb, would you prefer to be dismembered alive, or burned in caustic sodium solution, or partly birthed then stabbed in the neck so your brain can be sucked out, the reason being to avoid an inconvenience to the person carrying you?

    Beware those who seek to dehumanize others in order to justify their slaughter. It is always the tactic employed by evil men, when you see it, you should know that it is evil.

    58 MILLION and counting since 1973. America’s holocaust. Our nation will be judged, and the result will not be pleasant. We reap what we sow.

  • Setting ourselves up as our own ultimate authority is nothing new; it’s been happening since the beginning of humanity—see Genesis 3—but doing so ALWAYS leads to misery.

    We must pray sincerely seeking His wisdom.

    “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” — Paul the apostle

    “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” — King Solomon

    “If you will abide in My word, then you shall truly be My disciple, and you shall know truth, and the truth shall set you free.” — Christ Jesus

    Love God and Love People. Treat others as you would be treated. Yes?

    Well, if you were a tender innocent helpless baby still in the womb, would you prefer to be dismembered alive, or burned to death in caustic sodium solution, or partly birthed then stabbed in the neck so your brain can be sucked out, the reason being to avoid an inconvenience to or mental anguish of the person carrying you? Put yourself in each position, that of the pregnant woman and then that of the baby in the womb. Which injustice is more grievous?

    Beware those who seek to dehumanize others in order to justify their slaughter. It is always the tactic employed by evil men, when you see it, you should know that it is evil.

    58 MILLION and counting since 1973. America’s holocaust. Our nation will be judged, and the result will not be pleasant. We reap what we sow.

  • Not my standard, but by our Supreme Authority’s.
    Sounds like you have an issue with knowing you have to answer to the one who created you!?
    Not attacking simply stating what is obviously a fact. We were made with an eternal soul , which means we unlike animals will live for life forever more, somewhere. I know without a doubt where I will be.
    Spuddie, my joy is knowing truth.
    Be at peace and be a blessing.

  • You are welcomed to your opinion and beliefs, as am I.

    You are hearing the direct word of God on the subjects? No. You are interpreting centuries old texts to your own personal tastes. Like everyone else whose religion incorporates such books as scriptures.

    I have an issue with people who are so wrapped up in their own egos that they think their personal beliefs are the sole word of God and no others can exist. I understand why such ideas are common with fundamentalist beliefs. But it is hardly sensible. I am at least honest enough to acknowledge that the world does not revolve around my opinions.

  • Your contentious spirit is very evident.
    I didn’t bring up any word of God. Just that there is a GOD and He is exactly that . . . the One we are accountable to and must honor and revere.
    Respectfully,
    Juliette

    ( I went to post on another subject/thread and saw a comment from this one 5 months ago, so answered it.)

  • This is “newspeak”. You favor pro-choice but oppose abortion? Don’t kid yourself. May the Holy Spirit enlighten you.

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