By a wide margin the 1976 General Conference, meeting in Portland, Oregon, reaffirmed support for the “legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.” (In today’s world that can mean leaving a baby that has been born unattended until it dies.) It called for the “reduction of current population growth rates,” and insisted “people have the duty to consider the impact on the total society of their decisions regarding childbearing…” Delegates approved a resolution affirming the “legal option of abortion under standards of sound medical practice…” [The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 1976 (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1976) Page 51]. ( And here all along I thought God ordains life. I guess that some in the church feel that population growth is their responsibility sort of like the Nazi Party or Pol Pot in Cambodia.)
In 1977, the Women’s Division joined in litigation against the “Hyde Amendment” that banned federal funding of abortion except when the mother’s life was in danger. [“Methodist Women”, Afro-American (November 5, 1977) Page 7]. The legal brief declared the “decision either to undergo or forego abortion must be personal and uncoerced by government,” and the “unity principle of church-state separation and religious freedom forbid government to impose on all the theology of one or more sects.” [“Abortion Challenged by Groups”, Los Angeles Sentinel (October 12, 1978) Page C3]. J. Philip Wogaman organized 220 fellow ethicists to declare abortion could be a “loving act” and to affirm government funding for abortion. [“Abortion May Be Loving Act, Say Ethicists”, Newscope (October 7, 1977) Page 4]. (Today our society uses the word ‘love’ to justify just about anything. In my reading I have not found anything in the Constitution that gives the government the responsibility to ‘murder’ the unborn.)
In 1977, the Board of Church and Society and the Women’s Division complained that President Jimmy Carter met with Roman Catholic leaders but would not meet with the RCAR…Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. [“UM Agencies Protest President’s Refusal to Meet on Abortion”, Newscope (September 30, 1977) Page 4]. Board of Church and Society chief George Outen joined in a public declaration denouncing President Carter’s opposition to federally funded abortion as “both shocking and deeply disappointing to millions of American men and women who support two principles of American life…equality of opportunity for all and respect for the moral views and values of others.” Women’s Division executive Theressa Hoover joined with the RCAR in telling President Carter: “By recommending restrictions on federal assistance, the President effectively denies poor women the opportunity to exercise this option, thereby imposing on them his personal moral and theological beliefs.” [“Carter’s Anti-Abortion Stand Stirs Discontent Among Some Supporters” Newscope (August 12, 1977) Page 1]. (It would appear that Church leadership in some cases has totally lost contact with the Word of God and their effort is toward appeasement.)
Thousands of pro-life demonstrators marched on Capitol Hill in early 1979 to commemorate the 1973 Supreme Court Ruling. Women’s Division chief Theressa Hoover met in the Methodist Building with other members of the RCAR, which affirmed “the right of those who differ from us…to seek to persuade others” to “that point of view .” They emphasized: “We are unalterably opposed to the enactment of laws which would impose on all Americans a particular religious doctrine.” [“Religious Leaders Affirm Right of Choice in Abortion”, Newscope (January 26, 1979) Page 3]. (At this point I must once again make commentary. In my study of the Bible I do believe that Christians were charged with going out into the world and bring the Word of God to all…”And Jesus came and spoke to them saying ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” [Matthew 28:18-20] (He did not tell the Christians to go into the world and fall in line with it…which is what these Church leaders are doing.)
In New York, Bishop W. Ralph Ward Jr. addressed participants in a pro-abortion rights demonstration, to whom he read the official United Methodist abortion stance. (Appeasement!!) The group then marched to St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral to hang a “Declaration of Conscience” on its door. The Catholic anti-abortion stance was accused of “opting for a kind of ‘demagoguery’ that destroys the spirit of dialogue and sows the seeds of bitter religious discord.” (Under the conditions the Catholic Church should take pride in its stance as that is what Jesus did.) A Boston United Methodist minister led a similar pro-abortion rights march on the Massachusetts state house. He told demonstrators: “The refusal to underwrite with public funds the law of the land can be constructed as nothing less than discrimination against women who happen to be poor, who make a choice they legally have the right to make. [“UM’s in Two Cities March for Abortion Related Concerns”, Newscope (February 2, 1979) Page 4].
Later in 1979, Bishop James Armstrong addressed a pro-abortion rights crowd, defending them from charges they were “murderers” which was an “inflammatory and despicable lie.” (Not according to the Bible.) He insisted that anyone “in her or his right mind” is pro-abortion rights, since the “tragedy of abortion is preferable to other deeper tragedies where human life, health and hope are at stake.” Armstrong concluded: “We may not agree on when personal life begins, when life becomes fully human and autonomous, but we here affirm the sacredness of human life.” [“Bishop Reacts Strongly”, New York Amsterdam News (July 21, 1979) Page 43]. (This is one of the more hypocritical comments that I have come across. He closes by saying something to sooth his conscience.) He went even further when he later testified in a Nebraska court against that state’s mandatory wait period for abortion. Abortion “is not an easy decision to approach, but in certain situations, under God, a woman is led to seek an abortion”, he asserted. [“Bishop Armstrong Testifies on Abortion in Nebraska”, Newscope (August 31, 1979) Page 3]. (I suppose that he is a proponent of doing what is right in his own eyes. If God sees a problem, God can abort.)
The 1979 New York Annual Conference urged government funding for abortions, and the South Indiana Annual Conference approved funding for an abortion rights coalition. At least seven annual conferences in 1979 affirmed The United Methodist abortion stance. (If you ever wondered how some of your tithes and offerings are spent, here’s one way and all the time politics doesn’t belong in the church.) However, there is some hope in some of these annual conferences. The Kentucky, Northwest Texas and Texas annual conferences asked the 1980 General Conference to oppose abortion on demand, including, in a resolution from one conference, abortions “for personal convenience, peer pressure or economic advantage.” [“Abortion Rights”, Newscope (July 6, 1979) Page 2]. Delegates at the 1980 General Conference left the abortion language in the Book of Discipline but the specific disapproval of homosexual marriage disappeared. [The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1980 (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1980) Pages 89-91].
Right now may be the time to review a bit of the past history of abortion. While we are consumed as a nation on racism it might be worth addressing racist policies in relation to abortion. These policies include the origin of the abortion industry in this nation. The ‘modern’ abortion industry in America can be traced back to Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and a radical advocate of racial eugenics. Sanger was outspoken in her distaste for Black Americans, unapologetically affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, and wrote openly about the need for sterilization of the “unfit.” Today, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion facilitator, targets minority neighborhoods with 79% of their clinics located within walking distance of Black or Hispanic communities. This is no accident. Abortion is the leading cause of death for Black Americans, more than all other causes…including cancer, violent crimes, AIDS, and accidents. Black women make up just 14% of the childbearing population but obtain 36.2% of reported abortions. It is such a situation that the church finds itself supporting. Shameful!!
Next week the Women’s Division is dealt a devastating blow with a Supreme Court decision. The abortion stance did not help to unite the church.
– Bob Munsey
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes…In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt