Home. Questions and answers. Newsletters. Audio clips. Press releases. Member organizations. Join us. Contact us.

Uniting for Life

Summer, 2000


United Methodism Opposes Partial-Birth Abortion

By Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, Pastor of Rose Hill United Methodist Church

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 life."

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 1996 Discipline).

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.


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 political lobbies.

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.


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 feeling.

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.

Presbyterians Pro-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, Virginia.

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 was recommended.

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 for Life.

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 Physician Assisted-Suicide

By Rev. Gary G. Dull, Pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Altoona, PA

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 to live."

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 victim's family.

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 God.

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 by NOEL.

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 protection?

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 more available.

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 an abortion.

Home. Questions and answers. Newsletters. Audio clips. Press releases. Member organizations. Join us. Contact us.

Questions and answers.
Audio clips.
Press releases.
Member organizations.
Join us.
Contact us.