Delegates to the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted 425-268 to disassociate two of its bodies from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The decision “instructs the General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women to withdraw immediately from membership” in the RCRC, a pro-abortion organization the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) helped establish in 1973.
In 2008, the General Conference, which meets every four years, rejected a similar proposal, 300-484. In 2012, voicing disapproval with a RCRC publication that described “aborting children as ‘God’s work’ or ‘holy work,’” the Church and Society committee approved a measure to withdraw from the RCRC, but the General Conference did not vote on the matter.
On May 20, the General Conference took another pro-life step, rejecting a motion 445-310 to renew a resolution that supported, among other things, the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. A 2012 United Methodist Women (UMW) resolution titled “Responsible Parenthood” claims the “Bible affirms breath as the mark of a living human person.” The document goes on to say “abortion must be legal” and notes UMW supports Roe v. Wade, “which affirmed the right of a woman to control her own body.” UMW, which prioritizes four issues—economic inequality, climate justice, criminalization of communities of color, and maternal and child health—submitted a similar petition this year.
A representative from the UMW’s office declined to answer questions about the issue.
This year’s votes might begin to reverse a muddled pro-abortion position the United Methodist Church has put forward for years. While declaring itself “reluctant to approve abortion,” the UMC supports it in cases of “severe fetal anomalies.” And it has called on all Christians to “a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion.”
Explaining its May 19 decision, the Church and Society committee wrote that the “RCRC is a one-sided political lobby that opposes all disapproval or limitation of abortion. RCRC’s advocacy often directly contradicts our Social Principals on abortion, but it still uses our Church’s name.”
In its response, the RCRC “reject[s] the information about RCRC on which the United Methodist Church based its decision.” The organization claims “compassionate abortion care” forms a fundamental part of the love and care it is called to provide.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, welcomed the news on his Facebook page.
“This is good news for orthodoxy, for the unity of the Body of Christ, and for the vulnerable unborn and their mothers. There’s a long way to go, but we should give thanks to God.”
— by Bob Brown