Monday, May 07, 2007

Reflections on abortion

The United Methodist Social Principles state:
The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals would be born…. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth.

I uphold our official statement on abortion in the Social Principles. I respect the sanctity of life and am committed to provide care on behalf of the Church to mothers and fathers who are considering abortion or have had an abortion.

Over the past several years I have become more involved in this area of ministry. I have worked with an organization called Birthright (www.birthright.org) which respects mothers and unborn children and whose tenants and practices are in harmony with our Social Principles. Birthright offers free pregnancy testing, confidential help, non-judgmental advice, legal, medical, and educational referrals, maternity and baby clothes, information on other community services, and adoption information. Birthright is committed to caring for the situation without undue pressure or politicizing the issue of abortion. I have helped with volunteers at the Birthright office, offered pastoral care to mothers and fathers, encouraged the local church to support Birthright through their mission budget, and put together work teams to do maintenance to the local Birthright office.

I am committed to caring for mothers and fathers in crisis pregnancy situations. I do not believe abortion is a political issue. I do not believe it is appropriate to protest at abortion clinics. Lobbying congress will not end the tragedy that is abortion. Overturning Row v. Wade will not heal the wounds or ease the pain that is so deeply felt in these difficult situations. What women and men need during these difficult times is the love and grace of Jesus Christ and the care and compassion of God’s Holy Church.

The Church has not always done her job well in regard to abortion. There are times when certain congregations or individual Christians express judgmental and self-righteous attitudes. There are even moments when the certain churches or individual Christians are mean or evil in their self-appointed crusade against abortion. I do not support these organizations or individuals. Because abortion has become such a “hot-button” issue, any discussions should be handled professionally and with the grace of God.

I am also involved with Lifewatch, the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (www.Lifewatch.org). I am the contact person for Lifewatch in the North Indiana Conference. The mission of Lifewatch is:
Out of obedience to Jesus Christ, the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS) will work to create in church and society esteem for human life at its most vulnerable, specifically for the unborn child and for the woman who contemplates abortion. Therefore, TUMAS's first goal is to win the hearts and minds of United Methodists, to engage in abortion-prevention through theological, pastoral and social emphases that support human life.

The advisory board for Lifewatch includes three bishops, several pastors and faculty of our United Methodist seminaries, and various laity, including Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, Bishop Wil Willimon, and Dr. Thomas Oden. I have attended Lifewatch’s annual meetings and encouraged the local church to support Lifewatch through their annual missions budget.

At the 2005 Annual Conference I submitted a petition asking all clergy and those in the order of deacons to respond to ¶161(k) Ministry to Those Who Have Experienced an Abortion, which was a new addition to the 2004 Book of Discipline. The petition asked everyone involved in ministry in the North Indiana Conference “to become informed about the symptoms and behaviors associated with post-abortion stress… and make available contact information for counseling agencies that… address post-abortion stress.” This petition passed unanimously in the legislative group and was approved on the consent calendar by our conference.

While I am not defined by this one issue, the stress and wounds caused by abortion are issues for which I care deeply. Having three children of my own and watching the process of life growing in the womb, I have become more and more convinced of the importance of the issues surrounding abortion. It is my desire to help the Church find caring and constructive means of helping mothers and fathers in the midst of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

3 Comments:

Blogger Joann said...

I checked out the list of symptoms on Lifewatch. Most of these are inward symptoms. Seems like it will be very difficult to identify. Thanks for sharing this important information, Chris.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

You said it well, Chris: "Abortion is not a political issue." Indeed. And the sooner we come to realize this, the sooner some much needed healing can begin.

Unlike you, however, I have a difficult time with the UM statement which, in my humble opinion, takes no stand and thus makes no real statement. Perhaps it is, though, that the statement merely acknowledges a certain reality over which we have no real control but certainly have a moral obligation to address it.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm. I don't know if you read comments on old posts, but if you do, here's a thought I had when I read your comments on abortion shortly after I read your comments on the patriotism business:

Why is it that you emphasize that the care your provide to women considering abortion is offered in a "non-judgmental" way, while it seems that all that business you got into about the Fourth of July was not non-judgmental at all. The letter you wrote to the congregation strikes me as very judgmental and arrogant, and I'm a Democrat and a lefty myself. (Forgive me for writing forthrightly; you invited comments on that letter, and almost all of them agreed with you, so I'll interject the alternative.) It would seem to me that your patriotic flock might be just as alienated, just as needful of respect, as your pregnant teenager, but just less visibly so. Maybe if you extended non-judgmental care to them, they wouldn't be meeting in the parking lot and leaving the church, who knows? Are you 100% sure that you are right about all these political matters, and are you 100% sure that your political convictions are the same as the Gospel? (If you are completely sure, when was the last time you read the section called "The Great Disturbance" in Barth's Der Romerbrief?) You emphasize the Trinity, Word and Sacrament, and the Creeds. Why not preach that and let people figure out the civic arrangements on their own?

10:27 AM  

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