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Petition


PETITION TO THE GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Petition By Email

MS Word Version
abortion.doc

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Regarding The Book of Discipline, Paragraph 65J

To the members of the 2000 General Conference of The United Methodist Church:

I petition that paragraph 65J of The Book of Discipline, which now reads:

"J) Abortion--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 will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from and unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life which may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal right to abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions which may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel."

be AMENDED by DELETING the following words:

The entire paragraph

and by ADDING in place of the deleted words the following:

"J) Abortion--Human beings are created by God in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, human life, at every stage of its development, is sacred in God’s eyes and ought to be celebrated as a gracious gift from God. Our belief in the sanctity of all human life, rooted in our understanding of life as God’s gracious gift, causes us to view abortion, especially when it is performed for purposes of birth control or gender selection, as an unacceptable practice. Particularly objectionable is the late term procedure known as "partial birth abortion," a procedure we view as morally repugnant and medically unnecessary. We do acknowledge that the Church has an obligation to protect and respect the life and well-being of the mother for whom, in rare and tragic situations, the continuation of a pregnancy may directly and immediately endanger her physical life. We do not, however, place our trust in medical science above our trust in a gracious and loving God who is faithful to bless those who, even at the risk of such dire consequences, choose to give birth. We encourage pastors and congregations to pray for and support mothers and their families who face such difficult situations. Furthermore, we commit our Church to continue providing nurturing ministries (including the ministry of forgiveness) to those who have obtained abortions for whatever reason; and hospitality ministries (including the ministry of adoption) to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy and to those who give birth. In the midst of a culture which devalues human life, we call the Church to be a community of life, offering the world the life-giving, life-affirming, and life-transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The paragraph would then read:

"J) Abortion--Human beings are created by God in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, human life, at every stage of its development, is sacred in God’s eyes and ought to be celebrated as a gracious gift from God. Our belief in the sanctity of all human life, rooted in our understanding of life as God’s gracious gift, causes us to view abortion, especially when it is performed for purposes of birth control or gender selection, as an unacceptable practice. Particularly objectionable is the late term procedure known as "partial birth abortion," a procedure we view as morally repugnant and medically unnecessary. We do acknowledge that the Church has an obligation to protect and respect the life and well-being of the mother for whom, in rare and tragic situations, the continuation of a pregnancy may directly and immediately endanger her physical life. We do not, however, place our trust in medical science above our trust in a gracious and loving God who is faithful to bless those who, even at the risk of such dire consequences, choose to give birth. We encourage pastors and congregations to pray for and support mothers and their families who face such difficult situations. Furthermore, we commit our Church to continue providing nurturing ministries (including the ministry of forgiveness) to those who have obtained abortions for whatever reason; and hospitality ministries (including the ministry of adoption) to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy and to those who give birth. In the midst of a culture which devalues human life, we call the Church to be a community of life, offering the world the life-giving, life-affirming, and life-transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ."

RATIONALE:

Paragraph 65J as it is currently written is not "in continuity with past Christian teaching," despite its claim to be so. Neither Scripture nor Christian Tradition permits so morally ambiguous a statement. The proposed amendment brings the statement more in line with Scripture and Christian Tradition while maintaining the delicate balance between respect for the life of the unborn child and respect for the life and well-being of the mother. Furthermore, it provides a clear and unambiguous affirmation of the sanctity of all human life, grounded in the biblical doctrine of Imago Dei (image of God). In the midst of a culture which devalues human life, it is imperative that the Church in general, and The United Methodist Church in particular, make a strong and unapologetic witness to the world concerning the clear and compelling alternative of the Gospel, which gives life. The paragraph, as amended, would challenge the Church to make such a witness.

Furthermore, there is a growing ecumenical consensus that the practice of "partial birth" abortion ought to be rejected by the Church. Both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church have in recent years adopted statements in opposition to this practice. However, the United Methodist Judicial Council has ruled (Decision 821, April 25, 1998) that the current Paragraph 65J does not allow for an official statement in opposition to "partial birth" abortion by a United Methodist annual conference. The proposed amendment would make clear the Church’s position on "partial birth" abortion, thus affirming the growing ecumenical consensus.

United Methodist Prayer Summit
http://ucmpage.org/summit

South Georgia Confessing Movement Fellowship
http://ucmpage.org/sgca

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