How Can This Be? The Council Of Bishops Remains Silent
By Paul T. Stallsworth
COUNCIL OF BISHOPS REMAINS SILENT
The years wear on. Annual abortion counts, while declining, are shockingly high—now around 1.2 million per year—in the United States. The cumulative abortion total for American society, since the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, is over 40 million. It is not surprising that abortion continues to be the most contested moral issue in American public life.
All the while, The United Methodist Church, breaking ranks with historic Christianity and with the overwhelming majority of churches today, remains a pro-choice denomination, though United Methodism’s commitment to choice seems to erode at every General Conference. And yet the Council of Bishops has been and is silent about abortion. That is, the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, as the Council, refuses to address the matter of abortion.
How can this be?
In "The Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty," completed and advanced in the late 1990s, the Council of Bishops writes and speaks powerfully for the importance of The United Methodist Church engaging in ministry to and with children and those in poverty. Yet they neither write or speak one word about abortion.
In their recent pastoral letter on September 11th, the Council of Bishops boldly declares: "We, your bishops, believe that violence in all of its forms and expressions is contrary to God’s purpose for the world. Violence creates fear, desperation, hopelessness, and instability. We call upon the church to be a community of peace with justice and to support individuals and agencies all over the world who are working for the common good for all of God’s children..." (Emphasis is added to underline an obvious contradiction. Also, it should be noted that this episcopal statement makes no distinction between violence and legitimate, armed force.) And yet the Council of Bishops turns away from the very real violence of abortion, which involves the ruthless destruction of the weakest members of the human community by those who are immeasurably stronger.
Again, how can this be? How can the Council of Bishops remain silent about the matter of abortion? After all, historically and ecumenically, the bishops of the Church have been given and accepted the charge to advance, teach, and defend the doctrine and morals of the faith of the Church. And historically and ecumenically, protection of the unborn child and mother has been an essential and nonnegotiable part of the Church’s faith. Yet since 1973, for nearly 30 years, the Council of Bishops has remained silent on abortion.
Once again, how can this be?
Two reasons come to mind. First, the Council of Bishops has accommodated itself to elite opinion in American culture. Since the overwhelming majority of elites in American culture—in prestige journalism, in academia, in the entertainment industry—are unqualifiedly pro-choice (if not pro-abortion), the bishops follow their lead. Along the same line, it seems that our bishops, following elite opinion, would never dare to say or do anything that could be construed as politically or culturally conservative. For this reason, the Council remains silent on the matter of abortion.
A second explanation comes to mind. In its meetings the Council of Bishops strictly obeys this principle: all Council statements and actions are to be based on consensus. That is, all bishops must agree with every word or deed that emerges from the Council. This principle, therefore, rules out of order any matter that might result in a divided Council of Bishops. Hence, on abortion, not a word is uttered. And that silence continues for ten, twenty, and now thirty years.
However and unfortunately, silence, in reality, speaks. By not speaking on abortion, the Council of Bishops allows the teaching of pro-choice America to control the teaching of The United Methodist Church on life and abortion. By not speaking on abortion, the Council of Bishops permits the pro-choice ideology to invade and direct the church the Council serves.
Know this with certainty. Lifewatch is not interested in the Council of Bishops launching into the condemnation of anyone on the matter of abortion. Rather, Lifewatch hopes and prays that the Council of Bishops will speak the truth about abortion in love—in a way that would increase protection of the unborn child and mother, and in a way that would bring divine forgiveness and holy freedom to those who have participated in abortion.
May God give courage and voice to those bishops of The United Methodist Church who know the Christian truth about abortion and who are waiting to propose it in the Council of their brothers and sisters. (PTS)
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