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Bishop Talbert addresses pro-choice gathering near Republican Convention

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington.

Contact: Joretta Purdue (Release # 407) Aug. 12, 1996

United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert stated his "unequivocal" pro-choice views at a "faithful witness for choice!" convocation in San Diego that preceded a march and rally near the site of the Republican Convention on its first day.

The events sponsored by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a group of 40 organizations, together with other groups will be matched with a comparable demonstration near the opening of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Aug. 26.

At issue is treatment of the abortion issue by the country's dominant political parties.

Talbert, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC), spoke to several hundred people in Cathedral Church of St. Paul, an Episcopalian facility. A two-mile march to the rally site in the San Diego convention "free speech" zone followed.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society and Board of Global Ministries' Women's Division hold membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which has headquarters in Washington.

Other groups supporting the pro-choice events included Catholics for a Free Choice, Hadassah, National Women's Political Caucus, Clergy Advisory Board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Unitarian Universalist Association, Voters for Choice, and other organizations and individuals.

Talbert declared that people of many faiths were present to dispel the myth that all religious people in the United States are against abortion.

"In reality, there are many of us who believe that choice is the most logical and the most responsible position any religious institution can take on this issue," he said.

Since creation is God's, Talbert said, human beings are accountable to God for the use and preservation of that creation including themselves.

"As people of faith, we are God's moral agents for good in this world; we are ambassadors for justice, freedom and dignity for all creation," Talbert said.

Pro-choice advocates refuse to close the door to the expression of free will, he added.

"To be for 'choice' is to be willing to enter into the pain and the struggle of life in the real world, and, in the face of that reality, choose," Talbert said. "To be 'pro-choice,' to stand for choice, is to support those who come down on either side" of the question.

Talbert expressed regret that he was not representing the NCC at this event. The 33 member communions are as divided on abortion as society is, he explained, so there is no NCC policy on the issue.

Because the United Methodist Church does have a policy statement, he said, he spoke as a United Methodist bishop who supports the moral stance taken by his church.

He quoted from the denomination's Social Principles, which affirms the sanctity of unborn human life and the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother. The passage also included condemnation of abortion as a means of gender selection and an unwillingness to accept it as a means of birth control.

Talbert also cited several resolutions passed by the denomination's legislative body, including ones that object to coercion in increasing or limiting births, that urge religious counseling for those who make difficult medical choices, and that oppose a Constitutional convention to address the abortion issue.

"Now is the time for us as the faith community to declare to women, 'we will be there with you in the morning' no matter what choice you make in the context of your faith," Talbert said.

"Say 'No!' to coercion and 'Yes!' to 'pro-choice!'" he declared. "I believe that is the only choice before us."

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