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Lifewatch Responds to Church's Pro-Partial Birth Abortion Decision


Re: Judicial Council Decision Number 821

The 1997 Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference approved a resolution entitled "Partial-Birth Abortions." The resolution "condemns" the performance of partial-birth abortion and calls for sending copies of the same resolution to the President of the United States and to the West Virginia members of the United States Congress. Bishop S. Clifton Ives, of the West Virginia Area, ruled the resolution conforms to Paragraph 65J of the 1996 Book of Discipline, the Discipline’s paragraph on abortion. Bp. Ives’ ruling was appealed to the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church.

Regarding the West Virginia Annual Conference’s "Partial-Birth Abortions" resolution, the Judicial Council reasoned that the resolution: (1) gives insufficient attention to Paragraph 65J’s concern for the life and well-being of the mother, and (2) considers partial-birth abortion always medically unfit and/or morally wrong for use, since it employs the language of condemnation. Therefore, Judicial Council Decision Number 821, handed down on April 25, 1998, reversed Bp. Ives’ ruling and found the West Virginia Annual conference resolution not in conformity with the 1996 Book of Discipline.

Judicial Council Decision Number 821 is a deeply disappointing and profoundly disturbing ruling. This ruling ignores the obvious evil of partial-birth abortion, which is actually not abortion but infanticide, according to some politicians (such as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan [D-NY]). In addition, this ruling neglects the fact that the American Medical Association (AMA), in May of 1997, endorsed a legislative ban of partial-birth abortion. AMA Executive Vice President P. John Seward, M.D. noted that partial-birth abortion is "a procedure we all agree is not good medicine" (May 19, 1997 letter). It is because this procedure always takes the life of the child, and because it is never necessary for the preservation of the life or well-being of the mother, that it "is not good medicine." Furthermore, this ruling undercuts Christian unity, for the vast majority of communions oppose this abortion procedure. This ruling also cuts against John Wesley’s charge, to the Methodist people, "to reform the nation, particularly the Church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land" (The Book of Discipline [1996], Par. 60, p.43). A people concerned with scriptural holiness, out of the love of God and love for neighbor, should be opposed to the taking of innocent human life. And last but not least, this ruling has a chilling effect on annual conferences that are compelled to witness for the Gospel of life. Indeed, it limits the ability of annual conferences to exercise conscience in a way that is formed and informed by historic Christianity.

Because Judicial Council Decision Number 821 turns a blind eye to the lethal realities of partial-birth abortion, violates Christian unity and Wesleyan directive, and undercuts faithful witness by annual conferences, it should not be accepted by United Methodists. While the historic Church was committed to rescuing abandoned and threatened children, this ruling keeps The United Methodist Church silent while the lives of innocent, defenseless children are brutally taken. This ruling accommodates the culture of death. This ruling should not stand.

Contact: Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, President

Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality/Lifewatch
P.O. Box 177
Rose Hill, NC 28458-0177
(910)-289-2449 or (910)-289-3332


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