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The United Methodist Church


Bishop John Schol

Serving

Eastern Pennsylvania

& Greater New Jersey

June 28, 2022

For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:12-13


Dear Friends in Christ,


United Methodists have been inquiring, What is the United Methodist stance on abortion in light of the recent supreme court ruling?


Beverly and I have good and faithful United Methodist friends whom we have known for 43 years. They have two adopted children. They tried to conceive a child, but medically could not, and so after several years of testing without being able to conceive, they adopted a boy and a girl. Their two children brought them joy. They were vehemently against abortion, recognizing that abortions may have meant that they would not be able to adopt their two wonderful children.


When their children were in their teenage years, much to their surprise, our friends conceived a child. They weren’t prepared to have another child at this this stage in their lives, but their beliefs and convictions would not allow them to have an abortion. They now have three wonderful children.


Four years later they conceived again. They had been using birth control, but they still conceived. They shared with Beverly and me that that their minds had changed and that in rare instances an abortion may be appropriate. Our friends prayerfully and painfully chose to have an abortion.


Good and faithful United Methodists have a range of beliefs and convictions about abortion. After all, we are a denomination in which former President George Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are both good and faithful members.


United Methodist belief about abortion is found in our Book of Discipline, under our Social Principles teaching, paragraph 161k. Our Board of Church and Society summarizes the disciplinary passage in part, stating the following.

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 of abortion.

 

But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.

 

We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases, we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers. (https://www.umcjustice.org/articles/the-nurturing-community-abortion-262)

Further, our denomination’s official web page offers the following about paragraph 161k.

The United Methodist Church affirms the sanctity of life in these two statements in the Social Principles:

 

Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.

 

But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.

 

These statements, and others, place the United Methodist position on abortion firmly on the spectrum of life-based ethics rather than choice-based ethics. 

 

Life-based ethics place life at the center of guidance regarding situations where there may be conflicts. Life-based ethics call for as much life as possible to be honored and preserved in such situations. Choice-based ethics place the sovereignty of a person's right to choose at the center of such arguments.  

 

United Methodists affirm the sanctity of unborn human life. We similarly understand that the pregnant woman is also a life of sacred worth, and that there are circumstances in which there may be "tragic conflicts of life versus life." This may happen to any pregnant woman, anywhere, at any time during her pregnancy. 

In our society, there are a wide range of beliefs and convictions about abortion, from abortion on demand to abortion never, even in cases of rape, incest and the safety and health of the mother. For some, it is a justice issue and a right for a woman to choose. For others life begins at conception. Some even go so far as to say that birth control is wrong because it violates natural law. These beliefs are not the official view of The United Methodist Church. We affirm the use of contraception and recognize that there are times when abortion is appropriate.


In 1963, Roe v Wade was decided under the 14th amendment of the Constitution, which provides for equal protection under the law. It has often been used to protect the rights of “minorities.” Other decisions using the 14th amendment include:


  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954) providing for integrated schools.
  • Griswold v. Connecticut, (1965), protecting the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives without government restriction.
  • Loving v. Virginia (1967) providing for interracial marriage.
  • Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) providing for same-gender marriage.

 

In each of these decisions and in Roe v Wade, good and faithful United Methodists have used scripture to make cases for and against these rulings. The body of teaching and tradition of United Methodists have affirmed many Supreme Court rulings, including the need and right for abortion in certain circumstances. In terms of abortion, United Methodists have said, each person through prayer, discernment and counsel will need to make their own decision. As United Methodists, many are concerned that in instances when an abortion is appropriate, that people will not have equal access under the law to quality health care and treatment. In our teaching, the recent Supreme Court decision does not provide equal access under the law.

 

Should we as United Methodists be concerned about the most recent Supreme Court decision. Absolutely! One Supreme Court Justice has already indicated at least two more of the above rulings should be reexamined implying overturning them. Many of the 14th amendment rulings ensure equal protection under the law and address rights of “minorities.” It will be they who will be impacted most by these changes. Through our conference commitments, we have sought to end all harmful discrimination, especially the sin of racism. We should be concerned about how these changes disproportionately affect those who have been often most disadvantaged by our laws and rulings. 


It is not easy to live in the midst of differences. United Methodism stretches us because as individual United Methodists we hold a wide spectrum of beliefs, but I believe that is what makes us special. We have shied away from group think and would rather live in a community where assumptions and beliefs are continually reflected upon and tested by the faith community in the search for meaning and truth. I call all of us in the midst of our differences to love and serve together for a better church and a better world.

 

For now, we see in a mirror dimly; but with God’s grace and love—and making love for God and our neighbor our aim—we will more often bend toward righteousness and justice.


You may find additional, related United Methodist statements by selecting these links.


Keep the faith!

John

Bishop John Schol

The United Methodists of

Eastern Pennsylvania & Greater New Jersey

BishopJohnSchol@epaumc.church |484-474-0939

BishopJohnSchol@gnjumc.org | 732-359-1010


Equipping transformational leaders for 

New Disciples | Vital Congregations | Transformed World

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The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference | 610-666-9090

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