At their semi-annual board of directors meeting, which concluded last weekend, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) committed itself, among other things, to dramatically rolling back respect for human embryos and similarly rolling back resistance to the “new eugenics,” first within the United Methodist Church and ultimately within societies around the world.
The GBCS is the UMC’s Washington, D.C. lobby office, with a satellite office near the United Nations headquarters in New York. It has long been our denomination’s most controversial official agency.
The main business at this meeting consisted of rather rushed approval of various petitions to send to the 2016 General Conference. None of these petitions will become official positions of our denomination unless and until the 2016 General Conference delegates approve them. But petitions submitted by general agencies like GBCS are often treated with automatic deference at General Conferences, even sailing through without discussion or substantive debate. Since entries in the UMC’s (technically nonbinding) Book of Resolutions automatically expire after eight years, this GBCS meeting focused on petitioning the next General Conference to revise and re-adopt older petitions which otherwise would expire soon, or have already expired.
On bioethics, the directors decided to dramatically reverse the respect extended in current official UMC resolutions to human life at its earliest stages.
They extensively revised a resolution on the “Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research” (#8006 in the UMC Book of Resolutions). In a section addressing how in-vitro-fertilization (IVF) procedures create numerous unwanted “waste embryos” who are either killed or frozen indefinitely, directors, among other things, deleted declarations that we should not, “even for reproductive purposes, produce more embryos than we can expect to introduce into the womb in the hope of implantation” with in-vitro-fertilization procedures, and that “[o]nly enough embryos should be produced to achieve one pregnancy at a time.”
The GBCS-revised petition would also have the General Conference re-affirm the killing of these excess IVF embryos for research purposes, and call for taxpayer funding of such embryo-killing research. The Human Welfare Work Area considered, but ultimately rejected, a bullet point that would have conditioned support of such embryo-killing research on comparisons with alternative procedures that reprogram adult cells to act like embryonic stem cells and that do not involve the killing of any embryo. The resolution, as revised by GBCS, also avoids any mention of how many of these very-young human beings have been given the chance to have a “normal” life of gestation, childhood, and adulthood through embryo adoption.
In his extremely cursory presentation of the revised version of this resolution, Human Welfare Work Area chair Kurt Karandy, a layman from the Upper New York Conference in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, asserted that the other deleted sections related to IVF were somehow too judgmental of couples who choose excessive-embryo-producing IVF, and explained that the work area instead wanted to simply “empower” people to “make their own choices.” It sounded like Mr. Karandy was taking the “pro-choice” ethos he outspokenly advocates on abortion and applying it to bioethics, for the sake preventing the church of Jesus Christ from telling people that certain personal life choices are morally wrong, even when such choices hurt or kill human beings whose lives are deemed insufficiently worthy by liberal GBCS-ers.
The GBCS even extended this radically pro-choice ethos to effectively defend eugenics (seeking to intentionally promote certain desirable hereditary traits while weeding out people with others), proposing a drastic roll-back of our denomination’s opposition to it. In petitioning the next General Conference to revise and re-adopt a 2008 Resolution on “Repentance for Support of Eugenics,” directors are now calling for simply deleting an entire section on “The New Eugenics,” in which “[p]arents, not the state are the new eugenicists.” This section raises concerns about the disturbingly expanding power of new fertility-treatment technologies to weed out and kill new human lives with genetic characteristics that some may consider undesirable. (This section, within the entire current version of the resolution, can be read here.) The GBCS-revised version leaves in place a historical summary of early-twentieth century eugenics, including its strong support by Methodist minister Harry Ward, a key founder and early leader of the group now called the Methodist Federation for Social Action. But stripped of the modern, “New Eugenics” section, the resolution portrays eugenics, at least the sort worth opposing, as something that has been left entirely in the past. For what it’s worth, MFSA went on record as late as 2008 to lobby General Conference against a petition to oppose abortion being used as a means of eugenics.
Interestingly, the revised version also added a new sentence that included the broad affirmation that “we are not called to reengineer our bodies or those of our children.” It is not clear if directors considered how this directly refutes the sort of transgenderism that involves drastically mutilating and seeking to “reengineer” one’s own God-given body.
In revising a resolution on “New Developments in Genetic Science” (Book of Resolutions #3181), the GBCS did, on the positive side, reiterate a call for globally banning all human cloning, leave in place a statement that “genetic technology becomes corrupted by sin” when used for “calculated improvement of the human race (eugenics),” and continue a “call for a ban on medical and research procedures that intentionally generate ‘waste embryos’ that will knowingly be destroyed when the medical procedure or the research is completed.” However, the GBCS decided that the resolution should continue making an explicit exception to that last point to basically support people choosing to pursue IVF treatments that they know will produce large numbers of “waste embryos.” This resolution, as approved for re-adoption by the GBCS directors, also calls for the expansion and development of genetic testing of human children at various stages of pre-birth development, and (partially euphemistically) acknowledges “difficult decisions regarding genetic information related to reproduction.” But in revising the resolution, the GBCS directors could not bring themselves to express any moral concern, let alone opposition, to such pre-birth screenings finding an undesired genetic trait being the basis of decisions to kill the embryo or fetus (unless that undesirable characteristic is femaleness).
Furthermore, the GBCS directors did not express any collective concern about the 92 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome who are aborted, and did not even try to bring these resolutions in line with the UMC Social Principles’ “unconditionally reject[ing]” abortion “as a means of … eugenics.”
Certainly much of the above results from the liberal-American, early-human-life-devaluing perspective of so many of the directors (within a heavily ideologically stacked board of directors) and the vehement support the GBCS’s senior staff has expressed for elective abortion. Earlier this year, the GBCS’s new CEO, the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, joined the notoriously extremist Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) in calling for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be devoted to abortion violence specifically targeted against non-American unborn children, and also calling for the complete repeal of a current law which blocks U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding abortions used as a means of birth control (even though the UMC’s own Social Principles explicitly reject “abortion as an acceptable means of birth control”).
But to be fair, some of the problems with these two resolutions just approved can also be attributed to the rather hurried and non-careful way in which the directors sloppily rushed through approval of them without any plenary discussion whatsoever (beyond a slight amendment to the call for banning human cloning).
Either way, our denomination’s apportionment-funded social-justice agency has, once again, chosen to try to move our church and our society away from compassionate Christian valuing of all human life, and to leave it to others within the UMC to correct its moral blind spots.Google+