Methodist Perseverance

on May 20, 2016

On May 19 history was made. The United Methodist General Conference, representing a 12 million member denomination, voted to withdraw its church agencies from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a Washington lobby that opposes all restrictions on abortion.

In 1973 the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) organized what was then the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, which for many years was housed in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. The group from the start opposed any restrictions on abortion including parental consent laws. Support for abortion rights was conventional wisdom for Mainline Protestant elites in the early 1970s.

United Methodists have debated RCRC for much of 40 years, with especially close General Conference votes in 1992 and 2008. GBCS and the New York-based United Methodist Women, which also belonged to RCRC, have long vigorously rebutted any attempts to withdraw.

When John Lomperis, who now directs IRD’s United Methodist program, first became my assistant over 12 years ago he had already several years before as a college student made United Methodist membership in RCRC his special concern.  One cold January he had even ridden coach overnight on Amtrak from Chicago to attend a pro-life Methodist worship on Capitol Hill as a witness against RCRC.

John worked hard at the 2004 and 2008 General Conferences for RCRC withdrawal, organizing delegates for the debate. Attending Harvard Divinity School did not slow his passion. At the 2012 General Conference for the first time a legislative committee okayed  RCRC withdrawal. Victory seemed near until church authorities removed it from the plenary calendar, effectively killing it. John was undeterred. In 2015 he was miraculously elected as a 2016 General Conference delegate from Indiana, an honor that eludes many much more senior church members. RCRC remained ever in his sights.  Exceeding the brief of a typical delegate, John tirelessly documented RCRC’s record and informed other delegates around the world in preparation, traveling to Africa and the Philippines.

Here in Portland, Beth Ann Cook, an Indiana minister and colleague to John, adroitly and persuasively made the presenting argument to the delegates for withdrawal from RCRC. Also here as volunteers are the Rev. Paul Stallsworth and Cindy Evans, longtime faithful leaders of Lifewatch, United Methodism’s pro-life caucus, whose annual Capitol Hill worship John once rode overnight on Amtrak to attend. These United Methodists never wavered across many years, despite overwhelming odds.

During the floor debate a GBCS official unsuccessfully urged the delegates to reject RCRC withdrawal. The vote was not even close. Sixty-one percent approved withdrawing church agencies from RCRC. John’s 15 year campaign to extract his denomination from abortion advocacy had finally prevailed.

Complacency, cynicism, and despair are too common. Devoting many years to struggle for a just cause is unusual and is the vocation of unique souls. John with the help of many others has extracted America’s third largest church from an affiliation unworthy of the Gospel and its preference for life. Thank you John for your Methodist perseverance. God has honored your labors and so many others who refused to quit.

  1. Comment by Jerald Walz on May 20, 2016 at 6:40 am

    Congratulations, John! We rejoice with you!

  2. Comment by Phil Griffin on May 20, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Congratulations! and thank you John for your dedication to this cause.

  3. Comment by Eternity Matters on May 20, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Good for him and the Methodists who cut funding to that vile group!

  4. Comment by Skipper on May 20, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Thanks so much for all of your help!

    There is hope yet for the United Methodist Church (sexuality voting blocked by Council of Bishops motion because they favor approval of sexual perversion).

  5. Comment by James McLawhorn on May 20, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for your efforts and perseverance, John. You give the rest of us reason to have hope in the future of the denomination. I am reminded of the efforts of William Wilberforce as he persevered for decades against the horrible institution of slavery. Many thought him a fool fighting a hopeless cause, but his efforts were realized in the end.

  6. Comment by Jonathon Hunt on May 20, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Congrats to UMC for this decision, a shame it took so long to pass.
    Perhaps there is still hope for UMC to survive.

  7. Comment by Randall Murphree on May 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Kudos to John Lomperis, man of God and persistent warrior on behalf of the unborn and on behalf of the integrity of the UMC. May many more such victories follow.

  8. Comment by aservant on May 20, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Well Done.

  9. Comment by Cynthia Djuita Lanning on May 20, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    This is fabulous news. Blessings on John for so patiently working to raise awareness of our denomination’s shameful decades-long advocacy of the cruel practice of killing preborn human beings. And may God bless our beleaguered denomination for finally opening its corporate eyes to this injustice.

  10. Comment by halehawk on May 21, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Like many other United Methodist Christians, I STRONGLY believe that abortion should be SAFE, LEGAL, and RARE. I would encourage John and other passionate anti-abortion advocates to turn their energies to promoting sex education that embodies the current social principles of The United Methodist Church, improving birth control access across the globe, and creating conditions where Mothers and families can provide, an healthy environment for their children. There is much work to be done , and I think we may have considerable common ground. I just hope Mr. Lomperis will begin to accept the reality that abortion IS legal in the United States, and will turn his attention to CARING for children.

  11. Comment by John S. on May 21, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Why should it be rare? If there is no valid objection to abortion, if it is legal, and therefore according to society moral, why should it be rare?

  12. Comment by Caleb Soptelean on May 21, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Glory to God!

  13. Comment by John S. on May 21, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Good news indeed. I didn’t even hear about this until I saw some of the recaps from the conservative side. Funny how important it is to pay attention to sources.

  14. Comment by Trish Martin on May 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Some of the best news in ages from the church! And to any pastor who believes abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” should consider this. It’s not safe for the baby. Abortion is never necessary. If the life of the mother is in danger and the baby must be delivered, that baby should have the chance to live. It should not be murdered in its mother’s womb and extracted. Abortion is already legal, yes, but so are many other stupid, horrible, dangerous things that the government allows. And “rare” it is not! It is used as birth control by women who believe it is their right to take the life of another unique human being with the God-given right to life! And finally, the UMC’s position on abortion is the main reason my family and I, UMC members all, have stopped attending church. I cannot in good conscience give time and money to a church that supports abortion, and I did not know the church’s position on it when I joined. Most members have no idea what the church has done. Nothing less than true repentance and an apology from church leaders for misleading generations of members on the topic of abortion is acceptable.

  15. Comment by Skipper on May 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    To me, the United Methodist Church disapproves now, but “Reluctant to approve” needs to be clarified. If your employer was “reluctant to give” you a holiday, you would have to work.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.