Last week, most United Methodists around the United States and elsewhere were making plans to celebrate fatherhood.
But under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, the United Methodist Church’s controversial D.C. lobby office, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), along with the National Council of Churches (led by Henry-Crowe’s GBCS predecessor, Jim Winkler) and others appeared more interested in promoting the violent denial of fatherhood through taxpayer funding of America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
A recent public letter to U.S. Senators organized by a coalition of partisan, left-leaning political advocacy groups strongly denounces current Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Much of the letter focuses on what are really prudential judgments on which faithful Christians can disagree and on which we at IRD take no position.
But the letter makes a central priority, even highlighted in the title of the manifesto, of urging Senators to oppose “any attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.” It uncritically repeats a number of dubious claims about the alleged harm that would be done if federal taxpayers are no longer forced to pay to support Planned Parenthood. Interestingly, the ONLY source this repeatedly footnoted letter cites to document its claims about the alleged need to continue taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood is… Planned Parenthood itself!
I have written here about how calls for government defunding of Planned Parenthood are generally not spending cuts but rather calls to redirect funding currently going to Planned Parenthood to instead support the provision of non-abortion medical services at clinics that are into simply healing rather than destroying human life.
But this letter endorsed by the GBCS and NCC makes clear that what is most important is not making sure that somebody is providing needed services of genuine health care rather than abortion, but rather that the priority here is broadly opposing, in their words, “ANY attempts to defund Planned Parenthood” (emphasis added). No matter how generously such attempts would help other providers offer non-abortion services.
Readers interested in understanding the issue of Planned Parenthood funding better should click here to for a summary of key facts about Planned Parenthood being much more focused on abortion than its supporters sometimes admit, how any funding of Planned Parenthood ultimately supports abortion, Planned Parenthood’s dual role as an extremely partisan political activist network heavily involved in divisive elections, and Planned Parenthood facing a range of scandals from expressed willingness to cover-up statutory rapes to selling body parts of the unborn children it kills.
There are plenty of good reasons why Christians, even many who consider themselves “pro-choice” on narrow questions about elective abortion’s legality, do not want to personally donate to a politically divisive, scandal-plagued abortion provider like Planned Parenthood.
Let alone have the government force all U.S. taxpayers to do so.
Let alone have a church agency lobby for this in the Name of Jesus Christ, Who counter-culturally welcomed and valued children.
But evidently the politically monolithic senior staffers of the GBCS and NCC do not care about such concerns. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to understand this is another example of both groups choosing to pick a fight by reflexively opposing the values held by orthodox Christians.
Of course, as CEO of the GBCS, Henry-Crowe’s job is to non-selectively promote the official social values of the United Methodist Church, not her personal partisan political biases.
While the UMC’s official position on abortion remains a bit muddied, the GBCS and NCC’s unwavering support for Planned Parenthood, in light of the record noted in the link above, can hardly be squared with such parts of our official statement as the UMC’s officially affirming “the sanctity of unborn human life” and seeking lower abortion rates. In fact, at last year’s UMC General Conference, our denomination’s official stance dramatically shifted in a more pro-life direction.
Previously, it was rather characteristic for the GBCS to use vague euphemisms about the need to “make abortions available to women without regard to economic status” – which was buried deep within the UMC’s decades-old “Responsible Parenthood” resolution – as a mandate for lobbying for taxpayer funding of abortion. But the 2016 General Conference voted overwhelmingly to repeal that resolution, so it is no longer among the official UMC stances Henry-Crowe is charged with promoting.
However, as our denomination’s official stances shifted, the GBCS staff made clear they remain committed to promoting their personal views rather than official UMC teachings.
A few weeks after the 2016 General Conference, the GBCS released a joint public statement with United Methodist Women (UMW) regretting General Conference forcing them to end their membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), defiantly praising the work of RCRC, and indicating no interesting in listening to the overwhelming majority of United Methodists who are not pro-RCRC.
In this statement, the GBCS and UMW also chose to make an extremely misleading statement touting a 1992 UMC Judicial Council ruling finding no conflict between RCRC and the UMC’s Social Principles. But that was a rather controversial ruling, particularly because of how it involved an indefensibly selective review of only a very small amount of RCRC’s literature. And in the two decades since then, the UMC Social Principles have increasingly changed in a more pro-life direction while RCRC continued to produce literature with very contrary values, such as defending grisly partial-birth abortions (which the UMC Social Principles have condemned since 2000) and calling all abortions “holy work.” As a former member of the UMC’s Judicial Council, there is no way Dr. Henry-Crowe did not understand such details enough to know that she was being deceptive with her June 2016 statement.
But evidently, she decided that the end of supporting abortion justified the means of crossing this ethical line.
Then on March 31, 2017, the day after the U.S. Senate approved legislation simply permitting individual states to limit taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood within their borders, Susan Burton, a GBCS senior staffer, sent an email to GBCS supporters protesting the law, euphemistically defending abortions as “needed medical services,” dutifully rehashing Planned Parenthood’s propaganda talking points, misrepresenting and only selectively quoting the UMC Social Principles statement on abortion to make it sound more supportive of abortion than it really is, and telling GBCS supporters: “Call your state representatives and the governor” and lobby accordingly.
And now this.
In fact, since the 2016 General Conference changed the GBCS’s permanent charter to make a central priority of “education, prayer, and advocacy on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who suffer persecution for their faith,” I have observed Dr. Henry-Crowe say far less about this than she has said in defense of abortion.
Under Winkler’s leadership the NCC endorsement of this pro-Planned Parenthood letter is not too surprising (though I imagine folk in many NCC member communions will be unhappy when they find out it did this). Nor is the endorsement of the D.C. lobby office of the United Church of Christ (UCC), which at times can be hard to distinguish from the Unitarian Universalist Association.
But on abortion, Susan Henry-Crowe has chosen to position the GBCS well to the left of the Washington lobby offices of the Episcopal Church or the Presbyterian Church (USA), which are already rather liberal.
And now she is asking all United Methodists to just trust her and her agency to do a fair and faithful job of comprehensively rewriting our denomination’s entire Social Principles, pending approval of a future General Conference.
We have earlier documented how under Jim Winkler’s leadership, the GBCS misused church funds to pursue a far-left, partisan political agenda while disregarding our church’s official teachings and the values of most of our members.
Now Mr. Winkler has moved on from the GBCS. So has longtime senior staffer Bill Mefford, pictured above, who drew outcry for accurately representing the GBCS’s perspective of valuing unborn children less than sandwiches (although his departure did not come until about a full year after that characteristic incident).
But since the baton was handed to the Susan Henry-Crowe in 2014, it is not clear how much has really changed.