July 19, 2017

Confederates, Methodism, Abortion & Remembrance

Some churches like other places are struggling with memorials to Confederate notables.   The National Cathedral has debated two windows honoring Lee and Jackson.  In Richmond, the Episcopal church traditionally called the “cathedral of the Confederacy” has removed some of its homage to Civil War southern partisans.

These controversies came to mind as I led our summer interns on a tour of beautiful Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. yesterday.  Amid memorials to Methodist notables from the congregation’s history was a large marble remembrance of Justice Harry Blackmun.  He authored the 1973 Supreme Court ruling creating a nationwide right to abortion, since which there have been 60 million American abortions.  It was his most significant historical achievement, of which he remained proud until the end of his long life.

The New York Times described Blackmun as a “devout Methodist.”  He was an active member and lay reader at Metropolitan Church, where his 1999 funeral seems to have honored his role in Roe v. Wade.  It’s not unreasonable to assume that his denomination’s early initial support for abortion on demand, decided at the 1970 United Methodist General Conference, influenced Blackmun’s ruling.  There’s an unconfirmed story that he wrote part of the ruling at the United Methodist lobby building on Capitol Hill across from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perhaps with his own United Methodist Church in mind, Blackmun wrote in Roe:  “It may be taken to represent also the position of a large segment of the Protestant community, insofar as that can be ascertained; organized groups that have taken a formal position on the abortion issue have generally regarded abortion as a matter for the conscience of the individual and her family.”

It should be noted that United Methodism’s 1970 pro-abortion shift was strongly opposed by the church’s most prominent theologian, Albert Outler of Southern Methodist University, and most prominent ethicist, Paul Ramsey of Princeton University.  And in recent years the denomination has shifted in a more pro-life direction.  But United Methodism, with other Mainline Protestant denominations that in the 1960s broke with historic ecumenical teaching on the sanctity of unborn human life, bears some responsibility for the cultural tide that facilitated Roe v. Wade.

Should Blackmun be honored in a church?  In an ideal situation, would the marble paying homage to him be removed from the sanctuary of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist?  I wondered if Roger Taney, first Roman Catholic Supreme Court Chief Justice and author of the infamous pre-Civil War Dred Scott ruling, was similarly honored in any Catholic sanctuary.  I cannot find that he was, but his gravestone in a Catholic cemetery hails him as a “pious and exemplary Christian.”

The ancient cathedrals, churches and abbeys of Europe are full of stained glass, statuary, plaques, engravings, and prominent tombs for often infamous monarchs, warriors, prelates and statesmen.  They would not be so honored today, but their memorials of past centuries are left largely undisturbed, as art, as historical artifacts, and as reminders of human depravity.  Sinners and saints both belong to the constellation of human history over which God presides.

Blackmun’s marble tablet in the wall of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist is a tragic reminder that diligent churchmen can go horribly astray.  And too often, in recent times, as across centuries, the church has enabled their errors.


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12 Responses to Confederates, Methodism, Abortion & Remembrance

  1. Lew Fletcher says:

    Are we, as Baptists, going to condemn members of other denominations such as The United Methodist Church for sins they have committed? As one who was raised as a Methodist and saved when I was a Methodist, I would be highly disappointed to see us go down that road.

  2. Rev. Vaughan Hayden says:

    Revisionist history of any kind is an arrogant exercise, only to be excised by future generations revisions. When someone is honored at that time, it is incumbent upon future generations to remember and to learn why such a person or action was celebrated, not to remove it from public consciousness, as though an eraser can fix past mistakes. If we forget, we will repeat. Such is the nature of all sin, and all humanity.

  3. David Gingrich says:

    Sixty million humans killed by people with good intentions but lacking wisdom. Very sad.

  4. Why shouldn’t Blackmun be honored in a church? After all, many of today’s church are already know for welcoming other capital criminals (as determined by the Only One with the authority to determine what’s a capital crime) into their churches–that is, sodomites and lesbians.

    Such things are a consequence of contemporary Christianity’s antinomians–aka, their opposition to Yahweh’s triune moral law (His Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments), by which they’ve turned dominion of the kingdom here on earth over to the anti-Christs and non Christians.

    What used to be known as Christendom (Christians dominionizing society on behalf of their King) in 17th-century Colonial American has tragically devolved into 4-walled Christianity, Christendumb.

    For more, see blog article “Self-Imposed Impotence” at http://www.constitutionmythbusters.org/self-imposed-impotence/.

    Then “10 Reasons the Kingdom Here on Earth Isn’t Mission Impossible.”

  5. MarcoPolo says:

    Whether social injustices by well intentioned individuals is a determiner of their nobility, is one of those subjective perspectives each person will have to deal with over time. And yes, History IS affected by Time, so, natural human evolution will no doubt be witness to such vagaries.

    History does indeed have some nefarious characters, but, as for former Associate Justice, Harry A. Blackmun, he performed his professional duty well when he stood for the autonomy of every woman who deserved the right to their (own) personal decisions on matters that were wholly theirs to make.
    Thank you Justice Blackmun!

  6. Fred says:

    60 million. That exceeds even the largest estimates assumed killed directly and indirectly by Hitler in World War II. How would we feel if there was a plaque in a United Methodist Church honoring Hitler? Would we say, well it just represents a portion of History? No, we would not. 60 million souls… God have mercy.

    • MarcoPolo says:

      Dear Fred,
      Is there reasonable correlation between the millions of Jews slaughtered by Hitler over his brief reign (a dozen years), compared to the forty-four years that women have had the sovereignty of making decisions that affect THEIR lives?

      Why is it a concern of people (other than the pregnant woman) to be concerned about the pregnant woman’s bodily property?
      Why empower half of our society (52% Female: US) to make their own healthcare/Lifetime decisions, if you’re suggesting they shouldn’t abort their unwanted fetus if they decide that is the best decision in their minds and souls?

  7. James W Lung says:

    Actually, Paul Ramsey was an articulate protestant advocate for the Gospel of Life before such a thing existed. As a member of the committee that drafted the original Social Principles, he resisted the efforts of a pro-abortion majority of the committee, and crafted a final position that he could live with. The language was approved, subject to editorial revision by staff. The final version was butchered by staff minimize the pro-life elements. Ramsey voted against the position submitted to General Conference, and his opposition was registered at General Conference. Ramsey also opposed our support of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.

  8. James W Lung says:

    Haven’t researched it, but I’ll bet Blackmun was somehow involved in the “Concerned Clergy” group that set up a network for referring women for abortions in the 1960’s. I know he was associated with the Mayo Clinic prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court. That a United Methodist wrote the opinions in the Supreme Court that made unrestricted abortion and same-sex marriage the law of the land tells me much about our church.

  9. Chris says:

    Big surprise that a Methodist S.C.J. in Justitia’s court system should be put on a pedestal for ruling in favor of infanticide. This is no light matter !

    Moreover, the entire nation argues such matters before a court system symbolized by the Roman goddess Justitia (just to let you know what system of law you’re really under), with judges (i.e. “unbelievers”) in those wicked Admiralty/Maritime/Roman Civil law courts bearing her symbol (http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/a/justicegoddess.htm), that plague our nation with corruption like a cancer ! 

    Until the so called “Pro-lifers” start advocating for His judgment (death penalty) for murder in the womb, little will change.

    And Now Murderers:

    “How the faithful city has become a harlot, She was full of justice!  Righteous once lodged in her, But now murderers.”   Isaiah 1:21.

    “Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”  Hosea 4: 6.

    And: verse 10: “They will play the harlot, but not increase, Because they have stopped giving heed to Yahweh.”

    “God is not mocked; a man (or a woman, or men and women as a hole nation) can not sin (transgess His law – 1 John 3: 4) and get by.”

    Isn’t it the “Fundamentalist Christians”, “New Testament Only Christians”, Baptists, Methodist, etc., etc., that teach the lie that God’ Laws, Statutes and Judgments have been done away with, “are contrary to us”, etc., etc., when Christ Himself said the exact opposite (Matthew 5: 17-19) ??

    What, He didn’t get the memo ??!

    “Unless they speak to the Law and the testimonies, there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8: 20.

    This nation has become “twice the sons of hell” as those who have proselytized it.

    Moreover, this nation as a whole hates the truth (especially the so called “Christians”) and because it does, here’s what’s happened to it:

    Because they do not have a love of the truth, God has sent them a strong delusion, so that they will believe what is false in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2: 10 – 12.

    You can’t, in essence, flip Him “the bird”, and expect deliverance by Him anytime soon.  You’ll get the opposite!

    “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of The Almighty.”

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