This is Part 4 of my remarks on the United Methodist Church and abortion, delivered earlier this year at the official invitation of the UMC’s Western Pennsylvania Conference.
Part 1 explored the questions of what difference the UMC’s public witness on abortion really makes, and what hope there could be for such a denomination. Part 2 shared the intertwined stories of myself and my denomination coming to more fully embrace God’s love for unborn children. Part 3 detailed the more recent history of how the United Methodist Church finally repudiated pro-abortion extremism.
So where do we go from here? We still have a lot of challenges in our church and society on the value of human life.
In most United Methodist congregations, we probably hear more about cancer OR deadly accidents OR murders OR suicides than we do about abortion. All those are important to address, but I checked the statistics, and every year, Americans have nearly one million abortions, which is far more than all of those other causes COMBINED. Every abortion not only kills the child, but leaves such deep scars for the mother. And let’s not forget fathers and siblings.
In all of our communities, we have women facing desperate circumstances who need people to walk with them with the life-affirming love of Jesus, we have people who have had abortions who need to find the healing and forgiveness that is available in Jesus Christ, and we have Christians who need to be guided to embrace Christian values in a culture that does not value human life when it becomes inconvenient. And if they don’t get that from our churches, where do we expect them to get it?
I’ve shared about how God has been powerfully shifting our denomination’s culture. Now where our church goes from here is something that I believe will depend largely on where we really want it to go. And I mean really want so much that we ourselves are willing to roll up our sleeves and help make it happen. And now it seems that United Methodists are in a better position than we’ve ever been in our history to build a culture of valuing all human life from womb to tomb!
After some time for questions and answers, I led participants in a discussion of the “Nine Steps of How to be a Pro-Life Congregation” in teaching and programming, each of which is essential:
- Start with foundation of a consistently pro-life ethic, valuing ALL human life as preciously bearing God’s image (promoting anti-racism, women’s dignity, end-of-life compassion, etc.).
- Teach biblical Christian sexual values to youth AND adults.
- Teach life-affirming values to married couples, especially in pre-marital counseling (especially warning about abortifacient birth control methods and fertility treatments that destroy human embryos).
- Partner with and support your local pro-life crisis pregnancy center or pregnancy help center. Find such centers near you at www.care-net.org and www.optionline.org.
- Actively promote and support adoption.
- Support single mothers.
- Offer post-abortion care and sensitivity.
- Intentionally and explicitly lift up the pro-life cause in church teaching, worship, education, programming, and narthex literature – recognizing that even a brief mention during prayer time of general pastoral concern for women and men in need of forgiveness and healing for past sins of abortion can make a big impact.
- Build a culture of life beyond the congregation within our denomination and society (organize trips to the annual March for Life in Washington, send UMC resolutions to annual conference and General Conference, etc.).
Finally, I offered the following list of resources for participants:
Lifewatch – the pro-life caucus within The United Methodist Church
UM Action – reports + actions for evangelical United Methodists, including on pro-life issues
Directed by John Lomperis, M.Div – JLomperis at theird dot org
Churches for Life – ecumenical ministry dedicated to:
- the gospel of Jesus Christ,
- local churches, and
- rescuing people in peril.
Anglicans for Life – great resources and “Take Action” ideas, based outside of Pittsburgh, PA