Iowa United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Other Clergy Sign Letter Supporting Abortion

on March 20, 2018

Do clergy not have a responsibility to provide public witness and guidance on moral issues like abortion? A group of faith and community leaders in Iowa says no.

Last week, 62 Mainline Protestant clergy alongside other faith and community leaders signed an open letter in support of abortion in Iowa, Life Site News reported. The letter appeared in the Des Moines Register where the faith leaders assert abortion is a constitutional issue, not theological.

The letter states:

There is a broad spectrum of beliefs within the faith community regarding the beginning of life. We do not wish to debate that issue because, quite simply, our personal religious beliefs are not relevant to the legal debate. Our personal religious beliefs should not be the driver of public policy.


Every person has the right to their own personal and religious beliefs and to live their life how they determine is best for them. The government does not have the right to infringe on the freedoms or privacy of Iowa women based on those religious beliefs.

The letter is co-signed by clergy from the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, American Baptist, and Episcopal Church.

Other signatories represent Reformed Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, and ULC Humanist.

The religious leaders’ abortion activism is motivated by Iowa’s Senate File 359, the Fetal Body Parts bill, which includes language prohibiting abortion once a baby’s heartbeat is detectable. An exception includes a medical emergency. The clerics oppose the bill, which could ban abortion as early as six weeks gestation.

To explain the pro-life bill in the center of their crosshairs, Life Site News cites our friends over at Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular Iowa-based blog and podcast, which reported:

Instead of sending Senate File 2281 (a bill that would prevent the abortion of all unborn babies with a heartbeat) out of committee, heartbeat language will now be attached to Senate File 359, a bill that prohibits a person from knowingly acquiring, providing, receiving, otherwise transferring, or using fetal body parts in the state of Iowa.

Despite arguing that their faith and religious beliefs are irrelevant to abortion matters, the religious leaders had no problem calling the pro-life legislation “immoral” and “wrong.”

“What is relevant is our respect for Iowa women and their constitutional right to privacy in making their own medical decisions,” the letter continued. “Another person’s theological understanding of when life begins cannot trump the rights of women.”

Thankfully, Senate File 359 passed through the Iowa House Human Resources Committee on Thursday, March 17. Caffeinated Thoughts reports the bill now proceeds to Iowa’s House of Representatives for a vote.

If the ethical determination of a soul’s dignity does not encompass theological arguments, then perhaps the clergy should consider an alternative calling. (Not to mention the United Methodist clergy are at odds with their denomination’s stance on abortion.)

For what purpose then do these clergy serve the public? If they cannot provide society with the most basic direction on innocent life and death, advance compassion or justice for the vulnerable, then they’ve rendered themselves irrelevant.

The letter’s 68 co-signers are:

Connie Ryan, executive director, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa

Laurie Haller, Resident Bishop, Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church

Rev. Brigit F. Stevens, Executive Conference Minister Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences of the UCC

Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Missouri River Valley

Rev. Dr. Richard Guentert, Former Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest Region

The Rev. Wendy K Abrahamson, Episcopal Church, Grinnell

Rev. Marsha Acord, United Methodist, Mount Vernon

Rev. Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, United Methodist, Des Moines

Rev. Laura Arnold, United the Church of Christ, Decorah

Dr. Beverlee Bell, United Methodist, Urbandale

Rev. Alice Bolen, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Runnells

Rev. Rev. Kenneth E. Briggs Jr., United Church of Christ, Clive

Rev. Jennifer Brooks, Unitarian Universalism, Des Moines

Rev. Candice K. Brown, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

The Rev Elaine Caldbeck, Episcopal, Bettendorf

Rev. Brian Carter, United Methodist Church, Windsor Heights

Rev. John Chaplin, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Dick Clark, United Methodist, Urbandale

Rev. Elizabeth Colton, United Church of Christ, Oskaloosa

The Rev. Elizabeth Coulter, Episcopal, Coralville

The Rev. Judith Crossett, Episcopal, Iowa City

Rev. Dr. Dennis Dickman, Lutheran, Waverly

The Rev. Maureen Doherty, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

Rev. Emily E. Ewing, ELCA, Urbandale, Iowa

The Rev. Eileen Gebbie, United Church of Christ, Ames

Rev. Erin Gingrich, Unitarian Universalism, Des Moines

Rev. Debbie Griffin, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. John B. Harper, Episcopal, Coralville

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis, Unity Church, Ames

Rev Carlos Jayne, United Methodist, West Des Moines

Rev. Jonna Jensen, United Church of Christ, Baldwin

Rev. Patricia Johnson, Episcopal, Sioux City

Rev. Paul A. Johnson, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rabbi Henry Jay Karp, Reform Judaism, Davenport

Rabbi David Kaufman, Reform Judaism, Des Moines

The Rev. Daniel G. Kuckuck, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Urbandale

Rev. Carmen Lampe Zeitler, American Baptist, Des Moines

The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Lyle, Episcopal, Cedar Rapids

Rev. Matt Mardis-LeCroy, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell, Reformed Church in America, Pella

The Reverend Jean McCarthy, Episcopal, Des Moines

Rev. Russell Melby, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ames

Rev. Jill Cameron Michel, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), North Liberty

The Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines

Rev. Vernon Naffier, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines

Rev. Liane Nichols, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

Rev. Patricia Adams Oberbillig, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

Pastor Beth A. Olson, Lutheran, Waverly

The Rev. Eric Pasanchin, Presbyterian Church (USA), Ankeny

The Rev. Ruth Ratliff, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

The Rev. Julia Rendon, Crossroads United Church of Christ, Indianola

The Rev. Martha Rogers, Episcopal, Marion

Rev. Dr. David Ruhe, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Hannah Ryan, United Church of Christ, Burlington

Rev. William James Sanford Ryan, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Burlington

Rev. Michele Scott, United Church of Christ, Cedar Rapids

Rev. David Sickelka, United Church of Christ, Urbandale

Rev. Diana J. Sickles, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines

Rev. Larry W. Sonner, United Methodist, Urbandale

Rev. Jane Stewart, Episcopal, Coralville

Rev. Suzanne Hall Stout, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

The Rev. Gayle V. Strickler, Jr., United Church of Christ, Grinnell

Rev. Joseph Stutler, ULC Humanist, Marion

Rev. Carol Sundberg, United Methodist, Cedar Rapids

Rev. Cheryl R. Thomas, American Baptist, Des Moines

Rev. P. Alex Thornburg, Presbyterian Church (USA), Clive

The Rev. Canon Marlin Whitmer, Episcopal, DeWitt

Rev. Nathan Willard, United Church of Christ, Ankeny

  1. Comment by Dan on March 20, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    If it wasn’t for double standards, liberals would have no standards at all. I threw up in my mouth when I read “Our personal religious beliefs should not be the driver of public policy.” How a typical liberal UMC theocrat can say that without choking is beyond me. I guess life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness only applies if you can escape the womb and don’t get too sick and old.

  2. Comment by Luke on March 20, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    I had the same thought, Dan. Surely these same folks are involved in a variety of progressive causes with which they obviously think God stands. Why are religious convictions suddenly out of bounds on abortion? I’d actually respect them more if they just tried to claim God favored abortion rights. This special pleading is weak and hypocritical.

    The good news is that 62 actually isn’t that high of a number. There are probably a couple thousand mainline congregations in Iowa.

  3. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Dont think God actually cares! He made this mess, and I’m sure he knows what’s going on. Who are we to question what God has made? You? Really? Apparently god works in mysterious ways! I dont presume to know what they are, do you presume to know what he/she/it is thinking? Whoa, glad I’m not you!

  4. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Dan, you are so out of touch. really. scream all you want, youth and reason will triumph

  5. Comment by Pam on October 31, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    Agree totally. Gross. I am a Mo Synod Lutheran and am compelled to state unequivocally the ELCA is NOT the church I belong to. Ashamed to call them Lutherans.. shame in their convenient feminist crap and God is not ignoring them. It’s murder plain and simple. Disgusting to claim being Christians and denying that He knew us upon conception.

  6. Comment by Paul W. on March 20, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    While I agree that the argument in the letter is specious, Bishop Laurie Haller is the only UMC signatory that I feel is problematic. By using her title, she gives the mistaken impression that her position represents the position of the UMC. In any healthy organization, misrepresenting the position of the organization or using your position to advocate against the position of the organization would result in both censure and public correction.

  7. Comment by David F Miller on March 21, 2018 at 8:56 am

    This is another reason to rid the UMC of all Bishops. They only serve their purposes.

  8. Comment by diaphone64 on March 22, 2018 at 10:22 am

    File a complaint against her.

  9. Comment by Jim on March 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Scripture is very clear about the role of women in ministry. The UMC’s ordination of women in pastoral positions is plain and simple, outside of scriptural authority.

    When you review this list of 68 co-signatures, keep in mind that regardless of their religious position, they are not disciples of Jesus Christ. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  10. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Jim, so what? Keep them in a Burka? Or just barefoot and pregnant?

  11. Comment by John Smith on April 2, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Did I miss something? Does not the UMC support abortion? It has pulled back a little bit of late but I was certain that the BOD does not call for stopping abortion but rather supports it. Why wouldn’t a UMC Bishop sign a letter supporting abortion?
    The Social Principles also recognizes, however, “tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.”

  12. Comment by Mike on March 20, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    In a more civilized age they would have been burned at the stake

  13. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Gosh Mike! You seem reasonable! Really? WTF? Burn them at the stakes? Really? Jesus would be proud! Oh, wait! No he wouldn’t! He probably would be very cross with you! Oh well time will tell. I’m happy going to my death and meeting Jesus. Let HIM judge us! Ah! That is something !

  14. Comment by TexasLeigh on March 20, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Thankfully, no one cares anymore about the opinions of Oldline clergy. No one in the legislature paid any attention to the letter.

  15. Comment by Kurt on March 20, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    So sad to see Methodist leadership following this trail. Obviously it’s time to shorten our name…..

  16. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Shorten our name? What? Call us Meth heads? I’m proud to call the United Methodist church my home. all are welcome, come into the light Grin

  17. Comment by Tim on March 21, 2018 at 8:10 am

    I sent an email to Bishop Haller

    Unfortunate that your name is on this petition to support abortion. They called Viet Nam veterans returning home ‘Baby Killers’.

    Bishop Baby Killer seems more appropriate for you.

  18. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Well good for you! This crap is hard for our religious leaders to talk about. It’s very important!

  19. Comment by Scott on March 21, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    The man in the picture is holding a sign that says pro-faith and pro-family. How can you be pro family when you endorse infanticide. Bishop Heller’s signature only proves that we need to clean out the COB or find a new denomination.

  20. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Really? WWJD? People seem to forget that! WWJD? Sorry, I think you are all wrong. Jesus taught love and forgiveness, I don’t think he’s changed his feelings!

  21. Comment by Wanda Graham on March 21, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    To cloak yourself with a “church” title and be for a woman’s “right” to kill her baby is reminiscent of the Old Testament days of sacrificing babies to the god of the day under Jezebel. Today baby parts are sold off to the highest bidder. These 68 oversee church bodies? Come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly.

  22. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Wanda, do you really think baby parts are sold to people? Really? Actual baby humans? Really? What are you smoking?

  23. Comment by diaphone64 on March 22, 2018 at 10:22 am

    So who’s going to bring the Discipline charges against the UMC clergy, especially against the bishop?

  24. Comment by John Smith on April 6, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Charges for what? Supporting abortion? The UMC supports abortion. Read the BOD.

  25. Comment by Wendy on March 22, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Appalling and sadly not surprising that ELCA is included and probably leading this. The only thing truly accurate in their name is “in America”. They are NOT evangelical! They are NOT Lutheran! They are NOT a church!

  26. Comment by Pladdie74 on March 23, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    We are all “Pro-Choice!” We just differ on when the choice is made. If a young lady is considered competent to decide wether or not to have a baby aborted, would it not also make sence that she should be able to make a decision as to if she wanted a sexual relationship to result in pregnancy before entering into it? If not require the young man to use a condom, or if she considers sex to be recreational to take a contraceptive pill daily.

  27. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    try using ,spell check

  28. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Sorry that was petty

  29. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Awaiting moderation. All my comments are waiting moderation. Hmm. Who decides? Certainly no name calling or “Bad” words. who decides?Hmmmm…

  30. Comment by Penny on March 27, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Spiritual wickedness in high places …

  31. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    High places?

  32. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    You know what? You haters will never give an inch! You follow blindly like the sheep Christ said you were. You have no imagination because the “Good Book ” tells you what to think! Sad, sad, sad! Fairly sure Jesus taught his disciples to think on their own! Sad, silly people!

  33. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Oh, Hey? Go to the Ark and see dinosaurs frolicking with rabbits! Can’t believe such ignorance still survives in today’s world! Oh wait! sure I can! You think a lot like extreme Islamist’s! Scary! Not! You all fail because reason is a Gift from God that apparently you are too blind to accept!

  34. Comment by Glenn Del Shoemaker on April 29, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    i was raised a Methodist. When asked, I say Methodist. When I was young, I went through Conformation. Chose not to become an actual member of the church. My Pastor, (Who shall remain nameless, Actually told me that it was OK to question the Bible and God! ) Told my Mother! I’ll always respect and love him forever! He left our church for a promotion. Apparently he’s a Bishop. Whatever. He actually taught me about God when I was a hater! I’ll never forget Pastor George!

  35. Comment by Skipper on June 2, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    I am surprised to see so many people stating the United Methodist Church supports abortion when it does not. Three years ago two church agencies were doing so on their own but they were ordered to break off their affiliation, which they did. It also does not support sexual perversion, although some are doing that on their own, ignoring our church law and God’s moral standards.

  36. Comment by Lori Blanchong on March 25, 2019 at 6:55 am

    I bet if those religious leaders were in a room, watching a real abortion taking place…seeing the human life moving around in the womb on the ultrasound ….then sticks the jagged forceps into the uterus, grabs part of the living creature’s leg and rips it off….set’s the leg on the table…..the creature may still be moving because that didn’t kill it instantly…..then rip some more chunks of flesh, feet with toes that had just been moving, hands with fingers….and then the head is too large to the Dr. must crush the skull….look at that precious face mangled…….. THINK ABOUT THAT. THAT IS REALITY. Do you honestly believe you could watch that and continue to say you support it? And you actually have the gall to think God is just fine with it too….whatever the person chooses is right for her own life is just fine…. seeing every child, one by one by the thousands every day…like factories.

    I have experience with abortion. I know reality. Let them witness a 3rd trimester abortion then tell us what they believe.

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