Church Universal

Abortion & Methodist Split

Mark Tooley on June 28, 2022

Some think United Methodism’s split is over LGBTQIA+. But official United Methodism’s angry reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade evinces it is much, much more.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the United Methodist women’s group, and General Commission on Women in Society, and General Board of Global Ministries all denounced the court ruling, which discerned there is no constitutional right to abortion. Their statements ignored that the 2016 General Conference revoked United Methodism’s official support for Roe v. Wade dating to 1976 and that United Methodism has been moving in a more pro-life direction since first backing abortion rights in 1970. They also ignored that the court’s decision did not address the ethics of abortion but only found that the Constitution, which does not mention abortion, doesn’t prevent states from restricting abortion.  

Far more importantly, these United Methodist statements were theologically and ethically vacuous, ignoring two thousand years of rich ecumenical Christian teaching about the sacredness of all human life. They spoke instead in contemporary secular political language of equal access, autonomy, and therapeutic contextualization. The value and purpose of human life from a Christian understanding was unaddressed. Christianity, which is always biased in favor of the defenseless and the voiceless, for 2000 years has cherished the unborn and argued for their protection. The divine Savior of the world entered into his earthly existence as a human embryo and then a fetus. John the Baptist, in the womb of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, leapt for joy when the Virgin announced she had conceived. The unborn are important actors in God’s view of human affairs.

Christianity has never, when faithful to its teachings, esteemed persons, born or unborn, based on their worldly standing, their intelligence, their capacity to care for themselves, or their ability to speak. Instead, all persons are assumed to image God and receive His love. We respect all persons, no matter their state of development, because they are of God. United Methodist statements did not acknowledge any of this received wisdom of love and care from the church universal.

Here is the chief difference between the contending factions in United Methodism. Postmodernists who govern U.S. United Methodism are tacitly divorcing from the church universal. They believe that the 95 percent of the contemporary global church, with 99 percent of the historic church, that affirms traditional teachings about marriage, human life and God’s gift of male and female, among other treasures of the church’s received teaching dating to Christ, and foreshadowed by the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, is simply wrong. Not just wrong, but oppressive and retrograde. Western progressive Protestantism, in sync with Western secularism, is uniquely the vanguard of truth, not just in application of the faith but on core doctrine and ethical teaching.

This postmodern view of the church does not conceive a timeless and boundaryless Body of Christ but rather a discordant collection of willful and self-actualized individuals, each of whom decides what is best. It’s not a very appealing vision. But this different version of the church is what is splitting United Methodism, not sexuality per se.

It’s unfortunate that United Methodism’s split is precipitated by LGBTQIA+ instead of the wider underlying gulf in defining the church and its cosmic identity. Some traditionalists declare the split is about scriptural authority. Postmodernist Methodists insist they heed the Scriptures but through a contemporary, liberationist lens. This interpretation stresses justice and empowerment. Rightly or wrongly, this interpretation separates Western progressive Protestants from the rest of Christianity. Post-split, progressive United Methodism, like other U.S.-based declining liberal Mainline Protestant denominations, will reject the church universal’s historic and global ecumenical consensus on the sacredness of all human life and God’s core purposes for the human person. Traditional Methodists will join global Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and other Christians, today and in past centuries, who heed the life-affirming traditions of our common faith.

Traditional Methodism affirms that unborn persons merit protection and love, along with all vulnerable image bearers of God. And traditional Methodism will need to craft a new Wesleyan social witness that affirms ecumenical Christian ethics and abundant life with dignity for all people. Most importantly, traditional Methodism will see itself as part of the church universal, which is the Bride of Christ and, by His grace, and in His eyes, without blemish.

Official United Methodism’s unserious reaction to the overthrow of Roe v. Wade will help Methodists find clarity for the days of choosing ahead.

  1. Comment by David F Miller on June 28, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    Well said. I was so disappointed by the letter issued by the Bishops. It denied basic Christianity. Awful.

  2. Comment by A Convert on June 28, 2022 at 9:14 pm

    I left the UMC and converted to Catholicism in 2020 because I knew this was coming. The UMC is a secular humanist NGO posing as a church. I feel sorry for orthodox retired clergy who devoted their lives to the UMC.

  3. Comment by Here, Here! on June 29, 2022 at 10:49 am

    If we were in Parliament I would pound on my chair or desk then stand a applaud this statement. When I joined the UMC many years ago I knew there were people of the left in the church, but I thought there would be tolerance of individuals that disagreed with the Social Principles in the Discipline.

    Sadly, as the years have gone by I find that I was a fool to think that. The hierarchy has become leftist/woke first, and Christian second. Once in a while they get things right, but in many places both laity and clergy see things with only woke glasses and seem to despise their fellow UMC members who might disagree.

    The obscene reaction of the Bishops is appalling. How could they not see this as an opportunity for ministry to women and families affected by this, as an educational moment to teach the young about sexual ethics, and as an opportunity to fight in their state for what they believe in, however wrong they are? Instead of seeing and proclaiming what the church could do, they add their voice to the off tune choir of dissent.

    Instead they whine and go along with the other members of the political left off the cliff toward irrelevance. They forget Fosdick’s words: “Save us from weak resignationto the evils we deplore; Grant us wisdom, grant us courage serving you whom we adore, serving you whom we adore.”

  4. Comment by Gary Bebop on June 29, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you, Mark, for an exceptionally lucid, articulate, and straightforward declaration on this matter. You have exposed an incubus of liars within postmodern United Methodism. As Isaiah said, “Their webs cannot serve as clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make.”

  5. Comment by Jim on June 29, 2022 at 2:06 pm

    It was the abortion issue that turned me into a woke Methodist. I woke up to the fact that the rogue General Board of Church and Society was pro-child-sacrifice in contradiction to pro-life resolutions passed by the General Assembly. When a large group at our church petitioned the Bishop about this, I got a call from GBCS and was grilled on how I learned what they were up to . Thanks to the old Methodist Thinker blog for alerting us. The Bishop never responded to a petition signed by dozens and dozens of faithful and long-time Methodists–people he knew–calling for the GBCS to be reprimanded and to begin actively supporting instead of undermining the UMC’s pro-life positions. That’s when I started looking around for another church and stopped giving money because it was helping to support the GBCS and the Bishop. That church that once had 600 people in worship now has no pastor and is using clergy in retirement for on-line broadcasts watched by a small handful of people.

  6. Comment by Keith Smith on June 29, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    Yet another reason to divide the denomination. I pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ will one day understand that abortion is the murder of a human child.

  7. Comment by Pat on June 29, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    Thank you for your article and informing many of us, as church members, what is taking place. I love our local church and when our pastor set up a meeting to discuss with us the issues with the UMC, he told the truth in stating what is causing the church split. Our pastor told us he was a traditional moderate as a pastor and believed in the big tent approach to our local church. Unfortunately, with his making this statement and indicating he does not want a vote by the local church, at this time, to determine whether our church will stay or leave the UMC only speeds up the movement by many members to find another church. Our pastor stated he knows a vote will take place at some point in time, but is now planning on doing a strategic plan/Bible study to see what we, as the local church want to be. This article confirms the decision on the part of my wife and I, we have to find a Bible believing church. So we, as a family, who attend faithfully, support our youth ministry and faithfully tithe, have to now look for another church. Our family loves our pastor, but our family has to find a church where the church leadership does not support gay marriage, gay ordination, abortion and refuses to follow the adopted Book of Discipline in the UMC.

  8. Comment by Sally Dehner on July 1, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    In looking for some reactions from other Methodists, I stumbled upon this. So sorry, but I believe the church of open hearts, open minds, open doors has changed and not for the better. The slamming shut of the door to LGBT+ people. The closing of the mind to women’s bodily autonomy in order to praise the fetus. The hardening of the heart to such a large portion of those in need as well as to their fellow parishioners. . I notice these splitting churches are picking and choosing what part of the Book of Discipline they want to follow just like they pick and choose scripture. I hope my own church does better.

  9. Comment by JoeR on July 1, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    I wrote my Bishop an email letting her know I praised God to the highest Heavens for hearing the prayers of the faithful offered for decades.
    Of course she did not reply. At least someone on her staff had to read my message before deleting it. God will rule supreme. Many will be so surprised when they hear “I never knew YOU!”
    So disappointed in what the UMC has become.

  10. Comment by Carol Tatum on July 1, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    The gay marriage/pastors issue that has gone on for years and split my beloved church has been pure agony but I hung in there, hanging on by a thin thread. As a lifelong Methodist, this position by the Bishops drove the last nail in the coffin for me. Its over. I will once and for all revoke my membership as a Methodist. I cannot believe in any denomination that would play both sides, i.e., catering to culture and sin on one side while living hypocritically in the Word on the other, whether it be Methodism or any other denomination. I hope Grace Community Church/John MacArthur will let me become a member even though I am out of state now. They are 100% faithful to the Word. I’m just glad my grandparents aren’t alive to see what has happened to the UMC! 😞

  11. Comment by Jim on July 1, 2022 at 11:32 pm

    I identify with Carol that I was also hanging in by a thin thread. But when my UM Pastor (with his positive views on gay marriage through sermons, church meetings, and FaceBook posts) recently posted his pro-abortion rights views that was enough for me. I knew I could no longer be a hypocrite in my beliefs and remain there. Thankfully there is another local UM church that has already taken a church vote to remain faithful to God’s word and has taken a stand to leave the UMC when the vote comes down, if not before. We are already new members there and we are revived in our worship, never having to feel conflict through our Pastor’s words and actions again!

  12. Comment by Jay Westfall on July 2, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks again Mark as others have too. You are an amazing, cogent voice in times like this. Some folks need to be constantly reminded that ONLY the General Conference speaks for the church. Even when its meeting has been postponed.

  13. Comment by Lance on July 2, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    Well said! The woke-Bible-rejecting-leftists of the UMC have supported the sacrifice of 60,000,000 innocent American lives and lost 220,000 members last year alone. Our church is leaving as fast as we can. We will head the angel’s advice to Lot and not turn back to look at the destruction.

  14. Comment by Ken Deal on July 2, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Saw this coming around 50 years ago when the General Conference did not have the leadership to put a stop to infiltration. Really don’t think it will be an issue in
    The Milllennuim.

  15. Comment by Carol Tatum on July 5, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    UMC drag queen “pastor!!!???” Oh, dear God! God has given the UMC over completely! The UMC has broken many hearts. Jim, I am glad you found a faithful church. God bless you and your family.

  16. Comment by George on July 6, 2022 at 10:12 am

    The “tares and the wheat” are maturing now and differentiating. UMC and other “mainline” still wear a “christian” mask but it’s clearly coming off.

  17. Comment by Lynn on July 6, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    Another reason that a split needs to happen asap. The 5 groups above that have denounced the ruling of the supreme court, concerning abortion sending the issue back to the states, once again have shown how out of touch they are and don’t care at all about the many Methodist congregations that actually believe in scripture. I only hope the rest of the Christians know these left wing radical groups do NOT represent the Methodist members. They have never polled, asked or even cared what the loyal Methodist people want, only to further their agenda and of course money. It is time to stop sending any money to them! That and the approval of society & culture are the only god they worship as they have shown time and time again.

    We are not to be influenced by the evils of the world.

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