General Conference of the United Methodist Church votes overwhelming to withdraw from Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

By Dave Andrusko

The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, Indiana Conference, introduces a petition from the Church and Society legislative committee regarding The United Methodist Church’s association with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. [Maile Bradfield, UMNS]

The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, Indiana Conference, introduces a petition from the Church and Society legislative committee regarding The United Methodist Church’s association with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. [Maile Bradfield, UMNS]

An incredible turn of events. Yesterday, on a vote of 425 to 268 (61% to 39%), delegates to the quadrennial General Conference meeting of the United Methodist Church voted that two United Methodist entities withdraw immediately from membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).

The two coalition members of RCRC are the General Board on Church and Society (GBCS) and United Methodist Women (UMW).

As the Rev. Paul Stallsworth has written for NRL News Today, RCRC “is dedicated to keeping abortion–all abortions, of all unborn children, for any reason or no reason–legal in American society. In other words, RCRC never, ever speaks or lobbies or writes against abortion.”

“There is nothing moderate or nuanced about RCRC, which has consistently lobbied to defend grisly ‘partial-birth’ abortions, even after our Social Principles included a statement ‘call[ing] for the end of this late-term practice,’” said John Lomperis, a delegate to the General Conference and United Methodist director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “In contrast to the United Methodist Church, RCRC dismisses the value of unborn human life. RCRC even promotes rituals to bless all the work of elective abortion clinics, describing aborting unborn children as always ‘holy work.’”

Lomperis added, “This is a necessary and good step towards affirming that the unborn are persons of sacred worth. This also shows the UMC moving away from other liberal, declining, ‘mainline’ denominations to embrace a new faithful, global identity.”

The United Methodist Reporter published addition details and background on yesterday’s turnabout.

“[F]ive annual conferences submitted a petition to withdraw from the RCRC—Mississippi, North Carolina, Indiana, Western Pennsylvania and Alabama-West Florida—stating that RCRC’s advocacy often directly contradicts The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles on abortion, but it still uses the UMC name,” according to Jessica Brodie. “The committee assigned to this petition, Church and Society 2, voted 44-25 last week to adopt it.”

Opponents tried to soften the impact by offering an unsuccessful motion “to refer the petition to the General Council on Finance and Administration, but the UMC gives no money to RCRC,” Brodie, the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, explained.

Brodie quoted an opponent who “urged fellow delegates to keep the UMC’s voice at the reproductive health table.” But delegate Katherine Rohrs from West Ohio, was having none of that. Speaking in favor of the withdrawal she said

she’s heard time and again about the need to stay at the table because the UMC’s voice matters, but nothing has changed.

“RCRC refuses to talk about unborn children as just that,” Rohrs said. “They refuse to condemn abortion as a form of birth control or gender selection. They affirm abortion in any way.”

“I don’t speak for all young women who are United Methodist, but as a mother of two, I speak for those who have not been surrounded by the church’s support to cheer them on to life.”

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