Monday, December 17, 2012

How Pro Abortion Advocates Barely Kept The United Methodist Church Pro Abortion In 2012

I followed the United Methodist 2012 General Conference this year pretty closely via the social media. That was pretty easy to do because it seems at both their gathering UMC delegate folks are very good with things like twitter and blogs to keep people aware of what is happening.

The UMC is part of the American Mainline that is trending in the opposite direction of many it's sister mainline congregations. That is as it's sister mainline bodies trend more "progressive" in theology the UMC is trending in the opposite direction.

The main reasons for this are :

- It is a truly a world wide faith community with a great number of members from Africa and Asia

- These non USA members actually to a certain degree have their demographic fairly represented in the UMC as to votes at the Convention.

- These non USA Methodist are now aligned with the more traditional American Orthodox faction of the UMC.

This last convention was hot. There were issues relating to gay marriage and blessings , to resolutions on Israel, to major reforms of the UMC structure itself among many other things..

My main interest was the pro life and religious liberty aspects of what would be voted on. In particular there was going to be a move to have the United Methodist Church sever ties with the very radical Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) . That took on added importance this year to me as the RCRC was a huge advocate of the HHS Contraception mandate . In fact the RCRC was upset the mandate did not go far enough and go into the four walls of the Church itself !!

John Lomperis over at IRD has an excellent four part series on how the efforts to stop this were successful. See Why Was the 2012 General Conference So Unproductive and Dysfunctional?

To make a long story short advocates of the RCRC and pro choice movement were in full panic mode after the first week of voting on several matters. It was clear that the UMC relationship with the RCRC was going to be in deep trouble.

So what did they do. They made sure to delay and delay to to run out the clock so this important discussion would not happen.

From Part 2

I was an observer of the Church and Society #2 legislative committee, whose leadership was extremely liberal. The chair was the Rev. Molly Vetter, who appears to be active in the California-Pacific MFSA chapter. I observed the sub-committee chaired by Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, an outspoken supporter of the Common Witness Coalition, and a very passionate defender of abortion (the subject of many petitions in her sub-committee). In both the sub-committee and full committee, the respective chairs managed the discussion in such a way that they nearly ran out of time to address a petition to end our denomination’s formal affiliation with the militantly, uncompromisingly pro-abortion political group, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Both Bigham-Tsai and another delegate at different points tried to have an RCRC-supportive church official come and lobby delegates under the pretense of “providing information.” In the sub-committee, when a delegate suggested that such testimony be balanced by hearing from the Rev. Paul Stallsworth, the head of Lifewatch (our denomination’s pro-life caucus) and an elected Jurisdictional alternate delegate, Bigham-Tsai falsely claimed that that was not allowed.

Having now been to the last three General Conferences, I can say that the Rev. Bigham-Tsai’s leadership was by far the most heavy-handed and blatantly manipulative that I have seen of any legislative committee or sub-committee chair. The majority of the sub-committee’s bioethics-related petitions would have at least nudged the UMC in a life-affirming direction. But this was contrary to the values of Bigham-Tsai, who successfully prevented most of these petitions from ever being discussed by insisting on devoting the first several meetings to very, very lengthy and needlessly repetitive personal sharing by delegates about “their hearts,” by calling needlessly frequent and early breaks, and after she did not like the way some votes were going, launching into an angry, self-righteous, and not completely coherent tirade about how she suspected that something nefarious was afoot. In the debate over revising the UMC Social Principles’ somewhat muddled statement on abortion, the Rev. Bigham-Tsai tried to strong-arm the sub-committee into hastily accepting, as a starting point, the language of the only one out of the seventeen relevant petitions that would have moved that statement in a more liberal rather than life-affirming direction, thus needlessly injecting a time-consuming fight over process. She used her power over the petitions’ order of consideration to crassly manipulate sub-committee delegates into ultimately giving up on even considering the majority of petitions that would have moved the UMC in a more pro-life direction, because of the hope she teasingly held out that they might get to consider RCRC if they had time.

This effort continued to the very last day as we see in this part :

DeLong and company also demanded that petitions to end our denomination’s scandalous affiliation with the strident Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (a move the relevant committee had supported in a decisive, historic vote) be labeled “sexuality-related” and moved to the back of the agenda with the other tabled petitions. Despite the strong objections of renewal leaders and even some relatively fair-minded liberal denominational officials, the Agenda Committee agreed to classify RCRC as “a sexuality issue.” The committee had also decided to overrule the anti-RCRC petitions’ original “global” classification in order to treat them as “U.S.-only” issues, even though: they dealt with a global denominational agency, UMC leaders from Africa, Europe, and the Philippines were outspokenly eager for the General Conference to pass them, and they involved a resolution that explicitly mentions “international” issues, the United Nations, and South Africa. Under the new rules, classifying RCRC as a “U.S.-only” issue provided a useful pretext for demoting these petitions’ priority. Moreover, the relevant legislative committee chair, Rev. Molly Vetter, used her position to have the anti-RCRC petitions deemed low priorities. Throughout the final day, DeLong and her allies sought to intimidate delegates and conference leaders by being very visibly primed and ready to fulfill their threat to forcibly shut the General Conference down in a THIRD illegal protest so that delegates would be unable to even discuss RCRC. But the anti-RCRC petitions were far enough down on the agenda list (albeit not at the very end as DeLong had demanded) that the Agenda Committee expected that there would not be time to get to them, EVEN IF it had not been for the eleventh-hour chaos caused by the Judicial Council’s striking down the compromise restructuring plan. And indeed, time ran out for plenary consideration of RCRC, which gave the bullying protesters what they wanted.

And thus the convention "ran out of time" to discuss the matter

The good news though is there are good signs now that their game plan has been exposed pro lifers might be much more successful the next time this issue comes up at their General Convention.

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