As we continue to reflect on the actions of General Conference and celebrate the many affirmations of justice and peace, I am aware that questions have been raised about The United Methodist Church’s commitment to the rights of women and girls around the world. I leave General Conference understanding as clearly as ever the important mandate given to Church and Society to support abundant life for women and girls.
Faith voices must speak up for women who are vulnerable. Our voice has been removed from the table of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) – a coalition comprised of partners from many faiths dedicated to women’s health – but we will continue to speak up for women and girls.
The United Methodist Church has long contributed biblical and theological understandings of life, abundance, and health to RCRC and also has benefited from the body of knowledge that exists around the table. The United Methodist voice consistently upholds The UMC’s deep and historic Wesleyan commitment to health care and our important understanding of the sacredness of life.
The context from which our church addresses women’s health is rooted in the grace that is exemplified in the Social Principle on the Nurturing Community. United Methodist churches must be in ministry with the whole person – created beings with spiritual, emotional and mental needs as well as physical needs.
The resolution on Global Health and Rights: Eradicating Sexual and Gender-Based Violence demonstrates that the global Church understands reproductive health in a broader context. Women with economic means will always have access to the health care they need. We must continue to ask questions about the impact of decisions made by the Church on women and girls living in poverty and where access to medical care is critically needed.
Consistent with the decades-long position of the Church (Social Principles ¶161.J), the General Board of Church and Society continues to be an advocate for a full range of safe and legal reproductive health care – including, in certain cases, the option to safely and legally end a pregnancy.
We will continue to uphold women as being made in the image of God and be a voice of reassurance that God is present to women and girls around the world.
Editor's Note: The full text of section J of the Nurturing Community Social Principle can be found below.
The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.
But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.
We recognize 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. We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics (see Resolution 3184).
We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. This procedure shall be performed only by certified medical providers. Before providing their services, abortion providers should be required to offer women the option of anesthesia.
We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion. We entrust God to provide guidance, wisdom, and discernment to those facing an unintended pregnancy.
The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth.
We mourn and are committed to promoting the diminishment of high abortion rates. The Church shall encourage ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies such as comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support of initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe. Young adult women disproportionately face situations in which they feel that they have no choice due to financial, educational, relational, or other circumstances beyond their control.
The Church and its local congregations and campus ministries should be in the forefront of supporting existing ministries and developing new ministries that help such women in their communities. They should also support those crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women explore all options related to unplanned pregnancy. We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption. (See ¶ 161L.)
We affirm and encourage the Church to assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion.
Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, family, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.