By Jessica Brodie
PORTLAND, Ore.—General Conference voted May 19 that two United Methodist entities withdraw immediately from membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The motion passed 425-268.
The General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women currently are members of the RCRC, a national community of religious organizations and faithful individuals dedicated to achieving reproductive justice.
But five 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. (The South Carolina Conference in 2015 voted not to petition General Conference on withdrawing from the RCRC.)
The committee assigned to this petition, Church and Society 2, voted 44-25 last week to adopt it.
On the floor Thursday, a motion was made to refer the petition to the General Council on Finance and Administration, but the UMC gives no money to RCRC. That motion failed.
Speaking against the withdrawal, Becca Girrell of the New England Conference urged fellow delegates to keep the UMC’s voice at the reproductive health table and said remaining in the RCRC does not in any way affect the UMC’s position on abortion.
“As a woman of faith, it deeply saddens me that every two minutes, some woman somewhere in the world dies of childbirth,” Girrell said. “As a maternal health advocate, I, too, want to reduce the number of abortions. I want healthy babies to be born. …
But we cannot do the work alone. It takes all of our faith voices working together.”
Speaking for the withdrawal, delegate Katherine Rohrs from West Ohio, 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.”
In 2015, the South Carolina Conference voted 674 to 541 not to petition General Conference on withdrawing from the RCRC. The South Carolina petition had been submitted by Memorial UMC in Greer, Covenant UMC in Greer, Gramling UMC in Campobello and Slater UMC in Slater. The conference’s Committee on Petitions had voted non-concurrence on the petition, desiring not to send the petition because it is important that the UMC’s voice be a part of this interfaith group and have what committee chair Dr. Carolyn Briscoe called “a voice at the table” when it comes to reproductive choice.
For more on General Conference legislation, visit gc2016.umc.org.