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United Methodist Church Only Condemned Gosnell After Pro-Life Pressure

by | May 31, 2013

By John Lomperis

Convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell

Convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell

The D.C. lobby office of the United Methodist Church, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), has finally broken its silence about the “health care” offered by abortion and infanticide provider Kermit Gosnell.

The GBCS likes to boast that it “has not been silent” on pressing issues of social concern. But when it comes to arguably the most pressing social-justice issue of our day, which according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute globally claims the lives of tens of millions of precious babies created in God’s image every year, the GBCS has been absolutely silent. Or rather, when it has spoken out, it has only been in a very one-sided, abortion-defending way, treating the children killed by the violence of abortion as unworthy of receiving Christian compassion or even acknowledgement of their existence.

But realizing that the liberal GBCS staff do not represent the views of more than a small minority of the unsuspecting United Methodists whose denominational apportionments (skimmed from church offering plates) largely fund the GBCS, several of us at the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) decided to press the question of whether or not even Gosnell’s crimes were too much for the GBCS.

On May 7, we launched a mini-campaign on Twitter, using the hashtag #SilentGBCS and calling on the GBCS to “defend vulnerable human life in light of the Gosnell murders.”

One week later, they broke their characteristic silence, releasing a brief statement entitled: “Gosnell’s actions are reprehensible.”

As a longtime watchdog of the GBCS (which is given free reign by the denomination to operate with very minimal accountability), this statement offers the most pro-life language I have ever seen from the church agency. The statement celebrates Gosnell’s conviction for “the grisly murder of newborn babies” and the lethal drug overdose of an immigrant woman, decries “what he did” in strong language, calls on United Methodists to “take seriously our shared responsibility for the sanctity of all human life – at all stages of life,” and directly states, “The biblical teachings of the 10 Commandments is quite clear: ‘Do not murder.’ (Deuteronomy 5:17).” It does not endorse the bizarre recent claims of other abortion defenders that pro-lifers are, by some convoluted logic, to blame for Gosnell’s “house of horrors.”

Furthermore, while it may simply be a product of hasty composition, in this statement the GBCS takes a refreshing break from its usual political sloganeering to very clearly describe America’s debate over the sanctity of unborn human life as being between “those who oppose abortion and those who support it,” avoiding such intellectually dishonest euphemisms as “supporters of choice” or “reproductive justice defenders.”

Finally, the statement even describes “tougher regulations and inspections enforced in Pennsylvania” as a matter of justice being served.

And yet.

And yet, after the first two sentences noting the specific already-born victims for whose death Gosnell was convicted, the GBCS resorts to rather ambiguous language about “what he did,” leaving it up to readers to guess whether or not the GBCS’s newly professed concern “for the sanctity of all human life – at all stages of life” extends to the preborn children killed by Gosnell. The GBCS avoids mentioning the 24 unborn children Gosnell was convicted of killing in illegal late-term abortions.

With sad moral cluelessness, the GBCS says “Although justice has been served … this case has become the latest battlefield in the abortion debate, but it is unclear why.”

As if the sorts of things done by abortionists as part of their clinic practices are irrelevant to abortion debates. As if Gosnell’s “house of horrors” was a once-ever anomaly that people should just passively trust will never occur again, even with no legal safeguards. As if it is somehow “socially conscious” to ignore a similar case developing in Texas or the reality of the many other documented cases in other states of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in abortion clinics. As if the devaluing of the lives of newly born but unplanned children is completely unrelated to devaluing the lives of soon-to-be-born but also unplanned children.

And in apparent allusion to the #SilentGBCS campaign, the GBCS sanctimoniously declares that “Christians should not use this case as an opportunity to point fingers or cast stones at one another.” But metaphors aside, the denominational lobby appears determined to remain stubbornly unreflective about its own long defense of actual violence in terms of abortion.

Furthermore, for decades, the GBCS has been an enthusiastic member organization of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which stridently decries any and all legal restrictions or even moral disapproval of abortion. In recent years, the GBCS staff has zealously defended our denomination’s increasingly contested affiliation with RCRC, which pro-life United Methodists hope to end soon.

But even as more members of the United Methodist Church wake up to the scandal of the UMC-RCRC connection, the GBCS insists on portraying the Coalition as incapable of wrongdoing.

In fact, a former GBCS staffer privately told me of being fired, probably because of this individual’s willingness to challenge RCRC on its lack of nuance. This apparent purging occurred on the watch of current GBCS General Secretary Jim Winkler.

So it is not completely true to say that the GBCS has refrained from joining other “supporters of abortion” (in the GBCS’s welcome new language) in bizarrely blaming Gosnell on pro-lifers.

Earlier this month, RCRC indeed blamed Gosnell’s “house of horrors” on pro-lifers and actually protested against basic clinic health and safety regulations that could prevent future such “reprehensible,” ongoing evils.

And while even Kermit Gosnell’s own defense attorney has been persuaded to support further regulations on abortion and even outright bans after the unborn baby is 16 or 17 weeks old, RCRC (which thanks to the GBCS claims to represent United Methodists) is now lobbying Congress against a proposed limit on abortions of pain-capable babies.

For years, the GBCS has strongly pushed for public policies that based on the principle that companies cannot be trusted to self-regulate to operate in just, ethical, and consumer-protecting ways. But does it trust often lucrative abortion clinics to self-regulate? If not, then amidst all of GBCS’s political lobbying, will it ever find time to proactively lobby for clinic regulations such as those recently passed in Virginia? Even if RCRC disagrees?

From a Christian moral perspective, what is the difference between Gosnell’s snipping the spinal cord of a baby within minutes or hours after his birth and Gosnell performing the same “procedure” on a baby at the exact same stage of development but still in utero?

What are the logical, ethical, and principled relationships between a culture of disregard for the life and dignity of unborn, and even partially-born, “unwanted” children — a culture which the GBCS has reflexively championed for years — and similar treatment of newly born, physically identical “unwanted” babies? How does one draw the line in a morally consistent and logically coherent way?

What does the GBCS think of how some of its abortion-defending allies have become increasingly open in defending infanticide?

When GBCS, through RCRC, celebrated a day in early March to offer prayers of thanks for a Mississippi abortionist “and all the other brace abortion providers around the world,” did such unqualified celebration include people like Kermit Gosnell ?

Since the GBCS has taken the unusual step of disallowing viewer comments below its statement, it seems that these are the sorts of questions that they are eager to avoid.

For an example of what a consistently compassionate, morally unmuddled denominational statement on the Gosnell murders looks like, see here.

John Lomperis is the Director of United Methodist Action for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Connect with him on Twitter @JohnLomperis

Categories: Gosnell