This Saturday (Jan. 22) marks the 38th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Taken together, the two rulings (authored by Justice Harry Blackmun, a United Methodist) effectively voided dozens of state laws aimed at protecting unborn children from abortion.
Since then, abortion providers have performed 50 million abortions in the U.S. — primarily for purposes of birth control rather than for medical reasons. On average, five abortions occur in America every minute of every hour of every day.
Many churches will observe this Sunday as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
The pro-life prayer guide below, designed for use as a church-bulletin insert, is adapted from material prepared by Lifewatch, also known as the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality. A PDF copy of the prayer guide is here. (UM pastor Chris Roberts has prepared additional material that can be used as bulletin insert.)
On Monday (Jan. 24), Lifewatch will host its annual worship service at the United Methodist Building, next door to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Rev. Dr. Edwin King, a Methodist clergyman instrumental in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, is scheduled to deliver the message.
In the early 1960s, King — then a chaplain at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Miss. — worked (unsuccessfully) to convince white pastors in the area to issue a statement against racial segregation.
He then helped students to stage a series of sit-ins and other protests in Jackson, according to the 1998 book, Lift Up Your Voice Like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-1973 (UNC Press).
Denied membership in the white Mississippi Methodist Conference because of his racial views and civil rights activism, King joined the conference of black Mississippi Methodists, part of The Methodist Church’s Central Jurisdiction.
In a 2002 address (PDF) in Charlottesville, Va., King — now a professor of Sociology and Medical Ethics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center — spoke about legalized abortion’s negative impact on black Americans.
Today in Mississippi, two-thirds to 75 percent of the abortions are done for black children in the womb…. [Across America,] the majority of the children whose [lives are] snuffed out in the womb [are] black or Hispanic…. Is that freedom for somebody — or is something else going on?
Fannie Lou Hamer was the first person to talk to me after Roe vs. Wade came down and she said, “Rev. King, this is another racial thing — this is the answer to the civil rights movement, they are going to get rid of black babies.”
Previous speakers at the annual Lifewatch gathering have included Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area), Bishop Will Willimon (North Alabama), and Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Florida).
At the 2004 service, Bishop Whitaker said a church that supports abortion undermines its proclamation of the gospel.
“[W]e who are United Methodists…have a responsibility to live according to our first rule [of the Methodist General Rules], which is to do no harm,” he declared. “Do no harm to the unborn! Do no harm to the witness of the Church as a peaceable people! Do no harm to the Gospel of peace!”
Shortly after Monday’s Lifewatch service, the annual March for Life begins on the Mall in Washington, D.C. (map showing route).
The event, which draws tens of thousands of pro-lifers each year, will be aired live (beginning at 11 a.m. ET) on EWTN, the Roman Catholic cable/satellite TV channel. (EWTN’s coverage will be repeated at 11 p.m. ET.)
Go here for live audio and video online.
The March for Life has been held annually since 1974.
In 2008, the United Methodist General Conference passed legislation acknowledging “the sanctity of unborn human life” and noting that United Methodists are bound to “respect the sacredness of life and well-being of [both] the mother and the unborn child.”
The United Methodist Book of Discipline also states that the UMC “cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control” (¶161J).
|•||Bishop Timothy Whitaker: Abortion and the gospel of peace|
|•||‘Church and Society’ decries pro-life amendment to health bill|
|•||Party platforms and the UMC|
|•||Bishop Mike Watson: ‘The Methodist Christian Way’|
|•||How a pastor might first broach the abortion issue with his congregation | UM pastor Paul T. Stallsworth, Remarks at the 2010 Convention of National Right to Life, Pittsburgh, Pa. (June 2010)|
|•||United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones addresses pro-life event | Connor Ewing, IRD (Jan. 22, 2010)|
|•||United Methodists and abortion today | Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Feb. 9, 2009)|
|•||United Methodism on abortion | Paul T. Stallsworth, On the Square—First Things (May 29, 2008)|
|•||United Methodist Church continues decades-long crawl to pro-life direction | John Lomperis, LifeNews.com (May 23, 2008)|
|•||Abortion opponents speak out during national rally | United Methodist News Service (Jan. 24, 2008)|
|•||Pro-choice? Pro-life? | A sermon (text and audio) by UM Lay Speaker Joseph Slife, Gateway Church (UMC), Athens, Ga. (Jan. 22, 2006)|
|•||Dr. Billy Abraham tells abortion opponents not to give up | Mark Schoeff Jr., United Methodist News Service (Jan. 24, 2007)|
|•||Mainline churches participate in abortion rights march | John Lomperis, Good News (July/August 2004)|
|•||UMC holds ambiguous stand on abortion, speakers say | Melissa Lauber, United Methodist News Service (Jan. 24, 2002)|
|•||Roe ruling: More than its author intended | David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times—via HispanicPundit.com (Sept. 14, 2005)|
|•||Justice Harry Blackmun was active United Methodist | United Methodist News Service (March 4, 1999)|
|•||Justice Blackmun and the little people | Mary Meehan (originally published in Human Life Review, Summer 2004)|
|•||The sanctification of human life (a historical overview of the Christian church’s position on abortion and other issues related to the sanctity of human life) — Chapter 2 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)|
|•||Why is the New Testament silent about abortion? | Michael J. Gorman, Good News (May/June 1993)|
|•||‘Durham Declaration’ asks for ‘Scriptural approach’ to abortion in the UMC; Signatories include Bishops Ole E. Borgen and William R. Cannon | United Methodist News Service (March 12, 1991)|
|•||Text of the Durham Declaration (January 1991)|
|•||42 years later, clergy who fought racism to reunite | Associated Press (June 6, 2005) — Related: The “Born of Conviction” statement, published in the Mississippi Methodist Advocate, Jan. 2, 1963 (PDF)|
|•||Religion and the Civil Rights Movement (PDF) | An address by the Rev. Edwin King (Feb. 22, 2002)|