COLUMBUS, OH: Episcopal Church still pro-abortion
By Hans Zeiger
COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/19/06)-The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church appears poised to reject a measure that would remove the denomination from membership in a pro-abortion lobby. The Social and Urban Affairs Committee displayed no sign of giving the resolution a floor hearing after the Diocese of Tennessee called on the Executive Council to end its ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
"I am here to question the Episcopal Church's decision," the Rev. D. Lorne Coyle of the Diocese of Central Florida, who proposed resolution, number D063, told the committee. Coyle says that the decision of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council to renew an affiliation with the RCRC in January of this year "was necessarily provocative." In a time when the Episcopal Church is divided internally and faces the alienation of the global Anglican Communion, the church's support for abortion "seems to drive a wedge in those relationships."
No Episcopal General Convention has ever granted approval of RCRC membership, and the Executive Council has simply reaffirmed the relationship from year to year. A previous attempt to disassociate the Episcopal Church from RCRC failed at the convention in 2003.
The Episcopal Church was a support base for the pro-abortion movement during the decade before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. In response to growing agitation for abortion in the Episcopal Church, pro-life Episcopalians founded Noel for Life in 1966 "to advocate the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death in the Church and society."
Noel President Georgette Forney addressed the Social and Urban Affairs Committee on Monday, urging them to move the church away from the agenda of the RCRC.
"The decision by the Episcopal Church to join the RCRC is an example of personal agendas seeking to control the church's position," said Forney, pointing out that the official positions of the church conflict with some RCRC positions.
For example, a document prepared by the RCRC entitled "Considering Abortion? Clarifying what you Believe" declares, "You, and no one else, are 'called' to figure out what this unwanted pregnancy is about. And you are to do it without guilt or shame..." The document adds, "You are to claim your godlike, God-given role in creation by saying yes or no, secure in the knowledge that whatever you decide, after having honestly sought what is right, God will bless."
Yet Forney pointed out that Lambeth 1.10 affirms the principle abstinence outside of marriage. And the Episcopal Church resolved in 1994 that Episcopalians should consider abortion only after prayer, deliberation, and the counsel of the church. Yet the RCRC encourages "women to seek the truth within themselves rather than God, the Scriptures, and the counsel of church advisors," said Shiela Bracken, administrative director of Noel.
But such arguments were insufficient evidence for the pro-life position to several witnesses at the Monday hearing. "I wish I knew what Biblical truth the previous speaker was talking about, because I have several papers written by clergy and Biblical scholars talking [favorably] about the subject [of abortion]," said John Vanderstar, a layman from the Diocese of Washington.
The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Keaton of the Diocese of Newark alleged that the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy was a funding source for both Noel and the American Anglican Council, paraphrasing thereafter Martin Niemoller's quote about the Nazi termination of minority groups: "First they came for the homosexuals, and then they came to erode the rights of women."
Abortion may not be in favored by local churches, Keaton suggested, but "We are deputized to follow the Holy Spirit, not the wishes of the folks back home."
If the folks back home didn't have a say on the Social and Urban Affairs Committee, perhaps they could have a say on the floor of the Convention Houses. Knowing that the Social and Urban Affairs Committee leans far to the Left on most issues, advocates for the Resolution D063 called on the committee to simply pass the resolution so that the convention can discuss it openly. "Get it to the floor where we can talk about things like that as a whole church," said Robert Hanna of the Diocese of San Joaquin.
It's about as likely to happen as the Episcopal Church reaching its 20/20 goals of doubling church attendance by 2020.
As one committee has reported to the General Convention, "The Episcopal Church has the lowest birth rate and highest mean age of any mainline denomination." And the statistical decline of the Episcopal Church will probably continue so long as the choice for death outweighs the choice for life.
For now, the church simply doesn't listen to the pro-life side of the debate, Shiela Bracken told VirtueOnline after the hearing. "It's a horse and pony show...They're tired and ambivalent and they don't care."
Georgette Forney told VirtueOnline that the RCRC's "malicious publications and conferences" make clear "this church's strong support for choosing the right to abort, not the choice of women. It really sends a strong message to pro-life women that their voices are not welcome in this church."
But to those who insist on abortion, the "welcome" to the Episcopal Church cannot last forever.
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