This afternoon, Beth Ann Cook (Indiana Annual Conference) presented a report on behalf of the Board of Church and Society B Legislative Committee urging The United Methodist Church to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Her presentation contained so much misinformation it’s hard to know where to begin in addressing the inaccuracies. It’s important to do, however, given the large number of United Methodist leaders who heard this presentation.
To listen to Rev. Cook’s presentation, one would think that RCRC is a political lobbying organization that promotes unrestricted abortions including those obtained up until the moment of birth and based on a woman’s gender preference for her child.
In actuality, RCRC is a community of religious organizations and faithful individuals in the United States dedicated to achieving reproductive health, rights and justice. As an ecumenical and interfaith coalition, RCRC encompasses a range of theological perspectives on reproductive issues. While the groups that compose the RCRC coalition have diverse views on abortion, all affirm that women are trusted moral agents in decisions about childbearing.
RCRC promotes human rights including the human right to have children, to not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments. This includes supporting a woman in making decisions about when and if she will have children based on what is best for her and her family, in light of her faith and with the medical counsel of her doctor and of others she chooses to involve.
RCRC does not advocate for or against abortion. RCRC advocates for making sure that women have full access to reproductive healthcare services including safe and affordable contraception, and to safe and affordable abortion services should that be a woman’s decision. RCRC supports the Reproductive Justice Movement in placing reproductive healthcare decisions within the larger context of economic justice, gender justice, racial justice and environmental justice.
At various times in recent years RCRC programs have focused on comprehensive sexuality education for young people, on the eradication of HIV/AIDS and domestic and sexual violence, support for equitable health insurance and child health measures and family planning assistance.
Among its current programs that have benefited United Methodist faith leaders across the United States is RCRC’s Pastoral Care Training on Reproductive Decision-Making and Reproductive Loss. This program provides a forum for pastors and other faith leaders to explore complex issues related to reproductive justice and to discuss them compassionately in a faith context. Participants explore the particular circumstances and pastoral concerns in common situations related to reproductive decisions and loss, including abortion, miscarriage and stillbirth, infertility, post-adoption loss, and pre-natal loss due to fetal anomalies. Participants develop specific skills for providing effective care in these situations and discuss the use of ritual and other resources from their faith tradition to promote healing.
A decision by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church to withdraw membership in the coalition is truly regrettable. It makes no difference whatsoever, however, in whether individual United Methodists or individual United Methodist Churches for that matter, can benefit from RCRC’s information, resources, and training opportunities. The Methodist Federation for Social Action has long been supportive of and involved in RCRC and presumably will continue to be so. Check out the RCRC web site and join your voice to the voices of other faith leaders across the country in supporting human rights and reproductive justice!
Kathryn Johnson is ordained United Methodist clergy, a member of the New England Annual Conference. She lives in Washington, DC where she attends Dumbarton United Methodist Church and serves as the Program Director for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Kathryn is known to many as the former executive director of MFSA.