March 2000 -- A quarterly news letter for United Methodists


bullet Guest Column: BREACH THE SILENCE


Guest Column:


I believe that silence from the pulpit on the subject of abortion... denies people the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To a degree, we are all determined by our culture and time. For example, the Civil Rights Movement shaped most Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Then, from the mid-1960s through the 1970s, the Sexual Revolution and, for a time, protest against American military in Vietnam set the cultural agenda. The 1980s, according to some, brought on a culturally corrupting materialism. In the 1990s, a political correctness developed and became so powerful that it denied mention of subjects it deemed outside the boundaries of polite conversation.

Though ideologically charged movements, events, and fashions are societally powerful, we are not prisoners of our culture. That is, I believe that today Christians can make conscious decisions, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to break through cultural constraints and speak on issues that are deemed politically incorrect. Indeed, we should speak on such issues because God speaks on such issues and because they can involve true compassion for others, for the least of these.

I believe that silence from the pulpit on the subject of abortion (and the suffering of women and men from post-abortion syndrome) denies people the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. There could be no more devastating denial.

It could well be that this silence from the pulpit is understood, by some post-abortive women, as proof that they are unworthy of forgiveness, that they and their deeds are so dirty and evil that even their pastors dare not address them. Or worse, many of these women might believe that their nagging feelings of guilt are false, that there is nothing for which they need to ask forgiveness. If true guilt were in play, they reason, their pastors would be speaking to their need.

As pastors remain silent, so as not to upset anyone in the pew, parishioners touched by abortion feel an increasing alienation, a growing separation from their own congregations, because no one risks discussion of this supposedly out-of-bounds subject.

When clergy and congregations breach the often forbidden subject and offer Christ’s forgiveness and healing to the victims of abortion, word that they are truly of Christ and truly inviting all to His healing certainly spreads. New life in Christ is given and received. The congregations are strengthened. And the Gospel advances, due to that amazing grace.

This article was written by Mr. Rob Richey/718 East Christy Street/Greensburg, IN 47240. Mr. Richey suggests that it might be copied and made into a brochure fit for distribution throughout a congregation. Remember that it can easily be downloaded from the Lifewatch Web site at (1031 bytes)


Just as He promised, the Lord of life was present in Word and Sacrament—this time at the annual Lifewatch Service of Worship on January 24th. As usual, the service was held at Simpson Memorial Chapel in The United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It began at 9:30 in the morning—two and one-half hours before the annual March for Life was slated to start.

The 2000 Lifewatch Service of Worship was the twelfth such service. One of the better attended, this year’s service involved United Methodists and others from across the nation. Many youth attended the service; and all those present, quite wisely, were decked out in their heaviest winter wear. The service was faithfully ordered and led by The Reverend Paul R. Crikelair, pastor of the Goodwill United Methodist Church in Elverson, PA.

The Reverend Harold Lewis, pastor of Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, had been the scheduled preacher for the service. However, due to circumstances beyond his control and ours (namely, illness among his parishioners, last-minute hospital visits, and traffic jams), he was unable to make it to the service on time. Always ahead of the curve, Rev. Crikelair stepped up and preached the morning’s sermon with grace and truthfulness.


Pastor, who are you? Are you just a person anxious to avoid the unpleasantness and difficulties surrounding abortion?

In his sermon, Rev. Crikelair pressed the question posed to Jesus and reported in John 8:25, "Who are you?" Crikelair asserted that this question is the question for here and for now.

Who are you?—that is, Who is Jesus?—is the question the Church, here and everywhere assembled, can answer. To that question, the Church answers with help from The Gospel According to St. John. He is the Word, eternal and embodied. He is the Lamb of God. He is the One who had some deep theological conversation with Nicodemus at midnight. He is the One who met the Samaritan woman at high noon. He is the One who changed water into wine at a festive wedding party in Cana. He is the One who healed a royal official’s son. He is the One who healed a paralytic beside a pool. He is the One who fed 5,000 at a kind of dinner on the grounds. He is the One who walked on the water. He is the One whom many did not and do not know, for He is not of this world. Who is Jesus? He is "the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31, RSV)

Who are you?, preached Crikelair, also is a crucial question for now, for our abortion-saturated time. Since the pertinent United States Supreme Court decisions of January 22, 1973, there have been nearly 40,000,000 abortions performed in the United States. Every day there are nearly 4,000 abortions performed in our land. Who are you? That is a question to ask during a time of catastrophe. Who are you? That is a question to pose to different people involved, directly or indirectly, in the catastrophe of our time.

Mother of an unborn child, who are you? Are you just a frightened teenager or an inconvenienced woman? Or are you a mother given a gift from God?

Father of an unborn child, who are you? Are you just another boy or man who can walk away from the consequences of your sexual pleasure? Or are you a father with great responsibilities?

Unborn child, who are you? Are you just a fetus, an embryo, a mass of tissue? Or are you a human being created in the image and likeness of God?

Doctor, who are you? Are you just a skilled medical provider who makes a lot of money? Or are you a physician with a God-given vocation?

Church, who are you? Are you just a collection of autonomous individuals? Or are you the Body of Christ called to minister to the world, especially to the least of these, to the most helpless of our world?

Pastor, who are you? Are you just a person anxious to avoid the unpleasantness and difficulties surrounding abortion? Or are you a witness to the Gospel of Life, a witness to the truth?

Who are you? Are you just another consumer wanting to live a comfortable, entertainment-filled life and desiring to avoid the problem of abortion? Or are you a human being who is bound to the good of every neighbor—even to the well being of the unborn child and mother, the infirm, the elderly, the dying, the handicapped, the retarded, and the crippled?

Who are you?, Rev. Crikelair asked again and again. He assumed the question has answers, truthful answers. He preached that our answers have consequences, eternal consequences. And he proclaimed that, by the grace of God, this question and our answers to this question will lead many to believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:30), the Savior and the Lord of the world.


The Reverend Paul R. Crikelair, it must be added, is a man whose life truthfully answers, and helps others to answer truthfully, the question Who are you? Paul is the faithful husband of Janet and the devoted father of their six children. (Jody and Peter John accompanied Paul to Washington, DC, this year. They are bright, energetic, well-trained, Christian children whose affection for their father is obvious.) He is a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and the Church (including The United Methodist Church and its Goodwill Church).

Rev. Crikelair’s dedication to the Gospel of Life is consistent, persevering, and public. He recently published a 1999 edition of his booklet, "Abortion-Alternative Resources in Southeastern Pennsylvania," which includes 110 organizations that minister to protect women and their children from abortion. (If you would like a copy of this excellent booklet, write to Rev. Crikelair at Goodwill UMC/104 Church Road/Elverson, PA 19520. You might enclose a dollar or two to help with expenses.) Through thoughtful conversations and letters, he encourages his district superintendent and his bishop to be more straightforward about the goodness of life and the evil of abortion. He has been with the Lifewatch effort from its humble beginnings. And as mentioned above, he has been a steady leader of the annual Lifewatch Service of Worship for twelve years.

Rev. Paul Crikelair, we know who you are. You are a child of God, a brother in Christ, a flesh-and-blood vessel of the Holy Spirit. We thank God for you. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


"Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1, RSV), Jesus said.

Professor Richard B. Hays of Duke Divinity School writes that, with reference to divorce, Matthew 7:1 has become "the operative canon within the canon for Methodism—as for much of mainstream Protestantism..." (The Moral Vision of the New Testament, p. 348). It could be argued that the same verse has become "the operative canon within the canon for Methodism" not only on divorce but also on abortion and much else as well.

Bishops are consecrated and elders are ordained, in part, to exercise judgment.

Indeed, this editor wishes he had a nickel for every time a United Methodist has quoted this particular commandment so that he could, in good conscience, crawl up on a moral fence, comfortably sit down, and be "nonjudgmental." "I am not the judge, so I cannot and will not judge," it is commonly said by many in our denomination. It sounds so Biblical, so faithful to the New Testament, so pious. But the claim is also popular among Hollywood celebrities and national politicians. That should cause the Church to pause. And that pause should lead the Church to reconsider Jesus’ commandment with great—and I mean great—care.

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the Greek word for judge means "to distinguish" or "to decide." By implication, to judge means "to try, condemn, punish." Therefore, when one judges another, the former assumes the judge’s bench in a legal setting, indicts the one being considered, conducts a fantasy trial, finds the defendant guilty, and then sentences the guilty party to punishment.

Against those people who are all too quick to judge others in this way, Jesus warns: "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Matthew 7:2) In other words, Jesus says: "As you judge others, God will judge you." That is a solemn warning for the whole Church. It should be heeded by all of us, all the time.

However, "Judge not, that you be not judged" does not command Christians to be nonjudgmental on matters related to doctrine and morals. Indeed, The United Methodist Church charges its bishops and pastors to judge. At their services of consecration, bishops pledge to "guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church against all that is contrary to God’s Word" (Consecration of Bishops, The United Methodist Book of Worship, 703). Faithfulness to that vow requires that bishops judge matters related to "the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline" of our denomination. Likewise, at their services of ordination, elders promise to "[defend The United Methodist Church] against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word" (Ordination of Elders, The United Methodist Book of Worship, 695). Faithfulness to this vow mandates that elders exercise judgment on matters related to Church doctrine.

That is, bishops are consecrated and elders are ordained, in part, to exercise judgment. To be sure, they are not consecrated and ordained to judge people. (Though it should be admitted that there are times when the Church, out of obedience to Christ, must actually judge people. For example, using proper procedures and due process, The United Methodist Church recently dismissed a man from the ordained ministry of the denomination when he was found guilty of conducting a same-sex union service and for promising to do the same again and again. ) But they are consecrated and ordained routinely to judge matters related to the Church’s teaching. Therefore, if bishops and elders become nonjudgmental about claims that are "contrary to God’s Word," they violate their vows.

It is hard to imagine Dietrich Bonhoeffer being "nonjudgmental" about the German churches sliding into anti-Semitic theologies. Likewise, it is hard to imagine Martin Luther King, Jr., being "nonjudgmental" about American churches teaching doctrines of racial discrimination. It is just as hard to imagine John Paul II being "nonjudgmental" about the ideas that feed and empower the Culture of Death. The judgment of ideas is never beyond the pale.

"Judge not, that you be not judged." Certainly, the Church is not in the business of nonchalantly judging people. But the Church is—or more precisely, certain designated people within the Christian community—are divinely charged to judge ideas. The failure to judge ideas that run "contrary to God’s Word" compromises episcopal and ordained ministries, brings confusion to the Christian community, and undermines the Church’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Proper judgment is not an easy task. After all, constructive judgment requires avoidance of anger, concentration on substance, commitment to the Church’s teaching, and winsomeness in style. Though difficult, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the judgment of ideas can and must be attempted—without heavy-handedness and without apology. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


Yet another election cycle is upon us. Yes, yes, we know that some new United Methodist bishops will be elected this summer at the Jurisdictional Conferences. But here election cycle is meant to refer to the 2000 elections of the President, U.S. Senators, and U.S. Representatives.

In the midst of all the politics to come—all the political commentary, all the political debate, all the campaign ads, all the he-said-she-said—how should we citizens, who are United Methodists, cast our votes? Should abortion play a decisive role in determining how we vote? Or is politics just about the economy, stupid?

Back in October 1999, the Administrative Board of the U.S. Catholic Conference released a statement entitled "Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium." This statement instructs its readers on how to be faithful citizens, according to Catholic social teaching, during the current political season. The statement’s guidance, which is not in the least sectarian, is helpful to us United Methodists as well.

In general, "Faithful Citizenship" pushes for the development of a new politics. Its new politics is more radical than the new politics promoted by such well-intentioned presidential candidates as Bill Bradley and John McCain. The statement declares: "The next millennium requires a new kind of politics, focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls, more on the needs of the poor and vulnerable than on the contributions of the rich and powerful, more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of special interests. As Catholics and as voters, this is not an easy time for faithful citizenship... [But w]e must challenge all parties and every candidate to defend human life and dignity, to pursue greater justice and peace, to uphold family life and to advance the common good." (Origins, October 28, 1999, p. 311)

Some will object that it is fine for Catholics and other Christians to have political opinions, but they should keep their opinions to themselves. In other words, they should not try to "impose" their political perspective on the greater society. "Faithful Citizenship" responds: "As members of the Catholic community, we enter the public forum to act on our moral convictions, share our experience in serving the poor and vulnerable, and add our values to the dialogue over our nation’s future. Catholics are called to be a community of conscience within the larger society and to test public life by the moral wisdom anchored in Scripture and consistent with the best of our nation’s founding ideals. Our moral framework does not easily fit the categories of right or left, Democrat or Republican. Our responsibility is to measure every party and platform by how its agenda touches human life and dignity... [W]e are called to a common commitment to protect human life and stand with those who are poor and vulnerable. We cannot be indifferent to or cynical about the obligations of citizenship. As voters and advocates, candidates and contributors, we are called to provide moral leaven for our democracy." (pp. 312 and 313) As United Methodists who have "Social Principles" in our Book of Disciple and who maintain a Book of Resolutions, we are well trained in the tradition of the Church being politically engaged.

To be sure, the Church’s political task does not involve the Church telling people to vote for or against certain candidates. It does involve encouraging voters to "examine the position of candidates on the full range of issues as well as on their personal integrity, philosophy, and performance. We are convinced that a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which to address all issues in the political arena. We urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not simply party affiliation or mere self-interest." (p. 313)

The first moral principle listed by "Faithful Citizenship" is entitled the "Life and Dignity of the Human Person." This principle states: "Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. The conviction that human life is sacred and that each person has inherent dignity that must be respected in society lies at the heart of Catholic social teaching. Calls to advance human rights are illusions if the right to life itself is subject to attack. We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death; that people are more important than things; and that the measure of every institution is whether or not it enhances the life and dignity of the human person." (p. 313) This moral principle, it might be noted, forms the foundation of all other moral principles.

Applied to public life, this moral principle means that "[h]uman life is a gift from God, sacred and inviolable. This is the teaching that calls us to protect and respect every human life from conception until natural death. Because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, we have a duty to defend human life in all its stages and in every condition... ‘Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others.’ Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable...

"Laws that legitimize abortion...are profoundly unjust and wrong. We support constitutional protection for unborn human life... We encourage passage of laws and programs that promote childbirth and adoption over abortion and assist pregnant women and children..." (p. 314)

To be sure, abortion is not the only political issue. But given its life-and-death nature, the issue of abortion is arguably the most important political issue of our society in our time. The political issue of abortion should cause all Christians to remember the God-given dignity of the person, the Church’s duty to speak for and minister to the least of these, and the government’s responsibility to seek justice for the same. Remembering, we should also act. And we should act as faithful citizens. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


Get this. The churches and their moral teachings are now being blamed for promoting homophobia and hate for abortionists in the Christian communities and in the general society. These two forms of hate, it is contended, have festered, grown, and led to the disgusting murders of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was strung up by a couple of toughs, and Dr. Barnett Slepian, the abortionist who was cut down in his home by a sniper’s bullet. This line of thinking is developed by a few articles in the September/October 1999 issue of Church & Society, which is published by the National Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Again, the argument is that the Church’s historic teachings—regarding homosexual activity and abortion—foster the kind of hate that then leads to cold-blooded killing.

Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life, has done some careful thinking about this argument. Fr. Pavone takes his lead from the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During his public ministry, Rev. King received a letter from a group of Alabama clergy. Their letter stated: "Just as we formerly pointed out that ‘hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,’ we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems."

With his now famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Dr. King responded to the aforementioned Alabama clergy. In his letter, King noted: "In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the Federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber."

Another way of countering the argument at hand is this. Can John Paul II, who teaches the Church’s morality regarding sexuality and abortion, be blamed for the crimes of those who murder homosexuals and abortion providers? Quite obviously, no.

Fr. Pavone concludes his musings: "In our day, what actually promotes violence is the pro-choice mentality. When someone kills an abortion provider, he/she is practicing what pro-choicers have preached for decades: that sometimes it is okay to choose to end a life to solve a problem." (10/11/99 column for Priests for Life).

Those who offer the apostolic Church’s teachings on sexuality and abortion should never be intimidated into silence by those who claim such teachings lead to hate and murder. The Church’s teachings do not lead to hate and murder. The Church’s teachings lead to love, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


At the end of January, the "Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing" was released for all, or at least some, of the world to read. At or soon after public release, it was endorsed by "[o]ver 900 religious leaders, including two UM [United Methodist] bishops, 30 UM clergy, and 14 members of UM seminary faculties..." (Newscope, 1/28/00) For your information, the episcopal signatories were Bishop Roy I. Sano (LA, and we do not mean Lower Alabama) and Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelley (retired); and two especially well-known professors, John B. Cobb (Claremont School of Theology) and Schubert M. Ogden (SMU), were among the academic signatories.

This brief declaration is best understood as the religious community finally and fully accommodating itself, after all these years, to the Sexual Revolution. In other words, this declaration is an attempt to legitimate, in religious terms, much of what the Sexual Revolution has promoted for decades.

To be sure, the "Religious Declaration" contains truthful claims here and there. For example, when it states that "(o)ur faith traditions celebrate the goodness of creation, including our bodies and our sexuality," it is teaching truthfully. Also, it recognizes that, when the gift of sexuality is "abused or exploited," there is sin. And it rightly states that we must "see, hear, and respond to the suffering caused by violence against women and sexual minorities, the HIV pandemic," and the "commercial exploitation of sexuality."

However, when declaring "sexuality as central to our humanity and as integral to our spirituality," the statement tends to oversexualize the human person. Perhaps love, understood as more than eros, is most "central to our humanity" and "integral to our spirituality."

The declaration’s sexual ethic claims that "[a]ll persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure... It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status, or sexual orientation." Obviously, this sexual morality aims at freeing sexual expression from the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. For this reason, the declaration’s sexual ethic is quite antinomian—that is, without law (or commandment). Since some denominations these days are attempting to have polity without discipline, worship without liturgy, and teaching without doctrine, the attempt at a sexual morality without law is not terribly surprising.

The declaration goes on to advocate the ordination of "sexual minorities"—including, presumably, people who engage in homosexual sex. Furthermore, it claims that "faith communities" should bless "same sex unions." And it notes that communities of faith should work for "sexual and spiritual wholeness in society" by calling for...[a] faith-based commitment to...reproductive rights..." According to the suggestion of the last claim, abortion rights are necessary for society to achieve sexual and spiritual wholeness. Apparently, it is okay for wholeness is to be sought without regard for the unborn child and mother.

This declaration is both troubling and humorous. Troubling because it sets aside much, if not most, of the apostolic teaching of the Church on matters related to sexuality. Humorous because it exudes the excitement of attempting something entirely new. Heck, Time magazine was pushing this stuff decades ago. And the Corinthians were at it centuries ago.

Just do it! That is rallying cry of the Sexual Revolution. Just do it with a good conscience! That seems to be the rallying cry of the "Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing." The sad irony is that in this sexual morality there is no genuine justice and no real healing. The sad irony is that this sexual morality is not good for the human person. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


On November 5, 1999, the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church approved a letter to the "Pastors and Members of United Methodist Congregations Around the World." On November 9, 1999, the letter was sent, with a cover letter, to United Methodist clergy and laity around the world.

To teach what the Church has taught through the ages about homosexuality and abortion is not a "distraction."

The bishops wrote this letter at a time when the debate, initiated by those who want to change The United Methodist Church’s teaching to be accepting of homosexual practice, was especially hot and heavy. Furthermore, the bishops wrote this letter to help prepare our denomination for General Conference 2000, which could prove to be a very significant and very contentious conference. With these pressing concerns in mind, the Council of Bishops sat right down and wrote their church a letter. In general, they composed a kind of don’t-frighten-the-horses letter. It aims to keep everybody focused ("on the primary mission of the church, namely ‘to make disciples of Jesus Christ’ [Par. 200 of The Book of Discipline and Matthew 29:19]"), positive, busy, engaged, and working within the denomination as we know it.

In their letter, the bishops contend that the way toward faithfulness is to ignore the distractions of particular issues. Indeed, forms of the word distract appear three times in the episcopal letter. This sentence appears in the third paragraph: "We [the bishops] write to remind all United Methodist persons not to be distracted from our primary mission as a church by arguments over sensitive issues." In the seventh paragraph is this sentence: "Too often our church has become distracted by various issues over which we seem to lack clarity of discernment." And this sentence is near the end of the letter: "It would be tragic for The United Methodist Church to allow any discussion of any issue to distract us from our mission of proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples for Christ, and spreading scriptural holiness throughout the earth." [Emphasis, in the three quoted sentences, is added.] According to this way of thinking, both homosexuality and abortion should be understood as distractions. According to this way of thinking, matters related to homosexuality and abortion should be avoided so that domestic tranquility, real ministry, and true mission will be advanced in and through the United Methodist household.

To be sure, most United Methodists do not want to fight, ruthlessly and endlessly, about homosexuality and abortion. That would indeed be a strike against making disciples and maintaining church unity, and a genuine distraction from the main ministry and mission of the denomination.

That said, United Methodists, laity and clergy, should not avoid matters related to homosexuality and abortion because of their alleged "distracting" nature. Consider the following. To teach what the Church catholic has taught, through the ages, about homosexuality and abortion is not a distraction. To minister to a long-time United Methodist layman, who wants to be released from the sinful practice of homosexuality, is not a distraction. To protect an unmarried, pregnant teenager and her little one from abortion is not a distraction. To serve as an instrument of the forgiveness of God for a woman who aborted her unborn child ten years ago is not a distraction. To encourage people to live sexually pure lives is not a distraction.

The point is this: homosexuality and abortion are not distractions from the denomination’s task of "[making] disciples of Jesus Christ." Instead, homosexuality and abortion present living opportunities for The United Methodist Church to make disciples, and make better disciples, of Jesus Christ. That is, homosexuality and abortion are not problems from which The United Methodist Church should run; rather, they present evangelical opportunities—in real, flesh-and-blood people—that our church could and should lovingly engage.

Yes, there are distractions in contemporary American culture. Plenty of them. Video games. Sports on television. Recreational shopping. Aimless telephone conversations. Endless hours on the Internet. Drugs and alcohol. These are genuine distractions that divert United Methodists (and others) not only from making disciples of Jesus Christ but also from serving the poor, from raising and training children in the way that they should go, from taking on citizenship responsibilities, from serious learning.

Basically, distractions lure people away from important tasks. The issues of homosexuality and abortion are not distractions, for they do not divert our denomination from important tasks. Quite the opposite is true. For homosexuality and abortion present opportunities for our church to do its most important work—and that is to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people in this world. (PTS)heart.gif (1031 bytes)


heart.gif (1031 bytes)Renewal Ministries is looking for 2,000 men and women to be "prayer delegates" at the May 2-12, 2000 General Conference in Cleveland, OH. Prayer delegates will receive instructional materials that will assist them in praying for The United Methodist Church during this crucial conference. For more information about becoming a prayer delegate, contact Renewal Ministries at (765)-759-5165 or

heart.gif (1031 bytes)Occasionally our supporters suggest that Lifewatch should become a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Certainly, nothing would please us more. We have sought membership. However, the ECFA has a minimum annual revenue threshold of $50,000. Over the years, Lifewatch revenue has consistently fallen short of that requirement. For example, the 1999 total revenue was $37,448. (This is no small amount, and the Lifewatch leadership is deeply and profoundly grateful for the Christian generosity and faithfulness demonstrated by our supporters.) Though Lifewatch does not currently qualify for membership in the ECFA, our goal is to conduct this ministry according to the high standards of responsible stewardship set by that organization. Our annual financial statement is available upon request from the Dothan office. (RB)

heart.gif (1031 bytes)Presbyterians Pro-Life is organizing "A Consultation on the Church and Issues at the End of Life." This consultation will develop strategies for the role of the churches in ministering to those at the end of life. Held at Central Presbyterian Church, near Baltimore, MD, the consultation will take place on October 5-7, 2000. It will join theologians and pastors in tackling the issues at hand. If you are a pastor and would like to help represent The United Methodist Church at this consultation, please contact Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth*
Lifewatch Editor
111 Hodges Street
Morehead City, NC 28557

Phone 252-726-2175
* Paul is also President of the TUMAS Board of Directors.

Lifewatch is published by the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, a network of United Methodist clergy, laity, and congregations. It is sent, free of charge, to interested readers. Editor, Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth: P.O. Box 177, Rose Hill NC 28458 (910)289-2449/Administrator, Mrs. Ruth Brown: 512 Florence Street, Dothan AL 36301 (334)794-8543/E-mail: Web site:


For United Methodists


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Lifewatch is published by the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.


Our Mission:

Out of obedience to Jesus Christ, the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS) "will work to create in church and society esteem for human life at its most vulnerable/e, specifically for the unborn child and for the woman who contemplates abortion." Therefore, TUMAS's first goal is "to win the hearts and minds of United Methodists, to engage in abortion-prevention through theological, pastoral, and social emphases that support human life."


Lifewatch is published by the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, a network of United Methodist clergy, laity, and congregations.

It is sent free to interested readers. Editor, Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth: P.O. Box 177, Rose Hill NC 28458 (910)289-2449/Administrator, Mrs. Ruth Brown: 512 Florence Street, Dothan AL 3630/ (334)794-8543/E-mail: Web site:


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