Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Racism is Alive and Well

On February 26th a 17 year old African American young person was shot and killed in Florida by a Neighborhood Crime Watch community worker in what appeared to be an unprovoked encounter.  The assailant, Mr. Zimmerman said it was an act of self-defense in accord with the Florida state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  This law gives people the right to kill others who they perceive are threatening them.  The circumstances around this incident, the lack of police reporting, the tapes of the 911 call just before the shooting, the time lapse before this received national attention all indicate to me that racial profiling and a serious breach of justice has occurred.  The investigation continues and the man who killed the honor student high school junior has not been arrested.  Truly the world needs to study the ramifications of this law and how it can result in the death of innocent people.  There is no peace until there is justice.
How do we respond to such a horrific crime?  We look at our laws and see where they are permissive in ways that give people dangerous rights.  We study our communities and see where there are racial tensions among people and begin dialogues and conversations.  We need to examine our hearts and see where we are in our journey of racial inclusivity. What attitudes do we need to change and how can we personally speak out against injustice?

Monday, March 5, 2012

United Methodist Position on Birth Control and Abortion

With regards to birth control The United Methodist Church in the Book of Resolutions  (Resolution 2026) states:

“Each couple has the right and duty prayerfully and responsively to control conception according to their circumstances.  They are, in our view free to use those means of birth control considered medically safe.  As developing technologies have moved conception and reproduction more and more out of the category of a chance happening and more closely to the realm of responsible choice, the decision whether or not to give birth to children must include acceptance of the responsibility to provide for their mental, physical and spiritual growth as well as consideration of the possible effect on quality of life for family and society. 

We therefore encourage our churches and common society to make information and materials available so all can exercise responsible choice in the area of conception controls.  We support the free flow of information about reputable, effective and safe non-prescription contraceptive techniques through educational programs and through periodicals, radio, television and other advertising media.  We support adequate public funding and increased participation in family planning services by public and private agencies, including church-related institutions, with the goal of making such services accessible to all, regardless of economic status or geographic location.”

Our position on abortion can be found in our “Social Principles” in the Book of Discipline (paragraph 161j).

“The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence.  While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.  Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.
We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life what may justify abortion and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.  We support parental, guardian or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions are be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood.  We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control and we unconditionally reject is as a means of gender selection.
We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life.  Before providing their services, abortion providers should be required to offer women the option of anesthesia. 
We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion. The church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies.  We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy and to those who give birth.

We particularly encourage the Church, the government and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption.  We affirm and encourage the Church to assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion.
Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved with medical, family, pastoral and other appropriate counsel.”

These statements represent a balanced and prayerful response to issues that divide people in many ways, not only in the church but in society at large.  The over-arching theme is prayer and careful discernment.  I believe it is important for our churches to regularly study our church’s stand on our many social issues and prayerfully discuss God’s plan for us as we are a witness to the world.