Methodist Church’s Approval of Abortion

Please see the section above entitled "Original Proposal" for, inter alia: (1) the Wikipedia article on Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who was convicted of murdering three just-born children by snipping their spinal cords and convicted on 21 felony counts of illegal third-term abortions under Pennsylvania law, and (2) the text of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 land-mark Roe v. Wade decision finding a constitutional right to abortion (though permitting states to ban third-term abortions provided there are certain exceptions, such as preserving the life of the mother).

Click on this section for additional reference materials such as a NY Times article on Albuquerque NM's 11/19/2013 vote against banning abortion after 20 weeks, which is when fetuses begin to feel pain (24 weeks is the beginning of the third trimester).

As set forth in the Original Proposal: "As of 10/1/2013, 41 states prohibit abortion after a certain point in the pregnancy -- 21 at fetal viability, 4 in the third trimester, 8 after a certain number of weeks (generally 24 or during the third trimester), and 8 after 20 weeks post-fertilization (or 22 weeks after the last menstrual cycle) on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain after that point." So it would appear that the issue of 20 weeks vs. 24 weeks will reach the U.S. Supreme Court soon in cases involving at least one of the 8 states that ban abortion after 20 weeks.
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Methodist Church’s Approval of Abortion

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After reading John Karls’ comments about his personal experience with abortion, and the abortion views of his mother who, together with his father, had been stalwarts in the United Methodist Church, it struck me that it would be interesting to examine the position of the United Methodist Church on abortion.


The “Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church” is to the UMC what the U.S. Constitution is to the United States -- the most authoritative statement of UMC beliefs.

Indeed, John Karls’ comments about his mother mentions in passing, that his late father “still holds the international record for the number of Quadrennial Conferences governing the national/international United Methodist Church attended as an official delegate = 13 over more than half a century.”

The primary function of each Quadrennial Conference is to make whatever revisions the conferees deem appropriate to the “Book of Discipline of the UMC.”

The most recent version of the “Book of Discipline of the UMC” approved by the 2012 Quadrennial Conference states:

“Of the Duty of Christians to the Civil Authority. It is the duty of all Christians, and especially of all Christian ministers, to observe and obey the laws and commands of the governing or supreme authority of the country of which they are citizens or subjects or in which they reside, and to use all laudable means to encourage and enjoin obedience to the powers that be.” [This provision is available on the official website of the United Methodist Church at > Our Faith > Beliefs > Beliefs: We Invite You To Learn More About Our Rich Theological Heritage > Foundational Documents > The Articles of Religion > The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church XXIV – XXV > Of the Duty of Christians to the Civil Authority.]

Accordingly, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade must be observed and obeyed by United Methodists in the U.S. as of 2012.


The provision in the 2012 “Book of Discipline of the UMC” quoted above regarding “The Duty of Christians to the Civil Authority” replaced the following provision in the 2008 “Book of Discipline of the UMC” (page 71):

“Civil Government. We believe civil government derives its just powers from the sovereign God. As Christians we recognize the governments under whose protection we reside and believe such governments should be based on, and be responsible for, the recognition of human rights under God. We believe war and bloodshed are contrary to the gospel and spirit of Christ. We believe it is the duty of Christian citizens to give moral strength and purpose to their respective governments through sober, righteous and godly living.”

Quite different from 2012 provision!!!

2008 = Christianity trumps civil government.

2012 = Civil government trumps Christianity.

Any specific 2008 pronouncement on abortion???

Why yes, in the 2008 “Book of Discipline of the UMC” (pp. 105-106):

“(J) Abortion. 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 that 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 can 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 it 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. (See 161.L.) 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.”


As of 2012, the United Methodist Church for congregants in the U.S. bows to Roe v. Wade.

Prior to 2012, the United Methodist Church basically condoned abortion provided: (1) it is legal in the jurisdiction in which it occurs, (2) proper medical procedures are employed, (3) parental notification is required for minors, (4) abortion is not a means of gender selection, (5) abortion does not comprise “late-term abortion” (aka “partial birth abortion”); and (6) thoughtful and prayerful consideration is employed and is accompanied with medical, family, pastoral and other appropriate counsel.”

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