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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Once more, for the record: TEC and RCRC

My dear friend John Vanderstar, member of Executive Council and Giant of Justice, who has worked tirelessly for the rights of women (former board member of The Episcopal Women's Caucus), reproductive rights (board of governors RCRC) as well as heading the movement for Reparation for Slavery in The Episcopal Church, was very kind to give a summary of The Episcopal Church's membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.

Some will recall earlier posts here and here.

Thanks, John.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) has existed for over 30 years. It has a wide agenda, including family planning, Bible-based sex education, the bearing and raising of healthy children, adoption, day care, parental leave, and the like.

Its Clergy for Choice Network, which has well over 1000 members, keeps clergy alert to choice issues and provides workshops and other information about the role of clergy in pastoring to persons who are considering terminating a pregnancy or who have already done so.

A key mission of RCRC is to put forward the pro-choice position of its member organizations -- "pro-choice" meaning leaving to the woman, and not legal authorities, the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy.

The motto of RCRC is "Pro-Faith. Pro-Family. Pro-Choice."

It seeks to counteract the widespread belief that "church" means "anti-choice" and thereby gives support and comfort to the millions of churchgoing Americans who are pro-choice, whatever their denomination’s views on the subject. RCRC is headed by a Baptist minister, the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, who is assisted by a modest, but talented and hard-working staff in Washington, DC.

It also has an office in South Africa.

RCRC is, as its name implies, a coalition of faith communities of various kinds. Its members include the Presbyterian Office of Women’s Ministries; the Methodist General Board of Church and Society and the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries; the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ; the Unitarian Universalist Association and its Women’s Federation; the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and many others.

Each member organization, including our Church, remains free to sign on or not sign on to positions advanced by RCRC. In addition, although different faith communities may express their positions in different ways, all members of the coalition share this Church’s position that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be made according to individual conscience and should not be made lightly or for frivolous reasons.

In 1986 or 1987, both the Washington Office and the Women in Mission & Ministry of the Episcopal Church became members (but inasmuch as these are not stand-alone entities, the Church itself is now identified as the member).

It was evidently believed by the Presiding Bishop and senior staff that membership reflected the repeated position of General Convention that expressed "unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter [termination of a pregnancy] and to act upon them."

Resolution D095, 65th General Convention (1976), entitled "Reaffirm the 1967 General Convention Statement on Abortion." This Resolution was reaffirmed verbatim by Resolution B009, 67th General Convention (1982), reaffirmed again in similar language by Resolution C047, 69th General Convention (1988), and again by Resolution A054, 71st General Convention (1994).

These resolutions also state that abortion is permissible when the "physical or mental health of the mother is threatened seriously," when the child would evidently be born "badly deformed in mind or body," or when "the pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest"; in other cases a woman who is considering an abortion is "urged to seek the advice and counsel of a Priest of this Church, and, where appropriate, penance."

In addition, the Church has expressed itself in favor of family planning. For example, the 1976 Resolution quoted above states that "the beginning of a new human life, because it is a gift of the power of God’s love for his people, and thereby sacred, should not and must not be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly but in full accordance of the understanding for which this power to conceive and give birth is bestowed by God" and that "such understanding includes the responsibility for Christians to limit the size of their families and to practice responsible birth control . . ."

Similar language appears in other of the resolutions referred to above. In the 2003 General Convention, Resolution D045 proposed that the Church withdraw from membership in RCRC.

Quoting from some publications of some members of the coalition (including a quote from Whoopi Goldberg), it was argued that RCRC takes positions that are inconsistent with the position of the Church. The premises that underlay D045 were challenged at hearings, and the House of Deputies passed an amended version of this resolution that would have referred the subject of RCRC membership to a standing committee.

The House of Bishops took no action and thus the matter died.

Nevertheless, the subject was referred to the Standing Commission on National Concerns, which voted unanimously to remove all doubt and affirm the Church’s membership in RCRC.

Executive Council passed a resolution to do exactly that.

John Vanderstar
Executive Council
Member, Council of Governors, RCRC


Jim said...

It does not matter. The anti-woman lobby will only see that TEC does not call on a woman to make its choice or be damned by it. And then they will strawman the most pro-abortion extreme positions they can invent into the church. At the end of the day it is all about controlling women and claiming (false) holiness -- in short the Chapman Memo.

I am sorry Rev Elizabeth, I just get so tired of it all.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I know, my brother. I know. I learned a long time ago that justice requires patience and persistence. I'm not so good on being patient, but I do have lots of persistence which helps me appear, at least, to be patient.

PseudoPiskie said...

Suspect it is all wasted effort.

Bill said...

I agree with Jim on getting tired but we can't let ourselves get so tired that we no longer care. That is all the other side is waiting for. The minute they think no one is looking or caring they will strike. Count on it.

Grace said...

Hey, I'm not an enemy waiting to strike, or anti-women. I love my pro-choice brothers and sisters. But, I can't agree with their position.

And, as long as there are people of good will with legitimate concern in the church who disagree, I think it's wrong for TEC to affiliate with an abortion rights organization.

How inclusive is this? In the church, we should be about finding consensus, and coming to a unity together. It shouldn't just be about whoever happens to have the most votes, and political clout wins, a "power over," kind of situation.

My heart-felt opinion, anyway, brothers and sisters....

JCF said...

as long as there are people of good will with legitimate concern in the church who disagree, I think it's wrong for TEC to affiliate with an abortion rights organization.

Only if it were NOT a matter of Life&Death.

The Return of the Coat-Hanger is a real danger, Grace.

For the sake of my own soul, and the soul of my church, I believe it would be sinfully wrong to stand on the sidelines, for the sake of the Sincerely Misguided (but Excruciatingly Oppressive).

"Aslan isn't a tame lion", and the Holy Spirit is not shy. She leads, we follow . . . to the work of the RCRC (as General Convention has discerned, and I pray will continue to do so).

Loving God, grant us ALL More Light!

Bill said...

Pretty much what JCF said.

I think that the arguments within the church are interesting, even gut wrenching, but not life threatening. The problem, from my perspective, is the blurring of the lines between Church and State. Our incumbent President has done much to blur those lines. When church doctrine starts to influence our code of law, I get very worried. I really don’t want to hear that this is a God fearing country. This country was established with certain blocks to prevent the church from influencing the laws of the land. This is a real and present danger. Not everybody believes the same thing. How do we choose one theology over another.

How does the church protect the poor when it is the poor that suffer most from these arbitrary rules. Arbitrary because any rule signed into law can just as easily be signed out of law. The affluent don’t care about what you think or what the government signs into law. They just pop their daughter into a first class seat and fly her off to Europe for the operation and a few weeks on the slopes to recuperate. That’s what they did back in the pre Roe V. Wade era or am I the only one that remembers that little fact. Do we want a return to back-alley, coat-hanger abortions? It’s all good and well to hold the unborn life as sacred, but what about the mothers and families destroyed in the process. I see a very hands-on approach in telling mothers to have children but a decidedly hands-off view when it comes to helping that mother care for and raise that child. And please don’t give me the isolated example where one church community helped a mother. What about the thousands upon thousands of pregnancies in the inner-cities that nobody gives a damn about. Principle for the sake of principle is hog-wash if you don’t include a healthy dose of reality.

JCF said...

Oh, I forgot to add: I'm going to print out that lovely RCRC logo, and stick it in the window of my car.

Ergo, I ask for your prayers: not for me---I can take care of myself---but for minimally-insured-cuz-I'm-poor "Aranrhod", my Ford Focus wagon? Michigan winter is approaching, and the car will get awfully cold w/o a windshield, etc... :-0

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good for you, JCF. Prayers ascend. Thanks to you all for your comments.