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.
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.
Member, Council of Governors, RCRC