United Methodists deserve more from Mefford, GBCS (COMMENTARY)

bio picby Matt O’Reilly

I was saddened, though not surprised, when I saw a recent picture of Bill Mefford mocking participants of the March for Life. Mefford tweeted a picture of himself holding a sign that read, “I march for sandwiches,” along with the comment, “I was inspired by the March for Life to march for what I believe in! #WhyWeMarch.” Sadly, disdain for the pro-life movement is what we’ve come to expect from the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), where Mefford is the Director of Civil and Human Rights. The GBCS has long been committed to advancing the abortion cause, as demonstrated in their ongoing relationship with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an organization whose published resources have called abortion a sacred act with divine blessing.

Given the negative attitude of Mefford and the GBCS toward the lives of the preborn, many might be surprised to learn the United Methodist Social Principles affirm, “Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life” (2012 Book of Discipline, 161J). And while our Social Principles could certainly take a stronger stand for justice for preborn girls and boys, our Church is committed to reducing the number of abortions and opposes late term abortions. We also oppose the use of abortion as a means of birth control, which is by far the most common reason given by women for choosing abortion according to a Guttmacher Institute poll. According to the Book of Discipline, the GBCS is responsible for implementing the Church’s Social Principles, but there is no evidence whatsoever that it has worked to advance the United Methodist belief in the sanctity of unborn human life. In fact, Mefford’s mockery of pro-life marchers is symptomatic of the larger GBCS opposition to preborn human life. United Methodists deserve more.

To be fair, Mefford issued an apology on his website. However, the site is no longer available to the public and his Twitter account has been deactivated. So, the harmful photo of Mefford’s sign is widely available on the web, but his apology is not. His action has caused the United Methodist Church to be publicly maligned. One article by Matthew Schmitz at First Things was shared widely on social media and has captured nearly 67,000 views at the time of this writing. Those readers are left with the false impression that our United Methodist Church cares nothing for the most vulnerable people in our society. A deleted apology does little to repair the damage Mefford has done to the reputation of our denomination. United Methodists deserve more.

I had the opportunity to participate in a GBCS event last year, and I was encouraged to hear about some of the work they are doing, not least to promote racial reconciliation and to combat the horror of human trafficking. Unfortunately, that good work is publicly overshadowed by Mefford’s picture which encapsulates the GBCS failure to implement the United Methodist insistence that the preborn are indeed fully human beings whose lives are divinely invested with dignity and sanctity. During my trip to the GBCS, one question in particular was raised several times: “What would the Church look like if women and girls were viewed as children of God of sacred worth?” And an all-important question it is. But there is yet another question which must be asked if we are to embrace fully the biblical call to seek justice and the Social Principles of our Church: What would the Church look like if preborn girls and boys were viewed as children of God of sacred worth? Until Mefford and the GBCS ask that question, their representation of us is not merely inadequate, it is misleading. United Methodists deserve more.

Rev. Matt O’Reilly is pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama, a Ph.D. candidate in theology and religious studies at the University of Gloucestershire, and an adjunct member of the faculties of Asbury Theological Seminary and Wesley Biblical Seminary. Connect at www.mattoreilly.net or @mporeilly.

 

 

 

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33 Comments on "United Methodists deserve more from Mefford, GBCS (COMMENTARY)"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Robert Morwell
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My personal position on abortion tends to satisfy neither the “pro-choice” nor “pro-life” factions, and I find both labels o early simplistic. But, even though I disagree to some extent with both groups, and have experienced criticism from both, I do not engage in snark against either, since I know people of conscience in both. Medford acted irresponsibly and improperly, and he should resign. Respect should be a hallmark of how we deal with this issue.

John Spencer
Guest
The Book of Discipline also says that all people are of sacred worth, but that doesn’t stop the conservative lobby from continuing to advance their own agenda, while betraying both the BoD and the Baptismal covenant we as United Methodists share in common, when it comes to the participation of GLBT persons in the life of the church. What this article does NOT mention is that the Book of Discipline ALSO says that we recognize abortion is a regrettable act and should be a last resort, we believe that is a choice to be made by a woman and her… Read more »
Victor Galipi
Guest
Mefford apologized that he was misunderstood, he did not apologize for what he did. Furthermore, for a professing Christian, an apology is not adequate. Mefford needs to repent, or resign. Susan Henry-Crowe did not condemn what Mefford did. She said that “someone” did something that “did not reflect our culture of respect, openness and hospitality.” Very vague and hardly an admission of any wrongdoing. Also, her words ring hollow since she like Mefford supports abortion on demand. How does that reflect respect, openness and hospitality? If the GBCS wants to “promote racial reconciliation”, then they should stop supporting abortion on… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
The use of cut and paste from another source is not very practical when all it contains is arguments in bad faith. There is no such thing as “abortion on demand” as the right-wing extremists love to say. Abortion is always a woman’s right because it’s her body, not yours. She “demands” nothing. Instead it is you demanding that the government claim title over her body. When one takes into account the difficulties which those at the bottom of the economic order find themselves it is a wonder there are not more abortions. If you want to limit abortions, the… Read more »
Victor Galipi
Guest
There are plenty of pro-life people and organizations helping women and families in poverty, without telling them it is okay to have their babies killed by greedy abortionists. I know this because I am involved in them myself. So I’ll flip that around: What are you and other pro-abortionists doing to help pregnant women in poverty or financial difficulty, besides telling them to get an abortion? And quit telling me what I’m doing. I’m not claiming a woman’s body is mine. I am not demanding that the government have title over a woman’s body. I’m not demanding anything. I am… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Actually I and many others are donors to charities known as Second Chance Funds which help poor women pay for abortions. So you say you don’t claim government authority over women’s bodies, then you must by definition be pro-choice.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

And I could say the same to you. That “videocam” is by a sociopathic political operative named James O’Keefe and his partner in crime Lila Rose. It was obvious from the get-go the PP staffers knew they were trolling. O’Keefe also attempted to lure a female news reporter to his boat to seduce her by slipping her a roofie. But he’s a hero in Breitbartland because he targets liberals and they eat it up. He’s a skilled grafter snd not taken seriously by people with gravitas.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

You can call a Ford a Chevy but that doesn’t make it one. Neither does calling a blastocyst a person make it one. As for Biblical basis, since the Bible says absolutely nothing about abortion, it’s obvious you have none for your assertions.

Victor Galipi
Guest

Then it’s obvious you didn’t read the links in my article. Your mind is made up so you keep repeating the same things without any facts to support it, while refusing to look at the facts including Biblical principles and verses that I presented. So if you want to keep on go ahead I won’t even know it. I’m done.

Victor Galipi
Guest
No, that wasn’t obvious at all, that every single PP staffer knew what was going on. What is obvious is that they got caught supporting sex traffickers. Who was running the camera is irrelevant. What was happening on camera is the point. Also your name calling and spouting of the classic “progressive” lines doesn’t help whatever point you are trying to make. Exactly what “crime” is Lila Rose supposed to have committed. The crimes are being committed by PP and other abortionists, who have been caught over and over performing illegal abortions, hurting women or killing them and then trying… Read more »
Wayne Worsham
Guest

When a woman is pregnant, there is a live, viable, fetus, human being in her then. So it is not just her body anymore, it is two bodies. It’s a medical fact.

Victor Galipi
Guest
Exactly, Wayne. Science says there are two distinct human beings, from conception. More importantly, so does the Bible in places like Ps 139:13-16, Ps 51:5, Jer 1:4-5. God says in His word that He created us in His image. So when does a preborn child have the image of God? After they are born? Of course not; they are created in the image of God and that creation begins at conception. Even criminal law often says that the preborn child is separate from the mother, as people who assault the mother are charged with separate crimes when they hurt the… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

A fetus posses no rights, nor should it. It is not capable of decision making. It is merely a shiny object to district their real goal, establishment of religious police like in Saudi Arabia and Israel, the majority of whose victims are women.

Victor Galipi
Guest
So the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, preborn children, are just distracting shiny objects? Do you have any Scripture or even science to support that? In many states, “fetuses” do still possess rights, and for example it is a crime if they are hurt or killed by assault. Which makes the idea that it is okay to murder them by abortion ridiculous. How about mentally disabled adults, or unconscious adults, who can’t make decisions for themselves? Do they have rights? Should they? The abortion industry is victimizing women. Your so-called “religious police” is a straw man argument.… Read more »
Victor Galipi
Guest

Who are you to say whether my posting is impractical or not and if the arguments are in good faith or not? Do you even know those people? You sure don’t know me. Unless you want to discuss what I posted on it’s merits instead of nitpicking and distracting and attacking, I have nothing more to say to you.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

That’s begging the question because if your Dad had gone downstairs to eat a sandwich before impregnating your Mom, you wouldn’t be you because the sperm cells would have repositioned and another one would have fertilized the egg. And there’s no reason to fire the guy. He did nothing wrong. He just called a bad faith argument what it is.

Don
Guest

GBCS – Group Blending Christ and Sin
Terminate – Fire – Defrock – Defund
GC 2016 “The Final Division”
Status Quo a No Go
Stand firmly with God’s abomination and forfeit 80% of members
Or
Stand firmly with God’s servant and forfeit 80% of leadership

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Sloganeering is always a poor argument in a forum of this nature. This particular series of Faux News sound bytes reveals nothing except the high degree of a state of being uninformed by the writer.

Mark
Guest

Those unfamiliar with the GBCS may think this is a one-time indiscretion. It most assuredly is not. The GBCS does this sort of thing quite regularly, often under the table, so it typically goes undetected and unreported. The leadership of GBCS consists mainly of leftist political activists who use the church—read $$$—as a means of advancing their political agenda.

And the GBCS lacks the transparency we should expect from an organ of the church. Just one (of many) examples I will mention: “Dr.” Susan Henry-Crowe does not have an earned doctorate degree.

Craig Finnestad
Guest

In his apology he said: “Making folks laugh was my sole intent – it really was!” Two observations:

1. Doesn’t he have anything better to do than attempt to make people laugh at a demonstration? Like his job maybe. Our mission shares / apportionments hard at work. I’m the pastor of a large church in the Midwest, it’s frustrating to see my people work so hard and sacrifice so much to fund this.
2. It wasn’t funny. I can’t imagine any context where this would have been funny. He said people were laughing. Yep, laughing at him and at us.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

If as you say it wasn’t funny, why were people laughing?

Dan Lowe
Guest

I’m curious, did you have a sit down conversation with Mr. Mefford about this prior to writing your article?

Dunford Cole
Guest

Very distasteful!!!

Paul W.
Guest
The article implies that Bill Mefford apologized. He did not. What he posted was an insincere back-handed “apology” — sorry not for his actions, but only sorry that people misunderstood him and were offended because they didn’t get his joke. Bill’s Twitter feed has been taken down, and his blog changed to friends-only, but the text of his “apology” can be found here: http://unsettledchristianity.com/2015/01/bill-mefford-pro-life-umc-grace/ In defense of the current leadership at GBCS, they did promptly issue a statement in response to Bill Mefford’s actions: http://umc-gbcs.org/press-releases/cultivating-a-culture-of-respect I also agree that Bill Mefford should be terminated over this. Not doing so in… Read more »
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