General Conference votes to withdraw from Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Maile Bradfield, UMNS

The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, Indiana Conference, introduces a petition from the Church and Society legislative committee regarding The United Methodist Church’s association with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The vote took place May 19 at the denomination’s 2016 General Conference in Portland, Ore.

By Jessica Brodie, special contributor

PORTLAND, Ore.—General Conference voted May 19 that two United Methodist entities withdraw immediately from membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The motion passed 425-268.

The General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women currently are members of the RCRC, a national community of religious organizations and faithful individuals dedicated to achieving reproductive justice.
But five annual conferences submitted a petition to withdraw from the RCRC—Mississippi, North Carolina, Indiana, Western Pennsylvania and Alabama-West Florida—stating that RCRC’s advocacy often directly contradicts The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles on abortion, but it still uses the UMC name.

The committee assigned to this petition, Church and Society 2, voted 44-25 last week to adopt it.

On the floor Thursday, a motion was made to refer the petition to the General Council on Finance and Administration, but the UMC gives no money to RCRC.
That motion failed.

Speaking against the withdrawal, Becca Girrell of the New England Conference urged fellow delegates to keep the UMC’s voice at the reproductive health table and said remaining in the RCRC does not in any way affect the UMC’s position on abortion.

“As a woman of faith, it deeply saddens me that every two minutes, some woman somewhere in the world dies of childbirth,” Girrell said. “As a maternal health advocate, I, too, want to reduce the number of abortions. I want healthy babies to be born. …”

But we cannot do the work alone. It takes all of our faith voices working together.”
Speaking for the withdrawal, delegate Katherine Rohrs from West Ohio, said she’s heard time and again about the need to stay at the table because the UMC’s voice matters, but nothing has changed.

“RCRC refuses to talk about unborn children as just that,” Rohrs said. “They refuse to condemn abortion as a form of birth control or gender selection. They affirm abortion in any way.”

“I don’t speak for all young women who are United Methodist, but as a mother of two, I speak for those who have not been surrounded by the church’s support to cheer them on to life.”


Jessica Brodie

Jessica Brodie is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @jessicajbrodie or connect with the Advocate at or @AdvocateSC.

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30 Comments on "General Conference votes to withdraw from Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice"

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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Paul Dunham
For those unfamiliar with this controversy, I’ll sum it up this way: the UMC Social Principles have a rather moderate position on abortion, affirming life while recognizing choice. Our affiliation with the RCRC, a political lobby at the extreme left on abortion, has consistently placed officials of the UMC in leadership roles advocating positions in direct opposition to our Social Principles. UMC officials consistently advocating positions inconsistent with our Social Principles was the issue, and when presented with the facts in this case, the decision was one overwhelmingly made. If they hadn’t included this motion in a backroom deal with… Read more »
eric pone
Either way it won’t suddenly make the supporters pro life. Is the next task to bring member who are pro choice before church trial? We can’t change hearts by passing resolutions. I get that the far right wants lefties to just leave. I get that. In the MN annual conf it has been working big time and most of the Minneapolis congregations have closed.( I think there are a handful?) And the trend is spreading the Northwest suburbs.(conservative congregations are having issues getting pastors to come these, like the have to be forced by the Cabinet to go) Basically the… Read more »

Eric – I don’t understand your comment. Paul did not say this is designed to make people pro-life, bring people before trial, change hearts or getting lefties to leave. It has to do with RCRC being out of step with UMC and not even discussing the differences. You may not agree with the result of the vote, but wouldn’t it be charitable to at least address the actual reasons given for voting to withdraw from RCRC rather than knocking down arguments that were not used?

I get tired of seeing abortion presented as a struggle between Right and Left. I am a Progressive who advocates for universal health care, condemns income inequality, favors compassion toward undocumented migrants, believes in battling against global warming AND believes in protecting the lives of pre-born infants. As a lifelong Christian Progressive, I believe in the importance of protecting the vulnerable and powerless. In this sense, being pro-life is a profoundly Progressive position. We need to be both pro-woman and pro-child rather than act as if the rights of the one needs to be pitted against the rights of the… Read more »
Bill Samuel

Praise the Lord!


It’s not a choice- it’s a baby!!!


At least something good came out of this general conference . . . . .


This is wonderful news. Glad to see the forces of Jesus overcame the forces of Moloch.


So encouraged that the extremes of the abortion rights movement have no longer the official participation of the UMC–whose own representative was shown in press reports last year at the March for Life in Washington mocking the people of the march and carrying a sign, “Will march for food.” It is time to end extremism, provocation and mockery


His sign actually said “Will march for sandwiches.” Disgusting.

Rev. Terry B. Hall
It’s interesting that we have, for decades, used the argument that staying at the table was more important that worrying about our image when it came to our investment in companies that contribute to either global climate change or oppressive nations. Yet now, on this issue, we decide our image is more important than remaining at the table – I have to wonder why? I also wonder about the vote total, which seems to reflect about 200 viewer total votes than we saw for the Bishops proposed process for moving forward regarding our language and rules on sexuality and gender.… Read more »
Julie Smith

To bad the same argument used by Ms. Rohr’s to take UMC out of RCRC wasn’t honored when a call to take UMC out relationship with fossil fuel company’s through our Pension funds was made today.

Daniel Davison

I thought any measures discussing human sexuality were to be tabled, for consideration by a commission appointed by the Council of Bishops. How is reproductive freedom not a question of human sexuality? How can we defer action on progressive motions affirming the role of diverse orientations and gender idenities in our church, while moving forward – or, rather, backward – on women’s reproductive freedom?


Daniel, “reproductive freedom” is nothing more than a candy-coated euphemism for “freedom to murder my innocent preborn baby.” It’s such an offensive term. It sure doesn’t provide freedom for the tiny human inside the mother’s belly.

Paul Dunham

The issue of abortion was not up for debate in this, it was that our association with the RCRC was being used in ways that caused officials of the UMC to support positions in direct disagreement with our already adopted Social Principles that was the issue. As to your comment that we have shifted backwards/forward, I don’t believe anything significant changed in our stance on abortion- which is relatively moderate- unless it simply was not reported on.

Randall Murphree

You had it right first — MOVING FORWARD, to protect babies’ lives.


Very disappointing. I’m off now to look up the Social Principles. I can’t believe the UMC is anything but pro-choice.

eric pone

The social principles are clear but conservatives have been shall we say finicky about what resolutions and principles to enforce. There is clearly a coup going on to make us very conservative with the thought that by shrinking we will in the end be faithful to God. I question that. I think its taking the easy way out. But the point is conservatives are purifying the Church regardless of the cost.

I believe the issue is RCRC is out of step with UMC and won’t even discuss the differences. Not only is there not agreement, it seems like a lack of respect because they won’t even discuss the differences. When you combine disagreement and disrespect, there’s not much of a partnership going on. At some point, we have to step out of the political realm and ask basic questions like, is it wrong for a woman to grieve a miscarriage because that human didn’t have any value? Of course that is a terrible conclusion to arrive at, but in order to… Read more »
Charles Harrison


Respectfully, please consider limiting your comments to one to make your opinion known rather than making several comments as replies on several other comments. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

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