The North Carolina Annual Conference passed a resolution earlier this month that is commendable in many ways, even if the content of the resolution sends some mixed signals. I’m grateful to Rev. Jeremy Smith for first pointing me to the resolution, which is titled, “The Trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and the Response of the General Board of Church and Society” (pp. 6-7). I’m also grateful for Jeremy’s expressed concern for my health, though in the end it was unfounded as my head is entirely intact. I can only imagine his worry over my potential cranial combustion stemmed from the part of the resolution that commended the General Board of Church and Society for their statement in response to the Gosnell trial. My own reading of that statement resulted in a rather more mixed response. Nevertheless, as indicated above, there is much to commend the resolution. So, let’s turn to that before raising a question or two.
The resolution passed by the North Carolina Conference is commendable for three reasons. First, it strongly condemns the actions with which Gosnell was charged and found guilty. Second, it expresses a hope that I share that Gosnell will “have a change of heart.” Third, by citing the language in the Book of Discipline that affirms the sanctity of preborn human life and United Methodist commitment to reducing abortion alongside a key portion of the charges outlined in the grand jury’s indictment of Gosnell, the resolution draws a clear connection between abortion and the investigation leading up to Gosnell’s trial and the resulting guilty verdict. United Methodists need to recognize the link between abortion and Gosnell and articulate that connection clearly. Good job, North Carolina, for leading the denomination by connecting abortion to Gosnell.
This accurate connection, however, contributes to the mixed message sent by the North Carolina resolution. Three out of the first four “WHEREAS” statements include the language of abortion, including one that describes Gosnell as a provider of “late-term abortions.” That the North Carolina Conference sees a connection between Gosnell and abortion appears unquestionable. However, the statement on the Gosnell trial released by GBCS suggests that the proceedings were unrelated to the abortion debate. GBCS put it this way, “this case has become the latest battlefield in the abortion debate, but it is unclear why.” So, North Carolina expressed its resolve to condemn Gosnell’s actions in light of the UMC stance on abortion and Gosnell’s work as an abortion provider, but it then commended the GBCS statement which claims that Gosnell has nothing to do with abortion. This strikes me as quite the mixed message. Was the Gosnell trial about abortion? Or, was it not?
To my knowledge, North Carolina is the only Annual Conference that has passed a resolution about the Gosnell trial. Do you know of any others who’ve passed such a resolution? If so, let us know in a comment with a link to the resolution.