The following is a statement from the Reverend Hope Morgan Ward, Bishop of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. We received this statement by email, but it has also been released to local media outlets. We will link to an authoritative source as it becomes available.
Robust conversations are taking place in many of our churches, well-led by our pastors and laity who seek to engage this issue with faithfulness and with wisdom.
The United Methodist Church has long acknowledged that “the beginning of life and the ending of life are God-given boundaries of human existence.” We are a people who seek abundant and eternal life for all. “Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.”
We also, in observing the world around us, recognize “tragic conflicts of life with life.” We suggest that “governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by informed Christian conscience.” These matters require “thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, family, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.”
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church has not specifically addressed “Personhood” initiatives such as we have before us now in Mississippi. The United Methodist Church through The General Conference, however, has never affirmed that abortion is always wrong, in every circumstance – which is the intent of Initiative 26.
Many of us will vote against Initiative 26, believing it to exclude tragic conflicts in some life situations and to have unintended and unexplored consequences.
Many of us will vote for Initiative 26, believing it to be resonant with the belief that abortion is always wrong.
While I do not support Initiative 26, I recognize that faithful Christians disagree on this matter and that ongoing dialogue is essential in this and all matters that threaten to divide us.