by Georgette Forney
July 24, 2006
LifeNews.com Note: The following is a report from Georgette Forney about her experience taking the pro-life message to the recent Episcopal Church national convention. Forney is the director of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life and also the founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, an outreach to women who regret their abortions.
As Sheila and I drove to General Convention (GC) on Sunday, June 11th, we prayed for courage to uphold the sanctity of life in the midst of many who believe in a woman’s right to abort her unborn baby.
Each day in the exhibit booth we faced people who glanced at us and then looked away with disgust, often rolling their eyes and moving to the far side of the aisle. But many people did visit with us, taking literature and signing up to receive our informative newsletter, the NOEL News.
There were also a number of people who didn’t stop to visit but gave us a thumbs-up and said they were glad we were there.
Our booth featured two rocking chairs, lots of great information, and literature including a poster with beautiful drawings of the monthly stages of a baby’s development in the womb. We gave away hundreds of the matching brochure.
We featured two posters: one that highlighted the Episcopal Church’s pro-abortion/choice position and another that noted that racism comes in many forms (a very important GC issue). The text explained that since 1973 abortion killed more African Americans than violent crimes, heart disease, AIDS, accidents and cancer combined.
The rocking chairs served as a magnet to those who were wearied by the activities and attitudes at GC and we were blessed on many occasions to pray with women and men who needed prayer, including some who sought help for their abortion.
I submitted NOEL’s resolution that asked the GC to rescind the Executive Council’s decision to join the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which NOEL Board Member, the Rev. D. Lorne Coyle officially sponsored (D063).
Two similar resolutions were also proposed by the Diocese of San Diego (C047) and the Diocese of Tennessee (C048). Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Diocese of Quincy also sponsored a resolution proposed by NOEL establishing a Policy on Affiliation (B026). It sought to address the problem of how the Episcopal Church decides which organizations it affiliates itself with because currently there is no policy to guide the decision making process.
With cooperation from the Social and Urban Affairs Committee Chair JoAnn Jones, a lay deputy from the Diocese of Pennsylvania, hearings for our resolutions were finally scheduled for 7:30 am on Monday, June 19th.
Fr. Coyle addressed D063 stating that "the Executive Council’s decision to renew its affiliation with RCRC was un-necessarily provocative. In a time when the Episcopal Church is divided internally and faces alienation of the global Anglican Communion, the church’s support for abortion seems to drive a wedge in those relationships."
Next, John Vanderstar, a lay deputy from the Diocese of Washington who is the member of Executive Council who spearheaded the Church’s affiliation with the RCRC. He also sits on RCRC’s board and GC’s Social and Urban Affairs Committee. Mr. Vanderstar spoke in support RCRC, stating that the Church and RCRC both support a woman’s right to choose abortion and that he had several papers written by clergy and biblical scholars in support of abortion.
It was then my turn to address the committee. I noted that personal agendas should not control the direction of the Episcopal Church and the issue should be put before the entire GC to vote on and I gave three examples (see side bar) of how the RCRC publications make statements that are counter to the Episcopal Church’s statements of belief found in the Book of Common Prayer, Lambeth Resolutions, and resolutions.
The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton from the Diocese of Newark (also a board member of RCRC and the Social and Urban Affairs Committee) was the next speaker. She referred to a quote by Martin Niemoller, and then said, "while abortion may not be favored by local churches, we are deputized to follow the Holy Spirit, not the wishes of the folks back home.
NOEL’s Administrative Director Sheila Bracken, speaking for the first time before a GC legislative committee said "RCRC does not encourage parental involvement in the issue of abortion. They encourage girls to seek truth from within.
This is out of alignment with both society and the Episcopal Church as a recent Zogby poll showed that 69% of Americans support parental notification of abortion and Resolution A094 affirms the role of God, parents, and spiritual advisers to guide woman before considering abortion."
I also addressed B026, stating "establishing policies that have benchmarks and procedures to guide entities has become common management practices for those who seek to be the ‘best.’ As the Episcopal Church, it should always be our goal to adopt ‘best’ management practices that serve all those in the Church. This resolution gives the Church the opportunity to adopt a ‘best’ practice policy in relation to how we as the ‘church’ approve affiliation with other organizations." Mr. Vanderstar also addressed B026 and said that the Executive Council discussed the development of a policy with the national Episcopal Church staff, but the staff felt it required too much paper work and therefore didn’t recommend or support the proposal
As we walked out of the hearings, I saw two ‘friendly’ deputies who had sat listening to all the testimony with tears in their eyes, one of them said, "I am in the wrong Church." He couldn’t believe what he had witnessed. As we walked backed to the Exhibit Booth, Sheila said it reminded her of our lobbying experience in Washington DC, "they listen but they don’t hear you."
On Tuesday, I was advised that both B026 and D063 were sent to the House of Bishops (HoB). Bp. Ackerman, Bp. Mathes and Bp. Packard spoke in support of B026 but when the ballots were counted it lost by 5 votes.
Bp Lipscomb, Bp. Herzog, Bp. Little, Bp. Beckwith, and Bp. Herlong urged the HoB to support D063, and rescind the Church’s RCRC membership but a motion to table it was passed and the opportunity for the Church to uphold the sanctity of life died because of the choice made by the majority of bishops. C047 and C048 were both discharged, for procedural reasons.
As I reflect back on our prayer at the beginning of GC, I praise God because He graciously answered it. We spoke boldly and tirelessly to everyone we could about the value of life, the importance of protecting it from fertilization to natural death. We spoke to the youth about abstinence and STD’s, we spoke to the elderly about euthanasia.
When we heard about the task force being formed to research the declining population in the Church, we laughed and when we realized that the Episcopal Church chose to uphold the sanctity of abortion, we cried.