Offering Grace, Engaging with Respect

May 6, 2022

Dear Peachtree Road Family,

I hope you are well. If you are feeling a little overwhelmed today, I certainly would understand. From a global perspective, it seems that the Cold War is back, and a world-wide recession is a very real possibility. Economically, on Wednesday the Federal Reserve Bank raised interest rates by ½ of a percent in an attempt to slow the highest inflation rate in 40 years. And reports suggest that the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s been a wild week.

Weeks like this one make me glad I deleted my Facebook account several months ago. The inability many have to discuss controversial subjects with civility wears me out! The extremes on the spectrum seem to believe they can convince other people they’re right through hyperbole and emotion. You know the extreme positions. “Pro-choice” extremists claim the fetus is not a human being until it has been delivered and is no longer dependent upon the mother for support. Therefore, until the moment of delivery, the mother should have a legal right to abort the fetus. “Pro-life” extremists hold that from the moment of conception the fetus is a human being who possesses a soul and should not be willfully destroyed. The unborn child has a right to life, and that is what matters most. The extremes have staked out their positions and demand that others make a decision – one or the other.

Now, you and I know that most of our members here at Peachtree Road UMC are not extreme in their views. The members I know who support legalized abortion do not do so because they think abortion is a good thing. They are not in favor of “abortion on demand.” But, they do believe there are situations in which it is justified – the lesser of two evils. On the other hand, the “pro-life” members that I know are opposed to legalized abortion on demand believing that life is a gift from God. By and large, they are compassionate people and care about the concerns of the mother. They just believe that ending a life is outside of human jurisdiction – it belongs to God. Most of you here at Peachtree Road UMC know this is an emotional issue and are willing to offer grace to one another.

The Bible never specifically mentions the word “abortion,” but Genesis 9 makes it clear that ending a human life is not within our jurisdiction. This is God’s domain. Psalm 139 paints a beautiful picture of God shaping each of us in our mother’s womb. Until the late 20th century, God alone peered into the womb to see the child growing. God is said to be at work in the womb, knitting us together. In the story of Jesus’ birth, we read about Elizabeth’s child leaping in his mother’s womb when an expectant Mary visits her cousin. Life is holy. It is sacred. The United Methodist Church has taken a strong position on the issue:

“The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence…Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures… We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.” –The 2016 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, paragraph 161k

I want you to know that I believe we can move beyond the divisions we are experiencing, and the church can lead the way. Some thought Roe vs. Wade would solve the problem of abortion in America. It has not. In fact, the abortion rate has doubled in the years since. Some believe overturning Roe vs. Wade would solve the problem. It will not. This is an issue in which life comes into conflict with life. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, the world is broken, and Christ is the answer. I do believe the church can bring people together to agree:

  • Decreasing the number of abortions in America should be the goal
  • Compassionate, grace-filled care for the expectant mother is a must
  • No one should be pressured into having an abortion

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In these trying days, let us set the example for others by engaging one another with respect and civility when we have difficult conversations. There are more options than “us” vs. “them.” It is my experience that social media provides a very poor setting for these conversations. However, there is a safe place where we can sit and talk and pray and listen and find common ground. The church has been doing it for 2000 years with Christ as our guide. Okay, end of sermon! Let’s reflect the love of God to the world and be kind to one another.

I hope you are planning to be present for worship this week. Of course, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. It is a time of celebration as we remember our mothers and the women who have nurtured us and give thanks to God for them. As a part of our celebration, we will honor the oldest mother present and the newest mother present at each of our worship services. I hope you will join your mom in worship here at Peachtree Road.

Certainly, this can be a difficult day for some. I am aware that there are families in our church who are experiencing their first Mother’s Day without their mother. It is holidays like these that seem to renew the grief we have experienced. You will not be alone in that emotion on Sunday. I also am aware that there are others who experience a different kind of emotion on Mother’s Day – one borne out of grief from the death of a child or a sense of emptiness at not being a mother. It can be difficult to join in the celebration on days like this. In our worship, in the words of the creed in our hymnal, we affirm: “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.” My hope is that everyone who worships with us on Sunday will experience the comforting presence of God in our midst.

I do remind you that we will receive the Wesley Woods Mother’s Day Offering this week. Each year on Mother’s Day, United Methodist congregations from throughout the North Georgia Conference receive an offering for Wesley Woods. Since 1953, Wesley Woods has been making the retirement experience healthy and fulfilling for older adults of all income levels, races, and faiths and provides affordable residential and healthcare services. Because of the generosity of Methodist people from throughout North Georgia, Wesley Woods is able to provide the assistance many older adults need. Your giving is changing lives! I hope you will join Wendie and me in giving a gift to Wesley Woods in honor or memory of your mother this week. You always have led the way in your giving. Please make your check payable to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church and mark it for Wesley Woods or give through the church app or online through the church website: www.prumc.org. Thank you for helping us lead the way in supporting others.

A “Called Charge Conference” has been set for Monday, May 23, at 6:30 pm for the purpose of voting on the Board of Trustees recommendation to legally incorporate the church. This will take place as an item of business in our regular Administrative Board meeting.

Last week marked the completion of Peachtree Road UMC’s 51st house built in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity. I am grateful to all who committed their time and financial support to make this home. You have made a lasting difference in the life of Atlanta educator Tiffany Barron and her daughter. I am grateful to Cran Upshaw for chairing this year’s build. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ for them.

Finally, during this month of Mental Health Awareness, let me mention two opportunities:

  • One Lamb Presents: Food and Mental Health – Tuesday, May 10, 11:30 am. Come and learn life lessons from eating disorder therapist Dina Zeckhausen. She is an Atlanta psychologist who has been working with people with eating issues for 30 years and will offer a sustainable approach to this complex topic. Lunch is provided, and you may register at prumconelamb@gmail.com.
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  • One Lamb Presents: Twenty/20 with Taylor Wesley – Sunday, May 15, 5:30 pm. After her own personal struggles with mental health, Taylor Wesley began an open conversation about mental health and believes that the ability to heal and move forward comes through personal connection. This event is especially for young adults, and you may register at prumconelamb@gmail.com.

Peachtree Road is an amazing community in which to worship, grow, serve, and share. I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday and then serving with you throughout the upcoming days.

Grace and peace,

Bill

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