CULTURE DIGEST: Methodists maintain biblical stance on homosexuality
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- The United Methodist Church has opted not to follow other mainline Protestant denominations in a drift toward liberalism on the issue of homosexuality in declining to alter language in a guiding document.
In a vote of about 60 percent to 40 percent May 3, delegates to the General Conference, the denomination's governing body, maintained language in the Book of Discipline characterizing homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching." Methodists prohibit same-sex unions and expect clergy to be celibate if single and monogamous if married.
The number of Methodists in the United States is shrinking while the denomination is growing in African and Asian countries where the church is theologically conservative, the Associated Press said.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, credited delegates from Africa, who comprise about 30 percent of the total, with upholding the denomination's official stance.
"Thanks to its global membership, United Methodism uniquely is growing in members and rejecting liberal accommodation of secular Western culture, unlike declining U.S. mainline Protestant denominations," Tooley said.
"Likely to have an African membership majority within a decade or so, United Methodism can anticipate a bright future ahead that is more tied to vibrant global Christianity than to dying liberal Protestantism in America," Tooley said.
At the General Conference, homosexual activists wearing rainbow stoles protested the vote by singing and interrupting the meeting, AP said. Some cried when the tally was announced, and leaders briefly halted the business session because of the protest.
Because the General Conference convenes once every four years, the denomination's stance on homosexuality is not expected to come up again until at least 2016.
GROUPON BOYCOTT GROWS OVER PORNOGRAPHY -- More than 15,000 people have contacted the online coupon company Groupon to cancel their memberships after Morality in Media uncovered Groupon's substantial support of pornography.
Groupon offered discounts on tours of a pornography studio in San Francisco, and after a boycott was launched in April, Groupon supported an event at the Playboy mansion, Morality in Media said. Advertisements related to those two offers "have now been wiped from the company's site though expired coupons for other businesses are still on the site."
"Until Groupon announces that it will no more support sexually exploitive businesses, the boycott will grow," Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality in Media, said.
When Groupon was confronted about its support of a pornography studio, the company responded, "This business has proven to be a responsible member of their community and the tour offered in this deal is historical and informational in nature."
A "Boycott Groupon" page has been set up, and supporters may email Groupon executives and call on them to "reject partnership with businesses that glamorize the exploitation and abuse of women," Morality in Media said. For more information, visit pornharms.com.
KOREANS FIND BABY FLESH IN PILLS -- South Korean customs authorities have found in luggage and mail during the last nine months more than 17,000 pills filled with the ground-up flesh of unborn and stillborn babies.
The gruesome trade originates in China, where some healthcare providers are informing medical groups when babies are aborted or delivered dead, according to the Daily Mail. The babies' corpses are dried in medical microwaves, then ground into power and placed with herbs in capsules, the British newspaper reported. Tests on the pills showed they consisted of 99.7 percent human remains, according to a San Francisco Times report cited by the Daily Mail.
Some of the babies whose bodies were used in the pills may have come from China's "dying rooms," where children are left to die by parents who already have a child, the newspaper said, citing some unnamed reports. China has a coercive population control program, known as the one-child policy, that has produced a regime of forced abortion and sterilization, as well as reports of infanticide.
The capsules are considered to have medicinal powers, according to various reports, including the enhancement of sexual performance.
Ethnic Koreans who are from northeast China but now live in South Korea were the primary smugglers of the pills, a customs officer told the Daily Mail.
"Welcome to the brave new world," pro-life lawyer Kristi Burton Brown wrote on Live Action's website. "A world where even aborted babies do not go to waste. A world where murdered innocents are not allowed to rest in peace. A world where the money made off abortion simply isn't enough anymore. A world where monetary profits reign, and human beings literally kill and consume one another. Welcome to the world abortion has created."
GA. ENACTS BAN ON PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTIONS -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed into law May 1 a ban on abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.
Georgia becomes the sixth state to prohibit pain-capable abortions with legislation modeled on a bill crafted by the National Right to Life Committee. The others are Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
At least 1,500 unborn children a year will be saved under the law, said Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life (GRTL), but he acknowledged it fell short of what pro-lifers desired. It was amended to include an exception for a "medically futile" pregnancy, giving a doctor the opportunity to abort a child if he decides a baby may have a condition that would cause his death after birth, according to GRTL.
"While this new law represents significant progress in saving lives, a last-minute amendment that allows doctors to end so-called futile pregnancies is a first step to establishing a eugenic policy in Georgia," Becker said. "It opens the door to destroying babies doctors think may be less than perfect."
In other developments in the states:
-- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, vetoed two pro-life bills, one April 26 that would have required state licensing of abortion clinics and one April 30 that would have prohibited telemedicine, or Webcam, abortions by mandating a doctor's presence to dispense the abortion drug RU 486, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
-- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, signed into law May 1 legislation banning telemedicine by requiring a doctor to be present when providing a woman with RU 486, according to the Associated Press.
-- The Kansas Senate voted 23-16 May 2 for a bill strengthening conscience protections for healthcare providers who decline to take part in abortions or to prescribe abortion-causing drugs, AP reported. The House of Representatives already has approved the measure, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.
-- The Alabama Senate approved in a 30-2 vote April 24 a bill to bar plans in the state's health insurance exchange from covering elective abortions, according to AP.
-- The New Hampshire Senate voted 18-5 April 25 to ban partial-birth abortions and returned the bill to the House with amendments, AP reported.
INDIAN WOMAN UNCOVERS ILLEGAL ABORTION SCHEME -- An Indian woman forced by her in-laws to undergo six abortions has helped uncover a ring of doctors and clinics practicing illegal sex-determination ultrasounds and abortions.
Amisha Bhatt, who married Priyavadan Bhatt in 2000, had six abortions from 2001 to 2009 under coercion from her husband and in-laws, who were intent on her having a son, The Times of India reported April 23. She gave birth to a daughter, Kamya.
Bhatt, 36, filed harassment charges with the police against her husband and his family, but she also sought data under the country's Right to Information Act from health authorities. Bhatt's request revealed her name was not on the lists filed with the government of those receiving ultrasounds, according to The Times. Her effort uncovered in three districts an illegal scheme between doctors and sonogram clinics performing sex-determination tests in arrangements with in-laws who sought male babies, according to The Times.
"This meant that the government had no information on the tests conducted on me, as mandated under [an Indian law]," she said, the newspaper reported. "There may have been many such women like me. The doctors were maintaining a secret list of patients on which sex determination tests were being conducted."
As a result, two doctors lost their licenses, the government analyzed the rules governing the filing of reports and other women who had been forced to have abortions were rescued, according to The Times.
RELIGIOUS COALITION FOR REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE SELECTS KNOX -- The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) has named Harry Knox as its new president.
Knox, who served on President Obama's Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, previously worked for the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest lobbying organization for homosexual, bisexual and transgender rights.
RCRC, which works for the protection of abortion rights, represents 15 liberal denominations and religious traditions.
"Few liberal lobbies in Washington are as shameful as RCRC, which claims God opposes any restrictions on abortion," said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which works for renewal in mainline Protestant denominations.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).