May 2022 –  UMW Abortion Update

In Early March, United Methodist Women announced they have rebranded to become United Women in Faith. They have dropped the name “Methodist” altogether. It is their hope that a new name (brand) will help them to keep women whose churches move to the Global Methodist Church as well as attract women from other faith perspectives. The staff of UMW believes these changes and an improved website will grow their organization to recapture the vibrancy they inherited from the predecessor women’s groups when the United Methodist Church formed in 1968.

Membership in UMW has been declining since 1973 when the official UMW publication, Response Magazine claimed to have 1.5 million women members. In 2001 the General Council on Finance and Administration reported that UMW membership had dwindled to 811 thousand members.  In 2020 GCFA reported 338 thousand UMW members.

What would allow UWIF to recapture their former influence? Perhaps it would be a recommitment to historic Christian faith. But instead, they remain focused on the institutions of society that they find socially and politically unjust and have little or nothing to do with real Christian mission. They will remain a political lobby and not the most effective at that.

UWF’s new Mission states they seek to connect and nurture women to inspire, influence and impact local and global communities.  But we should ask, “With what?” The new website of UWF continues to tout to a number of justice issues and political positions.

Last fall, Renew wrote on the UMW’s position on Abortion.  The New York headquarters of UMW issued a press release that came out against the Heartbeat Act known as the Texas Abortion Law. A few months after Renew’s Newsletter, The Dallas Morning News reported March 12, 2022;  “Since the law was enacted on September 1, abortions in the state fell dramatically, The News reported last month (April 2022), abortions dropped by 60% in the first month of enforcement when compared with the previous month.” They went on to report that neighboring states may pass similar bans.  Senator Bryan Hughes, the author of the law, said in a statement, “We are thankful that the law remains in effect and saving lives every day.” Abortion is still allowed in Texas before a heartbeat is detected.

On May 5, the UWF voiced alarm on the SCOTUS leaked news that indicates the court may strike down Roe vs. Wade. UMF condemned a Supreme Court brief that only seeks to restrict abortion and send this sensitive issue to the states where the voters have some voice on what is and is not comprehensive family planning.  This statement shows UMW now UWF still remain committed to defining abortion as just one “widely used, safe, and legal contraceptive.” This is deceptive language for abortion without restriction.

The right to an abortion is just one example of what UWF see as one of their top priority issues. Others include Climate Justice, Gender Inequity, Mass Incarceration, Voter Rights, Voter Suppression, and LGBTQ+ full participation in the UMC. For a more comprehensive analysis of Renew’s concerns, please see A Response to the Rebranding of United Methodist Women to United Women In Faith. The former president of Renew Network, Faye Short questions the Theological, Social, and Political positions of UMF that women and churches need to consider if they have any thought of continuing with UWF. Also see Can a Rebranded United Methodist Women Become Relevant to Women in the Global Methodist Church.

Katy Kiser

Katy Kiser

Katy teaches in her local church and serves on several committees. She served for seven years on the Good News board of directors. Along with writing for Renew, Katy is a freelance writer, and co-author with Faye Short of Reclaiming the Wesleyan Social Witness – Offering Christ.
Katy Kiser