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The church’s response and responsibility on abortion

"The church’s response and responsibility on abortion" Continued...

Even if she is connected to a church, she may hear nothing but silence from the pulpit. She may read no information in congregational communications that provides wisdom in decision-making or expresses God’s care for widows and orphans. There may be no visible caring and compassionate ministry to encourage her or give her confidence that the church will provide emotional and material support for her and her child.

How are Reformed and Presbyterian churches responding to abortion?

The Catholic Church has been a strong and public voice speaking against abortion and has taken the lead in many communities to provide pregnancy care, adoption assistance, and meeting basic human needs. Several Protestant denominations have joined them in these efforts, though perhaps with a less public voice. Presbyterian and Reformed denominations are pro-life, with one notable exception, but are lack engagement in the political arena to change government policy on abortion.

Sadly the Presbyterian Church (USA), of which I am a member and the denomination that birthed the Presbyterians Pro-Life organization, has taken a political, “pro-choice” position on abortion. Its policy document states that women alone should decide whether they should carry a pregnancy to term. The PCUSA reasons that she alone knows her circumstances, she alone can assess her own strength and resources. Women in the PCUSA have lost the spiritual guidance of our church on this issue. We are alone, unsupported in any pregnancy decision except abortion. If our nation is guilty, and it is, how much more weighty is the guilt of the church when it condones and defends the deadly injustice of this crime against our tiniest brothers and sisters in the human family?

Many other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations are virtually silent about abortion, preferring to avoid controversy that brings contentious political debate inside the walls of their churches.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church has been bold in voicing opposition to the healthcare reform mandate to provide abortifacient drugs, declaring it will not provide abortion coverage in its health plan nor cover any drugs that would cause abortion. Last June, the EPC edited its position paper that reinforces its strong stand against abortion.

The Presbyterian Church in America has a reputation for being highly engaged in pregnancy care. Virtually every church in the denomination is associated with a pregnancy care center in its community. But on the political front, the PCA is mostly silent.

There are many other Presbyterian denominations in the United States, and likely they are spread across the above-mentioned range of positions and engagement regarding abortion.

What is lost when the church fails to stand against abortion?

Lost is any stated caution from the church about God’s prohibition against taking human life. Lost is pastoral encouragement that we can trust God and know He will be enough for us now and in the future. Lost is the teaching that God has created the child in the womb. Lost is the warning that when we take the life of an unborn child we thwart the plan of God to bring blessing through the life of that child. Lost too is the promise of the church that the community of faith will rally round us and walk with us through the difficulties of pregnancy and the daunting task of parenting for the long term.

When we devalue the life of an unborn child, we devalue every human life. At the moment of fertilization, when the egg from the mother and the sperm from the father unite, God forms a new human being in that instant—a new person with a genetic identity different from either the mother or father. From infinite possible combinations He forms a male or female like no other. God means for that new person to grow and develop with a unique personality and giftedness. When we refuse God’s gift by aborting a life He has created, we indicate that not all lives have value—not every human being deserves to live. It is as though we say to one another, “If you are not perfect, if you are not convenient, if I do not want you, then you have no right to live.”

The late Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier, theologian and longtime professor at Union Seminary, wrote of abortion’s denial of the doctrine of redemption—that having been redeemed we are no longer our own but belong to God:

“But now, you see, the abortion forces in the church are whispering, ‘Don’t believe a word of it. You belong to yourself, and your body is yours alone. You can do what you like with that child you carry in your womb.’ Oh no, good Christians, abortion is not a fringe issue. It has to do with the heart of our faith—with the Christian doctrine of redemption by the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“In short, abortion has to do with the lordship of Jesus Christ and with everything we say about the nature of Christ’s lordly rule. Abortion says that Christ was wrong when He commanded, ‘Do not kill’ [Mark 10:19]. Abortion says that we can make up our own rules for our sinful selves, and totally ignore the fact that apart from Christ, we can do nothing, except wither and dry up like branches that are good only to be tossed into a fire [John 15:5-6]. Abortion says that Christ is not Lord, but rather that we are our own lords instead. And so abortion argues against and denies the church’s earliest, central, most enduring confession, that Jesus Christ alone is Lord over all in heaven and on earth.”

Reprinted with permission. © 2014 by Presbyterians Pro-Life. All rights reserved.


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