The recent actions of the Supreme Court allowing states to ban abortion has once again forced the topic of abortion into the national spotlight. Although a difficult topic I think it is important for you to know where your church stands so that you may speak in an informed manner about abortion. To begin with, according to the Guttmacher Institute (a leader in reproductive research whose methodology has been has been widely cited by groups and publications across the political spectrum, including by a number of those that disagree with its positions) states that nearly 1 in 4 women have had an abortion. This means as the topic comes up in your family or group of friends, take a moment to realize that most likely someone at your table has experienced abortion first hand or is a partner of an abortion receiver. This topic is sensitive in nature and speaking off hand can be immensely painful.
The ELCA, our national church, has adopted several Social Statements on a variety of topics. These statements are the result of years of work, discussion and revision, before being voted upon during our biennial Churchwide Assemblies. The Social Statement on Abortion was adopted by the church by more than two-thirds vote at the meeting in 1991. It has not been changed or amended. You can download and review the entire statement here ELCA Social Statement, Abortion.
After reviewing the statement I would summarize the hope of the ELCA that Abortion remain “safe, legal and rare.”
After opening with comments regarding the blessing of divergent views the statement begins to lay out the church’s opinion in the second page:
A developing life in the womb does not have an absolute right to be born, nor does a pregnant woman have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy. The concern for both the life of the woman and the developing life in her womb expresses a common commitment to life. This requires that we move beyond the usual ‘prolife’ versus ‘pro-choice’ language in discussing abortion. This is a crucial comment regarding the complex nature of the topic because our society and news sources continue to feed us very short answers to difficult questions. Moving beyond “prolife” and “prochoice” is an important stepping off place for the continued conversation. The statement continues, Because we believe that God is the creator of life, the number of induced abortions is a source of deep concern to this church. We mourn the loss of life that God has created. The strong Christian presumption is to preserve and protect life. Abortion ought to be an option only of last resort. Therefore, as a church we seek to reduce the need to turn to abortion as the answer to unintended pregnancies.
And further, “By our policies and practices as a church we need to indicate that we are truly supportive of children through the long years after, and not only before, they are born.” The church realizes and lifts up the need for abortion to exist, the pain created by the loss of life and the necessity of not simply bringing or forcing others to bring a child into the world but to support and care for all children throughout their development.
I feel compelled to discuss this topic with you in part, because of the language within the Social Statement itself. These statements are created to be discussed and taught.
We are called to be a compassionate community, praying and standing with those who struggle with decisions regarding unintended pregnancies. We encourage women and men to seek support and counsel from family members, pastors, professionals, and confidants whom they trust and respect. Church members must not only be aware of the moral complexity of the situation, but be able and willing to listen and walk with women and men through the process of decision-making, healing, and renewal, a process that may include feelings such as grief, guilt, relief, denial, regret, or anger.
Lastly the statement summarizes the position of the church regarding legislation regarding abortions.
Because of our conviction that both the life of the woman and the life in her womb must be respected by law, this church opposes:
- the total lack of regulation of abortion;
- legislation that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances;
- laws that prevent access to information about all options available to women faced with unintended pregnancies;
- laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable
This is a summary and I have tried to give you the highlights. There is nuanced and important information in the full statement that I have skipped. Being that there is so much discussion regarding abortion and abortion laws, I strongly encourage you to read through the church’s social statement. It’s only 12 pages long and written with the church member in mind. Of course, we will not agree with each other on every social position but it is my hope that we can all be informed, we can all pray for anyone facing the possibility of abortion and for those that have chosen abortion and for all the children in our world. I’m happy to discuss your views and how they align or misalign with the ELCA and hear about why you feel that way. The ELCA has social statements on all sorts of important issues from capital punishment, human sexuality and race-there are 13 in total. You can review the entire list here ELCA Social Statements List.
See you on Sunday, Pastor Dave
Our Mission Statement
“Inspiring Change by Following Jesus.”
Inspiring change by following Jesus is why this place exists, why this community meets and what we are set on doing.
INSPIRING The angels inspired the shepherds to run to see the new born Jesus, the Spirit inspired the disciples to march with purpose out of the upper room where they were hiding after the death of Jesus and throughout the ages people have been inspired to share their faith with others. Through this inspiration people have been moved with compassion and it is the fuel that moves the church. “Inspiring” also is a means of how we are to function. We don’t use fear to scare others into faith (we know that doesn’t work) we show them what God has done in our lives and we invite them to wonder about what God can do in theirs. Being inspired to do something new is invitational, just like Jesus.
CHANGE Something is out-of-whack in our world, in our communities and within ourselves. One of the founders of the church, the Apostle Paul, wrote that he doesn’t understand what he does, and he does the stuff he hates. Change is hard, it takes time and tons of effort to redirect our efforts at times. We read countless stories in the Bible of Jesus meeting people in the most random places of their lives and offering them something far better. Physical, spiritual and mental healing, reconnecting someone with their community, lifting those that have been ostracized by others-Jesus brings change and we welcome God’s changes in our lives.
BY Here is how this inspired change is going to happen. Spoiler alert, it isn’t because of what we do.
FOLLOWING Jesus asks his disciples to leave their comfort zones. They walked away from jobs, family, friends, a life that they knew-to follow Jesus into one where they didn’t know much, except for the Rabbi. “Following” admits that we don’t know exactly where we are headed or how to get there. It is an act of humble worship and great trust to allow Jesus to lead our community and our lives.
JESUS Our leader, our rabbi, the one who has come into our lives and invited us into something greater. God’s dreams are better then our own, God’s vision for our lives is far more colorful and fun than we could imagine, so come join us in following our amazing God into a world we hardly knew existed.
Well that’s all good and nice, but how do we actually do it? There are three values that we uplift which will make our missional goal a reality.
First, we “worship to deepen our connections.” Using the cross itself as an example, we worship to connect with God (the vertical) and we worship alongside each other to connect with one another (the horizontal). If our worship doesn’t bring us closer to God or others, than we are doing something wrong.
Secondly, we value “education to challenge our understanding of God.” Growth always means some level of discomfort, and we welcome the challenge of seeing God in new ways. We need to push ourselves to see God in places and faces that we would have overlooked without becoming aware.
Lastly, we do what Jesus did. “Service with others to change the world.” Jesus often brought people into his miracles to change the world around them. Changing the world is a big job but doing so means that we begin with God changing our world. We invite God into our lives to give us a glimpse of what God is up to, and what we are being invited into and we join together to get to work making God’s kingdom show up on earth.