For Presbyterians newly transferred from the PCUSA it was refreshing to participate in substantive debate on the nuances of wording in a gathering where there was clearly essential unity about standing against abortion and acknowledging that every human life is sacred and precious to God. Commissioners were clearly intent on giving careful attention to the pastoral expression of the pro-life position they hold. Refreshing indeed for this pro-life Presbyterian who remains a member of the PCUSA where abortion is condoned, choice to abort is advocated, and abortions are paid for with member tithes!
Revising their abortion statement was on the agenda of The Evangelical Presbyterian Church as representatives from their now 400+ churches met at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, CO last week (June 18-22, 2013). Debate was surprisingly vigorous, but centered on words chosen to express their pro-life position regarding abortion and not because they have disagreement about their position on abortion.
A few years ago, the permanent Theology Committee was asked to write a position statement addressing the bioethical issue of stem cells. Because the topic involved scientific developments that are rapidly changing they opted instead to send a pastoral letter to EPC congregations. During their process of study they found the original writing of the abortion statement to be archaic and in need of updating. Both the pastoral letter and the revised abortion position paper was approved at the 2012 Assembly, but a clerical error left out some of the changed language to the abortion paper. In order to avoid confusion the omitted language was re-submitted to this year’s assembly for another vote.
The proposed abortion statement was referred to the General Assembly’s Theology Committee. The Rev. Don Elliott, former President of PPL, introduced his concern about the broad and vague language in a parenthetical list of examples appearing in two places. The language–(e.g., life-threatening; physical health; or valid medical reasons)” was deleted in the first instance so that the text of that item read instead:
- 1. “A woman facing a problematic pregnancy or an unwanted pregnancy should expect to receive support, love, acceptance and wise counsel from her pastor(s), counselor(s), physician(s) and fellow Christians.” Regardless of the woman’s decision, the Church should always provide compassionate biblical and spiritual guidance to that individual.”
The Rev. Matthew Everhard, author of Abortion: The Evangelical Perspective, stated that he was more concerned by the use of the same language in another place in the document where it stated:
“Christians should individually and corporately oppose abortion (except under the most extreme of circumstances e.g., life-threatening; physical health; or valid medical reasons), and do everything in their power to provide support groups, para-church ministries and sponsoring agencies which offer viable alternatives to abortion.”