Recently I changed where I go to church. I spent the last almost thirty years of my life attending Ascension Roman Catholic Church in Boca Raton, Florida, and last year changed to become a member of Life.Church in Wellington, Florida. As a life long Roman Catholic, abortion was something I heard about at least bi-weekly, either from the homilist, or through the activities of the local Respect Life Group, or even through articles written in Catholic papers or bulletins. Much, or even all the messaging about abortion is about; how the church is deadly against abortion, every member must work and pray to change the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationally and often told by peers that I was required to vote for pro-life candidates exclusively for political office so that the law can be changed. I have often wondered if this protest approach to abortion is the best approach.I have often wondered if this protest approach to abortion is the best approach. Click To Tweet
In my new church ministry leaders participate in huddles. It is a time when leaders come together to be encouraged, hear any last minute instruction and pray together, much like a sports team getting fired up to go begin their game. Recently at one of these huddles I heard an amazing story that happened in my new church.
There was young woman who became pregnant and for one reason or another was very much alone. Not sure how she could go forward she was considering abortion. She ended up at Life.Church and met people who told her she didn’t have to be alone. They welcomed her into the church community, they helped with money, helped her finding work, helped her get set up with a place to live. They spoke from their Christianity with their deeds and walked with her. As we read in the first Letter of John, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (3:18) The story concluded with the statement the young mother’s daughter at the age of sixteen was baptized and herself a committed follower of Jesus in the same church.
I was so moved by this story. It is not a story I ever heard before anywhere. For me this was a story about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and how to live our life for others as Jesus has done. It is a story that should be a representative image of church, the reason for church. It is a beautiful and successful story.
I don’t know many of the details, how much it cost, or how much work it was to help this young woman. But no matter what the hardships; the church and the people who helped must feel good about being able to help someone, particularly giving her a real choice in the middle of a very difficult decision.
I wonder about what happened that the young woman felt she could come and speak to people at the church. How did the church people respond to her approach? How did they create a milieu that allowed them and her to sit and speak openly about abortion and perhaps a way the church could give provision for a different decision than what must have seemed the only choice for the young lady, to abort. What was their demeanor that let her know she was not being judged and no matter how the conversation went she would still be welcome at their church?I wonder about what happened that the young woman felt she could come and speak to people at the church. How did the church people respond to her approach? Click To Tweet
I thought about the church I was in for so many years and wondered why I had never heard a similar story. I am familiar with organizations in the church that try to help mothers with their needs; formula, clothing, diapers, cribs, even some financial donations. They are great organizations. But I suspect they are serving those who aren’t considering abortion but do need aid. Perhaps they do see young woman who think they have no choice but to abort. I would love to hear such stories of change and walking with a person to help them have a real choice.
But I feel there is complete contrast between these two churches. One church is approachable and provides provision to help someone with their choice. The other church, the Roman Catholic Church is more known for its protest of abortion. It speaks out strongly against abortion, it has a reputation of being for saving innocent life and custodian of what should be the moral code of the country when it comes to abortion. It is a church that feels so strongly about abortion that if anyone has an abortion they are automatically excommunicated from the church. Which means they can attend service but are not in full communion with the church. So no sacraments, like church marriage, Eucharist, etc. Until recently being excommunicated for abortion required a high level official of the church to provide forgiveness leading to a change in their membership status. It is a basic statement that says if you have an abortion you cannot be one of us. The church is impenetrable when it comes to abortion. Is this the rock Jesus intended?But I feel there is complete contrast between these two churches. One church is approachable and provides provision to help someone with their choice. The other church, the Roman Catholic Church is more known for its protest of… Click To Tweet
It is easy to imagine I have heard no stories about the local Roman Catholic Church helping someone who feels abortion is there only choice because it is a little too scary to approach people that so strongly protest abortion. In fact the few stories I have heard from woman in this situation, included a lecture about the sinfulness of abortion, how they will be excommunicated if they do it and how they are sent on their way with an admonition not to have the abortion. They are sent off alone.
Churches should have principles and stand strong on issues, but are they really helping when their protest is so strong that they are no longer a source of provision for those who with a little help would make a different decision. If a church is not a place where someone can have a conversation about such a complex and difficult decision how can churches expect to effect real change in people. Didn’t Jesus come to transform people from self-serving to other serving?Churches should have principles and stand strong on issues, but are they really helping when their protest is so strong that they are no longer a source of provision for those who with a little help would make a different decision. Click To Tweet
Churches try to impress a message of being non-judging, leaving judgement up to their founder Jesus. But clearly public messaging does cast a particular image about a church’s openness for discussion. The Roman Catholic Church has pushed so militantly against abortion they have lost the opportunity to provide help and save people as their founding intended.
I also wonder if this protest approach to abortion isn’t an easy way to avoid being truly Christ like in response to someone who feels they have only one choice. Being a church of protest seems to ensure that no one will come and ask for help. No one will openly admit they are considering an abortion to a church and it members when that church so strongly protests abortion because they know how they will be ridiculed and made to feel badly about what they are considering. Being a church of protest seems to require less real Christianity than being a church of provision.
We can do better
I challenge the Roman Catholic Church to flip. Be against but don’t protest. Become a church of provision, help those who need help and bless those who can’t be helped.I challenge the Roman Catholic Church to flip. Be against but don’t protest. Become a church of provision, help those who need help and bless those who can’t be helped. Click To Tweet