Friday, February 19, 2010

Challenge to Pastors

Weekend question posted on Jill Stanek asks if pro-life activists should become more confrontational with their own churches.
You can view the video at Jill's site; Todd, a member of Reality Church in Ventura, CA is frustrated with the lack of response from his pastors on the issue of abortion. After meeting with his pastors on several occasions, Todd has decided to hold graphic images of abortion outside the church, in order to try and "shock" the members into some kind of action.

Eric Scheidler, a long-time pro-life activist, street counsellor, a real veteran of the pro-life movement, and executive director of Pro Life Action League in the US responded thus:

This pastor seems to have made an idol of "fellowship." But I'm not sure Todd's strategy of using graphic images will be effective in this context.
As I see it—having conducted graphic "Face the Truth" Tours for seven years and in several states—the purpose of public displays of abortion pictures is to change people's hearts and minds on abortion. It's not to recruit activists.
Of course, graphic images can be a helpful tool in convincing people who are already pro-life to get more active; I use them in my talks to such audiences.
But in this context, I don't think they'll work, and may even backfire, leading church members to decide that "if that's pro-life activism, count me out."
My own thinking on how to deal with pastors reluctant to have their churches get involved in pro-life ministry is to try to reach out with dialog (I'm assuming Todd has done this), but if it fails, to walk away.
And as for recruiting people to get involved fighting abortion, it's all honey and vinegar. People need to be invited to get involved, encouraged to consider it a privilege to do this work. I don't think the pictures are going to be effective as invitation.
But all that said, I don't know the dynamics of Todd's church, and perhaps he will meet with success. Or maybe the pictures will turn someone away from choosing abortion, even if they also turn the church farther away from Todd, too.

I agree with Eric that Todd's actions will probably produce a result other than the one he is hoping to achieve. But, as both Eric and Todd agree, these pastors and others are really not understanding the problem of abortion. In fact, they don't understand the "sin of abortion". And they should. But they have distracted themselves with other works, relegating abortion to the shelf with all the other sins that humans commit.

I would kind of like to invite Todd to become Catholic because at least he would have the statements of our pope to draw upon. But then I thought what particular Catholic church could he join and I realised that the situation would not change one bit; Todd would simply have more authority to quote.

Last fall, when 40 Days for Life was starting up here in Halifax, I had an invitation to speak at a Baptist church in Dartmouth to tell the congregation about 40 Days and to invite them to join us in prayer. One week before I was scheduled to speak, the pastor emailed me and said that he was cancelling, as he had discovered that two of his elders had had abortions and the subject was "too raw" to bring up.
I responded to him that I was sorry that I couldn't come, but I did understand. I then encouraged him to take the opportunity to bring these women into contact with some post-abortive healing ministry. I don't know if he did that or not; I hope that he did.

Our pastors and priests do need to speak about abortion to their congregations because, unlike the two pastors in the Todd video think, just as many professed Christian women are getting abortions as those who have no religious affiliation. These pastors expressed the thought that the women getting abortions were not Christians, so confronting their congregations with the topic would be harsh since they are not the ones to be confronted. Not so, pastors. You better wake up. If you could take a survey of your congregation, I think you would be shocked to find out that there are a whole lot of women sitting there in front of you who have had abortions. Just listen to Abby Johnson who was the former director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan/College Station, Texas. Abby said that 80% of those she worked with attended church and that the same percentage of clients attended church as well.

Abortion is a solution being sought by all women, whether they go to church or not. It is the act of desperation of someone who has been sexually active when they should not and have got caught. Rather than face the embarrassment of the pregnancy or the inconvenience of a pregnancy, or the prospect of a child who is considered a burden at this point in their life, they are choosing abortion as the solution to their problem.

Pastors need to speak about abortion, but they should get some training first. They need to fully comprehend the extent of the abortion holocaust; they need to see the numbers, they need to hear the reasons, and they need to get some glimpse into the mindset of women who seek abortions. Then they need to find what resources are available both for women seeking abortions and for those who have had abortions. And pastors will need to deal with the issue of abortive fathers too, because the last time I checked every child had both a father and a mother. So there are men sitting in the churches who will need to confess their sins too.

Then, and only then, should they speak and speak loudly. Because then they can offer some help to those wounded women sitting in the pews, who will feel convicted at the mention of abortion. They need to extend the offer of unconditional acceptance of these women, and they need to set in place some way to deal with the numbers who are wounded. Because they are going to be surprised.

If one pastor with a congregation of 100, finds two of his elders have had abortions, how many more women in that congregation have had abortions? In a mega church, like the ones in Ventura, CA, how many women there would have had abortions? Literally hundreds.

These guys need to get their heads out of the sand on the issue of abortion. Because Todd is right, abortion is breaking the heart of God, and it is time that our spiritual leaders did something about it.

As one woman who had an abortion said, "if the churches are silent on abortion, that tells me and other women that the sin of abortion is unforgiveable; if they can't even mention it, then it must be the one sin we cannot even bring to the Cross."

h/t Jill Stanek

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