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Uniting for Life

Winter, 1996


Let's Tear Down the Wall Brick by Brick And Build a Bridge Stick by Stick

By Ernest Ohlhoff, NPRC Treasurer

For too long, our numerous Christian Churches have been building and reinforcing the "denominational walls" which divide us. We have focused too much on our differences, which I believe in the grand scheme of things are relatively minor, and we have too often overlooked our much larger and more fundamental shared Christian heritage.

Unfortunately, it is not until we are confronted by a societal atrocity which threatens the very base of our culture, that we are able to set aside our differences and unite to fight a common enemy. Legalized abortion is an issue that directly threatens the fundamental tenants of Christianity. Regardless of the nuances and denominational differences, the overwhelming majority of Christians believe abortion is fundamentally wrong.

The National Pro-Life Religious Council (NPRC) is an example of Christian leaders setting aside their denominational differences and joining together to restore legal protection to the unborn, the elderly and the disabled. The process of forming an interdenominational pro-life group has been slow, but the foundation of NPRC is strong.

We stand today united. We are of many different denominations and traditions but we are of one voice on the issue of life. All life comes from God and as Christians it is our responsibility to nurture and protect life from conception to natural death.

Pro-life Congressmen Work to Reverse Clinton's Pro-Abortion Directives

In the last days of 1995, many of the pro-life movement's congressional priorities were still tangled up in the budget negotiations between Congress and the White House. The House passed numerous pro-life amendments, but many of these were stalled in the Senate. Thus far, only two have become law: one cutting off abortion insurance for federal employees, the other banning performance of abortions on military bases.

In a major pro-life victory, both houses passed slightly different versions of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (HR 1833). This is the first time since Roe v. Wade that Congress has voted to ban any type of abortion. Final congressional approval of the bill was expected to take place in early 1996. President Clinton threatened to veto the bill.

Since his first day in office, President Clinton has aggressively overturned the restrictions on abortion enacted during the Reagan and Bush administrations, encouraging abortions through federal health plans, military facilities, medicaid, foreign aid, and the District of Columbia appropriations.

Let us all pray that our leaders will have the wisdom and courage to create laws that will protect unborn children, the vulnerable elderly, and the disabled.

PC (USA) General Assembly Unwilling To Affirm When Human Life Begins

The current abortion policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA), adopted by the General Assembly of 1992, says that once a human life has begun it is a sin to take it. But the policy also says that no law or administrative decision should limit access to abortion, and thereby advocates for unrestricted abortion. Though the statements sound irreconcilable to any reasonable person, they are made possible by a loophole in the policy that says Presbyterians have differing points of view about when a human life begins. The policy defines five possibilities which it says Presbyterians hold: conception, quickening, viability, when the Harvard Medical school criteria are met, and birth.

Cincinnati Presbytery asked the PC (USA) to affirm that the beginning of a human life is a matter of demonstrable scientific evidence rather than multiple opinions. They sent an overture (95-30) asking the 1995 General Assembly to acknowledge that a human life begins at fertilization.

Extensive testimony by highly credentialed specialists in genetics, neonatology, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics was unanimous in asserting that the beginning point of human life is at fertilization. Yet the General Assembly did not affirm the scientific facts and voted roughly 2-1 against adopting the overture. Most commissioners who spoke in committee and on the floor of the assembly, regardless of their convictions about abortion, agreed that human life begins at fertilization. The disagreement did not occur on the substance of the overture but, rather, on the implications of officially recognizing and stating the fact….

In the end, the debate revealed that many commissioners were not willing to affirm what they know to be true about the beginning of life. The implications of the statement for the morality of abortion decisions were too great a burden for them to bear.

The Presbyterian Church, prior to the 1970s was very clear about when human life begins and the Christian obligation to protect and nurture it. In 1962, for example, the General Assembly said, "The fetus is a human life to be protected by the criminal law from the moment when the ovum is fertilized."

The refusal of the 1992 General Assembly to adopt the Cincinnati overture is only one example of how obscured the facts have become in the Church in recent decades....We can be sure there were commissioners who went home knowing the truth regardless of how they voted. [Excerpted from Presbyterians Pro-Life News, Fall 1995]

Presbyterians Pro-Life Expand Outreach

By Rev. Ben Sheldon

At a recent meeting of the Presbyterians Pro-life (PPL) Board in Kansas City, several important steps were taken to expand the outreach and influence of the organization within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Most notable is the decision to promote and support adoption as an alternative to abortion. To accomplish this, PPL has added an Adoption Resource Coordinator to its staff. Mrs. June Ring of Pittsburgh will fill this post to be a catalyst in the PC (USA) to help the church overcome existing and potential barriers to adoption as a viable choice in a crisis pregnancy. The goal is to promote, train, teach, consult and encourage Presbyterians in adoption.

Additionally, a staff person to head up service ministry and local chapter development has been hired. Mrs. Di Lupton of Olathe, Kansas, will work to develop models for local individual congregations to find ways to provide alternatives to abortion. She will also be seeking to build up local chapters of PPL. Presently there are almost 100 such chapters in virtually every sector of the denomination.

In other actions, the PPL Board accepted my decision to retire. I have been President for the past 12 years. Dr. Donald Elliott, pastor in Corinth, Mississippi, will be my successor. I will continue as Executive Director of NPRC.

NPRC Members Attend Women's Conference in Beijing

By Marilyn Heigl

Three NPRC members attended the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China: Terry Schlossberg of Presbyterians Pro-Life and myself [National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL)], representing the Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society (ECWS); and Gail Quinn, official delegate for the Vatican. The ECWS was a non-governmental organization (NGO), sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy, to be a voice for life and religious freedom for women at the conference.

Under the banner of "Equality, Development and Peace," the women's conference began in late August as approximately 20,000 registered participants gathered in Beijing and Huirou (a farming community and site of the NGO Forum).

For all the effort on the part of the Chinese government to restrict and even forbid religious expression, religion and spirituality seemed to permeate the forum and conference. There were more than 100 workshops and seminars that indicated the obvious feminist theology that was clearly on the agenda at the conference. To name a few, there were such titles as "Weaving the Connections: Women, the Earth, and the World's Religions;" "Guided Meditation for the Healing of Mother Earth;" and "How Religious Fundamentalism Helps the Spread of Aids."

"Abortion Rights" and "Reproductive Health" concerns were dominant themes in the hundreds of seminars and forums offered during the two-week NGO Forum. The ECWS team divided up daily to attend as many of the sessions as possible, and became a consistent and repetitive voice for the traditional Christian women's perspective on issues such as abortion, abstinence education, religious freedom for women, and traditional family values. Rep. Chris Smith (R/NJ), House pro-life leader, spoke at an ECWS workshop.

The language on abortion in the Platform for Action remains the same as in the Cairo Conference document, stating, "in no case should abortion be promoted as a means of family planning." However, the term "reproductive rights" in UN documents must now always be understood to imply abortion.

In the meantime, ECWS members shared their message of life and love in many ways as they attended the workshops and dialogued with many delegates from around the world. The ECWS proclaimed its message through a booth exhibit which displayed a large banner across the front that read, "For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free." The ECWS also conducted a Christian worship service in the "Healing Tent." As the Word of God was read and preached, and glorious hymns were sang, as many as 60 people filled the tent and hundreds more who were passing by or standing around, witnessed and heard, as praises to the King of Kings filled the air.

World Pro-Life Congress

[The Third Congress on Pro-Life Movements was held in Rome October 2-4. From 50 countries came 1,400 participants; around 200, representing 40 organizations, were from the United States. Rev. John Brown, President of NPRC, represented NPRC and United Friends for Life (United Church of Christ) and Rev. Paul Stallsworth represented Lifewatch, United Methodists.]

Uniting Around the Gospel of Life

By Pastor John Brown

The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the life issues, clarifies as few works have done the way that concern for abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics is rooted in the Gospel itself. The pope's use of Scripture is extensive and masterful, making it perhaps the most scriptural of 20th century encyclicals. It is also certainly one of the most commented upon of recent times. For these reasons, the Pontifical Council on the Family chose the Gospel of Life as the focal point of the Third Congress on the Pro-Life Movements held in Rome October 2-4.

Delegates to the Congress met in language groups and in plenary sessions to center on the Gospel of Life's meaning and implications for both the church and the world of which we are a part. The discussions enabled participants to present suggestions for how pro-life movements can work together more effectively. On the last day, participants helped refine a document setting forth the major concerns of the conference. According to the Pontifical Council on the Family, the proceedings of the conference will eventually be released in book form.

The high point for the participants in the Congress was an audience with the Pope in the Vatican October 3. In his 20 minute address, John Paul declared that, "The victory of truth and life is already part of the history of salvation; it is the task of all the forces inspired by respect for human dignity to engage in incorporating it into human history." He further stated that, "the Gospel of life requires that the teaching about the inviolable value of human life...become an integral part of evangelization." He also emphasized the need for the pooling of resources and knowledge with regard to the problems posed by medical science and population policies...and the need for a sound ethical response to advances in genetics. The Pope, in addition, encouraged the delegates to give serious attention to the moral and spiritual development of youth.

The Congress made clear to us all that the proponents of the "culture of death" are seeking to entrench their ideas and practices in the laws and institutions of every society in the world. That the issues of abortion and euthanasia, genetic engineering and eugenics, are increasingly global issues means several things for the Christian Churches. First, the pro-life movement worldwide must become ever more deeply rooted in the Gospel. Second, the pro-life movements must increasingly become a unified pro-life movement, with a common purpose, a generous sharing of resources, and a concerted effort to communicate our concerns clearly and effectively, within the Church, and within the larger society. As John Paul put it in his concluding remarks, "your strength lies in the truth to which you witness, but the effectiveness of your work largely depends on harmonious joint efforts."

While it is also the task of the NPRC to speak forth the truth of the Gospel of Life, its primary task must be to promote harmonious joint efforts among our member groups, and to reach out to yet other groups who we have reason to believe are committed to the pro-life cause, in the hope that such unity might greatly enhance our effectiveness in word and deed.

"All things work together for good to them that love the Lord," (Romans 8:28). I sometimes think that the grave problems of this bloody century are some of the "things" the Lord is using to bring about the great "good" of Christian unity.

Sharings From Rome

By Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth

Pope John Paul II, in his address to the World Pro-Life Congress delegates, noted that "to proclaim, celebrate, and serve life is the Church's task in her ordinary and constant pastoral activity." Certainly, that calling is ecumenical in nature. That is, it belongs to all the churches, including the United Methodist Church.

During the Congress, in its plenary and smaller sessions, countless crucial points were made, illustrated, and underlined. Below, several outstanding ones will be recalled.

  • The defense of human life is the challenge now facing the twentieth century, which is a most murderous century. The challenge of creating a Culture of Life faces the churches, the cultures, and the nations of our time, all of which are increasingly tempted by a Culture of Death.
  • In all the churches and the societies of our time, courage is required to bear witness to the Gospel of Life. Even in the Roman Catholic community, there are more than a few bishops and priests who are somewhat timid about addressing the Gospel of Life, over against the Culture of Death, among their people. The challenge, as put by John Sematon of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC/UK) is to speak and live, not betray, the truth.
  • Rev. Ian Brown (SPUC) noted that the Gospel of Life signals a new ecumenism. This new form of ecumenism moves beyond the old least common denominator ecumenism…. Because the Gospel of Life is rooted in the Word of God and is grounded in natural law, and because it has an evangelical appeal, a pastoral tone, and a prophetic thrust, it is a treasured resource for this new form of ecumenism.
  • The Gospel of Life is an especially strange message in the West, which now understands sex as having nothing to do with children and in terms of getting, not giving. Italy's very low birth rate -- a "demographic winter" according to Alfonso Cardinal Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council of the Family -- is a warning that the Gospel of Life will often find an unfriendly reception in the West. Because this Gospel now appears to be so peculiar, it is well to consider carefully various pre-evangelism and evangelism strategies.

In conclusion, the Gospel of Life has located pro-life witness and work in the Gospel. To the Lifewatch community and others, this is nothing new. Even so, John Paul II's description of pro-life theory and practice in the Gospel is offered--with unmatched theological beauty, elegance and power--to all. According to this encyclical, pro-life witness and work are not, first and last, partisan political matters; instead, they are, first and last, Gospel matters that have strong political implications....Being pro-life has to do with being for the Gospel, which is the Gospel of Life...And to believe and obey the Gospel of Life is to be involved in pro-life activity.

Her Conscience and Her God

A familiar rationalization of abortion is that it is "her choice," a decision made in consultation with her doctor, her family, her conscience and her God. What is the flaw in this argument? Can a Christian denomination say that the legal right to an abortion is necessary to allow a woman to exercise her conscience in the matter? Or is induced abortion a violation of the woman's conscience?

This question is carefully explored in its several aspects in a new study by Thomas Strahan in the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change Newsletter of Sept./Oct. 1995: Induced Abortion as a Violation of Conscience of the Woman. Strahan explores the actual situation of women who are in crisis, often isolated, pressured or given counsel contrary to their ideals when they are contemplating abortion. They frequently experience personal guilt and depression following the abortion. He points out also that, "although religious beliefs are absolute, acts or practices motivated by religious beliefs, if they kill or injure another, are subject to regulation by the state."

A copy of this documented research report may be obtained from National Right to Life Committee by calling (202) 626-8800, ext. 112 or 129.

News Notes

LCMS Convention Reaffirms Sanctity of Human Life

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod enthusiastically continued its support of the pro-life education efforts in its church through a resolution passed at the July LCMS convention. The resolution asks LCMS districts, congregations, pastors, teachers, and lay leaders "to affirm the Synod's pro-life stand" and to "exercise their responsibility as Christian citizens to influence legislation for the protection of all human life. LCMS supports several internal organizations devoted to defending the sanctity of life and educating the church and society on life issues.

In another resolution, the Synod stated its opposition to any form of physician-assisted suicide, expressing objection to "medical personnel having any part in actively inducing death, even at the patient's request or the request of the family." The resolution further urged that the Synod "speak out against any attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide and encourage its pastors and people to do the same."

Dr. Jean Garton was elected to the LCMS Board of Directors and honored for her many years of volunteer service. She is also president of Lutherans for Life, of which LCMS is a member.

LFL Convention

Lutherans for Life held their 13th national convention November 3-5, 1995 in Chicago. Family Research Council's Robert Morrison was keynote speaker. A full track of programs for youth included presentations by Molly Kelly, leader in chastity education, and Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears linebacker.

LFL's national board has been working toward carrying out new goals adopted in June, such as the nationalization of LFL's post-abortion outreach, Healing Hearts, based in Chicago, as well as other projects.

Rev. Edward Fehskens, Lutherans for Life executive director for the last ten years, has been working closely with the board on achieving its goals. Rev. Fehskens is now returning to full time pastoral ministry, and leaving LFL in order to be pastor of service at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

NPRC Sponsors Prayer Vigil Jan. 21

The National Pro-Life Religious Council is sponsoring a prayer service the night before the `96 March for Life, Sunday Jan. 21, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md., according to Rev. Ben Sheldon, NPRC executive director. It will begin at 7 p.m., in conjunction with Fourth Presbyterian's regular Sunday evening service. Dr. Robert Norris will be the preacher.

All are encouraged to attend this service in support of the March for Life. It is a great opportunity for Christians of all denominations to join together in prayer as a sign of unity on pro-life issues. The address is: Fourth Presbyterian Church, 5500 River Road, Bethesda, Md. 20816, (301) 320-3600.

In addition, there will be a morning prayer service at the Simpson Memorial Chapel of the Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave. (next to the Supreme Court), at 9:30 a.m., Monday, January 22. This is sponsored jointly by NPRC and the Task Force of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS).

Sanctity of Life Materials

Those who would like materials to distribute on Sanctity of Life Sunday, January 21, may obtain some from either the Southern Baptist Convention or Lutherans for Life. Brochures, bulletin inserts, posters, Sunday school lesson, and suggested sermons are among the resources available:

To order, write or call:

Christian Life Commission

901 Commerce Street, Suite 550
Nashville, TN 37203-3696
(615) 244-2495

Lutherans for Life

P.O. Box 189
Benton, AR 72018
(501) 794-2212, Fax: (501) 794-1437

NPRC Seeks New Members

This is your opportunity to join with other Christian pro-life leaders to help restore legal protection to the unborn child. The National Pro-Life Religious Council, Inc. (NPRC) is a Christian pro-life coalition which acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and is called to witness to and affirm the biblical standard of the value, dignity and sanctity of human life. Associate membership is open to any individual, church or group who subscribes to NPRC's principles.

NPRC currently has members working within pro-life groups associated with the following denominations/churches: American Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Evangelical, Lutheran, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist.

Please join NPRC today and help us end the tragedy of abortion!

Click here for a membership form.

Home. Questions and answers. Newsletters. Audio clips. Press releases. Member organizations. Join us. Contact us.

Questions and answers.
Audio clips.
Press releases.
Member organizations.
Join us.
Contact us.