Uniting for Life
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
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]
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
NPRC Sponsors Prayer Vigil
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
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.