In the midst of recent events I am reminded that the Church is called to be in society, but not of society. As such, the Church bears witness to Christ in our response to current events. During the week of June 20th the Supreme Court handed down rulings on several cases which they had been hearing, many of these rulings brought up strong reactions from people, most especially the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. This ruling caused some celebration and for many others it caused anger and fear.
Abortion and reproductive rights are for many people strongly held views, which are often based in faith and religious conviction. The Presbyterian Church has for decades held a position, articulated and solidified by the discernment of multiple General Assemblies, which recognizes the ability of any pregnant person to discern in consultation with their medical providers what is the best choice for them given their particular situation.
The 1970 Assembly adopted the Task Force's report, adding that abortion was “a matter of the careful ethical decision of the patient.” This position was strengthened by the 1972 Assembly, which declared: “Women should have full freedom of personal choice concerning the completion or termination of their pregnancies and that the artificial or induced termination of pregnancy, therefore, should not be restricted by law, except that it be performed under the direction and control of a properly licensed physician.” (1)
Among the biblical, theological, and ethical supports for the Presbyterian Church’s standing is the doctrine of the Freedom of Conscience, which the Westminster Confession of Faith articulates in the following way:
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also. (2)
Thus the church’s position supports the rights of people to discern whether or not an abortion is ever the right medical procedure for them. In this spirit, I hope that we may all recognize that God alone is indeed the Lord of the conscience and at the same time recognize the commands of God to be compassionate towards one another. So let us hold space for the many who are in spaces of anger, fear, uncertainty, and loss. And let us support those who are left in precarious positions by the recent ruling with our love, our prayers, and our solidarity.
May we bear witness to the love of Christ in all circumstances.
(2) 6.109 The Book of Confessions, The Westminster Confession of Faith