Revising their abortion statement was on the agenda of The Evangelical Presbyterian Church as representatives from their now 400+ churches met at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., last week (June 18-22, 2013). Debate was surprisingly vigorous, but centered on words chosen to express their pro-life position regarding abortion and not because they have disagreement about their position on abortion.
A few years ago, the permanent Theology Committee was asked to write a position statement addressing the bioethical issue of stem cells. Because the topic involved scientific developments that are rapidly changing they opted instead to send a pastoral letter to EPC congregations. During their process of study they found the original writing of the abortion statement to be archaic and in need of updating. Both the pastoral letter and the revised abortion position paper was approved at the 2012 Assembly, but a clerical error left out some of the changed language to the abortion paper. In order to avoid confusion the omitted language was re-submitted to this year’s assembly for another vote.
The proposed abortion statement was referred to the General Assembly’s Theology Committee. The Rev. Don Elliott, former President of PPL, introduced his concern about the broad and vague language in a parenthetical list of examples appearing in two places. The language–(e.g., life-threatening; physical health; or valid medical reasons)” was deleted in the first instance so that the text of that item read instead:
“A woman facing a problematic pregnancy or an unwanted pregnancy should expect to receive support, love, acceptance and wise counsel from her pastor(s), counselor(s), physician(s) and fellow Christians.” Regardless of the woman’s decision, the Church should always provide compassionate biblical and spiritual guidance to that individual.
Read more at http://www.ppl.org/index.php/publications/news-archive/395-epc-ga-debates-revision-of-abortion-statement
Not to be cruel, or insensitive, but “compassionate biblical and spiritual guidance” in the event of a decision to kill an unborn baby would be to deny that woman–and any who supported that decision–holy communion–and start a Church disciplinary process. The only biblical stand on abortion is that it is homicide, and needs to be taken accordingly, seriously, under human law yes, but–NOT to treat it like it’s merely a “bad decision,” something akin to voting for pro-abortion candidates….
I agree with Ralph Davis. Such verbiage tacitly endorses the idea of abortion being another form of birth control; albeit a “last ditch” method. Such “conjecture” over the long term invites the same kind of hair splitting and linguistic gymnastics that rendered the PCUSA wholly and patently irrelevant! I urge those in positions of influence in the EPC and ECO to take a more unflinching inventory of how issues are to be approached from a standpoint of plenary morality. Issues like these don’t last very long in the OPC, PCA, ARP or RPCNA.
I think the EPC would in general agree with you, except they would act with due process and not with the rush to judgement and almost papal authority that you suggested with regard to the discipline you suggested. Denying comunion is something that can only be done after due process, as I understand it. The debate for the EPC was not whether abortion is right or wrong, but how do we speak the truth in love. Maybe the appropriate policy should be more hard with a pastoral application rather than making the policy pastoral. However, if you want to treat it as murder, are you suggesting that no murderer or someone who supported murder can ever be a leader in the church? The Bible clearly doesn’t support that view, as you have Paul as an apostle. Discipline is about restoration, not punishment. For abortion, both providers, and those who have them done, need the gospel. The law only condemns. Grace is available for all sinners. Yes, repentance is necessary, and it is a fair question in particular cases to ask what repentance will look like.
I really doubt the OPC, PCA, ARP or RPCNA are as above repoach as Eric says. They have their own problems, and have certainly in recent years shown their own head in the sand approach to problems.