The Gospel is a life-affirming message: We are precious to God and he has paid a costly price to redeem us from death! That is why we are writing to you out of concern for our denomination’s position on abortion. In this email you will find:
- What is the PCUSA policy on abortion?
- Our call for the PCUSA to return to a biblical stand on abortion.
- The PCUSA Board of Pensions Medical Benefits Plan pays for abortions.
- Churches can apply for Relief of Conscience.
- Relief of Conscience churches may still be paying for abortions!
- We invite you to become involved in life-affirming ministry!
- Become a life-affirming congregation!
What is the PCUSA policy on abortion?
For centuries, Christians have spoken out against abortion, but in 1970 the PCUSA began to turn toward a cultural view of abortion that elevates personal choice and circumstance above tiny, vulnerable lives in the womb. A report titled “Sexuality and the Human Community” was approved by the General Assembly that year. It stated:
We do not think that abortion should be relied upon as a means of limiting family size…but when for misinformation, miscalculation, technical failure, or other reasons, contraception fails and an unwanted pregnancy is established, we do not think it either compassionate or just to insist that available help be withheld.
Current PCUSA policy on abortion advocates for legal abortion with no restrictions. The policy expresses objection to forced abortions and abortion used as birth control or for gender selection. The Office of Public Policy is silent on these concerns in contrast to its support of other General Assembly actions, a recent example being the full media campaign advocating gun control.
Presbyterians Pro-Life was founded in response to this shift away from the defense of life in the womb and has since developed a two-pronged ministry:
We call the Presbyterian & Reformed family of churches to uphold the sacred value of human life from fertilization to natural death and to reflect Biblical teaching on life and family in their theology, polity and practice.
We provide resources that equip Presbyterian and Reformed churches to encourage faithful discipleship and a biblical worldview regarding the family and the nurture, care, and protection of every innocent human life.
In 2006 the General Assembly approved a statement on late-term abortion that said:
“ the lives of viable unborn babies — those well developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered — ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted.” In spite of this strong statement against aborting viable babies, the Board of Pensions continues to pay all claims for legal abortions without regard to the health or gestational age of the baby or the woman’s reason for choosing to abort her child.
Because participation in the BOP Medical Benefits Plan is mandatory this creates a crisis of conscience for PCUSA pastors and members (whose tithes pay the dues from which abortion claims are paid) who hold a biblical view of life in the womb.
The 1998 the General Assembly implemented a program for “Relief of Conscience.” It allows a session to formally declare that it does not wish to have any of its dues used for abortions. The program is an administrative procedure that separates dues from ROC churches from the stream that pays for abortions. Instead, a dollar amount equal to the cost of abortion claims from the previous year is deposited into an adoption assistance fund.
The first step toward becoming a ROC church is for your session to approve and date a resolution and send it to the presbytery with a request for certification. For more information about the ROC program and a sample resolution (p. 5 in the downloadable pdf) click here.
In the past two years a number of churches have discovered that even though their session passed a resolution and it was approved by their presbytery, the BOP did not have their name on the list of Relief of Conscience churches. In other words, their dues were in the stream that was paying for abortions—in some cases for more than 10 years! In 2008, the General Assembly took action to require the BOP to send an annual letter to ROC churches affirming their participation in the ROC program. If your church has not received such an annual letter, please contact PPL for help in following up with the BOP.
The ROC program also does nothing to prevent a church’s per capita apportionment to their presbytery, synod, or GA from being used to pay dues for medical benefits of staff of those governmental entities. Dues from these governing bodies flow into the stream that pays for abortion claims.
Presbyterians Pro-Life has been defending life at the edges—from fertilization to natural death—for almost 40 years in the Presbyterian Church USA. Biblical teaching is clear that life begins in the womb.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb, Psa. 139:13 (ESV).
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations, Jer. 1:5 (NKJ).
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me…., Gal. 1:15 (ESV).
Christians worldwide have celebrated our joy in the resurrection life this past Sunday. Life comes from God! We are His creation. Through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God transforms us from the deadness of sin to the fullness of life. We have been created, male and female, in his image. Your identity and that of each living person is unique and different from all others and it is established at fertilization. Jesus identified with us from that earliest point in our life when he was conceived in the womb of Mary.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. Luke 1:31).
His incarnation brought resurrection life to us, setting us free from death and ensuring in the fullness of time our bodily resurrection in glory.
We invite you to sign up for the Presbyterians Pro-Life Email newsletter. We will not bombard your inbox. We rarely send more than two emails each month and we never share your email address with others. Our newsletter will keep you apprised of denomination activities on life. You will be inspired and equipped for ministry by PPL’s stories, resources, and ideas. We stand ready to help you create an ethos in your congregation that cherishes every human life!
Yours in Christ for life,
Executive Director, Presbyterians Pro-Life