For 40 years I have carried a heavy heart and regret with every breath my decision to end your precious life. I was afraid, I was selfish, I have been in turmoil my entire life.
Christian Churches are filled with men and women who have experienced abortion. For some, it has been decades since the choice; for others, the abortion is a fresh wound. Many of these post-abortive parishioners are hurting — and often their pain reverberates throughout their families. Others may not realize the moral gravity of their decision and be functioning as if nothing happened. But one thing most of them have in common? Their churches are silent.
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, it is Christians who sustain the pro-life movement and contribute greatly to its size and effectiveness. It is Christians who spearhead successful efforts like 40 Days for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard, and many of the nation’s thousands of pregnancy resource centers. But, ironically, churches at large are silent and inactive where abortion and pro-life efforts are concerned.
According to a survey conducted by the Barna Group in 2015 and 2016, only one in ten Protestant pastors had preached on pro-life values in the last six months. The same survey found that only two percent of mainline Protestant churches had its own pro-life programs or activities. Church leaders express different reasons for avoiding the subject of abortion, but, whatever the reason, the consequences are proving disastrous.
Our churches must confront what is at stake when they overlook the role of abortion in society at large. Post-abortive women and men are agonizing silently over a choice that they cannot take back. Worse, amidst the silence of their church leaders, these post-abortive individuals may come to believe that they are beyond mercy and redemption as a result of their actions. This is antithetical to the redemptive work of Christ and the evangelical calling of the Christian faithful.
It is hard to overstate the need for abortion healing and recovery support within the Christian church. With a psychological community largely ambivalent toward abortion and a secular culture that celebrates it, post-abortive men and women may have no other place to reconcile their feelings of regret and remorse than within their churches. What a profound disservice to these hurting men and women who, left with nowhere to grieve and acknowledge the reality of their experience, are left suffer in silence and even despair.
In the face of silence and inaction, many Christian individuals and small groups have taken it upon themselves to find and serve men and women hurting from abortion, connecting them with Bible studies and retreats aimed at healing and renewal after an abortion. But these programs need to be front and center in our churches. Every member needs to know the church’s pro-life stance on abortion and be educated about resources for pregnancy and for post-abortion healing. This is a minimum response required in a culture where abortion is the leading cause of death by a large margin.
So how can we change the silent culture of our churches toward abortion? We can start by speaking up boldly ourselves. Talking about abortion and our pro-life values can be oddly intimidating inside of our churches. On the one hand, we know we are probably among people who agree that abortion is wrong and that resources are important. Yet, on the other hand, the culture of silence can be pervasive and overwhelming, causing us to shrink away from boldly stating what we know to be true.
So it begins with courage. Courage to approach your pastor with conviction and compassion about the need for resources, programs, and activities — especially for the many post-abortive members filling the pews in most churches. Courage to persist when an initial attempt is shot down or fizzles out. Courage to be perceived, even if temporarily, as radical or overly-concerned with abortion.
Remember, when you become discouraged (because you will become discouraged), that you are not acting on your behalf, but on behalf of very vulnerable people groups: the preborn, abortion-seeking woman, and post-abortive women and men. These groups may have no one else speaking for them in your church. And that makes it worth every hurdle you will have to overcome.