PC(USA) advocacy for abortion coverage won't stop until we change policy

Once more the PC(USA) has crushed my spirit with their blatant advocacy for abortion coverage funded by my tax dollars. Why so dramatic a reaction? It's simple. I am a member of the PC(USA) and I am pro-life. As awful as this action is and as low as it makes me feel, it does not surprise me at all. It does anger me that those who profess a covenant relationship with me so disregard my conscience and my convictions that they advocate on my behalf for something which horrifies and offends me to the core of my being. That's not very Presbyterian!

Some in the denomination will be shocked when they hear that their church supports abortion. They cannot comprehend that someone who claims the name of Christ--calls themselves a Christian--could ever condone abortion. Many PC(USA) members have no idea that the health coverage which is mandatory for pastors in the denomination covers ALL abortions, for any reason at any time during pregnancy. I have known about this for 20 years and have been actively working in the denomination to change the policies that allow this advocacy to continue. So, I'm not surprised, but I am sickened.

Polls show that 61% of Americans do NOT feel that abortions should be funded by taxpayer dollars. It is reasonable to believe that a poll taken in the PC(USA) would reveal similar results to those of the general population. So, why, after so many years of paying for abortions through their pastor's medical benefits plans has there been no outcry? Why have so few overtures come to the General Assembly to protest this? One reason is that people in the pews do not KNOW.

Some have been pacified by the Relief of Conscience program which theoretically allows a church to put a percentage of their funds into a pool to cover adoption expenses rather than pay for abortions. Don't misunderstand me, it is VERY important that churches request Relief of Conscience from their presbyteries. Every church that does so is a living witness against abortion.

But, anyone who has looked closely at that plan knows it's just an accounting gimmick. All abortion claims are still paid for even for the pastors, pastor's wives, and pastor's daughters in Relief of Conscience churches. And, premiums for medical benefits for presbytery and denomination staff that are paid for by per capita funds are not a part of the relief of conscience plan. Although an individual employee may request relief of conscience, there is no conscience protection for the church member whose tithes pay for per capita to their presbytery, synod, and the General Assembly. And, I cannot help but wonder why only 500 our of 10,000 churches have requested Relief of Conscience if 61% of the public opposes abortion coverage in government funded health plans. Shouldn't we be more concerned to prevent abortion coverage in denomination funded health plans?

So, no, I'm not surprised that the PC(USA) is advocating abortion coverage in a national health plan paid for by Americans, 61% who object, notwithstanding. But, I am surprised, grieved, disheartened, that so many Presbyterians are silent. I am saddened that there are not hundreds of churches sending overtures to their presbyteries asking for the denomination to cease paying for abortions. I know that many pro-life churches in the PC(USA) are very active in supporting the ministry of their local pregnancy care center, collecting and distributing baby items and pregnancy clothing for women in need.....all of that is work the church should--MUST do. I applaud those efforts and urge congregations to do more to create a culture that cherishes life in their own locality. But, if you want to stop abortion advocacy by the PC(USA) articles, letters, and complaining won't do it. You've simply must effect policy at the GA level.

It's easy to blame the Washington Office, or Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, or Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, or the Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns for their pro-choice, sometimes even pro-abortion advocacy. But the fact is as long as we as members of the PC(USA) leave in place the policy document written in 1992---they are just doing what the GA has asked them to do!

There is only one way to stop the advocacy and that is to effect change in the social witness policy on abortion in the PC(USA) by using the overture process. Seventeen years ago the General Assembly said that Presbyterians "don't know when human life begins." The document describes five possibilities for when human life begins from fertilization to birth. Only one of those holds up to the scrutiny of medical and scientific knowledge. With today's ultrasound technology this 1992 document paints Presbyterians as being embarrassingly ignorant.

The 1992 policy document on abortion fuels advocacy against any law that would limit a woman's 'right' to abortion at any time during her pregnancy or would limit access or funding for abortion. As long as we let that document stand as the PC(USA) policy on abortion, our denomination staff and leadership will continue to dishearten us with their advocacy.

Well, there is one other reason that PC(USA) has had a 'pro-choice' abortion policy in for the last 30 years. Many of us (yes, I am guilty on this count too) have taken a certain prideful stand, found comfort in being 'right' about abortion. Don't get me wrong, I believe that human life is sacred, set apart for God by his creation of us in his image and by the coming of Jesus Christ as an embryo and by his death for us on the cross. Human life has been stamped for eternity as precious to God and for that reason should never be 'terminated' or 'aborted' by the hand of man. But believing in the sanctity of human life is not enough and it does not make us more righteous than our 'pro-choice' opponents. We are required to take a stand. As a Presbyterian that means going to your session and your pastor, finding out where they stand on this and calling them to take action. That means sending an overture to your presbytery and, yes, maybe becoming a 'stink' in the nostrils of those who oppose you. It means spending your vacation to go to General Assembly and give testimony in committee. It means having hard conversations with your family and friends and being prepared for ministry to those in crisis pregnancy and those who have experienced abortions.

I've been working on being courageous, being a prophet, taking a stand. I'm getting better at it and I highly recommend that you try it. God will meet you at your first step! I guarantee it. You will be amazed at the boldness that follows obedience. If you want an ally, contact Presbyterians Pro-Life. We've been in the battle a long time and we can share some experience with you. But, make no mistake, it's not easy. It's not popular. But, as Ben Sheldon, then President of PPL, told me 20 years ago....it's the right thing to DO!


  1. Marie Bowen is absolutely correct in what she says. She is a prophet in a denomination that is going down the proverbial drain. I pray there are more and more Marie Bowens in the PCUSA. We are unfortunately a denomination filled with Spiritual infants with little or no backbone.

  2. Although a worthy goal rewriting this standard will not change the hearts of those who occupy the Washington Office and work to subvert the rights of the unborn in an act of injustice to the the weakest in our society.

  3. You are correct, Jim, that a change in policy does not equal a change in heart. Ultimately it is the later that we pray to see. The witness of the people of God to the truth must go hand in hand with the prayers of the people that God will soften hearts, and open minds to the truth that God's justice always seeks the good of the most vulnerable.
    Just one more note--you used the word 'standard' to describe the PC(USA) social witness policy on abortion. I would humbly submit that the standard is found in Scripture and it is unchanging. Policies are human constructs and in the PC(USA) they seem to be driven by the winds of culture rather than holding to the standards of Scripture.

  4. Thought you may like this short abortion story. I'll try to leave link, it it doesn't work the story is on front page of my blog. Knocking at the Door

  5. My husband and I are leaving the church after 30 years for just this reason. Our church has been hijacked by the left. It's over. It's gone. Get out now. The left has a death grip on our church and will drag it into hell with them. Seems a little dramatic. Maybe. But I'm just saying...

  6. I believe, one of the biggest reasons this has grown to where it is now is due to ignorance. I am a sitting ruler elder at a relatively conservative congregation and I just found out about this policy in august while researching roc for benefits extention to homosexuals. I have gone from shock and disbelief to feelings of guilt and dispair. It is clearly my fault because I was content with cruising along serving and not taking a political interest, but come on, who would sespect your evengelical church would so passionately endorse actively support abortion. Big life lesson here! Who knew all the years my wife and I were trying unsuccessfully to have children, our tithes and offerings where paying for abortion! I feel betrayed by my pastors. Tonight, (dec 4, 2012) this is coming out at our session meeting. I fear this may be the the issue that finally destroys or congregation's exsistance. Your prayers would be humbly welcomed
    Bruce Thompson
    Ruling Elder
    Zionsville Presbyterian Church

  7. Bruce, You are not alone in your shock and disappointment over the position of the church on abortion. One of the reasons PPL was formed was to provide support to those who, like me and all of those associated with Presbyterians Pro-Life, are horrified to think that their tithes and offerings might be used to abort the precious innocent life of an unborn child.

    Frankly, the Board of Pensions has not been interested in informing churches about abortion coverage or in communicating the process for relief of conscience. Over the years, the majority of churches that have requested ROC are those who have heard about it from PPL.

    If there is anything I can do to assist you in the process or just to offer encouragement, don't hesitate to contact me at ppl@ppl.org or call our office at 412-487-1990. Churches and denominations may err, but God never changes and Our Creator cherishes every life!

  8. My family grew up in the PCUSA in Pitman, N.J.; I was already far removed from it at 27 years old when I gave my heart to Jesus. The truth is that the PCUSA doesn't teach that the bible is the inerrant 'word of God',thus they've made up their own rules and has made up a god after their own image. Being Born- Again is a basic to being a Christian and can't be re-defined in any other way, salvation requiers it. Anyone who rejects being Born-Again is dead in his sins and will be capable to accept Godless views and defend them just as PCUSA has done. Andrew Schumann


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