In the words of PPL’s event speakers over the years…
Mother Teresa, 1988
Neither Christians nor non-Christians have the right to destroy life; it doesn’t matter what kind of child it is. It is a child of God created for greater things; to love and be loved. The gift of God…And if they don’t want the child, then they can give it to me. I want it.
The little unborn child in the womb of the mother is special to our Lord. For that little one God has died on the cross to redeem that child. And for us who know what that crucifixion means it should increase in us the desire and the determination to save that unborn child.
Richard Neuhaus, 1989
Let the church be the church…This needs to be said and said as clearly as possible, ‘to deny that another human being by virtue of not being sentient, viable…is not a brother or a sister for whom I am responsible…is heresy.’ ….Let it begin with the churches…If not with the churches, where else?
Terry Schlossberg, 1990
The Church languishes because it believes the world too much and the Sovereign Lord too little. Mainline Protestantism today is so caught up in a desire to be ‘relevant’ that it has been co-opted by the spirit of the age, and has added its approval to changing the standard to meet the circumstances where they are.
The Church’s policy exchanges the Word of God for individual conscience that must find its own truth for each new set of circumstances.
The division in our church over abortion and other moral issues is fundamentally a division…over the authority of Scripture.
Cardinal O-Connor, 1991
The most important ‘issue’ in religion and public life is the human person…Only a restoration of our belief in the sacredness of every human person will allow us to renew our families, to be serious and effective in addressing problems of poverty, racism, homelessness, drugs, abortion, and discrimination of every iind. The gospel of Christ demands nothing less of us.” (First Things, March 1990)
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, 1992
How anyone in 1992 can deny that life begins at fertilization is unimaginable to me as a physician. We do this every day [in vitro fertilization], and we know exactly when the life-clock starts.
Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier, 1993
Abortion denies the church’s earliest, central, most enduring confession: that Jesus Christ alone is Lord over all in heaven and on earth….The worst thing we could possibly do as we look to the future would be to give up the battle against abortion. For then there would be no one to say no to the killing, no one to tell that God wants so much for all of his children to live. Evil takes over when good people do nothing, and we shall not let that happen.
…So preach and teach and talk and live the Gospel, good Christian friends. For that message, that good news, is the answer, the final answer, to the slaughter of abortion.
Sue Cyre, 1994
…Life issues of abortion and euthanasia as well as sexual practice—which the Church has struggled with for many years, cannot be separated from the first table of the Law. How we act is directly related to what we believe about God.
Thomas A. Miller, M.D., 1995
The only medically and scientifically accurate and acceptable definition for when a human life begins is at conception….A common misunderstanding is that the zygote possesses only potential human life rather than actual human life. From a scientific standpoint, this assumption is invalid. Neither the egg nor the sperm is a human being. Only when the egg and sperm unite to form the zygote does a new human life begin…It is incomprehensible that our Church, which should love life and do everything in its power to preserve life, condones the intentional killing of unborn children by abortion and justifies that killing by suggesting that there is no agreement as to when a human life begins.
Charles Colson, 1996
Something far more than abortion is at stake. And to understand it you have to understand what is at the root of the division in our society today. It isn’t a division over “choice.” “Choice” is a morally neutral term. You can choose good or bad. The division is over the definitions of liberty. It’s over whether we really have an objective moral order we live by or whether we simply make up our own rules. At root, it’s about truth…
What is going on friends, brothers and sisters, is a clash of world views, how we view meaning and reality.
William Willimon, 1999
As Christians we believe that we have been charged by God to love and to care for every human life, especially the most vulnerable…[T]hose who are “non-productive,” “dependent,” and “needy” deserve our special attention because they are the ones who are most likely to be disposed of by this society. They live as truthful reminders of who we really are…
Thomas Torrance, 2000
...As Christians our regard for the unborn and born alike must surely be governed by our commitment to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Creator and Lord of every human being, who was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born to be the brother and Redeemer of humankind.
Jean Wright, M.D., 2002
Unborn infants have pain receptors on their face by 7 weeks of development, and over their entire body by the 20th week of gestation in the same or greater density than adults…The fibers and substances needed to feel pain are present; but the mechanisms needed to modulate and tone down the response to pain are poorly developed….If a pre-born child requires anesthesia for fetal surgery, then shouldn’t the logical extension be that children undergoing abortion also feel pain—and would have the same requirements for anesthesia?
Frederica Mathewes-Green, 2004
There is a tremendous sadness, loneliness in the cry, ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg…The truth, which our pro-choice friends know too well, is this: abortion hurts…abortion is not liberation; it is a bizarre new form of oppression.
Living without abortion means restoring that sexual balance-of-power with respect for women’s need for commitment and security—in short, abstinence before and fidelity within marriage.
Terry Schlossberg, 2006
God creates us and the New Testament concludes, therefore that “You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” …Along with this purposeful caring for us comes the biblical teaching to care for each other….And what is it that God expects…to “preserve the life of ourselves and others…comforting and …protecting and defending the innocent.”
This…would be a great year for the PC(USA) to reclaim the truth on this matter of abortion…to begin offering hope and healing to the women whose lives have been shattered by abortion and by the guilt they live with. To offer the gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to all men and women in the church’s distinctive calling.
David Swanson, 2010
God has purposed our lives...life has purpose from the very beginning. If we don't know when life begins shouldn't we protect it as far back as possible--from the very beginning? We are called to protect the lives of the unborn--those that cannot protect themselves.
Lois Ann Atkinson is the Christian Education Director at Fairview Presbyterian Church in Glenmoore, where her husband Mark is pastor. She has served on the PPL Board of Directors since 2007, serving in PPL's hospitality and booth at General Assemblies. She and Mark are the parents of 3 young adult children.
Lowell Avery is Pastor of Cleveland Drive Presbyterian Church in Cheektowaga, NY. He serves on the Nominating Committee of the Synod of the Northeast and on the Presbytery of Western NY's Church Development Committee.
Page Brenner has been a member of the PPL Board of Directors since 1991, serving actively in the Baltimore PPL Chapter before moving to Seattle a few years ago. Page coordinates all of PPL's events at General Assemblies and is an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, WA. Page is a retired (but working) Pediatric Nurse and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.
Patty June has been a Board member of PPL since 1986. She is a member of First Presbyterian in Moultrie Georgia where she serves on the Missions Committee and teaches 4th-5th grade Sunday School. She has been a pediatrician in south Georgia since returning from serving as a PCUSA missionary in Bangladesh from 1980-84.
Di Lupton and her husband Chuck are active elders of First Presbyterian Church in Olathe, Kansas. Di, who has been with PPL since 1992, coordinates PPL displays at General Assemblies and other large gatherings of Presbyterians and she is one of the founding leaders of the Heartland PPL Chapter. She has a degree in Social Work and has been active in many aspects of pro-life volunteer work and ministry over the years, including a home for pregnant teens; director of a crisis pregnancy center, and abortion recovery Bible studies.
Justin Lee Marple is the teaching shepherd (i.e., pastor) at Niagara Presbyterian Church in Niagara Falls, New York. He is married to Leia and the father of two children Josiah and Arwen. Justin is a graduate of Gettysburg College (Gettysburg, PA) and Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA). He previously served a yoked call to Peter Creek and Shepard Memorial Presbyterian Churches in eastern Kentucky. You can find out much more on his website: http://revmarple.com.
Andy Nagel is Associate Pastor of Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, MD. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Princeton Theological Seminary. He is married and the father of two boys, and currently pursuing the adoption of a child with Down Syndrome.
Jack Sharpe serves as Vice President for Internal and Legal Affairs for PPL and is an attorney in Chambersburg, PA. He and his wife Renee are the parents of three children. Jack is an active member of Presbyterian Church of Falling Spring and has served on PPL's GA team for a number of years.
John Sheldon serves as current President of PPL's Board of Directors, beginning that role in 2007. He is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ocean City, New Jersey where he lives with his wife Laurie. They are parents of nine children. John was a commissioner to the General Assembly in 2006.
Terry Simm is the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Sibley, IA. This is the fourth year Terry has served on the board of the PPL, but has been connected with them for several years. Terry has been a Youth Advisory Delegate to General Assembly in 1975, a Theological Advisory Delegate to GA in 1995, and minister commission to the GA in 2008. He is a graduate of the University of Dubuque and the Dubuque Theological Seminary (Dubuque, IA). Terry and his wife have three children, Sara married to Jake Bartholomew, Scott married to Bethany and they have two children, Brielle and Vivian, and Samantha.
P.J. Southam is the pastor of the Big Creek Presbyterian Church in Missouri. He has been a member of the board of directors of PPL since 2008. He is the author of "How to Speak Presbyterian", one of the most widely reprinted articles from Presbyterians Today Magazine, and the book The Presbyterian Heritage Daily Devotional. He is an adjunct instructor at Hannibal LaGrange University, and a volunteer chaplain at Hannibal Regional Hospital. He has been married to Sue for twenty-four years.
Mary Van Driest has been on the Presbyterians Pro Life Board of Directors since 2001. At General Assembly, Mary's primary responsibility is hosting the Hospitality Room for PPL's team and others. Mary serves on the Executive Board as Sr. Vice President. She and her husband Phil are parents to 4 adult children and 4 grandchildren. Mary says she has always been pro-life, but adds, "PPL helped me think it through theologically, giving a firm foundation for respecting and supporting every life simply because all are created in the image of God."
Scott Wiest serves as the Pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church in St. Mary's, PA. He is married to Sharon and the father of eight. Scott has served on the board of PPL since 2007, participating in PPL's GA team each year since then. He is active in his presbytery and in working to end abortion coverage by the PCUSA Medical Benefits Plan.
Marie Bowen began her involvement with Presbyterians Pro-Life as a volunteer in 1988 and became the Executive Director of PPL in 2005. A former public school music teacher, Marie continues to be active as a church musician. She is an Elder at Elfinwild Presbyterian Church in Glenshaw, PA. Marie and her husband Roland are parents to three grown men and grandparents to one beautiful little boy. She is the author of a Bible Study, Pregnant With Promise, published in 2010.
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A Short History of Presbyterians Pro-Life
Origin of PPL
Presbyterians Pro-Life probably had its origin in a discussion between Presbyterian Church (USA) ministers at a young ministers' conference at Montreat, NC in October 1976. The Rev. Bruce Davis, then of Thompson, Georgia and the Rev. Andrew White, then of Bristol Tennessee, discovered a mutual concern about the stance toward abortion then current in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. A third young pastor, the Rev. Thomas Warren, then of Memphis, Tennessee was also involved in this concern and sometime in the spring of 1978 a bank account in the name of "Southern Presbyterians Pro-Life" was established.
These young men discovered a concerned person by the name of Mrs. Eleanor Blizzard of Columbia, SC who sent a letter to the editor of the Presbyterian Survey expressing a desire to see a pro-life witness made in the Southern Presbyterian Church. The first official meeting of this group was held at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia on March 21, 1979 where "Presbyterians Pro-Life" was officially chartered and formed. Present were Andy White (Bristol, TN), Tommy Warren (Memphis, TN), Eleanor Blizzard (Shandon Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC), Marilyn Fanning and Ken Thomas (Rivermont Presbyterian Church, Lynchburg, VA), Margaret Huff, (Meadowview Presbyterian Church, Bristol, TN), Bruce Davis, (Thomson Presbyterian Church, Thomson, GA), Dan Deaton, (South Aiken Presbyterian Church, Aiken, SC). The officers elected at that meeting were:
Eleanor Blizzard, Chairman,
Andy White, Vice Chairman,
Tommy Warren, Secretary, and
Bruce Davis, Treasurer.
First PPL logo developed
The first logo (the cross flanked by the alpha and omega within the circle of life) was adopted and the first statement of purpose was also drafted and approved. This early statement of purpose, although modified in places, is still carried by the organization.
The board met for its second meeting on September 3 and 4 at Pine Lodge, in Montreat in 1979 and the gathering of pastors and lay persons continued. It was decided then, September 1979, that the first annual conference of Presbyterians Pro-Life would be held April 12, 1980 in Montreat, and the Rev. Curtis Young of the Christian Action Council in Washington, D.C. was invited to come and speak. Meetings were held later that year at Columbia Seminary, at Chattanooga, TN, and Bristol, TN. In March 1981, a PPL conference was held in Atlanta with Dr. Harold O.J. Brown speaking. There were approximately 50 people in attendance. In 1982 and 1983, Board meetings were held in Thomson, GA, Lynchburg, VA, Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA. On March 3-4, 1983 the largest gathering theretofore was held at the Clairmont Church in Decatur, GA, with over 100 people present. With the reunion of the PCUS and the UPCUSA coming, it was decided to seek to expand the work of PPL to include people who were a part of the UP denomination.
At the 1983 General Assembly, PPL was granted permission by the Presbyterian Lay Committee to distribute its pamphlets from the Presbyterian Lay Committee booth at the Assembly. This took place again at the 1984 Phoenix Assembly. By that time it was decided that PPL would seek "Chapter XXCIII" status with the office of the General Assembly (later, "Chapter IX") and in time for the 1985 Indianapolis Assembly, PPL was able to have its own display booth in the exhibit area.
Early leadership of PPL
The Rev. William T. Wing, Jr. served as president in the early 80's and in 1984 the Rev. Ben D. Sheldon was asked to serve PPL as president as the base expanded to include persons from both the (former) Presbyterian Church US and the (former) United Presbyterian Church USA. Ben Sheldon was president continuously until 1995, except for a brief year's period when the Rev. Dr. Zoltan Phillips was president. Mr. Phillips' health necessitated his resignation and Rev. Sheldon was asked to resume the presidency. (Ben continues to serve on the board of PPL as President Emeritus)
What Presbyterians Pro-Life has sought to emphasize has been the historic stand for the sanctity of human life which was always a part of the witness of the Presbyterian Church. We believe that the documents finally adopted by the 1983 reunion Assembly in Atlanta (Covenant and Creation: Theological Reflections on Contraception and Abortion) represented an aberration and a departure from the historic stance of the church, a switch made with little consultation with the grass roots of the church and scarcely representing where the majority of Presbyterians were in their thinking about abortion. Above all the new position was without the support of Scripture.
Beginning with the 1984 Assembly, PPL has had a vigorous presence at the G.A. and made significant inroads into the official stand of the denomination at the 1985 Indianapolis Assembly, the 1986 Minneapolis meeting, the 1987 Biloxi gathering (through that seemed to many within PPL as a "set-back" year), and finally, with the appearance of Mother Teresa under PPL auspices at the 1988 St. Louis Assembly, a major victory was seen in the decision of the G.A. to authorize a new study of the issue.
PPL's goal has always been to educate Presbyterians about the true significance of abortion, that it is the taking of a human life, and to seek through the enlightened consciences of the members' of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to bring about a change by constitutional procedures. Its educational ministries include the publication of a series of pamphlets, a series of occasional papers, and a periodic newsletter. Also at the General Assembly, it has produced a daily newsletter, Daily Delivery.
Executive brings new growth
At the board meeting held in Memphis in the fall of 1986 it was decided to invite Mrs. Terry Schlossberg of Minneapolis to become PPL's first full-time paid staff person. She was hired with the title of Executive Administrator, and under her guidance and leadership, PPL grew in its effectiveness and outreach. Dozens of local chapters were formed under her guidance, and PPL has a voice that is heard across the denomination with respect (and sometimes with trembling!). Mrs. Schlossberg has overseen the moving of the PPL offices and mailing address from Decatur, GA to Minneapolis and then to Burke, Virginia. Under her editorial guidance, the PPL News expanded to a mailing list of approximately 40,000 people. This latter figure may be compared with the number of approximately 40-50 people who were on the original list compiled by the group who met in Decatur, GA in March 1979.
From 1989 to 1992, PPL was actively engaged in monitoring the meetings of the task force studying abortion and in national dialogues held over the next 3 years. In 1992 the PPL GA team was active at the General Assembly in Minneapolis that adopted what is still the major policy document on abortion in the PC(USA), Problem Pregnancies and Abortion. The document attempts to incorporate all views on abortion. It says Presbyterians do not have agreement on when life begins, but lists five possible views of when human life might begin. It agrees that whenever human life does begin, it is a sin to take that life. When it comes to public policy, however the policy is clearly pro-choice. It states there should be no laws restricting abortion or abortion funding. The attempts to accommodate multiple views held by those within the denomination results in a confusion that continues to be the basis from which the denomination lobbies for abortion rights.
In the years since 1992, PPL has continued to be a presence and a witness for life at every General Assembly. The Rev. Don Elliott, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Corinth, Mississippi was elected president of the PPL Board of Directors in 1995 and served until June of 2007. Under the dynamic leadership of Don Elliott and Terry Schlossberg position papers were developed on euthanasia, stem cell research and sexuality. Ministry materials promoting adoption, abstinence, post-abortion ministry, and an adult curriculum on life were written and published. PPL's persistence was largely responsible for the Board of Pensions developing a Relief of Conscience plan for the PC(USA)'s Medical Benefits Plan so that the dues of pro-life churches and individuals would not be used to pay for abortions. Mrs. Terry Schlossberg and Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier co-authored a book on abortion and the marks of the church, Not My Own.
In June of 2005, Mrs. Terry Schlossberg retired from her position as Executive Director of PPL, having established the organization as a well-respected renewal force within the PC(USA). Mrs. Marie Bowen was called as Executive Director and the office was moved to Pittsburgh, PA. At the 2006 General Assembly a statement on late-term abortion was approved that "the lives of viable unborn babies---those able to survive outside the womb if delivered---ought to be preserved and cared for and not to aborted."
With a genuinely representative board of men and women, both clergy and lay, from a wide spectrum of the denomination, north, south, east and west, PPL is poised for impacting this church for the cause of the sacred value of all human life and to continue to work for change until the Presbyterian Church (USA) embraces a position that truly regards all human life as sacred and worthy John Sheldon Photoof protection and other Reformed bodies are built and equipped to create a culture that cherishes human life. The Rev. John Sheldon, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ocean City, New Jersey, serves currently as President of the Board of Directors.
In 2009 PPL celebrated 30 years of faithful witness in upholding the sanctity of human life from fertilization until natural death.