Our History
Quotes: In the Words of PPL Special Event Speakers PDF Print E-mail

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.

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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.

SPPL logo1These 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

SPPL logo2 001The 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

Ben BWThe 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)

PPL Rose 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

Terry SchlossbergAt 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.

Don ElliottIn 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.

Marie smIn 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.



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