“We value life from the bottom up” (but only some lives) PDF Print E-mail
Written by The Rev. P.J. Southam   

Calvin-quoteThe Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Washington Office of Public Witness is on a tour of 52 presbyteries. On Thursday June 20 he was the featured guest speaker at the meeting of Missouri Union Presbytery in Jefferson City, Missouri. He spoke for approximately 30 minutes, took questions for another 30, and was also the preacher during the presbytery meetings worship.

Early in his remarks Rev. Nelson said that he shared John Calvin's view that we are all called by Christ to go out and preach and teach the gospel, and that the gospel is connected to the public square. He said that we cannot be afraid to engage the public square, and that Jesus Christ died a political death.

During his talk Rev. Nelson explained that he represents the Presbyterian Mission Agency in advocating for compassion, peace, and justice with members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He said that his office fought for the Violence Against Women Act, and in advocating for health care for all.

Nelson said, "We value life not from the top down, but from the bottom up." He also said that he only advocates for General Assembly approved policies.

During the Question and Answer time I asked Rev. Nelson: "I was glad to hear you say that you value life from the bottom up, and that you advocate only for policies approved by the G.A. General Assembly policy is that preborn children at the gestational age of viability outside the womb, which is approximately 22 to 24 weeks gestation, should not be aborted but protected. Please tell me how you advocated for and will advocate for the recent bill that passed the House that would ban abortions past 20 weeks gestation, which is certainly in line with the G.A. policy."

I was not surprised that Rev. Nelson never answered my question directly. Instead he spoke at length about how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has "wrestled for decades" with the abortion issue. He went on to say that "We are struggling with this issue. We believe women have the right to an abortion, but abortion as last resort, not as birth control. We are concerned about rape. A woman ought not to lose her mind carrying that child. And we are in favor of abortion for health reasons. We have to take all of these into account as we fashion a pastoral response." Obviously, the Washington Office of Public Witness did not advocate for this particular General Assembly policy.

Equally obviously, Rev. Nelson will refer to John Calvin when it suits his purposes, but not when he disagrees. John Calvin wrote against the murder that is abortion.

The Rev. P.J. Southam is pastor of Big Creek Presbyterian Church in Hannibal, MO and a member of the Board of Directors of Presbyterians Pro-Life.


John Calvin, commenting on Exodus 21:22-25:

The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being (homo), and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.




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