The unwanted child (born/unborn) —WWJD? PDF Print E-mail

Eddel-compositNo child is truly 'unwanted.' God has created every child for a purpose. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." What might happen if every presbytery responded to 'unwanted' children like Jesus?

The Presbytery of South Alabama took time during their two day August presbytery meeting to consider ways they might act like Jesus toward unwanted children, born and unborn.

The Presbytery was surprised by the disapproval of the overture they sent to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) asking for a two year reflection on the plight of unwanted children. The overture included a request for the Stated Clerk to speak out against the killing of infants born alive in an abortion attempt. It would have established a committee to review current abortion policy, make suggestions for new policy if they saw a need, and evaluate monetary and in kind support for "pro-life" and "pro-choice" groups within and outside the denomination. So focused were commissioners on defeating any possible threat to the 1992 policy statement they even rejected a substitute motion calling for the church to prayerfully reflect on the lives of unwanted children born and unborn. The negative reception by GA commissioners shocked presbytery pastors and staff who observed the GA's action to disapprove the overture by a vote of 465 to 133. In so doing they acted in a manner directly contrary to what Jesus would do, and in fact did, during his ministry on earth.

The decision of the GA did not deter the churches of the presbytery, however, from putting into action a similar resolution adopted in their own presbytery. The Presbytery of South Alabama acted to hold a substantial conversation about ministry to children, born and unborn, who are unwanted by society. They set aside a significant portion of their August meeting to talk about the needs of pregnant mothers and unwanted children in their own communities and to brainstorm how their own congregations might meet those needs through ministry. PPL Executive Director, Marie Bowen, was invited to preach two sermons during the Friday and Saturday worship services of the two day meeting. Worship was followed Friday evening by a 50 minute small group discussion. Following Saturday morning worship four presbytery members conducted a 45 minute forum prior to small groups continuing their discussion. On the panel were: an adoptive mother, a woman who grew up with 30 foster brothers, a young chaplain called in to minister to a woman who had scheduled an abortion, and a pastor who was adopted. Each shared personal stories of the impact of ministry to 'unwanted' children through adoption and foster care, or simply walking alongside a woman making pregnancy decisions, even grieving an abortion decision with her and loving her beyond that decision.

Leaders of the small group attended a training prior to the meeting and helped the group stay focused on ministry ideas rather than disagreements about the morality or legality of abortion. Questions led participants to share what they were doing (if anything) in their own congregation to minister to women in unplanned pregnancies who had need. Other questions asked about participation in foster care or support ministries to children in their communities who are orphaned, neglected, or 'unwanted' by society.

Changing patterned habits of thinking were not easy

The habit of discussing abortion as a political issue was strong. Some expressed that the church should not "waste" time with this 'issue' when so many were dying of gun violence. [In the United States the number of deaths per year from gun violence is 30,000. The number of deaths by abortion is conservatively 1.06 million annually.] A few could not get past seeing abortion as a "political issue" long enough to consider the children who are aborted or who are unwanted, neglected, or abused and placed in foster care without the permanence of a loving Christian family. Others began to catch a vision for how their local congregation could engage in care ministry to unwanted children, born and unborn, by partnering with a local pregnancy center or foster care agency, or by encouraging adoption, or by supporting single women in unplanned pregnancies or families parenting children with special needs. Those stuck in a "these children should never have been born" and therefore "abortion is necessary" mode (or more honestly, "it's not my problem." "I don't want the children either") exude the attitude that is most disturbing from leaders in the church. It is far from the demeanor of Jesus toward children.

In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them." Sister Teresa echoed that sentiment at a National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, when she said, "Anybody who doesn't want the child, please give it to me. I want the child." If we love Jesus our hearts will resonate with his love for children. If the General Assembly of the PCUSA does not want children, born and unborn, enough to prayerfully reflect on their needs for two years—perhaps presbytery by presbytery followers of Jesus can have that reflection and prayerfully respond in ways that love children, born and unborn, as Jesus loves. Perhaps you are the one Jesus is calling to start the conversation in your presbytery or in your congregation. If your presbytery refuses to have the conversation, ask your congregation. As Executive Director of PPL, I will travel to any presbytery to speak for expenses only as will many of the members of the PPL Board of Directors. I'm sure Executive Presbyter, Samford Turner and others of the Presbytery of South Alabama would be happy to share how they planned this meeting, how they trained small group leaders, and the questions that were supplied for small group discussion.

Becoming like Jesus

So, the GA said no to a two year reflection on the plight of unwanted children. So the GA refused to speak out against infanticide in cases when late-term abortions fail. So the GA won't review its current policy on abortion or how it assists "pro-life" or "pro-choice" groups. Does any of that matter as much as it matters how you as an individual and your church as a congregation respond to the needs of unwanted children in your community? Let's just do it! Welcome the children and do not abort them. Welcome their mothers and help them see a future and a hope for their child and for themselves. Be like Jesus!

 

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