During and following the 225th PC(USA) General Assembly (2022), PPL fielded several inquiries from elder commissioners and others who seeking guidance in responding to HSB-11, something considered by most pro-life members to be an appalling overreach and misrepresentation of both Scripture and PC(USA) standards concerning the value of human life. Former Executive Director and current Administrative Director Marie Bowen monitored the process, and as a veteran of past PC(USA) debates on life issues, used her considerable historical memory to assist those inquirers. What follows is her response to one of those concerned PC(USA) members. We are certain there are more people out there with similar questions who will benefit from what she shared:
There is a 50-year history in the PCUSA of turning away from scriptural teaching on the value of human life at its earliest beginnings. In those years many have tried to turn the trajectory of the denomination back to its strong roots in the Sovereignty of God as Creator and His ownership of every human life based on two great truths:
1. We are each created in the image of God (see Mark 12:13-17) where Jesus makes it clear that humans (who bear God's image) belong to God. We are not our own and were never intended to assert rampant personal autonomy over our lives.
2. We have been purchased at a great price. We are not our own. God sent his Son to die for human beings--we are incredibly precious to God. That gives each human being at every stage of development priceless value.
Not only has the church strayed from those two points, but we have followed the culture in believing that children are a burden rather than a heritage and a blessing from God. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
The long disobedience of the PCUSA on the topic of the abortion of unborn human life has resulted in a lack of understanding of what is true and holy. So "pregnant people" are touted as "full moral agents, created in the image of God" without the understanding of scripture that makes clear the meaning of being in his image is that we belong to God and not to ourselves. We are not "full moral agents" but instead we are sinners with no righteousness outside of Christ. We have no "moral capacity to decide whether to continue or end any given pregnancy". Instead, we have a complete dearth of understanding that every pregnancy story in the Bible views the child as a blessing from God with a purpose for being an agent of God's plan in the world.
Scripture is very clear from cover to cover that human beings have no right to take the life of another human being. Each one is set apart for God and the shedding of the blood of the innocent is cause for a curse upon the one who sheds blood and upon the land itself and all those who live in it. Yet HSB-11 euphemistically calls abortion "essential healthcare" and calls the church to denounce all those who would put limits on full access to abortion. Language like "forced pregnancy" and "violation of bodily autonomy" are inflammatory overspeak since only somewhere around 1% of pregnancies result from rape and incest combined.
HSB-11 calls the church to advocate for no limits on either contraceptive or abortion "care" (a blatant misnomer for an act that kills a human being in the case of abortion). Contraception and abortion should never be dealt with together in the same sentence. Though some contraceptives are abortifacient in the way they work, others are not. That difference should be clear in any document produced by a denomination and meant to provide guidance for the people of God.
HSB-11 seeks to mobilize the church to advocate for totally unrestricted, unlimited, access to abortion, making every woman equal with God in deciding whether her child lives or dies.
There is no mention of the father or any guidance that he should be included in the decision. There is no mention of alternatives to abortion such as adoption; there is no call to the church to provide for women who need financial, emotional, and spiritual support to have courage and means to give life to their child. There is no suggestion that a church might pay a woman's medical expenses or provide free daycare for children whose mothers need assistance; no loving Christian support, no care that provides hope, no joyful embrace of the child and mother as the body of Christ is even hinted ---only advocacy for an egregious evil act that takes a human life.
Other ways to respond -
Anyone can write an overture to the next General Assembly in 2026 and PPL can help you with that.
Anyone can request that their Presbytery appoint one church to be a Resource Center for Alternatives to Abortion (1986 General Assembly Action). PPL can help you with that too.
Anyone can start a life team in your own congregation--a small group of willing people who are committed to doing whatever it takes to assist a woman who is pregnant with whatever she needs for as long as she needs. We can give you some guidelines on how to start.
You can also write about your concerns to your Session Stated Clerk, Your Presbytery Stated Clerk and the Denomination's Stated Clerk, Dr. Herbert Nelson II.
Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions you have or give me a call at the number below. Our reason for existence is to equip you to be a champion of human life at every stage. Let us know how we can help you better.