Can You Believe This? A Very Shocking Statistic (Part One)

By John Hawkins

Date: May 22, 2018

Category: Sharing the Message of Lutherans For Life, Abortion and the Church, Worldview and Culture, Christian Responsibility

A couple months ago, something came across my desk that I still find hard to believe.

Let me tell you about it.

Recently, the Pew Research Center surveyed American denominations on abortion. Among their findings was that of Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod members polled, 46% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the survey contained what I thought was even more unsettling news.

Among other church bodies polled, 30% of Southern Baptists similarly felt abortion should be legal while 66% didn’t. While I rejoice that a solid majority of their members are pro-life, I also found the contrast in percentages with the LCMS to be troubling.

Why? Because Lutherans pride themselves in making sure prospective members know what the Bible and their church teach before they join. This is done through confirmation, instruction classes, etc. This structured approach is much different than bringing members in via an altar call with the particulars of the faith intended to be shared at a later date.

If pro-life has taken stronger root in a Christian body with less training on its beliefs than a more formal one like the LCMS, it can only mean that the process has broken down somewhere (at least on life affirmation).

In short, either a Gospel-centered, life-affirming stance has (1) not been shared with those in the pews (or only very sparingly), or if it has, it’s (2) been forgotten or rejected by its members.

Regarding (1), I’ve observed in the four years I’ve been with LFL a lack of sharing can take generally one of two scenarios: (A) the congregation considers the subject of abortion to be “untouchable” therein or (B) life affirmation is so far on the back burner it might as well not be there at all.

A lot of factors can be part of this. In some instances, there are both longstanding pro-life and pro-choice factions in the church along with concern that assertively embracing the former will split the congregation. In some cases, pro-life folks want to do something in their church but meet resistance from the pastor or vice versa. (Does this describe your church?)

Another factor can be concern for persons in the parish who have participated in an abortion decision and that old and serious wounds will be reopened. So, the subject is never mentioned. The result is additional ladies in the pew may decide to terminate their pregnancy because reasons not to are never shared.

Still other churches I perceive don’t take a pro-life stance because they feel this will discourage unchurched persons from exploring their congregation or joining it. (Personally, I don’t understand why outreach to singularly save souls takes precedence over trying to save lives and souls.) Which leads to the question: is it possible to be confirmed as an adult in an LCMS congregation and not know it’s pro-life? Are there instruction classes where this subject is never mentioned? (How is this handled at your church?)

Even more tragically, is it possible as a teenager to be confirmed and not know that life affirmation is taught by the Bible and the church? Fortunately, some data indicates this is less likely. According to the 2016 LCMS National Youth Gathering Survey, 76.2% said they were pro-life. So, the message may be getting through to more of our teens than adults. (We can praise God for this!)

Regarding scenario B, this is where life affirmation is not ignored but put on the back burner—way back. It reminds me of a pundit’s scenario once regarding Christianity. It goes like this: if the government was overthrown and a brutal, anti-Christian dictatorship took over and hauled you before one of their courts and accused you of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty? The answer is that you hope so.

A pro-life “take-off” on that could be that while an LCMS congregation supports the pro-life position of the Synod, nobody can remember the last time Life Sunday was observed, either LFL or another pro-life group had a display in the narthex, a life-affirming sermon was preached, anyone from the parish volunteered at the local pregnancy center (or it was advertised in the church newsletter that help was needed), the website or literature rack displayed anything to indicate the church affirmed life, and last but not least, the congregation hosted or at least had some members who were active in an LFL Life Chapter/Team, pregnancy center, Right to Life group, etc. (or financially supported one or more of the same).

In short, no one would ever be counseled to get an abortion at this church, but no one is going to take leadership in trying to persuade anybody in the pews who might be among the 46% of pro-choice folks to change their minds, either.

The solution in either scenario, of course, is to prayerfully embrace one and hopefully several of the approaches above as part of either a first-time or renewed commitment to Gospel-centered life affirmation. The reason why? Because every Lutheran Church that believes life begins at conception has a duty to witness Gospel-centered life affirmation beginning with their own members.

But what about situations where the church is doing its job in the pro-life arena and still finds it has members that are directly or indirectly supporting a pro-choice position?

That will be discussed in Part Two in the next issue of LifeDate. In the meantime, LFL has a lot of work to do to try to assist churches, its Life Chapters and Life Teams, and its members win over many of our own people along with others. We also need you to partner with us! If you have not yet given in 2018, can you help us at this time? Many thanks in Christ.

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