Sermon on the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill Sunday 16th June 2013
Speak Lord that I may speak your word to day.
Today as a staff team we want to preach about the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill – in other words “The Abortion Issue”. We feel compelled to do so because it is an issue which the church has a deep interest in because of our understanding of the Sanctity of Life”.
- We are also doing so because in the survey conducted recently within the Union some asked for more sermons on live issues. And we want to respond to that by saying, that if we have neglected this area it is because:
- 10/15 minutes is hardly long enough to really present these issues
- We wrestle with these matters ourselves and we find it no easier than church members to speak clearly, without being simplistic, and in this case and others, pastorally insensitive. So sensitive that it has divided a nation for 30 years.
SANCTITY OF LIFE
First of all let’s just put into one sentence what we mean by the Sanctity of Life at a very simple level: ie; that all of life is special because it given to us as a gift from God, and that in return we need to protect it, respect it (even when aspects of that life trouble us), and acknowledge that only God can choose when life ends.
It is this the Church holds onto. While these are views that are enshrined in the Bible, the church believes they provide the very air that we need to breathe as a human race. So the church says to the world: this message is not only for the faith community but for everyone on this planet. We believe that God cares for the whole of the world and our lives, and therefore the church has a role of being a voice to speak into issues about the sanctity of life.
THE CHURCH OF IRELAND VIEW
Now in Ireland the Roman Catholic church is the Christian voice that is heard the loudest. What does the C of I have to say? Simply it can be expressed in the submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children on Thursday 10 January 2013, as part of three days of public hearings on the implementation of the Government decision following the publication of the Expert Group Report.
“The Church of Ireland opposes abortion in principle but acknowledges that there are exceptional cases of ‘strict and undeniable medical necessity’ where it is and should be an option.
There is a variety of opinion within the Church of Ireland on what constitutes ‘exceptional cases’ but agreement that it includes circumstances where the continuation of the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother” – Full Text available here
The major difference between the Roman Catholic position and the Church of Ireland…The Anglican Church doesn’t tell you the conclusion you should reach but invites you to participate and journey on this and all sorts of ethical and moral issues guided by 4 sources to make decisions. They are:
Over time these 4 sources interact with each other, and cause decisions to be made which previous generations of the church may have disagreed with. However, as technology, society and thought have developed the church has to re-engage with the debate and find out what we need to say in our day, in our place.
THE BIBLE: Luke 7 v 36 to 50
Let’s take the Bible and the Gospel of the day (RCL Year C Proper 6) and those words of Jesus to Simon “Do you see this woman?”
This story has nothing to say about the protection of life during pregnancy, but everything to say about how we can have all the correct moral standing, right doctrine in the world, be absolutely convinced about the rightness of our convictions, and still not see individuals for who they are. I will come back to this later. What I want to do now, is ask the question: Do we see: this woman, this man etc and what might lie behind their lives. Do we feel the tensions they experience, the contexts in which they find themselves etc.
What I want to do is give us snapshots of stories I’ve heard personally and from the media which touch on the debate, to help us in trying to see beyond our preconceptions.
- Do we see the woman who many years ago felt on admission to hospital because her pregnancy was running into difficulties, that the medical team were more concerned about saving her baby than herself?
- Do we see the 16 year old girl who has been trafficked into a prostitution ring, getting pregnant and seeking a termination?
- Do we see the young doctor longing to be an obstetrician in England only to be rejected because he refused to kill babies?
- Do we see the woman who travels to London for an abortion because it affects her career plans and lifestyles and she has three children already?
- Do we see our politicians receiving threatening messages written in blood?
- Do we see the dilemma of being a catholic but not a catholic TD/ Taoiseach?
- What do we see from these images? Do we look beyond? Do we see them as Christ does?
“Have you seen this woman?” Jesus said to Simon. Simon had condemned before understanding. And not only that, he failed to understand that Jesus as a prophet, a “holy man” didn’t condemn her. From Simon we only hear the voice of condemnation. In the woman by her lavish love for Christ, we see the power of God’s grace that at some point had reached deeply into her, because Jesus had looked beyond her image as a woman of ill repute. She had discovered that her previous life was like living like a fish out of water and found love through those words of not just a prophet, but the Son of God: “Your sins are forgiven.”
And in this debate about the lives of mother and baby we need to look beyond and sadly so many Christians all too often seem to be taking Simon’s side. The churches concern for what is right is not heard, because it only seems to condemn. In its battle with the forces at work in our world it is using the blunt instrument of doctrinal certainty, instead of pointing to the lavish grace of Christ.
CHRISTIAN HERITAGE UNDER THREAT
In fairness they are in a battle which all Christians and churches share. There are powerful forces at work. The secular view that wants to ridicule Christian beliefs as of a bygone age, the twisted women’s right voices that see it as a entitlement to be able to abort a baby so that they can be equal to men in the choices and lifestyles they aspire to.
There are forces at work in the media who take the unfortunate and regretted words of a midwife in the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar about Ireland as a catholic country doesn’t allow abortion, and sets ablaze the kind of forest fire the book of James speaks of in Chapter 3 “The tongue is also a fire … it sets the whole course of one’s life on fire….” The media has set the nation on fire by focussing on the stories that polarise and douses the voices of moderation and the views of the church, and by extension the fire of the Holy Spirit who wants to speak of the politics of forgiveness. Because these voices, don’t sell newspapers and create advertising revenue.
We also see in this debate in Ireland the reduction in power of the church over the state …battles long lost in Europe
Now today Christians everywhere need to unite around a different approach.
FAULT LINES OF SOCIETY
With changes between church and state, huge cultural shifts that are removed from the idea of the sanctity of life, fault lines are emerging right across society, the church needs to become a prophetic people. This is to be our destiny today as it was for example with Jeremiah in the Old Testament, called like all prophets to speak into the needs of his day .Called even before he consciously knew. Called from within the womb where God began to shape him and form him so wonderfully (Jeremiah 1 and Psalm 139) to fulfil that destiny, God’s purpose for His Word to be heard. The church today in a post Christian era, must find its destiny to point to this God who cares for everyone, but who are struggling like fish out of water – deprived of the life giving oxygen that comes from living with Him through Christ.
So here’s some points as to how we can become a more prophetic people .
Firstly. we must live by the manifesto of the Sermon on the Mount and not just the commandments of the Old Testament. They are even more demanding in their demands because they require seeing and acting for others as Christ does. Ask what most people associate Christians with, and they might mention the commandments but never the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7) which describes life in the Kingdom of God, and is open to the vulnerable.
Secondly, welcome into the church family with open arms those who are trying to be fish out of water. One sinner to another providing the life of Christ that is oxygen to the soul. Therefore we need to be teaching the Gospel of grace that open’s eyes to see beyond.
Thirdly, celebrate human sexuality AND FAMILY LIFE is at its best in the security of marriage.
With the legislation inevitably going to be passed in the Dail the church has a vital role to play in keeping watch to make sure that as a nation we don’t slide down the slippery slope of abortion on demand. In an opinion poll released last week a majority of people thought that abortion on request is wrong. This surely says something about the positive Christian legacy that we inherit. It is now the churches task to teach the ways of the Kingdom that call for accountability and yet are lavished by grace – the grace that always looks beyond.
And that watching brief must begin Immediately while the legislation is being debated and write to our TD’s/ Taoiseach along the lines of ;
PROTECTION OF LIFE DURING PREGNANCY BILL
WE AS MEMBERS OF CARRIGROHANE UNION OF PARISHES:
• Thank you for the time you have taken to listen and are ashamed of the abuse you may have received in the name of the Church and Christ.
• Are concerned about possible lax interpretation of the legislation and ask that as a public representative you are vigilant in the application of the Act.
• Request that in the legislation requiring the annual reporting of notifications of terminations to the Health Minister before 30th June each year, that this is reinforced by requiring the Health Minister to present it to the Dail for consideration, so that the government is seen to be accountable.
• We offer you our prayerful support in your difficult role as public representatives, and pray for healing and forgiveness so that we can know the blessing of God in our nation.
Canon Ian Jonas and Rev Robert Ferris
Nb , Eight cards with the above statements were signed by a number of members of Carrigrohane Union, and have been posted to the TDs representing the geographic area covered by Carrigrohane Union of Parishes, and one to the Taoiseach.