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Dear Sanctuary Framily,

Occasionally I will write a pastoral letter to the congregation in response to events impacting the church. The SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is such an event. Before writing to you, I took some space to express my full range of emotion to the Lord. I also invited trusted friends and family to make suggestions and edits to help me clarify my thoughts. Both steps may be helpful in your processing as well. 

The SCOTUS ruling to overturn abortion rights has been placed back into the decision of the states. Nearly half of the states are on record to ban abortion or increase restrictions. In Ohio, abortions are banned after six weeks, when a heartbeat can be detected. For a list of other restrictions on abortion in Ohio, visit the Guttmacher Institute

The response to the decision was swift on either side. I saw Christian friends rejoicing about the decision as an act of justice for unborn babies. And I saw Christian friends angered by this decision that reduces or removes women’s rights to decide their own health care. In any given church, family and community there is bound to be a mix of both groups. I’m certain that Sanctuary is no different - we are not only racially and ethnically diverse, we are also politically and theologically diverse. This reality need not divide us, but enable us to become better listeners. 

My concern is first and foremost for our church framily. Hard conversations are a part of our culture. In the way of Micah 6:8, I encourage us to live out our values of justice, mercy and humility. 

I’m personally sensitive to the subject of abortion because I’ve experienced it as a young 17 year old high school graduate on the way to college. It wasn’t my choice to terminate the pregnancy, my girlfriend’s father made that decision clear, but I’m just as responsible. My actions put her in the position where she was forced to make a choice at a time of great uncertainty and instability. Now, I bear the scar of that consequence as an equal participant and look forward to the healing touch of Christ when I no longer feel the weight of any guilt or shame. 

It’s in this spirit of humility that I approach abortion because the weight of pregnancy falls heaviest on women, whether intended or unintended. Research shows that 25% of women have an abortion before they turn 45 and this includes women of faith. The decision to carry a pregnancy full term is impacted by multiple factors more complex than I can discuss in this letter, neither is it my place to name those factors.

I believe we must take a listening and learning posture to hear from women who are directly affected, even more intentionally to women who lack resources for adequate health care. 

When we affirm with the historic Apostles' Creed that Jesus was, “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”, we acknowledge the intentionality that the Virgin Birth demonstrates God’s high regard for life in the womb. Mary’s reception to the news of the coming Savior moved from fear to confusion and finally to acceptance -- not unlike the journey many expectant parents experience today. And I can think of several women and men who – by God’s grace – are able to look back with wonder at the birthing process and the beauty of accepting their responsibility to parent or fully committing to a spouse and child through marriage. God has always shown us that something miraculous can spring up from the womb.

Core to our beliefs at Sanctuary is that we are made in the Image of God. But being image bearers doesn’t end where life begins. It continues through the entire lifespan, which means the factors and conditions of pregnant women are equally important, worthy of our attention. Each pregnancy has potential health risks (for both mother and child) and takes a physical toll on the woman’s body as well as the chemistry affecting her mental health.

To acknowledge the right to life, while simultaneously ignoring the impact on women, especially the under-resourced, is an inconsistent ethic of life. As followers of Jesus, I believe we’re called to hold a holistic view of life and motherhood. 

My hope for Sanctuary is that we raise our commitment to embrace and empower women and children in all stages of life. Our vision for compassion and justice led us to partner with organizations like Chloe, Inc. and She Has a Name because we want to invest in spaces where we can walk out this hope. Furthermore, we are committed to learning from our adoptive and foster families in order to reimagine pictures of expanded networks and supportive structures that involve birth parents and centers the needs of adopted children. 

My hope for Sanctuary is that we reaffirm our beliefs to work for the care of our bodies as well as our souls.

May we resist the urge to simplify an issue by devaluing the lives and the stories behind them.

May we take a posture of active listening to develop empathy for stories that are not our own, but are equally welcomed in a beloved community.

May we acknowledge our own privilege and use this power to put others before ourselves in the spirit of love.

And may this work be to the glory of God and the common good for all people. 

As always, we invite your discussion and input. Please reach out to me, Pastor Micah or one of the elders if that will be helpful. I hope this will be a topic for a Table Talk in the near future. 

Grace and Peace,