June 24, 2022
Today’s US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling granting women reproductive freedom has been met with lament and anger by many, and with celebration by others. For decades, the issue of women’s reproductive rights has been a divisive one in the US, even as Roe v Wade was considered settled law and an established precedent. Hostile debates and even violence have accompanied this debate in recent years, the impacts of which have been felt in our churches as well.
The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has wrestled with the issue of abortion on the floor on many occasions, consistently affirming support for reproductive freedom for women. In these proceedings, the church has consistently affirmed the sanctity of human life. The General Assembly has also wrestled with the fact that there is not agreement within the broader Christian community as to when life begins, and has accordingly raised concerns about legislating a specific religious belief upon all Americans. The General Assembly has also affirmed education for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, and has raised concern about the lack of access to quality healthcare for poor women, including reproductive care, and the inequity that results when that care is not available to all. We have consistently issued a call to action to address these inequities. The General Assembly has also called on congregations to provide spiritual and emotional support for women and families faced with the difficult decisions that unwanted pregnancy can present. The historical record is clear that we have sought to engage the issue of reproductive freedom in all of its complexity, resulting in consistent affirmation of a commitment to reproductive rights for women.
In our commitment to be a reflection of the reconciling love of Christ, we have always valued the importance of respecting our differing theological perspectives, calling ourselves to continue to reflect and educate ourselves on these issues, reminding ourselves that Scripture teaches that God has “reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NRSVue). And so as this Supreme Court decision throws into stark relief strong divisions within our society and our church, I am reminded that the aspiration of our movement for wholeness has been to somehow bear witness to God’s love in ways that model the difficult work of sharing in this common cause of Christ. As individual citizens, there are means by which we can participate to make our voices heard, change policies, impact legislation. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to do that work in ways that yet affirm God’s love for all, even when we disagree.
I pray that we as Disciples will find ways to hold our hearts and be mindful of the great pain that this decision has caused for many, even as we recognize that there are also those who have welcomed this decision. As a woman, I have grown up with the understood right to make my own choices regarding reproduction, and I must honestly confess my lament that today’s decision removes that freedom in many states for my daughter-in-law and my nieces. Our ability to navigate the tension of disagreement can be a powerful witness to the Christ we follow. I hope that you will familiarize yourself with the history of the church’s strong support for reproductive freedom for women, and that our continued wrestling might yet bear witness to the power of God’s limitless love for all.
Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens