The Jesus I know affirms and liberates

Published 5:40 pm Thursday, June 30, 2022

Walking to lunch yesterday, I took an uncommon path which led to a saddening discovery.  On the steps of the Church, right before the closed red doors on Bonner Street, I found two notes.  The first read, “Someone you love had an abortion. Restore my rights.” The other, “Restore my rights. Restore Roe v. Wade.” I can only assume the letters were left there because we are a Christian church, and the narrative behind overturning Roe v. Wade has been dominated by a very particular type of Christianity.  These notes are yet another reminder that this decision will have painful, death-saturated consequences for those forced to carry pregnancies that, for any number of reasons, should not be carried to term. The letters were small, written on notecards, but they spoke volumes. Those letters are pain made flesh, the playful red and blue ink revealing trauma. I’m not sure if the person who wrote those letters is reading this column, but I hope you are, because I’d like to share what the Episcopal Church believes about abortion and, hopefully, paint a picture for you of a Church that is trying to do things differently in the modern world.

In 1976, just three years after the original decision of Roe v. Wade, the General Convention of Episcopal Church, its largest governing body, passed a resolution that ended with this declaration: “That the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter [abortion] and to act upon them.” That support has evolved over the years, but the Episcopal Church has consistently maintained that the decision to have an abortion is a matter of individual conscience, and that having an abortion is not sinful nor is it an act of inhumane cruelty.

The Episcopal Church, however, is a small church whose voice is not as loud as we think it is nor wish it to be. A significant number of Christian voices that you hear offer a Gospel of Vitriol and Judgment, and though I don’t represent all Christians everywhere, I want to say that I am sorry for the way my Christian siblings hurt with their words and actions, all done under the guise of Jesus of Nazareth.  The pain and anger that caused you to write those notes is valid, and though you don’t need me to say that, it’s important for me as a pastor to acknowledge and affirm those feelings.  I also want to acknowledge that, as a cisgender man, I can’t intimately know what those feelings actually feel like.  If you are reading this, and have any interest in sitting down for coffee, I’d love to meet you and learn how I can be of service, if at all.  I want to thank you for writing those notes, for sharing your pain and offering a piece of yourself as a witness against the stripping of reproductive rights. My email is chris@saintpetersnc.org or you can reach me at 252-946-8151. I realize this might be a long shot, but at the very least, there’s been a Christian voice that (hopefully) didn’t pain or shame you.  For the Jesus I know doesn’t trade in shame or oppression.  He affirms and liberates.

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington