The Church and Abortion in New South Wales

The Church and Abortion in New South Wales

 They had held out for a while. But the march of Regress is seemingly unstoppable in the Western World. All Australian States had decriminalized and ‘liberalised’ abortion, except for New South Wales. The Sydney Morning Herald was ashamed, and used the fact that NSW was different, to demand uniformity. (Have you ever noticed how those who shout the most about diversity are the least keen to practice it when it comes to their ideology?). So as I write the NSW parliament is in the process of passing a hastily scrambled together law (supported by the Greens, Labour and tacitly, the Liberals).

Parliament_of_New_South_Wales
The NSW Parliament

This new law, despite the protestations of the SMH, effectively allows abortion on demand up to birth – as the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, pointed out. I am not going to rehearse all the well worn arguments about abortion – except to say that it is astonishing how most of the media here, like most of the media in the UK, refuse to engage with the substantive debate – instead preferring to resort to emotive clichés about ‘it’s a woman’s body’ – willfully blinding themselves to the inconvenient truth that there are two other bodies involved.     Mark Powell a friend who is a minister in the Presbyterian Church some time ago wrote an article in the Australian version of The Spectator which sums it up well. https://www.spectator.com.au/2018/03/ten-non-religious-reasons-against-abortion/

What I am interested in, in this article, is what the reaction of the churches tells us about the state of the Church in this area of the world.   It can be divided up into the Good, the Bad and the Confused Silenct.

The Good

The two major established churches have largely been exemplary in their approach – playing a prophetic and challenging role as they stand up for the weakest in our society. The Anglican Archbishop, Glenn Davies, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Anthony Fisher, have both led their flocks by example.   Well done – good and faithful servants! Also in the Anglican Church, my own pastor, Simon Manchester, has had two excellent letters in the SMH. Others in the Presbyterian, Baptist, Independent and Charismatic churches have also made their voices heard – both in intercession to the Lord, and pleading with the politicians. But not all are faithful.

The Bad –

The headline on the Sun Herald front page said it all: “Churches Split Over Abortion Reforms”. For once the headline was a fair reflection of the story underneath. The paper reports that the Head of the Uniting Church in NSW, Simon Hansford stated, “Whilst the sacredness of life must be respected, Christians are called to respond to life with compassion and generosity. The Uniting Church is disturbed that recent comments could imply that women make the decision to have an abortion without proper consideration….. There are a range of well informed spiritual, medical and emotional support services available to women and it is offensive to imply that these decisions are made lightly to without access to suitable consultation”.

Those who are faithful Christians and congregations within the Uniting Church, and who recognize Jesus Christ as the real Head of the Church, must be in despair. Their official spokesperson is speaking out in favour of killing the child within the womb.   Pitting ‘the sacredness of life’ against ‘responding to life with compassion and generosity’ is as illogical as it is disingenuous.   Surely it is compassionate and generous to save life – rather than take it?

But there is another way where churches can respond in a bad way – by having the right doctrine but the wrong practice. When a church officially says it is against abortion but refuses to help the single mum who is struggling to bring up her child, that is the worst kind of hypocrisy.   I remember being greatly impressed with some anti-abortion groups in Jackson, Mississippi. My impression from the media was that they would be a bunch of gun-toting, placard-waving extremists. The reality was that they put in hours of hard work, not just to protest against abortion, but to offer alternatives and care and support to those who were so desperate they were considering abortion – and they also offered post-abortion counselling. Real Christianity is proclaimed through word and deed – not just through political engagement.

The Confusing Silence –

Sadly there are Christians who hold to the Biblical teaching in theory, but struggle with how they articulate it in public. Some are more pietistic and prefer to nod along sagely as they observe the world going to Hell in a handcart, whilst just getting on with their (often worldly) lives.   Some churches are concerned about making what can be perceived as political announcements and the opposition that can come when you dare to question the progressive zeitgeist. Others just simply don’t want to be associated with what is seen as an ultra-right/conservative agenda.   In theory they agree that abortion is wrong – in practice, they don’t like some of the other people who argue that.   And to be frank there is an indifference caused by the tyranny of the immediate and the mentality of the maintenance mode. We are more concerned about the ‘seen’ church décor than we are about the unseen unborn.

And Finally…An Intriguing Article

I was intrigued by this fascinating article in Eternity magazine from Mike Paget, the senior minister at St Barnabas Broadway in Sydney, a large and influential evangelical Anglican church.   https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/yes-theres-abortion-in-your-church/

It has done what all good controversial articles do – stirred up criticism from all sides and more importantly caused us to think. I have had to re-read several times as I try to avoid the knee jerk response and understand what is being said.   Mike is surely correct in his main premise in the article – which is that there are, and will be those in our churches who have had abortions, or will seek them; and that we need to support and help women who find themselves in that position.

His argument is much more nuanced than a quote taken out of context can make it seem. So, for example, we need to grasp what he is saying when he writes: “I think – I fear – it means that there is something in our church culture that actually increases the number of women seeking abortions.”   He means that sometimes there are women in our churches who need help, support and encouragement but are reluctant to seek it, because they fear they will be condemned – so the ‘easier’ thing is to have an abortion ‘in secret’.   I agree with this. I recall one young girl who was going to have an abortion until her boyfriend told myself and her minister. We went to have a discussion with her and she told us that the only reason for having the abortion was because the social worker had encouraged her to have one (it would be ‘quick and easy’) and she was scared of telling her ‘religious’ parents that she was pregnant. It turns out that her fears were unfounded and her parents, whilst not jumping for joy, were supportive and helpful – as were the local church. Years later walking down the street I saw the young man who was her son, and shuddered at the thought of what might have been – all because of fear, shame and guilt.

Whilst I agree with the major premise of the article, I don’t agree with the minor – expressed by Mike in this way: “If you gave me the keys to parliament and the power to pass just one piece of legislation – to recriminalise abortion – I’m not sure I could do it.” This has given the impression to some that Mike is ‘soft’ on abortion and has been far too influenced by the current progressive zeitgeist. To be honest, at first that is what I thought. And then I read it a bit more carefully and I realised that his point is that just recriminalising abortion is not enough.   We also need to ensure that there is adequate support in place for those who struggle with bringing up children. To the degree that there are wider issues involved he is surely correct.

However, I find it difficult to think of anything that is more important than protecting the most vulnerable and weakest in society. The NSW parliament is about to pass a law that in effect says that it is not criminal to take human life. Or to be more exact – to take human life in the womb.   Of course, there may be exceptional circumstances (self-defence in war for example) where taking human life is the lesser of two evils – but to pronounce that any baby can be killed in the womb, for any reason, is an atrocious evil.   We should not allow our sympathy for the woman who may be desperate enough to have an abortion, to detract from the fact that abortion is murder, any more than we should allow our sympathy for the drug addict who, desperate for cash, breaks into a home, to legalise burglary!

For the Sydney Morning Herald and many of the politicians who are voting on this issue – abortion is a black and white issue. It’s simple.   Women should be able to have an abortion when they want because it is their body.   For many on the other side abortion is also a black and white issue. There are three bodies involved and one does not have the right to kill the other.   For scientific, humane and theological reasons I think the latter position is irrefutable and I believe that we will reap a great judgement if we support the former. But I also agree with those like Mike Paget who see a more complex and nuanced picture which requires a deeper, well thought out, holistic and compassionate response.

A Day of Mourning

Today should be a day of mourning and repentance for the church in NSW. That must lead to a renewed desire and effort to proclaim the Good News of Eternal Life; to call the nation and people to repentance and forgiveness; and to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor. This from Isaiah 58: 6-12 is a guide to our meditation and prayers.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

7          Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8          Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9          Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

 

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10         and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

11         The LORD will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

12         Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Politics and Abortion – An Interview on Branch FM

 

26 thoughts on “The Church and Abortion in New South Wales

  1. I do think that there needs to be more robust and respectful debate surrounding abortion.

    My question is, surely one of the pragmatic ways to reduce abortions is providing teens and people with robust and relevant sexual health, contraception and relationship advice. And yet, every time this is brought up by parliaments and legislatures across the West, it is always Christians that oppose it vehemently.

      1. The view that sex is recreational – that it can and should occur outside marriage – that it can and should be between multiple partners – that it has nothing to do with procreation….etc.

  2. Welcome to Oz David. I hope we can catch up sometime. If you would like an escape from Sydney come to the beautiful Mid North Coast (Taree).

  3. In his article “Yes, there’s abortion in your church”, Mike Paget thinks and says: “Far from limiting it, our church culture actually promotes abortion”.
    Is that not suggesting that our church culture actually promotes sin? If it is, then pastors certainly need to seriously consider if as per Paget’s suggestion that not just his church but numerous other churches are promoting sin instead of redemption from sin.
    It may come as a surprise, but church is no place for sinners and churches that are places for sinners are fallen prey to false teaching and are not practising discipline, either in admission or expulsion.
    Perhaps Mike Paget should rather have said: “Yes, there’s abortion in my church, so what am I doing wrong?”

      1. @David,

        “The church is precisely the place for sinners … ”
        David, please show me where you got that idea from?

        “… and every church is filled with sinners!”
        No. The Church consists exclusively of people that have faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

      2. Every single New Testament book. Do you know of any church which has anyone within it who is not a sinner? If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves.

      3. “Every single New Testament book. Do you know of any church which has anyone within it who is not a sinner? If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves”.

        RE: Every single New Testament book.

        David, the OT and NT both forbid sin so clearly that no reader, except he be a gainsayer, reading either the OT the NT or both can come away with the false idea that God is tolerant of sin and sinners; for God is utterly intolerant of sin and sinners, viz.:

        Ps. 11:5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
        Ps. 11:6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
        Ps. 11:7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

        So I can only say; the Bible definitely is not where you got that idea from; you must have got it from somewhere else which could be anywhere because it is an extremely virulent worldly idea stemming from salvation principled on once saved, always saved (See for instance: David Pawson’s “Once Saved, Always Saved?” or C. A. Short’s “The Gospel Truth: “Once Saved Always Saved” or “Salvation Can Be Lost”?).

        And I do not wish to quibble, but since the integrity of the subject on hand is of utmost importance, I should also like to point out: Not EVERY single NT book discusses sin; for Titus and Philemon do not and, as a matter of fact, Titus actually is recipe for church housekeeping purposed on keeping, as far as possible, sinners out of a church’s congregation.

        RE: Do you know of any church which has anyone within it who is not a sinner?

        I can speak truthfully only of the church to which I go. Alas, upon my visitation it certainly then is not without a sinner (1Jn. 1:8). But the crux of the matter is whether I am sinning wilfully or abiding in him (1Jn. 3:6); for if I am sinning wilfully or not abiding in him (Jn. 15:4) then I know – without a shadow of a doubt (1 Jn. 2:27) – that what follows hereunder awaits me:

        He. 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
        He. 10:27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
        He. 10:28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
        He. 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

        In the light of the forgoing and in relation to your post on abortion; if abortion were to be examined as a matter of church discipline, the verdict would be that abortion is sinning wilfully, not unintentionally, or inadvertently, and the consequences of sinning wilfully have to be assumed and understood by the involved man/men, women and person(s) (individual or company) aiding in and/or performing the abortion.

      4. What an extraordinary post – unbiblical and dangerous.

        Are you claiming that you do not sin wilfully at all?
        No-one is arguing that God is ‘tolerant’ of sin…but he is tolerant with sinners – and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
        You state that Titus does not discuss sin – that is an extraordinary view – Titus 1,2 and 3 all discuss sin, ungodliness, passions, unrighteousness. Philemon is also about sin and its consequences.

        Your views are a severe distortion of the Gospel and a misunderstanding of sin and justification by faith alone.

      5. David that is misleading conventional wisdom, not Scriptural truth since by; ‘The church is precisely the place for sinners’ you doubtlessly mean a particular organisation like St. Peters in Dundee. But, with ‘… and every church is filled with sinners’ you mean EVERY church, including the Church (Capital C), ‘the body of Christ’ (I Cor. 12:27), is filled with sinners which is, of course, unscriptural as it very emphatically is not: the just shall live by SINNING but, the just shall live by his FAITHFULNESS and because Christians, not sinners, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

        Thus, the Church (Capital C) is exempt from the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars – in a nutshell; sinners – as these shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

        See also, amongst other, what results from sinning wilfully in Hebrews 10:26 – 39 so that, in actual fact, no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God not now and not in future, viz.: Ps. 9:17; Dan. 12:2; Mal. 3:16 – 18.

      6. If you are referring to the Church Glorified in heaven – then yes there is no sin – although I would still argue that we are redeemed sinners. But the Church on earth is filled with sinners. Indeed there is no one who belongs to it who is not a sinner.

      7. David, please hang on a moment!

        First of all, how can you possibly think that ‘the body of Christ’ in I Co. 12:27 is anything other than the church on earth, especially since Paul has just said: ‘That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it’ (I Co. 12: 25 – 26)?

        Secondly, your statement ‘the Church on earth is filled with sinners’ is not the whole truth. Scripturally speaking the whole truth is: ‘The Church on earth is filled with sinners THAT HAVE BEEN REDEEMED FROM SINNING’ (Isa. 35:1 – 10; He. 10:15 – 18).

        Lastly, your statement ‘Indeed there is no one who belongs to it who is not a sinner’ is inconsistent with the terms and conditions of salvation in the Scriptures because no one in the Church is sinning. I dare say so with such boldness David not only because anyone knowing the terms and conditions of salvation first-hand as per Jn. 14:15 – 26 will confirm ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (He. 6:18) but, and far more crucially, because the terms and conditions of salvation make it utterly ‘impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, IF they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame: for the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned’ (He. 10:4 – 8).

      8. The body of Christ is the church on earth….and the church on earth is filled with sinners who continue to sin – are you suggesting that you no longer sin? ‘no one in the church is sinning’? I know no one who is not – including you and me.

      9. @David
        “are you suggesting that you no longer sin?” No.

        David, you are missing the point. Please recall; our dicussion began on account of you saying in response to Edouard “EVERY church is filled with sinners” [My emphasis added] by which you obviously mean every church, including the ‘body of Christ’ as per I Co. 12:27 is filled with sinners which is, of course, entirely logical but unscriptural.

        FYI: With regard to Edouard’s subsequent comment, please know that I happen to have read one of the two books which Edouard mentions; I have read the one by David Pawson “Once Saved, Always Saved?” And I can only tell you that it is an indispensable book for everyone truly concerned with the welfare of both the saved and the unsaved.

      10. You’re right David; ‘if a church is not part of the body of Christ it is not a church’. Why? because it is filled with servants of sin unto death instead of servants of obedience unto righteousness? (Ro. 6:11 – 16).

        ‘If a church is not part of the body of Christ it is not a church’ actually is the verdict of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation. Their verdict is; the body of Christ consists exclusively of overcomers.

  4. ‘So you are saying there are no churches left – because every church has sinners? Or are you saying there are sinless churches?’ David, I am not saying, or even suggesting, either of one those two things.

    David, once again, you’ve rightly asserted ‘If a church is not part of the body of Christ it is not a church’ and that is the verdict of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation.

    1. So once again – what are you saying. If there are no sinless churches then you are agreeing that there are no sinless churches, just as there are no sinless Christians (until heaven!)…? So not quite sure what you are arguing about…

      1. David,

        In relation to anyone thinking he is Christian and saved, the question arises if he thinks so because he is accepting of Jesus Christ while postponing obedience to him or, as Jesus says ‘if a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him’ (Jn. 14:23), because he evidently is experiencing living in obedience and holiness with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost?

        Now and since the question why one thinks he is Christian and saved determines also whether one is in the body of Christ, I am asking you why you think someone who is accepting of Jesus Christ while postponing obedience to him is Christian, saved for always and in the body of Christ?

        In answering me please always have in mind; the issue of concern is Mike Paget’s bewildering supposition that “Far from limiting it, our church culture actually promotes abortion” condoned by your stereotypical statement “The church is precisely the place for sinners…and every church is filled with sinners!” made in response to Edouard and which you obviously presume reflects not only what you stereotypically think of as church but also what God solemnly thinks of as the Church?

        In my view, and this is where we diverge, Perseverance of the Saints does not amount to a one time, once in a person’s life, declaring a belief in Jesus Christ followed-up with say; an abortion or, a divorce and remarriage as that quite evidently is being accepting of Jesus Christ while postponing obedience to him rather than experiencing living in obedience and holiness with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.

        So much is tied into this issue including, in particular, evangelists actively promoting, instead of limiting, sin and subsequently lamenting “it is our church culture, not our preaching” as the consequence awaiting any evangelist doing that David is, need I say; ‘Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity’.

      2. David, if you drive a car do you deliberately run over pedestrians and look for head on collisions with it? I dare think that is not how you drive a car.

        Similarly, if someone is led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God (Lu. 4:1; Ro. 8:14). So now let me ask you do David if you think the Spirit of God induces the sons of God to sin deliberately and, thereby, postpone their obedience to Christ indefinitely?

        PS.: David I understand that you do not like answering silly questions, but please note; neither do I (Mat. 7:12) especially if they come out of someone professing to know God.

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