Abortion legislation is coming fast-and-furious in the U.S. setting. Multiple state legislatures have been emboldened to pass restrictions, since the compositon of the U.S. Supreme seems to have recently shifted in a conservative direction, calling into question whether the landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, will be overturned. At such a time, it’s helpful to review what our Nazarene Manual (2017-2021) has to say about abortion.
[Note: For those not part of the denomination, a bit of context is in order. Every four years, the Church of the Nazarene around the world sends delegates to a General Assembly. At the GA, decisions are made that govern the church. These decisions are codified in the Manual, the current version being for 2017-2021. The Manual also contains statements on social issues.]
Here’s the relevant section, from Manual 30.1, under the larger heading of “The Sanctity of Human Life”:
30.1. Induced Abortion. The Church of the Nazarene affirms the sanctity of human life as established by God the Creator and believes that such sanctity extends to the child not yet born. Life is a gift from God. All human life, including life developing in the womb, is created by God in His image and is, therefore, to be nurtured, supported, and protected. From the moment of conception, a child is a human being with all of the developing characteristics of human life, and this life is dependent on the mother for its continued development. Therefore, we believe that human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception. We oppose induced abortion by any means, when used for either personal convenience or population control. We oppose laws that allow abortion. Realizing that there are rare, but real medical conditions wherein the mother or the unborn child, or both, could not survive the pregnancy, termination of the pregnancy should only be made after sound medical and Christian counseling.
Responsible opposition to abortion requires our commitment to the initiation and support of programs designed to provide care for mothers and children. The crisis of an unwanted pregnancy calls for the community of believers (represented only by those for whom knowledge of the crisis is appropriate) to provide a context of love, prayer, and counsel. In such instances, support can take the form of counseling centers, homes for expectant mothers, and the creation or utilization of Christian adoption services.
The Church of the Nazarene recognizes that consideration of abortion as a means of ending an unwanted pregnancy often occurs because Christian standards of sexual responsibility have been ignored. Therefore the church calls for persons to practice the ethic of the New Testament as it bears upon human sexuality and to deal with the issue of abortion by placing it within the larger framework of biblical principles that provide guidance for moral decision making.
(Genesis 2:7, 9:6; Exodus 20:13; 21:12-16, 22-25; Leviticus 18:21; Job 31:15; Psalms 22:9; 139:3-16; Isaiah 44:2, 24; 49:5; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15, 23-25, 36-45; Acts 17:25; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:16; 7:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6)
The Church of the Nazarene also recognizes that many have been affected by the tragedy of abortion. Each local congregation and individual believer is urged to offer the message of forgiveness by God for each person who has experienced abortion. Our local congregations are to be communities of redemption and hope to all who suffer physical, emotional, and spiritual pain as a result of the willful termination of a pregnancy.
(Romans 3:22-24; Galatians 6:1)
Comments on the statement
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this commentary are my own, and should not be considered an official statement by the Church of the Nazarene.
1. I’m glad to be part of a denomination that takes a stance for the unborn. A pro-birth position is a prophetic stance, consistent with the call to social justice for all and not just for the powerful. Isaiah 42:3 (ESV) captures this vision:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.
The birth of our Saviour happened in the context of what today might be called a “problem pregnancy,” with Mary under a cloud of suspicion for unfaithfulness to her future husband (Matthew 1:18-25). Yet in retrospect we see that God’s saving plan was accomplished despite circumstances that – from a human perspective – looked far from promising. Something may start poorly, even disastrously, yet God has a way of redeeming circumstances that at first may appear unredeemable.
2. Our pro-life responsibility does not end with a successful delivery. This is what the statement calls “responsible opposition to abortion.” But Nazarenes have always believed this. At the site of the 1908 merger in Pilot Point, Texas, that resulted in the birth of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, there is a small Nazarene congregation. Inside the building are story boards telling not just about the protracted meeting that spawned our denomination. Also told is the story of a home for unwed mothers that stood for decades on the property, providing love and care for young women who found themselves in difficult circumstances.
Yet more can be done. Have we focused so much energy on the abortion side of the issue that we’ve forgotten to address the systemic issues that discourage adoption? This article from Slate Magazine celebrates abortion without a single mention of adoption. Perhaps one reason it doesn’t enter many people’s thinking as a viable alternative is the high cost to adopt, which in the United States (for a private adoption) runs in the neighborhood of $ 40,000.00 (Foster care adoptions average approximately $ 2,400.00). Legislation to cap the cost of adoption is long overdue, to open wider the door to adoption for many couples. Meanwhile, are there not Nazarene attorneys willing to take on some pro bono cases each year, to assist those wanting to adopt but who can’t afford it?
3. Compassion is what we’re all about. The final paragraph is crucial: “Our local congregations are to be communities of redemption and hope…” The key word in that sentence is “communities.” At its heart, elective abortion is a failure of community. Is there not a place somewhere in this world for every child?
What are we doing to help mothers and children find their place within a wholesome community of faith? It is a compassionate response to create local church initiatives to assist, yet some solutions (such as health care) will require governmental intervention. Are we raising our voices to our elected officials to make sure that effective government programs are in place to assist newborns and their families? Do we speak up when nutrition programs for infants and mothers are being downsized? This, too, is compassion in action. This, too, is what it means to be Christlike disciples.
A people of hope
Nazarenes are a people of hope. From conception to the grave, we believe that God can take something seemingly hopeless and change it into something good. As tempers flare around the abortion issue – filled with God’s love and compassion – let’s keep offering better choices.
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