Some of the CTK, Cary assembly voting members.
At the 2023 NC Synod Assembly in June, Resolution 23.02 “Regarding Access to Abortion in North Carolina” was adopted by a vote of 199 in favor, 40 opposed, and 25 abstentions. The second part of the resolution encourages rostered ministers to engage congregations in a study of the ELCA Social Statement on Abortion as well as Bishop Eaton’s June 24, 2022 message following the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision. The resolution calls North Carolina Lutherans to engage in dialog around this topic.
A group from Christ the King, Cary—authors of the original resolution—shares these steps outlining their experience as they engaged their congregation in this conversation.
In June 2022 we held a forum, “Abortion: Where Do We Stand”, over the course of four one-hour sessions. On average, 40 people attended. We positioned it as a safe place for respectful conversations. We were pleasantly surprised at how open people were in sharing their experiences and how little pushback there was. We think it is important that we say out loud what the social statement has to say. It was adopted at the 1991 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, but in the 32 years since, this church has not talked much about it.
We found the study guide that goes with the social statement to be dated and cumbersome, so we developed our own script. The aims of our forum were to:
1. Become familiar with the ELCA Social Statement and churchwide public policy related to abortion. The social statement is 12 pages, but Bishop Eaton’s June 24, 2022 message provides the essence of the statement. We asked attendees to read one or both and provided website addresses as well as some printed copies.
2. Learn more about abortion with respect to medical, psychological, ethical, theological, and public policy/legal perspectives. We developed a background handout. It helps if there are experts from our congregation who can address some of these topics. Whether people agree or not with the social statement, it’s important to be well-informed on these issues.
3. Share and understand diverse views and have healthy, well-informed dialogue. In the first session, we provided a handout on what constitutes respectful conversation. The study guide for the social statement has a handout entitled Voices of Those Who Have Confronted Unwanted Pregnancies, but we heard voices from our own congregation instead. We felt that hearing from people we know would make the stories more impactful. We had Stephen Ministers available in case anyone needed some emotional support.
4. Decide what we wanted to advocate for as individuals, as a congregation (Christ the King, Cary), and as the larger church. In September 2022, 139 CTK members signed and sent a letter to North Carolina General Assembly members, the Governor, and Attorney General asking them not to further limit access to abortion in NC. The resolution we submitted to the NC Synod Assembly was another outcome of this discussion. We also talked about strengthening sex education for our youth to include not just biology but issues such as commitment and consent.
We began every session with a short devotion and ended with a prayer. In truth, the Bible is not very informative when it comes to abortion. There are a few references people like to cite (e.g., Genesis 2:7, Psalm 139:13, Ezekiel 37:7-10), but this amounts to cherry-picking references to support a particular view. It’s better to look more broadly at verses that speak to justice, compassion, and forgiveness.