On January 24, at the request of ACNA Bishop John Guernsey, Sally and I joined 15 other bishops and many of their wives from our Anglican Alphabet Soup (i.e., ACNA, PEARUSA, REC, FIF, CANA) to rally together for the Right to Life for the Unborn. On a below-freezing day we joined approximately 450,000 other Americans who marched up Capital Hill to register their passionate commitment to this cause. Archbishop Robert Duncan led us, the largest group of bishops from any single denomination in the march. I am very thankful for Bishop Guernsey’s call, and for Georgette Forney, the President of Anglicans for Life – an effective visionary leader who is building a strong constituency among Anglicans in support of the unborn and their families.
The night before the march, the ACNA bishops and wives shared a meal and talked through the importance of this event. We prayed together for the lives of the unborn, their parents, and our country. The morning of the march, we gathered for a worship service at Constitution Hall. The keynote speaker, Father Frank Pavone, is a well-known spokesman for the unborn. His message was electrifying. I wish every PEARUSA clergy and lay leader could have heard this single unforgettable statement:
The rallying cry of abortionists is ‘This is my body: and I take your life to serve mine.’ But the first person who said ‘This is My Body’ went on to say, ‘and I give my life to save yours.’
Even more moving was the testimony of a young couple, part of a group gathering under the banner “Silent No More Awareness Campaign” – 1000’s of formerly secretive people who grieve their abortions and are now pledged to be “silent no more.” They had aborted their first two children. The mother’s pain over her decisions was magnified by the father’s honest confession: “I failed to be a real man because I failed to protect my children from harm.”
We left the worship service for the march, and in addition to the sheer visual experience of 450,000 marchers, the overwhelming, undeniable “visual” was the youthfulness of the movement. Loose estimates are that over 50% of the participants were under the age of 30. Their rallying cry was, “We are the pro-life generation!” Why so many young adults? From what we learned, Facebook postings of early-term sonograms are having a significant impact on the sensibilities of the under-30 generation; and the resurgence of the Catholic Church among the young is a powerful contributor as well.
There was so much right about the Right to Life rally and march: what was wrong? What was wrong was that only three elected congressmen were brace enough to show up on the speaker’s podium. What was wrong is that I had to search long and hard for any national media coverage. One would think that half-a-million people marching in 25-degree weather would get someone’s attention, but if it showed up at all, it was merest mention. A rally of 10,000 people two days later in favor of tighter gun control got top-billing in CNN, USA Today, and other outlets.
It is absolutely clear that this is not a logical battle, not a rational battle, not a scientific battle, not a biological battle, and not even a political battle. (Oh, it has been politicized terribly, but it is not essentially a political battle. Politicians either listen to their constituencies, or they lose their jobs.) This is clearly a spiritual battle, a stronghold of death, a commitment of the enemy-of-all-life to destroy life before it has the chance to give baby-babble praise to the Creator and Redeemer of mankind. There is no other logical explanation than that “dominions and authorities in the spiritual realm are arrayed against human life.” Abortion is a supreme illustration of the combined power of the world, the flesh, and the devil united against humanity.
And abortion is clearly a disease infecting the moral fiber of the people of God. We have become tepid. We have wimped out after 40 years of seeing our cause ignored. We have given up the battle of prayer. We have stopped caring enough to make our voice heard. Or, I should say, I have (or I had) given up, and that’s where regret creeps in.
I remember in the late ‘70s when I first became aware of this issue, of what was really happening in the abortion mills. Keith Green sang and preached about it, and Francis Schaeffer wrote about it. Combined, they woke me up, and for weeks, months, I couldn’t pray about abortion without tears. I was passionate, angry, verbal, and most of all, prayerful. But over time, distractions, fatigue, hopelessness, malaise, and nothing more glamorous than acedia set in. While my position never changed, my actions did. For years I only gave lip service to the battle. I regret this, and I regret that I did nothing to stir up more of our clergy and laity for this year’s march.
But the good news is the word of grace: our Lord is a forgiving God, the Author of new beginnings. Therefore I can speak of my malaise in past tense, and I can now call and urge you all to prepare for January 22, 2014. Half of PEARUSA [ed note: now Anglican Diocese of Christ Our Hope] churches, clergy, and members are in the Eastern Time zone. Dozens more are within 12 hours of Washington DC. Next year, it’s feasible for 70% of the PEARUSA churches and clergy to be represented in the Right to Life March by the effort of a day’s travel.
God willing, I will be there. Between now and then, I will talk, pray, urge, encourage, and pray a lot more. Then I’ll pray more. (Remember, this is a stronghold, a place of warfare against the Lord and his beloved.) Will you join me? In the meantime, I urge all PEARUSA clergy to tie into Anglicans for Life and start to take advantage of their resources to educate and rally your church in prayers and passion for this right, good, and true cause.
Written by The Rt. Rev. Stephen Breedlove for the March 2013 Carpe Diem Newsletter