It was, as Christian activist Ken Campbell called it, a “Linda love-in.”
About 50 supporters gathered at downtown Toronto’s Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church the evening of January 17 to pay tribute to Linda Gibbons. The Diminutive grandmother of four had been released earlier that day from her latest prison term for challenging Ontario’s temporary injunction against pro-life activity within 20 meters of certain Toronto abortuaries.
Gibbons and Rev. Campbell were subsequently arrested January 22 picketing outside the Scott abortuary in Toronto. Campbell was released the same afternoon, but Gibbons remains in detention.
Gibbons has spent most of the last two years in jail for her actions. She was first charged and sentenced in September 1994 for obstructing a peace officer.
It was time to enjoy freedom for a short while at the tribute, however, as a series of people lauded Linda and the pro-life cause through music, poetry, readings and testimony.
Gibbons didn’t evoke sympathy in her speech, however, noting that she lives “in the best of worlds” because of her faith in God. Despite prison conditions which are often harsh. “My situation is the best of all situations,” she said. “Sometimes things happen the hard way and they need to happen the hard way.
She devoted most of her speech to criticizing a Christian church she saw as lackadaisical in its attitude toward abortion. “Why is the church acting in a blind stupor –deaf, dumb and mute to the destruction of human life in the womb? Is it because the world is controlled by hostile forces beyond the church’s control? Or is it because (the church) doesn’t have a licence to conscientiously object? The scandal is that for the most part, it lacks the compassion to stand in a gap which is its reasonable duty considering that so many lives are in peril.
“Silence is betrayal,” she added. “It says to the unborn, ‘God’s goodness doesn’t extend to you.’ It makes the unborn the Church’s untouchables … Without question, there will be a day of reckoning. Such a church will face in shame those it has broken faith with.”
Gibbons said the “status-quo Christianity” pursued by most churches seeks to be all things to everyone, but in following it churches achieve nothing. “This bland view of God’s goodness is hardly worth defending … Even a cardboard figure has its cardboard.”
But Gibbons sounded a not of hope. “The good that God has purposed for the unborn is not frustrated by abortion,” she said. “As Christians, we understand the goodness of God touches ordinary lives. He cares for the parts as He cares for the whole.”
She quoted Mother Teresa in urging pro-lifers to hold fast to their mission. “Serve and protect life … God never asks us to be successful. He only asks us to be faithful.”
During a panel discussion afterwards, Gibbons said she chooses to infringe on the legal injunction because Christians should obey God’s law rather than man’s. “The law is meant to protect society and individuals within that society. It’s obvious that when society commits genocide on itself, that’s not natural law…”
Ken Campbell noted during the discussion that abortion is the pivotal issue on which the future of our culture revolves. “The mandate of followers of Christ is to be salt and light. We have to make the right waves… This is a sick culture. Arm yourself with the truth and confront it.”
Joanne Dieleman, director of the crisis pregnancy agency Aid to Women, said the only solution to the abortion holocaust is love, care and compassion for both the pregnant woman and her baby.
Gibbons said after the tribute that being among her pro-life friends was “a measure of freedom. The people know and really care.”
She said conditions at the Vanier Centre for Women, one of the prison facilities she is incarcerated at, are ‘very amenable for me. I have a place to get away from the noise and get the quiet I need.”
She planned to spend her recent few days of freedom with her grandchildren and celebrating one of her daughter’s birthdays. Her schedule also included an appearance at Toronto’s Prayer Palace Church (for a service which was to be broadcast later on the church’s TV program) and a luncheon with Scarborough MLA Jim Brown, who was to be her host at the Ontario Legislature.