You probably saw the “Jury for Life” postcards addressed to the Prime Minister (shown on page one of February’s Interim) in your church before Christmas and, if you’re like my husband and me, took some home to distribute to friends, signed one each and dropped them in the mail. End of story? Not for us it wasn’t.
We are Anglicans—have been all out lives—in fact my late father-in-law was rector of a well-known Ottawa church for over 38 years. We now attend a beautiful little Heritage church in the lower mainland of B.C.
I discovered that few of the cards had been picked up in our church and the rest were in danger of being thrown out. Actually, they almost didn’t make into the church in the first place. “Too political,” said out temporary rector. “Not so,” said one of our members, “How is it that we can hear about Nicaragua and Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Honduras in church but not about babies being slaughtered in our own country?” apparently distance lends importance, if not enchantment, to a topic.
A short announcement
We have a custom in our church of allowing individuals to make announcements before the last hymn – thus someone stands and says the A.C.W. will meet on Thursday, etc. I felt compelled to do something about the paucity of response from out congregation, feeling that, surely. There must be a misunderstanding about the cards.
Accordingly, the following Saturday evening my husband called our temporary rector and explained that, as Anglicans and members of Surrey-Delta Pro-Life Society, we were concerned at the lack of interest, and that I would like to make a short announcement supporting the use of the “Jury for Life” postcards. Was this in order? “Okay,” said he, “but keep it short.”
Almost as an afterthought, my husband asked just what is the official stand of the Anglican Church on abortion. The last we’d heard was “it’s a matter of individual conscience.” How terribly convenient to have murder as a matter of individual conscience. “There really isn’t one,” said our temporary rector. Thanking him, my husband hung up.
That Sunday, at the appropriate time, I stepped up to the lectern, held up the little card with the beautiful little babe-in-utero at 11-12 weeks. Quite pleasantly and calmly, I stated my concern that perhaps the little cards had not been understood as so few had been taken. I explained that their aim was to bring to our government and specifically the addressee, the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney, the message that “the child in the womb is a human being who has a right to the protection of the law. (and that) I oppose the choice to kill.”
I continued that, perhaps, some of those present were not aware of the facts of abortion today, so I had two very quick statistics for them. One, that every fourth pregnancy in B.C. ends as an abortion statistic and two, that last year we killed, across Canada, 76,000 healthy Canadian boys and girls, or roughly half the entire population of Delta. I ended with a plea that the cards be taken, that all that was necessary was to sign your name, drop it in a mailbox, that a stamp was not necessary, and that thus one could help those who cannot speak for themselves.
The next Sunday, as the service came to a close with the usual announcements, our temporary rector stepped forward and pleasantly announced that he must first apologize for the hurt that had been caused to some members of the congregation (by me) the previous two Sundays, and to emphasize that the remarks made represented only one person’s viewpoint and was only her interpretation of (abortion) facts. And also, there was a pamphlet available which clearly stated the church’s position.
Well! If you’ve never had your rector (temporary or otherwise) apologize for your behavior in church, believe me, you haven’t lived! My husband and I sat absolutely stunned in our seats. I rather imagine being hit across the face with a frozen codfish would have somewhat the same impact – I don’t know. I do know that a dear little lady, one of the pillars of our church, crossed the aisle at the end of the service and put her arm around me as we walked along together and I will bless her forever for it – and the others who made a point of speaking to the Pro-life pariahs at coffee. (There was no question of our ducking coffee and slinking home to lick our wounds – we were one in our resolve and belief that we had done what was right.)
Once home, I sat down and wrote three steamy letters to our temporary rector before coming up with one my husband agreed would not have to be written on asbestos paper. I wrote: “A number of us in the congregation were stunned (no one more so than I) by your unusual apology for the “hurt” that had been caused to some members of the congregation by the remarks made by me last Sunday regarding the killing of the unborn.”
An unpleasant experience
“Simple courtesy would suggest that you would have discussed it with me beforehand and so preclude what might well develop into (if my present reading of the situation is any indication) an unnecessary split of the congregation into two camps on this subject – those who are “hurt” by the facts, and those who are doing, or are moved to doing something about them.
“I will appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you; but first, may I have a copy of the pamphlet you referred to, which outlines the Anglican Church’s position on this issue?”
Having mailed my letter, I phoned the Diocesan office asking for this pamphlet that had mysteriously appeared out of the blue one week after a denial that such a pamphlet existed. I discovered there is a reference in a book published in the ’70s that may be in an obscure volume in the archives at U.B.C., or you might be able to get it at church house in Toronto – in other words, the indication that this was a readily-available, “pick one up at the back of the church,” item was false and misleading. (I have since been in Toronto where I picked up a copy of Abortion: an Issue for Conscience at the Anglican book store for $5.95 – again, hardly a “pamphlet” available at the drop of a hat, or affordable by everyone for ready reference. And it contains some statements I will review in a later column which send chills up and down my spine.)
While this was not the most pleasant experience, it has been extremely worthwhile in the education it has provided us and the stiffening it has given our determination to continue to educate those around us, for it is in education that out greatest hope lies for the future.
Since the above happened, we have had a pro-Morgentaler editorial in the Canadian Churchman, in the December issue yet! What a wondrous message as we celebrated the birth of the Babe in Bethlehem. However, there have been some terrific side effects of this editorial – statements by horrified Bishops, excellent pro-life letters from rank and file Anglicans. It’s definitely stand-up-and-be-counted time in what Pierre Breton called “The Comfortable Pew.” End of story? Not yet. Not by a long shot. In fact this is just the beginning.