Ever since meeting pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf in 1999, Stephanie Gray knew she was meant to be a pro-life speaker. In 2001, Gray co-founded the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) with Jojo Ruba, and served as its executive director. After a move to British Columbia last fall meant she was no longer close to CCBR’s offices located in Alberta and Ontario Gray saw how well the team was doing. She seized an opportunity for her speaking and writing to focus on a different aspect of the pro-life message.
Over years of outreach, Gray has observed “how profoundly wounded our culture is,” explaining: “Abortion has been going on for decade after decade. Not only do we have millions of preborn whose lives have been lost, but millions of parents, grandparents and others” have been affected. This means the roadblocks that keep people from accepting the pro-life position must be conquered with more than sound arguments. “When the heart is involved, you can’t aim your work at the head.” Love for both born and preborn people is the guiding force behind the pro-life movement, she told The Interim, so its representatives must have “the strongest of minds but softest of hearts.”
Love Unleashed Life began in an effort to balance these qualities. The ministry has two goals: first, “influencing the influencers” of society – the “seminarians, law students, and medical students who will be able to reach many” in their future work. Second, to form pro-life advocates “so that the person we communicate with senses our love for them as well as the preborn.” Gray has also written a book which is scheduled for release next year. “Love Unleashes Life: Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth” came from repeated requests for a written resource outlining the move to “heart-oriented” dialogue.
Another project which excites Gray is a partnership with independent Catholic schools in the archdiocese of Vancouver. A night of formation is held annually for parents of Grade 4 to 7 students, beginning with a general presentation and moving to grade-specific information. Gray gives the opening talk as well as the Grade 6 session. “(The evening) reinforces the role of parents as primary educators, especially when discussing human growth and sex. Parents who feel ill-equipped are empowered” to tackle these issues before the wider culture allows a secular school system to take over. Although Gray is now able to incorporate her Catholic faith into her advocacy, “the message is for all people of good will. It is grounded in natural law and the truths written on our hearts.” Secular audiences will still hear a message framed in human rights, but “Love Unleashes Life” allows her to speak the language of two worldviews and reach a broader population.
How does this new dimension of her work relate to existing pro-life organizations? Gray calls it “complementary, even foundational.” She is inspired by civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who said: “Whom you would change you must first love, and they must know that you love them.” After an attack on civil rights activists, he remarked “We will not hate you. We will love you. We will match your ability to inflict suffering with our ability to endure suffering.” Gray sees that “self-sacrifice in our actions evangelizes the other side.” Pro-abortion advocates will notice when, “‘I was rude to you, and you were not rude to me.’ (Pro-life activists’) disposition complements our words, including the science and philosophy” that support our stance.
Gray echoes Mother Teresa’s observation that the greatest poverty we face is “being unwanted, unloved and uncared for.” “Humans are designed for relationship and connection. We live in a culture where we can be together but alone. People in a restaurant should be enjoying dinner together, but are zoned out on their phones. We are left empty because that’s not what we were made for.” Gray stresses that opportunities for union with others need to be created intentionally. Attempts to reach out on a large scale do not take away from engagement through close relationships.
Putting this into practice may be more difficult than it sounds. Gray’s experience is rooted in her faith. “We really have to come from a foundation of solid spiritual love, and be open to (unexpected) situations. If we want to love, we need to be in love with Love itself – God. When in communion with Love itself, it will be easier to express love to others. We will fail sometimes, because we’re human, but it’s a starting point.”