Presbyterians, abortion and conscienceMay 1, 2018
The Irish are voting on a national referendum that would allow for elective abortions up to 12 weeks. Christian churches are weighing into the conversation as members seek advice and counsel on the morality and ethics of life.
While the overwhelming influence in Ireland continues to be the Roman Catholic Church, some 5% of the population are Protestant. And of those Protestants, some 13,000 are Presbyterian. So, although we are not talking here about even a sizable minority, we are talking about the very public witness of the church.
What then does The Presbyterian Church in Ireland say to her members and ministers on the referendum on the Eighth Amendment? Everyone should “vote in accordance with their conscience.”
The church believes she has discerned the mind of Christ on the matter and that “the General Council of our Church, acting with the authority of the General Assembly, has concluded that meaningful protection for the unborn can only be secured if the Eighth Amendment is retained in the forthcoming referendum.” Adding that, “We consider the proposals for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy to be regressive, incompatible with human dignity and morally unacceptable.”
So then, the position of the church seems clear: the righteous vote is cast to retain the current restriction on abortion.
But then we learn that “the Presbyterian Church has admitted there are differing views within its membership on abortion” and it therefore “encourage(s) Church members to consider these matters prayerfully and with great care over the coming weeks and to vote in accordance with their conscience.”
For those who understand that the Church is the Body of Christ and that Christ is the head of that body, it makes no sense to say that members of the same body might have different minds on a matter as significant as abortion. A Christ-bound conscience is just that, bound to Christ. If an individual in the church thinks differently on a matter than Christ has been revealed to think about that matter, then it is the member whose conscience must be brought into conformity with Christ.
Denominational leaders only breed confusion when they issue statements like this one. If the mind of Christ is pro-life from conception to natural death then the position of the church and all of her members must affirm that same mind. To do otherwise is to suggest that Jesus is either double-minded or schizophrenic.
What is Conscience? By Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition