To all North American Bishops and Clergy
It is extremely dangerous, though tempting, to make being Pro Life a political issue. There is no question that those of us who are concerned about the issues of life, particularly abortion, need to be politically aware. We certainly understand that a great deal of the battle about issues of life will be fought in political campaigns, in the halls of congress and state legislators, and in the Supreme Court. But being Pro Life is not about being political.
I will not vote for a political candidate who advocates the legalization of abortion. I do understand that the battle for an end to abortion will be won incrementally. Yet, it is clear to me that unless one is right on abortion they cannot be right on other issues. And, I am aware that there is disagreement about this among Christians. But being Pro Life is not in essence a political movement.
Being Pro Life I believe is grounded in the words of Jesus - "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10.10) This text tells us, particularly those of us in the North American Church, that the battle line is drawn between a post modern, hedonistic, consumer driven, materialistic, contraceptive culture of death and the liberating, restoring, reconciling, eternal Gospel culture of life. The text reminds us that this is an ancient spiritual battle that has crossed time and space and will be waged till finally our Lord - the giver of life - comes again to fully establish His Kingdom.
Abortion takes prominence in our discussion of life because it is so horrific. We can hardly get our minds around the fact that four thousand babies are murder by chemical burning and dismemberment every single day in the United States alone. Over one hundred and twenty thousand babies are killed the same way around the world, even in countries where abortion is supposedly illegal. Stalin once said (and I paraphrase) that the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic. It is for this very reason that we are unable sometimes to allow the reality of this holocaust and genocide to enter our daily thinking.
Abortion is clearly connected to the issue of poverty. It is not surprising that the vast majority of abortion mills are located not in middle class or upper class communities but in poor communities. Most are located in communities where the population is predominately African American or Latino. Since the beginning of organizations like Planned Parenthood the argument for murdering children or controlling population has been directed at the poor - blaming the poor, particularly children for their own poverty.
The murder of children should be enough to move us to prayer and action. We also need to understand that our country, under its present leadership, not only wants to keep abortion legal - including infanticide - but also wants to export abortion to poor countries around the world, particularly in Africa and the Philippines where children are considered a blessing and not an inconvenience. Many have in these countries, tempted by the offer of billions of dollars in aid, embraced the lie that children are the cause of poverty. These are the same politicians who are involved in massive government corruption, misuse of existing resources, and power politics, which keep resources from the children and poor mothers.
Abortion is clearly an attack on the poor who have a special place in the heart of Jesus.
The issue of life is far larger and more comprehensive than the issue of abortion. To be Pro Life is to be rooted and grounded in Gospel Christianity. If we are Pro Life than we are clearly stating that death is an enemy and never ever is it a solution to a problem. It is to be actively engaged in ministry to the poor. It is working to end the economic oppression of developing nations so that resources are made available to the children who are suffering from famine and disease. It is having a heart for the fatherless child (43% of our children live in fatherless homes - 73% of minority children). It is reaching out in love to women who have found themselves pregnant from a man (dare I use the word) who has abandoned them and left them to rely on government assistance. It is about working to end sexual exploitation and the sex trade industry, particularly the sex slave industry that lures young boys and girls into prostitution to satisfy the lusts of wealthy westerners. It is calling and working for social justice for the poor. It is teaching healthy, responsible, and Godly sexual behavior rather than spending billions of dollars on contraceptives and condoms. It is about making sure there is justice in our criminal justice system before we discuss executing a person who is often a victim of the very culture of death they became a part. It is making sure that the wars in which our country engages are just before we send off young men and women to give their lives or end up wounded in battle. It is speaking against a media industry that exploits sexuality and violence for profit and viciously attacks the Church and traditional morality over and over again. It is working against the prevalent worldview that one's worth is determined by their usefulness and so ignores the elderly and disabled and advocates euthanasia.
The task before us is immense - it always has been. It is not a political movement. Jesus came to give us life.
Though there are certainly political arguments most are not won over by arguments. Rather people are won over by the love of God. Evangelization is a Pro Life activity. We will always be lured by the false riches and glamour that the world offers if we are not in a living and personal relationship with Christ Jesus. When we bring someone to Christ Jesus we have brought them to liberation from sin, the world, and the devil.
Discipleship is a Pro Life activity. Once a person has come to Christ and made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord they need to be trained is the historic disciplines of prayer, fasting, the Scriptures, sacrificial giving, and regular reception of the Eucharist. As a person comes more and more into contact with the Risen Christ they will become more and more engaged in the works of the Church - reconciliation through mercy, forgiveness and grace.
One of the greatest assets we have in the Church is the Diaconate. I lament that fact that so many Deacons have been relegated to merely assisting at the Eucharist. Indeed, that is a holy task and I don't want to downplay the role they have in Eucharistic service. But the real call of the Deacon is to call us to engagement in the world around us. Deacons cannot only serve among the least and the lost, but can equip us to do the work of ministry in those areas. Deacons can lead us in feeding the hungry, offering counsel to the unwed mother, care for the fatherless, prayers at the abortion mills, healing those who have had abortions, working among fatherless children, ministry to the homebound elderly, work in pregnancy counseling centers, and the list goes on in on - all ways to be Pro Life.
As a charismatic I have hung around prophets. Over the decades I have heard two consistent calls from the Lord to His Church. The first is a call to repentance with the expectation of revival and renewal. Certainly this is an individual call to repentance. I need to examine my own life for areas where I have committed sins of commission and omission when it comes to being about the Gospel of Life. It is not enough to say I am Pro Life when I have often been the Priest or the Levite walking by, as the beggar lies beaten, wounded, and robbed. I must constantly be aware of my own need for confession and amendment of life turning daily away from the temptation to allow myself to be caught into the same demonic trap that can be found in the comforts of materialism.
There is also a need for corporate repentance. Perhaps our Churches have become anemic because we have failed to be in love with Jesus. This is an individual passion but must also be a corporate passion. The call upon Ephesus to return to their "first love" is a call to the Bishop and the entire Body of Christ. We need to repent of our prayerlessness. Not just intercessory prayerlessness but our individual and corporate seeking of God and dwelling in His love, forgiveness and mercy. This is Pro Life.
The second major prophetic word I hear is the call to disciple a "Joshua Generation." This generation more than any other in my lifetime is surrounded by and indoctrinated in a secular, postmodern humanism. In New York City, the government is hiring a "condom coordinator." This person will be paid over 80,000 dollars a year plus benefits to ensure that condoms are made available to students in Junior and Senior High School. The new sex education program that is offered and required of students between ages 11 and 18 includes such topics as oral sex, homosexuality, anal sex, and others topics including instructions on how to have oral sex if you have braces. At the same time God or even a religious view of the world is forbidden to be talked about in public school. Curriculums are increasing more and more morally relative and based in a totally utilitarian understanding of truth and life.
How can we as the Church raise up a generation that can win the culture for Christ? I applaud the work of CEC for Life. I am the Patriarch of the worldwide communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church but I am also the Senior Pastor of a local parish church. In my congregation are young men and women who by the grace of God (and often at their parents leading) are in the pews every Sunday. These young men and women are mostly in public school. CEC for Life has been more than helpful in putting a fire in these young men and women for Jesus. It has happened certainly because I have a youth pastor who is on fire for the Lord but he is also sold out to the Pro Life Movement. But it is also because we have year after year brought these young people to the March for Life, sent them to Ireland, and rallied them at Planned Parenthood for the Liturgy for the Preborn. Now many of these young men and women have committed themselves to living holy and chaste lives so that they can be leaders in the Church and be a Joshua generation that will conquer the land and see an end to abortion in America. They are zealots not for the Pro Life movement they are zealots for Jesus and so they are Pro Life.
When our Churches become a member of CEC for Life, and we encourage our parishioners to become members, and take up the annual offering we are making a powerful spiritual statement in the heavenly realms. We let the principalities, powers, and forces of wickedness know that we are standing in prayer - spiritual warfare - not only for ourselves but also for generations of little ones. We are bringing about a generation of warriors for the Gospel. They are warriors who are in love with Jesus in the Eucharist and in the poor.
We can equip these young saints with the word of God and the gifts of the spirit. They will be a generation empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak prophetically to the Church and the culture. They will be a generation that can heal the sick and cast out the demons of death. They will be a generation that will have the knowledge and wisdom of God. The will be a generation of prayer that seeks the face of the Lord.
I am more than optimistic. I am so because all of us fight from a posture of victory because Christ has defeated death and is risen from the grave. Life will always triumph over death. This Risen Christ is among us. And, He is working with us till the end of time.
I am Pro Life not because I am a Republican or a Democrat. I am Pro Life because I am a Christian and my Lord is Pro Life.
On a final note, do not be discouraged at the numbers. Every major move of God in the last hundred years (and even before that) began with small numbers of men and women, young and old, who fell in love with Jesus. The great revivals and renewal movements of the Church from the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Wesleyans, the Moravians, and our own Charismatic fathers and mothers began with only a few whose heart was turned to Jesus so much that they were willing to lay it all down to proclaim that Jesus has come to give life and to give it abundantly.
Now for some advertisements. I encourage you to come to and encourage others to come to the March for Life - January 22 in Washington DC or to take part in the West Coast March for Life. I also encourage you to get your families to International Convocation where we will together become a communion empowered to live for the life of the world. There will be a strong youth presence going to the streets of Madrid with the message of the love of God and the means of life.
Just some thoughts spoken because I love each of you and I am your brother.
Under His mercy,
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,