There’s an old dictum in Anglican Moral Theology; “Circumstances alter cases.” When we’re trying to work out the right thing to do in a moment of moral quandary, we can’t just use a single principle to come to a decision. It’s one thing if a multi-billionaire steals a loaf of bread from a neighborhood bakery. It’s another thing, in our thinking, if it’s a starving child who steals the bread.
This week there has been a leak regarding a potential decision and the associated reasoning behind it concerning the legality of Abortion services in the United States. We don’t know yet the final opinion or the decision, but what has been published has created deep concern for many and hope for others. We in the Episcopal Church are not of one mind about this question. We do though have a published and nuanced position, one initially issued by General Convention in 1967, prior to the Roe v Wade decision, and which was reaffirmed in 1976, and returned to subsequently. You can find more information here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ogr/summary-of-general-convention-resolutions-on-abortion-and-womens-reproductive-health/
Our position lays out the instances in which the broader Episcopal Church believes that abortion is not a moral choice and lays out instances when it is the less bad choice of two difficult options. To be clear, it is guidance for decision making. It is not binding on our individual consciences. We rarely do that as a denomination; it’s something that sets us apart from others.
The 1976 statement ends with strong language: “the Episcopal Church expresses its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them.” What we expect of members of the Church is one thing and how we live in a larger pluralistic society is another. That needs to be a part of our consideration should the Supreme Court rule that Roe v Wade was a mistake.
The news comes unexpectedly, and this isn’t something many of us were prepared to hear. It is already raising emotions and opening old wounds. I ask you to be ready to hear people who disagree with you, and to be ready to love those who reject what you believe. The conflict is real and deep. That’s given and there’s not much we can do about that. What we can do is manage how we respond to the conflict which has unexpectedly added to the torn fabric of our social life.