Abortion and the Clergy

In a recent article published by Focus on the Family, Pastor Shane Idleman candidly shares his regret over a past abortion. Twenty-two years later, Pastor Shane stills wonders if his child was a boy or a girl, what his lost child would have looked like, and about all of the missed memories with that child. While his story is heartbreaking, it is also encouraging for all those who have shared a loss through abortion as he reminds them of God’s great mercy and His promise of forgiveness.

In addition, Pastor Shane’s message to his fellow pastors is especially thought-provoking.  Past research has shown us that many men do not share their abortion experience with others (Reich & Brindis, 2006) which may well put them “at risk for prolonged and unresolved grief,”  (White-van Mourik, Connor & Ferguson-Smith, 1992, p. 200).  Coyle and Rue (2015a) found that of those men who did choose to disclose their abortion experience, most of them did so to a friend.  Only about one-half confided in a clergyperson.  Yet, in another published report by these same authors (Coyle & Rue, 2015b), it was observed that men who had found healing after abortion did not describe that healing in psychological terms such as “I was able to resolve my grief” or “I effectively processed the experience.”

Instead they consistently used spiritual terminology indicative of a Christian worldview.  Authors stated that the men’s “Christian faith was an important source of healing, specifically the mandates to love one’s self and one’s neighbor and to forgive, tenets that are common to a number of world religions. Both receiving forgiveness from a higher power and self-forgiveness seemed to be significant features of their healing.”  This suggests that Christianity is at least one effective path by which men may find healing.  It further suggests that Christian leaders, particularly pastors, are in a unique and effective position to help men in the process of restoration after abortion.

So then why is it that we rarely hear our pastors preach on the subject of abortion or even mention the word “abortion” in their sermons?  Pastor Shane speculates that too many pastors may want to “build a church rather than break a heart; be politically correct rather than biblically correct; coddle and comfort rather than stir and convict.”  Pastors need to know that:

  • one-third of their congregation has experienced abortion
  • abortion history carries significant risks to emotional and spiritual health particularly when individuals do not have opportunities to grieve their losses
  • silence about abortion creates more stigma than open discussions about abortion

Clergy who raise the issue of abortion in a loving, accepting, and compassionate atmosphere may do much to motivate church members to confess, repent, actively grieve, and ultimately find wholeness that the world will not and cannot give them.

References:

Coyle, C.T. & Rue, V.M. (2015a). Men’s perceptions concerning disclosure of a partner’s abortion: Implications for counseling. The European Journal of Counselling Psychology, 3 (2), 159-173. doi:10.5964/ejcop.v3i2.54

Coyle, C.T. & Rue, V.M. (2015b). A thematic analysis of men’s experience with a partner’s elective abortion. Journal of Counseling and Values, 60, 138-150.

Reich, J.A. & Brindis, C.D. (2006). Conceiving risk and responsibility: A qualitative examination of men’s experiences of unintended pregnancy and abortion. International Journal of Men’s Health, Vol. 5, No. 2, 133–152.

White-van Mourik, M.C., Cooper, J.M. & Ferguson-Smith, M.A. (1992). The psychological sequelae of a second-trimester termination of pregnancy for abnormality. Prenatal Diagnosis, 12 (3), 189-204.

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