If the church is without compassion…

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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If there is one place in the world where empathy, compassion, and a spirit of generosity and caring should be found, it must be in the Christian Church.

That is why we are pleased to see the very enlightened view on abortion that has been taken by the head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica, Lord Bishop Howard Gregory, at this year's 149th Synod in St James.

As Mr Miguel Thomas reported in yesterday's edition, Bishop Gregory made it clear he supports legalisation of abortion. But with the important caveat “only under specific circumstances”, and that the church “affirms the sanctity of life”.

The bishop should not be misunderstood in the heat of our never-ending debate on this emotive and divisive issue. He could not be clearer in stating: “The church forbids abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or for any reason of mere convenience.”

However, the Anglican Communion allows space for consideration of abortion under specific circumstances, including cases of rape or incest; where a mother's physical or mental health is at risk; or cases involving foetal abnormalities.

A little over two months ago, the head of the Seventh-day Adventists World Church Dr Ted Wilson enunciated a position on abortion which was not far from Bishop Gregory's, although stopping short of supporting legalisation of abortion.

“Most Seventh-day Adventists would be very supportive of the sanctity of life and not in favour of abortion, unless the mother's life was in danger or perhaps there was incest or rape involved, and that is left to the individual to decide…” Dr Wilson told journalists in Montego Bay.

It is interesting to note that the church has come a long way in this debate from the time when the word abortion would evoke expressions of “Lord Jesus, wi dead now!” to a more level-headed debate in which the two sides are, at least, more civil to each other.

Bishop Gregory rightly stressed that any decision to abort a foetus ought not to be taken lightly or without due empathy, and that the woman whose body is involved was crucial to such a decision.

His point that the debate about the legal provisions for abortion must be undergirded by the Christian understanding of grace which comes from God, made great sense, for, as he stated, grace does not begin with sin, as so many preach, but with God's love.

“It is not just about a word spoken or a law invoked, but an attitude and vantage point from which we approach human beings wrestling with the fundamental and complicated issues of life,” he said.

We have, in our own view on the subject, agreed with the bishop's argument that society has been less than compassionate, and even hypocritical, to the countless generations of women who choose to have their babies under challenging circumstances.

Too many people have no concern about the quality of life of children born to perpetual squalor, or they support capital punishment, while spouting views against abortion.

We have also argued in this space that it is unlikely, even after any referendum, that the abortion debate will end. It is therefore to those — like Bishop Gregory and Dr Wilson — who know how to strike a happy medium, that we look for a reasonable position on such a controversial issue.

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