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My Episcopal Church Has Surrendered


By James Cavanagh | October 2000
The Very Rev. James Cavanagh is Dean of St. Paul's (EpiscopabpCathedral in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

The big topic of discussion throughout the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in July was sex. Predictably, the Church adopted a whiffling seven-point resolution on the subject.

More than 300 resolutions were considered at the Convention. One issue, however, received virtually no attention: abortion. This is surprising, given the Church’s near-obsession with sexual matters. The Church’s silence was especially telling given the Supreme Court’s decision on June 28 to strike down Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion. The Court’s ruling effectively protects all abortions, including those which closely border on infanticide. Where was the Episcopal Church’s voice in this? Nowhere to be heard. There was, however, a resolution that passed which reaffirmed the Church’s clear opposition to capital punishment. All the more so, then, the Church’s silence on partial-birth abortion (arguably the most important moral question of our time) was deafening.

The point was made that since the Church passed an abortion resolution at a previous convention, there was no need for another. But resolution C047 (General Convention, 1988), which expresses the Episcopal Church’s stance on abortion, is ambiguous and doubleminded. Without saying so explicitly, C047 supports Roe v. Wade. In that resolution, the strongest statement the Church makes about abortion is to say that it “has a tragic dimension.” (Tragic, yes. But for whom?) The resolution also expresses the Church’s “unequivocal opposition” to any attempt to change laws that might in any way restrict abortions.

Why has the Episcopal Church been so quiet about abortion in recent years? The short answer is that the Church has simply capitulated to the Sexual Revolution. The Convention’s resolution on human sexuality this year makes this quite clear. Sexual license and abortion are inseparable. Church officials support the Sexual Revolution, and unrestricted access to abortion, the linchpin of the Sexual Revolution, must be protected at all costs. And so abortion, which is necessarily linked to the ability to practice free sex, receives little or no attention from Church officials. It is, to paraphrase the 1988 resolution on abortion, a “tragic necessity” of the “new morality.” Abortion is a consequence of the Sexual Revolution — a consequence the Church seems willing to accept. Mother Teresa, a staunch defender of the unborn, said, “The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion, which is war against the child. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want.” For all the Convention’s rhetoric against hate and violence, for all its talk about its commitment to children, the Convention failed to notice what Mother Teresa found painfully obvious.

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