Martin Weber Agnosticism about abortion among many top SDA leaders goes back to GC President Robert Pierson. After he retired, we met on the camp meeting trail in the mid-1980s when we were both speakers at Dakota Academy.
In the cafeteria I expressed deep concern about abortions being allowed in Adventist hospitals and entreated him to take a stand against it. Elder Pierson responded dismissively, “Well brother Weber, you can’t expect the Adventist Church to take a stand on everything!”
I was stunned. This was the leader whose powerful calls for revival and reformation denounced breaking God’s commandments and compromises of every kind, including improper health habits. And yet he was unwilling to take a stand on the most blatant violation of health and life. Apparently he too strained at gnats while swallowing that camel of inconsistency.
Martin Weber At the time of that camp meeting conversation with Elder Pierson about abortion, I was assistant to the director/speaker of It Is Written and scriptwriter for George Vandeman. He introduced a “pro-choice” script to the IIW script committee. I protested and brought photos of aborted babies to show fellow committee members what they were about to approve. Nevertheless Elder Vandeman prevailed and the script was approved.
After the vote was taken, I announced to the committee that I could no longer work for that ministry because it approved the abortion of human life and wanted me to support a script that approved pre-natal killing. I had no other job available, with a wife and two small children to support, but I could no longer work for them. Elder Vandeman took me out to lunch at a Mexican Restaurant and pleaded me to reconsider my “hasty decision.”
He needed my services–at the time I was writing every word in his telecasts and books on doctrinal and prophetic themes. I told him I had prayed much about it, and I couldn’t keep writing for him if he expected me to edit a pro-choice abortion script. He backed off and offered to let me edit the script according to my convictions. That script was thus transformed into pro-life. A battle was won, but the war was lost when several years later the GC Executive Committee voted its so-called sanctity of human life policy allowing abortions.
Martin Weber At that fatal 1992 Annual Council, I held up a copy of “Life & Health” (maybe by then we were calling it “Abundant Life”) and showed fellow delegates an article about pre-natal care of infants. Standing at the mic I read a sentence in that article saying that pregnant mothers shouldn’t drink coffee because it causes the fetal heart to race–which our official health journal described as unborn child abuse.
I then asked those global representatives of our church: “If it’s unborn child abuse to cause the fetal heart to beat faster for a few minutes, what kind of abuse is it when you take that same fetal heart and destroy it?” World church delegates were unmoved and proceeded to endorse the pro-choice policy by an overwhelming majority. I had counted on conservative delegates from developing nations to help us, but they followed the leader and voted the existing death-friendly policy.
Martin Weber That “sanctity of human life” statement acknowledges that prenatal “life is a magnificent gift from God.” That being so, what right do we have to abort God’s great gift and make ourselves the lords of life and death. God is neither deceived nor mocked.
Martin Weber @Cindy, some of this is the difficulty of a committee-driven, institutionalized administrative system to step outside of church tradition. Another huge factor is that many SDA leaders require an explicit and specific statement on Ellen White about abolishing abortion before they would ever take a stand on the subject.
They use her to interpret Scripture. I can’t tell you how many times the lack of an explicit and specific statement from Ellen White against abortion has been used as an excuse not to take a stand. I have no question that our GC president would take a stand on abortion if EGW spoke as clearly against abortion as some other church leaders in the late 19th century
Martin Weber P.S. Obviously I’m not blaming EGW for not specifically denouncing the act of abortion as clearly as others in her day did. I do believe that God is testing SDAs of our generation about whether the Bible and the Bible only is enough for us to take a stand on this great moral issue of our time.
Martin Weber @Erik, I would be interested in seeing a statement from EGW in which she demands the abolition of abortion explicitly and specifically, as clearly as some other church leaders and physicians of her day denounced abortion–and as clearly and specifically that she continually condemned other sins such as drinking and adornment.
Martin Weber @Erik, you and I look for principles, not proof texts or proof quotes. The problem as I see it is that many administrators, who must chair their committees according to strictly stipulated policies, instinctively rely upon specified proof texts and quotations when making spiritual decisions. Thus if our leaders (such as our world president) ever saw an explicit quotation from EGW demanding that abortion be abolished, you can be sure that inspired stipulation would become the top agenda item to implement at the next committee meeting.
But when principles themselves aren’t good enough, unprincipled behavior is the result. So like the Pharisees, we fancy ourselves as fully compliant with God’s policies–not violating an iota of His commandments as we scrupulously tithe our mint leaves–while we stray way out of line on some real issues of God’s law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. May God have mercy on our church.
Martin Weber What I’m dealing with personally right now is the wrenching story of Gianna Jessen, who as we all know survived an abortion attempt and suffers lifelong disability from her injuries. Nevertheless she courageously and eloquently speaks to global audiences, confronting the fallacy of “pro choice” by pointing out that she didn’t get to choose, and it was her own life they wanted to kill. I confess that today as I watched the movie about her life (October Baby, via Netflix), that I wept a lot.
Ironically, it was SDA abortionist Dr. Allred who signed her birth certificate. And this is the man being celebrated by the institution where I got my MA degree for his “innovative and financially successful medical practice.” Financially successful? Indeed, considering his own testimony of performing abortions on “planeloads” of pregnant women transported to his “clinics” by buses from the airport.
Innovative? Yes, he boasted about establishing “efficiencies” so that he had to spend just 5 minutes with each “patient.” (For heaven’s sake, even Planned Parenthood at least purports to care about the feelings of ex-mothers.) I wouldn’t call Allred’s abortion factory (that Gianna by God’s grace survived) a “medical practice” any more than Hitler’s death camps were hospitals.
All this is a devastating critique of our church for honoring a man who killed hundred of thousands of babies. Yet we have the audacity to brand ourselves as the final remnant who keep the commandments of God.
Martin Weber @Bonnie, yes this Facebook page is “preaching to the choir,” so to speak. But we are also “wresting with reality” about how to advocate and agitate for change in our current situation. BTW, “Wrestling with Reality” is the title of a 1994 book that the GC president at that time, Robert Folkenberg, reviewed personally and cleared before I had it published by Pacific Press. It has two chapters on abortion in which I attempt to undermine the church’s abortion policy voted two years previously.
Even though Elder Folkenberg presided over that “human life” vote in 1992, he did not try to block the publication of that now out-of-print book. Other church administrators were less accommodating of my convictions (and that’s all I should say right now). My point, Bonnie, is that there has been a lot more than “choir singing” going on by us in this forum. I value your convictions as well, even though we may disagree on substance, you remain as affirming of us as you can be–and I for one appreciate that.
My comment: It is true that Ellen White never used the word abortion in her writings, but let’s not forget that she used a much stronger term for the killing of the unborn: “murder.”
“If the father would become acquainted with physical law, he might better understand his obligations and responsibilities. He would see that he had been guilty of almost murdering his children, by suffering so many burdens to come upon the mother, compelling her to labor beyond her strength before their birth, in order to obtain means to leave for them.”  2SM 429-430]
If she condemned the almost murder of an unborn child, can we imagine what she would have said about the actual murder of unborn children?” Do you think that she would say: “I was against the almost murder of the unborn, but I am not against the actual murder?