Proposed Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Abortion

Editor’s Note: What follows is a draft of the proposed statement on abortion reviewed by the General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO). That committee suggested a few modest changes be made before it goes before the 2019 Annual Council Executive Committee for consideration.

Statement on the Biblical View of Unborn Life and Its Implications for Abortion

POSAG 7, Sequel to BRI version 18

Human beings are created in the image of God. Part of the gift that God has given us as humans is procreation, the ability to participate in creation along with the author of life. This sacred gift should always be valued and treasured. In God’s original plan every pregnancy should be an expression of the love between a man and a woman committed to each other in marriage. Every pregnancy should be wanted and each baby should be loved, valued and nurtured even before birth. Unfortunately, since the entrance of sin, Satan has made decided efforts to mar the image of God by defacing all of God’s gifts—including the gift of procreation. As a result, individuals are at times faced with difficult dilemmas and decisions regarding a pregnancy.

While the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not the conscience of individual believers, the Church has the obligation to convey the principles and teachings of the Word of God that affirm the sanctity of life and inform the issue of abortion. Seventh-day Adventists aim at being true to the teachings and principles of the Holy Scriptures which express God’s values on life and provide guidance for prospective mothers and fathers, medical personnel, churches, and all believers in matters of faith, doctrine, ethical behavior, and lifestyle. This statement reflects biblical principles bearing on abortion. Abortion as used in this statement is defined as any action aimed at the termination of a pregnancy and does not include miscarriages or the spontaneous termination of a pregnancy.

Biblical Principles and Teachings Relating to Abortion

As the practice of abortion must be weighed in the light of Scripture, the following biblical principles and teachings provide guidance for the community of faith and individuals affected by such difficult choices:

1. God upholds the value and sacredness of human life. Human life is of the greatest value to God. This is so because God created humanity in His image (Gen 1:27; 2:7) and has a personal interest in people. God loves them and communicates with them, and they in turn can love Him.

Life is a gift of God, and God is the Giver of life. In fact, God and Jesus are equated with life. In Jesus is life (John 1:4). He has life in Himself (John 5:26). He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25; 14:6). He provides abundant life (John 10:10). Those who have the Son have life (1 John 5:12). He is also the Sustainer of life (Acts 17:25-28; Col 1:17; Heb 1:1-3), and the Holy Spirit is described as the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2). God cares deeply for His creation and especially for humankind.

Furthermore, the importance of human life is made clear by the fact that, after the fall (Gen 3), God gave His Son on behalf of humanity to save people and to give them the possibility of receiving eternal life (John 3:16; Rom 5:6; 1 John 4:9-10). While God could have abandoned and terminated sinful humanity, He opted for life. Consequently, Christ’s followers will be raised from the dead and will live as unique individuals in direct communion with God (John 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:15-16; Rev 21:3). Thus, human life is of inestimable value. This is true for all stages of human life: the unborn, children of various ages, adolescents, adults, and seniors—independent of physical, mental, and emotional capacities. It is also true for all humans independent of sex, color, ethnicity, social status, religion, and whatever else may distinguish them. Such an understanding of the sanctity of life gives inviolable and equal value to each and every human life and requires it to be treated with the utmost respect and care.

2. God considers the unborn child as human life. Prenatal life is precious in God’s sight, and the Bible describes God’s knowledge of people before they were conceived. “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps 139:16). In certain cases, God directly guided prenatal life. Samson was to “be a Nazirite to God from the womb” (Judg 13:5). The servant of God is “called from the womb” (Isa 49:1, 5). Jeremiah was already chosen as a prophet before his birth (Jer 1:5), as was Paul (Gal 1:15), and John the Baptist was to “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Of Jesus the angel Gabriel explained to Mary: “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In His Incarnation Jesus Himself experienced the human prenatal period and was recognized as the Messiah and Son of God soon after His conception (Luke 1:40-45). The Bible already attributes to the unborn child joy (Luke 1:44) and even rivalry (Gen 25:21-23). Procreation occurs through God’s providence, and those not-yet-born have a firm place with God (Job 10:8-12; 31:13-15). Biblical law shows a strong regard for protecting human life and considers harm to or the loss of a baby or mother as a result of a violent act a serious issue (Exod 21:22-23).

3. The will of God regarding human life is expressed in the Ten Commandments and explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The Decalogue was given to God’s covenant people and is to guide their lives and protect them. Its commandments are unchanging truths which should be cherished, respected, and obeyed. The Psalmist praises God’s law (e.g., Ps 119), and Paul calls it holy, righteous, and good (Rom 7:12). The sixth commandment states: “You shall not kill” (Exod 20:13), which calls for the preservation of human life. The principle to preserve life enshrined in the sixth commandment places abortion within its scope. Jesus reinforced and broadened the commandment not to kill in Matthew 5:21-22. Life is not measured by individuals’ abilities or their usefulness, but by the value that God’s sacrificial love has placed on it. It is protected by God. Personhood, human value, and salvation are not earned or merited but graciously granted by God.

4. God is the Owner of life, and human beings are His stewards. Scripture teaches that God owns everything (Ps 50:10-12). God has a dual claim on humans. They are His because He is their Creator and therefore He owns them. They are also His because He is their Redeemer and has bought them with the highest possible price—His own life (1 Cor 6:19-20). This means that all human beings are stewards of whatever God has entrusted to them, including their own lives, the lives of their children, and the unborn.

The stewardship of life also includes carrying responsibilities which in some ways limit their choices (1 Cor 9:19-22). Since God is the Giver and Owner of life, human beings do not have ultimate control over themselves and should seek to preserve life wherever possible. The principle of the stewardship of life obligates the community of believers to guide, support, care for, and love those facing decisions about pregnancies.

5. The Bible teaches care for the weak and the vulnerable. God Himself cares for those who are disadvantaged and oppressed and protects them. He “shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing” (Deut 10:18, cf. Ps 82:3-4; Jas 1:27). He does not hold children accountable for the sins of their fathers (Eze 18:20). God expects the same of His children. They are called to help vulnerable people and ease their lot (Ps 41:1; 82:3-4; Acts 20:35). Jesus speaks of the least of His brothers (Matt 25:40), for whom His followers are responsible, and of the little ones who should not be despised or lost (Matt 18:10-14). The very youngest, namely the unborn, should be counted among them (Isa 58:7-11).

6. God’s grace promotes life in a world marred by sin and death. It is God’s nature to protect, preserve, and sustain life. In addition to the providence of God over His creation (Ps 103:19; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), the Bible acknowledges the wide-ranging, devastating, and degrading effects of sin on the creation, including on human bodies. In Romans 8:20-24 Paul describes the impact of the fall as subjecting the creation to futility. Consequently, in rare and extreme cases, human conception may produce pregnancies with potentially fatal prospects and/or acute, life-threatening birth anomalies that present individuals and couples with exceptional dilemmas. Decisions in such cases may be left to the conscience of the individuals involved and their families. These decisions should be well-informed and guided by the Holy Spirit and the biblical view of life outlined above. God’s grace promotes and protects life. Individuals, in these challenging situations may come to Him in sincerity and find direction, comfort, and peace in the Lord.

Implications

Abortion is a serious issue, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church considers it out of harmony with God’s biblical plan for human life. It affects the unborn, the mother, the father, immediate and extended family members, the church family, and society with long-term consequences for all. Believers aim to trust God and follow His will for them, knowing He has their best interests in mind.

While not condoning abortion, the church seeks to support women and couples who are confronted with the possibility of abortion, and believers are challenged to (1) create an atmosphere of true love; (2) enlist the help of well-functioning and committed families and educate them to provide care for struggling individuals, couples, and families; (3) encourage church members to open their homes to those in need, including single parents, parentless children, and children in adoptive or foster care; (4) care deeply for and support in various ways pregnant women who decide to keep their unborn children; and (5) provide emotional and spiritual support to those who have aborted a child for various reasons or were forced to have it done and may be hurting physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.

The issue of abortion presents enormous challenges, but it gives individuals and the church the opportunity to be what they aspire to be, the fellowship of brothers and sisters, the community of believers, the family of God.

###

Editor's Note (updated October 12, 2019 at Noon EDT): We have updated our introductory paragraph to clarify that this is the draft of the proposed statement on abortion that was presented to GCDO, which requested modest editorial revisions before it is presented to the Executive Committee.

Image Credit: rawpixel.com

Further Reading:

A Christian Woman’s Perspective on Abortion,” by Stella Oliveras, October 11, 2019

Primer on U.S. Abortion Law: Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Challenge to Louisiana Abortion Restriction,” by Michael Peabody, October 7, 2019

Geoscience Research Institute Calls for a ‘Biblically Sound Statement on Abortion,’” by the Geoscience Research Institute, October 4, 2019

An Open Letter Concerning the Adventist Church’s Abortion Guidelines,” by Mark B. Johnson, October 4, 2019

A Clinical Ethicist’s Perspective on Creating a New Abortion Statement,” by Mark F. Carr, October 2, 2019

"Abortion Rates and Ratios Continue Dropping in the United States" by David Larson, September 27, 2019

Our Abortion Guidelines Are Too Good to Replace” by David Larson, September 16, 2019

Abortion Law: Adventist Leaders Active Behind the Scenes” by Kent Kingston, September 18, 2019

Amidst Growing Criticism Adventist Church is Revisiting Abortion Position” by Michael Peabody, September 23, 2019

Adventist Church Works to Clarify Its Stance on Abortion,” Adventist News Network, August 30, 2019

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Official Guidelines on Abortion, approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the Annual Council session in Silver Spring, Maryland, October 12, 1992.

This article originally appeared in the current Spectrum print journal, volume 47, issue 3, which includes several articles on abortion.

Did you know? It is our generous journal subscribers who fund what you read on the website. Please consider subscribing today to help support the work that Spectrum does now and in the future.

Already a subscriber? Thank you! We greatly appreciate your support and invite you to click here to learn about additional ways you can support Spectrum /Adventist Forum. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all gifts are tax-deductible, and you will receive a tax receipt for your records.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9936

The proposed Statement is a catastrophe for three important reasons:

  1. The proposed Statement’s approach to interpreting the biblical text is not informed by hermeneutics but instead relies on the proof-text method. Accordingly, the proposed Statement is hermeneutically unsound. (I do not have the space or time to identify and discuss all of the hermeneutical errors contained in the proposed Statement, but I am shocked that such a high number of the proposed Statement’s interpretations of the biblical text are gross misinterpretations, and in some cases, hilarious howlers).
  2. The proposed Statement fails to acknowledge that sperm is human life. This failure, either unintentional or tactical, to acknowledge that sperm is human life avoids a confrontation with the Sorites Paradox. No statement on abortion is credible unless there is some attempt to deal with the Sorites Paradox. Consequently, the failure to acknowledge that sperm is human life, together with the absence of any attempt to deal with the Sorites Paradox, renders the proposed Statement over-inclusive, in that the proposed Statement’s condemnation of abortion is necessarily, as per the proposed Statement’s argumentation, a condemnation against birth control. (I am assuming that the proposed Statement’s authors are not opposed to birth control. But of course, my assumption may not be correct, in which case the proposed Statement would not be over-inclusive but an explicit condemnation of abortion and an implicit condemnation of birth control).
  3. The proposed Statement is also under-inclusive, in that it allows conscience to guide in circumstances in which the fetus has “acute, life-threatening anomalies,” but does not allow conscience to guide in other circumstances regarding the life and health of the mother, rape, incest, stage of pregnancy, etc. The failure to explain why conscience can guide in some circumstances but not in other circumstances renders the proposed Statement under-inclusive.

The proposed Statement illustrates what happens when one’s writing outpaces one’s thinking and understanding. The lesson to be learned is this: Unless you know what you are talking about, you should not be drafting proposed Statements for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And just because you might be a Seventh-day Adventist does not mean that you have the sufficient heft to tackle an issue as complicated as abortion.

16 Likes

I find it very strange that fundamentalist Christians seek to regulate their neighbors reproductive behavior, while they themselves, by not practicing birth control, end up as the woman’s fertility declines, doing exactly what they would disapprove of: they needlessly (or rather for the sake of pleasure) create a human life, which then fails to implant (that being one of the early causes of declining female fertility) and they go on blissfully unaware (and doubtless even rather thankful that the days of child bearing have passed!) of what they have done.

I think we should start introducing laws in the USA that encourage the government to intrude into the bedrooms of such people and make sure they aren’t repeatedly causing this abomination…

5 Likes

What business does any religious organization or government have in meddling in and making laws to interfere with private individual decisions that should be based only on individual conscience?

Whose business is it to police others’ bodies, bedrooms, and private health issues? It is between the individual and God.

How many women were involved in creating this “Adventist Statement”? In a church organization of 20 million people, 60% - 70% of whom are women–maybe more–we see a powerful example of the lack of ordained women in positions of leadership. It matters.

I believe abortion should be rare but legal.

13 Likes

It has no business at all. This is why I think church members should just disregard what those people at the GC are doing/saying. It’s ultimately irrelevant anyway. Everyone will do what they want to do!

The GC guys should stop wasting time and money working on issues that are not their business anyway. The Chgurch needs to be de-bureaucratized asap!

7 Likes

I am a Gamma member. This text seems to be simply natalist. No abortion, no contraception. Were are the subsidies for carrying out this baby factory program? Something is missing.

Analysis of how anything female is described in the text is taletelling. The word woman only appears twice. Of course the woman does not retain the ultimate decision anymore.
There is only one exception were a couple " may" consider abortion. But even that might be a very dangerous path. I already imagine a distressed couple with a foot long medical dossier having to justify their decision. Notwithstanding the guilt. I do not know what that document is, perhaps a manifesto, I am not an ethicist but I know it does not even cover the case studies that we had at uni as students in the 90. Do those people even know how contraceptives work? I am very sad about the way the Bible was used in this instance.

8 Likes

I’m unable to understand those who would deny a woman who is a victim of rape or incest the possibility of having an abortion. I really, really can’t. The best I can do is to say that we do not worship the same God and we not follow the same Jesus.

15 Likes

There are two strong contrasts between the existing statement on abortion and the proposal that I find disturbing. The first is the shift of agency. While the existing proposal affirms the mother as the key decision maker who should not been coerced to maintain or terminate a pregnancy, the proposed statement assumes it can deny abortion in almost every circumstance.

The second contrast is the removal of a sense of compassion for the woman considering abortion. In its place is inserted a view of life built on a narrow doctrine of creation. While the existing statement is built on a New Testament perspective, the proposed statement is long on Old Testament thinking. The proposed statement completely ignores Jesus’ practice as a healer and the only teaching of Jesus that is referenced relates to anger.

As a church, are we shifting our core teaching from Jesus’ gospel to creation?

7 Likes

I agree. I believe morning after pill or the coil depending on the number of days the heinous act occurred and something against stds and hiv is aftercare after rape, I am not even going to talk about incest as it often involves minors, in my mind it immediately becomes a legal issue, this paper _ obviously_ has nothing to say about it and is making a mockery of my name.

2 Likes

The REAL Issue here is that it is MEN sitting in their Ivory Towers
who are coming up with these fancy platitudes.

It is a Women’s Issue.
It should be ONLY addressed by Women.
We have lots of great Women Theologians in the SDA Denomination.
THEY should be the one’s to develop this NEW Doctrine on Abortion
[Fundamentals #29]
Actually, IS this even something the church needs to address at all
in such a Drastic way?

8 Likes

Ditto!
Best post of the month for me (besides the ones I write, of course… :innocent:)

But yes, the absurdity is such that is becomes incomprehensible how those MEN process what should be common sense. Rational thinking is certainly not part of the process, it appears to be more of a psychological disorder.

8 Likes

There should be someone at the AC so courageous to ask the proposal giving committee what was wrong with the existing statement. The answer will reveal everything behind the engineering of such a disastrous proposal. In the statement from 1992 you can find that the church will encourage couples for family planning, in the proposal above there is nothing about it. It seems to me that our church is becoming every day more like the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church like we should be. Have mercy on us.

8 Likes

This is the best they could do after a couple dozen drafts? It’s a mess. Jumps to laughable textual conclusions. Dodges the most pressing and heartbreaking circumstances. A hideous piece of practical theological guidance. This statement should be sent back resoundingly to the drawing board. What was wrong with the current statement? And why does Ted have to “fix” everything? So tired of this man. Can we please not vote him back in at the 2020 session and move on as a church?

8 Likes

Fortunately this is nothing but a futile exercise with a religious façade. The Church can legislate on the issue, but cannot execute. It’s all some people at the GC that are paid to do “something,” but they come up with something that is actually nothing.

Compassion is not something that happens that often at the administrative level anyway. Let’s not forget that our church has always been geared toward salvation by works, which is closer related to worshiping the law. GRACE, by far, has not been an Adventist “forte.”

4 Likes

I am glad there are several Catholic churches in my area. You know, just in case the inversion exacerbates… :laughing:

4 Likes

Remember that most of his actions target the world church, that is his base. Doing all he does passes on the impression that he is really working hard…
Well, he IS working hard… toward his third term!!!

2 Likes

I find it interesting that in this section this statement addresses birth anomalies but does not address the sin of rape and incest. It’s one thing to have a birth anomaly in a loving marriage relationship, but what happens when the pregnancy resulted from a rape. Rape is a violent sin. I thought this statement was not conclusive in that it did not address what I believe is the major point in the abortion debate for those who are faithful Christians. It’s clear procreation is to take place in a loving marriage relationship, but what should women do when they are raped? The statement does not address the tremendous emotional turmoil survivors of rape experience when they find themselves to be pregnant. I think this statement should be retracted and redrawn again in a more conclusive way, including the voices of survivors of rape.

6 Likes

One of the key things that this statements fails to address is why this issue is addressed in this way at this time: in short, it has become an over-inflated political issue in the United States, used to rally conservative voters and, currently, to justify the inexcusable in the highest political office. The longer history of this as a political issue is still more disturbing, identified by market research as a politically galvanising issue by those who sought to maintain the segregation of (Christian) education in the American south in the 1970s. This is not a major biblical issue and where it is addressed, the evidence is equivocal, but it has become an all-pervading political issue for conservative Christians in the United States. Something, it seems, that almost anything else can be sacrificed for. That this is a major issue for the church to address in this way shows how much our church leadership—and those voices they most listen to—follow the culture in which they are situated. There are so many issues in these few sentences that are at least equally worthy of being addressed.

4 Likes

I often wonder why so many people think that only women should have the right to weigh in on abortion. In every pregnancy there is a male and a female involved.

By making the reproduction of humans the exclusive realm of females, we have created a culture that teaches men that they don’t have to be responsible. They can do whatever they want sexually and it’s the woman who has to deal with the consequences.

I wish that this statement were more clear on the responsibility of fathers in this area. The Bible is clear that a man must provide for his family and, in cases where the man is a believer, the church should hold him accountable to providing for a child he fathered even if he is not married to it’s mother.

So does it matter how many women were on the drafting committee? Not really, what matters is whether it’s biblical. And to base our decision on anything else is troubling.

2 Likes

Phil, with all due respect I would like to point out that your argument is based on one factual error. Sperm is not a separate life. If you check the DNA of sperm it will exactly match that of the man it came from.
Similarly a woman’s egg is not a separate life. Furthermore sperm will never develop into a human unless it connects with and fertilizes an egg. It is only when the two unite that new dna is created and you have a scientifically different person.

Therefore a statement opposing abortion such as this one does not address the issue of contraceptives, except for abortive contraceptives that kill a fertilized egg.

1 Like