Dear Old South Church in Boston,
With today's news from the Supreme Court, it seems clear that history will mark this day as one on which our culture, and even the civic consensus on which it rests, became more grievously frayed. Though the ramifications of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will certainly continue to be revealed in coming weeks, the breadth and depth of its effect are already unmistakable. It's hard to imagine any citizens of our country being unaffected by the new set of assumptions, and anxieties, that are entering our lives in the maelstrom of reassessment that begins today.
This, then, is a moment to recall that our faith, and the community that it has engendered under the broad wing of this church, have weathered the storms of such national upheaval before. Old South Church has stood firm in its convictions about equity and justice, compassion and reconciliation, grace and hope through more than 350 years of moments of national anguish and national decision. And we have not always been on the same page across our generations, even within our families. We've been tested before by the issues that we face by virtue of our choice to be citizens in a democracy - a choice which was, of course, born among these very pews of ours.
In yet another moment of our national life that is deeply complicated and, for many people (for many reasons) raw, a few particular things bear remembering. One is that, with the United Church of Christ more broadly, we believe that that question of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term must, as a matter of first principle, be a matter for individual conscience. Another is that Old South stands firmly within our denomination in unwavering support of equal rights, equal access, and the moral agency of pregnant people as individuals. The officers of the United Church of Christ have today responded, in part, to remind us that -
Long before the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, the United Church of Christ, by action of the General Synod, affirmed the right of every individual to follow their personal religious and moral convictions regarding their reproductive healthcare... This religious and moral agency includes the autonomy of birthing people to decide whether to complete or terminate a pregnancy. Our Synod resolutions, which represent the will of the church in light of scripture, highlight the importance of ensuring access to the full range of reproductive health care regardless of race, religion, or economic status. We do not take this stand in spite of faith, but rather because of it. Throughout sacred text humankind is tasked with care of self and others. Bodily autonomy is a human right given by God. [You can read the full statement of our national U.C.C. officers here.]
We must also remember that, as vexed as the national debate on the issue of abortion has been and will continue to be, as a congregation we are likely to embody a wider spectrum of opinion and experience about it than we can fully grasp, see or hear. Just as today's news has been greeted by expressions of anger, exultation, lament, despair and exhaustion, so even among us it has certainly landed with many valences. There are those who are feeling more vulnerable as a result, not only of today's decision, but also of ominous portents for future rulings by the Supreme Court. Just as our convictions require us to respect agency and defend equity, so our compassion requires us to hold one another tenderly in the common love of Jesus. And we, as your pastors, are ready to walk with you, one by one and all in all, through the challenges that now lie before us.
Was there ever a moment that made it clearer why we need to be the church? These coming days will summon us across newly-etched lines of anguish that are both broadly civic and deeply personal. And the society around us needs us to remind one and all that God is still speaking - and that we are still listening. And we will continue to stand, as we have for three and half centuries, for justice, for mercy, for beauty - which is to say, for the cause of the God who, in Jesus Christ and with the Spirit's help, is even now at work to reconcile this poor, riven world to itself with hope, for justice, in love.