Dr. Ross Blackburn has been ordained for twenty years and has served as Rector of Christ the King for the past ten. He earned a Master of Divinity at Trinity School for Ministry, and a PhD in Biblical Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He and his wife Lauren have been married for twenty-three years and have five children.

For the last few years, Rev. Blackburn has been a regular contributor to the Human Life Review’s website. His column, titled A Pastor’s Reflections, is an ongoing meditation on how the grave transgression of abortion hurts not only individuals but the culture, which both influences their behavior and is shaped by it.

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SPECIAL SERIES! Starts August 13, 2018

“When the Church Is Silent: 10 Words for the Church Concerning Abortion” is a series of reflections on the Ten Commandments and abortion which Rev. Blackburn wrote to be used in a workshop at the global gathering of Anglican bishops in Jerusalem this past June (GAFCON). We are happy to be able to post these reflections over the next ten weeks. The first will follow the Introduction below.

When the Church Is Silent:
Ten Words for the Church Concerning Abortion

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The suggestion implicit in the title of this work, that the Church is silent on the matter of abortion, is on one level plainly false. Far from being silent, the Christian Church addresses abortion in very practical, courageous ways, and without the Church, the tragedy of abortion would be far worse than it is. Advocacy for the unborn and their parents in crisis has been, with few exceptions, the work of Christians. We can therefore thank God for the Church’s willingness to speak.

And yet there are ways in which the Church, and particularly her leadership, is far too silent on the matter of abortion. Reasons vary. Some pastors don’t want to drive people away or are concerned that abortion is too political. Some will readily take a pro-life position but fail to call their people to respond actively to the biblical call to defend the fatherless and plead for the widow (Isa 1:17). Sometimes it is fear, for speaking plainly about abortion will surely incur opposition. More subtly, perhaps, we have determined that abortion is an “issue,” and as such, we set it alongside other “issues,” and then sideline it. After all, as the thinking goes, there are many issues that deserve our attention, and we can’t attend to them all. Because such thinking contains an element of truth, it allows us to set certain matters aside. Yet abortion is no more of an “issue” than the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda or Sudan were. Concerning abortion, many are satisfied in taking the right position. Few weep. And the effect is devastating not just for the oppressed but also for the life of the Church herself. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”*

In the end, silence concerning abortion is a betrayal of the Gospel, and the Church cannot be faithful to her calling apart from attending to abortion directly. To say it differently, the witness of the Anglican Church in the world depends, in part, upon our faithful attention to abortion. The following reflections, each based upon one of the Ten Words (Ten Commandments), explain why.

*This quote is attributed to Martin Luther King, although it is quite possibly a paraphrase.

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When the Church is silent, we incur guilt before God (When the Church is Silent, # 6 of 10)

  You shall not murder (Exod 20:13).   Let’s take for granted the obvious—abortion kills a human baby—and explore what may not be entirely clear—the responsibility that the Church bears in a world of abortion on demand. There is an obscure...
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When the Church is silent, we forsake other children (When the Church is Silent, # 5 of 10)

  Honor your father and your mother (Exod 20:12).   The fifth word above rests upon an important presumption: Fathers and mothers must be worthy of honor. Yet we live in a world that suggests that honor lies principally apart from one’s...
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When the Church is silent, we leave people in despair (When the Church is Silent, # 4 of 10)

  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exod 20:8).   Have you ever wondered why Jesus healed so regularly on the Sabbath? Considering the danger He faced for so doing, why did Jesus seem to choose the Sabbath for healing? To understand,...
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When the Church is silent, we lie about God’s character (When the Church is Silent #3 of 10)

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Exod 20:7).   “My walk is a public one. My business is in the world; and I must mix in the assemblies of men, or quit...
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When the Church is silent, we forsake the worship of God (When the Church is Silent #2 of 10)

You shall have no other gods before me . . . You shall not make for yourself a carved image . . . You shall not bow down to them or serve them . . . (Exodus 20:3-6). The first commandment in the Decalogue concerns worship, forbidding the worship...
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When the Church is silent, we have forgotten who we are (When the Church is Silent #1 of 10)

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Exod 20:2). The Lord constantly reminds His people of who He is. In the Old Testament, the Lord instituted the Passover as an annual reminder that He...
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