San Diego church leaders grapple with Supreme Court ruling

Pastors in San Diego County struggled on Sunday to help their congregations understand last week’s Supreme Court ruling on abortion, a topic deeply felt by many people of faith.

Most church leaders plan their sermons weeks in advance, often on a theme such as hope or salvation. But knowledgeable preachers know the importance of acknowledging from the pulpit the major issues of the day and events in the lives of church members.

Friday’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion in 1973, was one such example. The subject is deeply divisive, even among the faithful, and opinions vary like the colors of the rainbow.

David Jeremiah, pastor of the megachurch Shadow Mountain Community Church based in El Cajon, praised the Supreme Court for the positions it took last week on two things – gun rights and abortion.

“It’s been a great week for the freedoms we enjoy,” Jeremiah told a large congregation that responded with loud applause.

Shadow Mountain is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and a strong supporter of anti-abortion views. The Sunday morning service was streamed live online and at six San Diego County auxiliary church campuses.

“I remember back in 1973 when Roe vs. Wade happened…and the war that’s been going on until now,” Jeremiah said. “Sadly, 63 million children have died without any choice on their part in recent years.”

The Supreme Court’s June 24 decision leaves the matter up to individual states, he said, and “the battle is not over,” particularly in California, where abortions remain legal.

“I’m not an agitator, I’m not here to create a problem,” Jeremiah said. “I’m just here to tell you how grateful I am that we reached this milestone and how proud I am of the judges, with their own lives at stake, who came out and did the right thing.”

Mainstream churches such as First Presbyterian of Oceanside have taken a more moderate approach.

Reverend Mike Killeen, the senior pastor of First Presbyterian, said during his Sunday sermon that the issue of abortion is “uncomfortable and divisive”, and he asked members of the congregation to raise their hands. They had strong opinions about it. Many quickly raised their hands.

“There are people who are distraught and upset,” Killeen told her followers. “Other people who are at peace and rejoicing. Let us rise above division and come before our father in heaven and worship God.

In his sermon, Killeen said people often ask him why he doesn’t preach on “hot topics of the day” such as COVID-19, vaccinations and lockdowns.

“If I talk about it here (from the pulpit), there’s no room for a conversation,” he said. “This and all the other events of the past two years require a relational and crucial conversation. There is always another voice to be heard, someone on the other side of the story.

Killeen offered to meet as a group at the church later in the week with anyone who wanted to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision “as well as all the other events of the past two years.”

The recent decisions were bad news for St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, where the congregation has a large number of LGBTQ members.

Particularly troubling were Judge Clarence Thomas’ comments on Friday that the court should then reconsider decisions on gay rights and birth control, said the Very Reverend Penny Bridges, Dean of St. Paul’s, who rewrote her Sunday morning sermon to respond to the latest developments. .

“There’s a lot of fear in my congregation…that marriage equality could be next,” Bridges said.

“I reminded them that the Episcopal Church strongly supports reproductive rights and gun control,” she said by phone Sunday afternoon. “It was a bad week for the church. God calls us to action…to put our energy in a positive way and not be discouraged by the dark times.

All life is sacred and any decision to terminate a pregnancy is tragic, Bridges said. But it is “a personal and private decision”, not that of politicians.

In addition, she said, the court’s decision “institutionalises inequality” by making it more difficult for minority women and those without financial resources to obtain the same health services as women. who have money.

“It feels like we’re trapped in a time machine that’s always spinning in reverse and won’t stop until we return to an era of unchallenged white male patriarchy,” she said. .

Cardinal-designate Robert McElroy of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego released a statement Friday praising the court’s decision.

“Today is a day to give thanks and celebrate,” McElroy said. “Catholic social teaching holds that life begins at conception, a belief shared by millions of Americans, regardless of religion.”

More work is needed in California, he said.

“Being pro-life requires more than opposing abortion,” he said in the statement. “It requires that we do everything we can to support families, to give them access to quality health care, affordable housing, good jobs and decent housing.

“It means making sure that parents and families have access to affordable childcare, so that being a parent does not force women and families to drop out of school or out of the workforce. . It also means reinvigorating our adoption system, to ensure there are options for women and families who are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to assume parental responsibilities,” McElroy said. “Support for children and families cannot stop at birth.”

Similar divisions emerged in religious groups across the country on Sunday.

American Catholics disagree on the right to abortion. Supporters include high-level members of the faith like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who therefore face fellowship restrictions.

A Catholic priest in Pittsburgh called Sunday Friday a “day of great joy” because of the decision, although a few people left during his homily, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, a minister in New York mourned the decision, saying: ‘We are in shock’.

According to a religious landscape study by the Pew Research Center, a majority of adults of Buddhist, Hindu, historically Black Protestant, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim and Orthodox Christian faiths support legal abortion in all or most cases.

Rabbi Sarah DePaolo took time out at the start of Friday night’s Shabbat service at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, Calif., to express her disappointment, urging community members to support each other and create a space for the fearful.

“One of the most upsetting things about this decision is that while it claims to represent believers, it does not represent our faith,” DePaolo said. “It does not reflect our Jewish law. It does not reflect our traditions. It does not reflect our community.

Most Evangelical Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, Pew Research Center study finds .

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