Texas church-led event helps ‘change the conversation’ around reproductive justice, theology

It is important for Christians to reframe the conversation around abortion, according to Rev. Rebecca Todd Peters.  

This was the major point of her talk as the guest speaker at an event hosted by Friends Congregational Church of College Station, Texas, and livestreamed by the National Setting of the United Church of Christ on Feb. 11. In her address, Peters shared her thoughts about the theology of reproductive justice.  

Rev. Rebecca Todd Peters addressed the crowd gathered for her talk about reproductive justice.

“We need public voices of Christians speaking out in communities and countering that dominant narrative against abortion,” she said to those gathered in-person and around the country online. 

Peters — an author, professor of religious studies, and a public Christian social ethicist — gave those attending tools to help them do that. Breaking down the history of abortion throughout humankind, she noted that there is no mention of abortion in the Bible, “yet a lot of Scripture is being used to weaponize this debate.”  

She offered charts and statistics around abortion in the United States and reviewed the imprint of patriarchy and misogyny through time and centuries. All of this leads to the “justification framework,” as she calls it: a fundamentally flawed “wrong moral question.”  

“It’s not a binary of ‘Is abortion right or wrong?’” she posed to the crowd. “It’s not black and white. The real question is, what should we do when faced with an unplanned, unwanted, or medically compromised pregnancy?”  

She went on to ask the crowd, rhetorically, why it matters what Christians believe about abortion. Because many Christian voices lead the charge in making abortion illegal, Peters said, those Christians who believe it should remain legal are the linchpin of the debate. “Therefore, we bear a responsibility in this — we need to speak up and say those people don’t speak for all Christians. We need to challenge that.” 

Peters reviewed the history of abortion in her remarks.

An act of love

Peters gave listeners talking points about why abortion is necessary and how to frame conversations around the significance of parenthood.  

“The task of parenting is one of the hardest,” she said. “It is a sacred task. It takes time, patience, courage, and work. You can’t force people into parenting.”  

Because of this daunting task, Peters explained that abortion can be an act of love. She believes it helps people create the families they want. 

To help reframe conversations around abortion this way, Peters suggested that churches become part of a national movement called SACReD — the Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity. She explained that SACReD offers a way to form a Reproductive Freedom Congregation and compared it to the movement of when many churches became Open and Affirming in supporting the LGBTQ+ community.  

A seven-week-long curriculum has been formed to help churches achieve this designation. The first in-person training of those interested in this movement was held in April 2023.  

The first in-person training for SACReD was held in April of 2023.

“We need to bring hope and light and energy around this,” Peters said. “We need to create a long-term culture change — even if abortion were to become legal everywhere, there is still a stigma around it.”  

The beginning of a movement

After her talk, a question-and-answer session was led by the Rev. Dan De Leon, the senior pastor of Friends Congregational Church.

One question asked how Christians can develop ethics around sexuality and parenting that empowers women to discern and live out their callings.

“I think events like this are the beginning of that,” Peters replied. “I think we need to be doing more of this in our congregations.” She added that she believes this is the beginning of a movement.

The livestream was hosted by Sherry Warren, UCC minister for women’s and gender justice and founder of the Engendering Spirit educational series. 

“It’s critical that our congregations feel confident in understanding the issues facing reproductive justice and bodily autonomy,” Warren said. “Helping congregations find voice through their faith empowers us to continue the work and support of General Synod resolutions committed to the right of all people to have bodily autonomy.” 

Questions and answers followed Peters’ talk.

Warren is creating a new toolkit that will include a study guide for discussing reproductive justice further within congregations. It will be available through the UCC Gender and Sexuality Justice Ministries. 

Other sponsors of the event included Texas Impact — a faith-based policy and advocacy organization that includes the UCC’s South Central Conference among its member institutions — and the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley in Bryan, Texas.  

The video will be available to anyone who registered and also will be included as an episode of the Engendering Spirit series on the Frontline Faith

Content on ucc.org is copyrighted by the National Setting of the United Church of Christ and may be only shared according to the guidelines outlined here.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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