In addition to being a pastor at Offerings Community of First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Teddy Ray is an avid blogger, writing on a wide range of issues related to Christian faith and the life of the church. One of his articles, however, has prompted more response than all of the others combined.
In 2013, Ray wrote a piece entitled, “A pastor’s note to women who have had abortions – and to those who assisted or insisted.” In this letter, Ray apologized for the conduct of the church:
If you’ve felt judged or condemned by the church, I apologize on our behalf. If you’ve felt like you can’t be a Christian or a church member because of your abortion, it’s not true. If you’re a church member and kept your abortion(s) a secret for fear of the repercussions, I’m sorry you’ve gone through this in silence, or in fear of what would happen if anyone found out. If you’ve struggled with an inability to forgive yourself, I can assure you that God still loves you, still offers forgiveness, has not written you off or condemned you.
Ray continued on to explain that abortion is nevertheless sin. “Children from the time of conception are precious in God’s sight, and God is deeply grieved to lose any of them.” Yet Ray insisted that acknowledging the sin of abortion is not incompatible with loving and accepting those who have had abortions:
You see, there’s often this feeling that calling something “sin” and being accepting/hospitable are an either-or choice. You either call something sin and are judgmental and closed. Or you don’t talk about sin, act as if anything goes, and are hospitable and open. I hope we can provide a third way as a church. A way that doesn’t tolerate sin and urges people to stop sinning, and yet a way that welcomes people with open, loving, forgiving arms.
After publishing this post, Ray began receiving a steady stream of e-mails from women who had chosen abortion in the past and were still struggling with deep sorrow and regret. One wrote,
I had an abortion just over a year ago. And I’ve never talked about it until now, in this very email. I am a christian, and I do feel so very guilty. I was selfish in my actions, and so very stupid. I would give anything to hold this sweet baby in my arms … I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off, just by sharing this. Nothing will ever make this easier, and I will never forget what happened, and I’m unsure how to move forward.
Many of these women never wanted to have an abortion, but at the time, felt like they had no other choice.
Ray hopes that the church will be a place where such women find love, acceptance, and healing. Ray also hopes that women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy will find the church to be a community of support and assistance.
Ray is not alone in his vision for the church. Live Action News recently featured an article on Embrace Grace, an organization with the vision “for every girl with an unplanned pregnancy to have a church to go to for spiritual, emotional and physical support.” Visit their website to find out how your church can get involved.
Editor’s Note: If you are struggling with a past abortion, please click here for post-abortion healing resources.