Nearly six out of 10 Mainline Protestant pastors say they have never discussed pro-life issues in their sermons and nearly eight out of 10 Mainline Protestant pastors say they haven't discussed pro-life causes from the pulpit over the last year, a new Barna Group survey finds.
As 700,000 abortions are performed each year in the United States, a LifeWay Research poll from last year found that over 70 percent of the women who get abortions self-identify as Christian and about 40 percent of women who get abortions were frequent churchgoers when they ended their pregnancies.
With such startling numbers of self-proclaimed Christian women going against traditional biblical teachings on abortion, Students for Life of America's Institute for Pro-Life Advancement commissioned the Barna Group to research the pro-life activism of Catholic, Protestant and non-Mainline Protestant churches and pastors to see if there was a noticeable lack of pro-life ministry that could play a role in why Christian women seek abortion as the answer to unwanted pregnancies.
"Churches should find a way to talk about these issues, leading on the front lines and helping the post-abortive through healing ministry. They should be the ones supporting the pregnancy resource centers and showing the world what we know," Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
"We know that we love her and we love her child and we are going to be there for them."
The survey, which was conducted in January and February, interviewed 88 Catholic priests and 513 Protestant pastors (30 percent Mainline Protestant pastors and 70 percent non-Mainline Protestant).
According to the research, Catholic priests and churches are by far most likely to discuss pro-life issues and have their own pro-life ministries in place to help steer pregnant mothers away from abortion. Meanwhile, Mainline Protestant pastors and churches are by far the least likely to advance the pro-life cause.
Seventy-five percent of Catholic priests who were interviewed say they have discussed the pro-life cause in their sermons over the last six months, while another 16 percent of priests say the have discussed pro-life issues in sermons over six months to a year ago. Only 1 percent of priests said they have never discussed pro-life cause in sermons.
By comparison, only 11 percent of Mainline Protestant pastors surveyed said they have discussed pro-life causes in their sermons in the last six months. Meanwhile, only 11 percent of Mainline Protestant pastors said they discussed pro-life issues from the pulpit over six months to a year ago. An astonishing 59 percent of Mainline Protestant pastors say they have never discussed pro-life causes in their sermons.
"This is a concern that the pro-life movement has brought up for years — that a lot of Mainline churches have taken pro-abortion positions," Hawkins told CP. "This is something that we have been seeing and I really wasn't shocked by the data because we talk to students all the time on campuses who tell us, 'We never talked about abortion in my church.'"
As for non-Mainline Protestant pastors, just 48 percent of them have discussed pro-life causes from the pulpit over the last six months, while 25 percent of them say they have mentioned pro-life causes in a sermon at least six months to a year ago. Eleven percent of non-Mainline protestant pastors say they have never discussed pro-life causes in a sermons.
"I think there is kind of fear in a lot of pastors about talking about this issue and how to talk about abortion in a compassionate and loving way, in a way that doesn't seem hurtful to the women and men who have had abortions, but at the same time, speaking the truth to make sure that no one else in your congregation goes through with this deception," Hawkins explained. "That's a hard thing for pastors. It is not really talked about. There is not really a course in Bible school teaching pastors how to talk about these issues. Honestly, there should be."
As for church involvement in pro-life programs, 52 percent of priests said that their Catholic churches have their own pro-life programs or activities in place, while 86 percent of priests say their parishes support pro-life programs and ministries outside of the church.
By comparison, just 2 percent of Mainline Protestant pastors and 7 percent of non-Mainline Protestant pastors said that their churches have their own pro-life programs or activities. Only 24 percent of Mainline Protestant pastors say that their churches support pro-life programs and organizations outside of the church, while 56 percent of non-Mainline Protestant pastors say their church support outside pro-life programs.
Nearly half of Mainline Protestant pastors (49 percent) said that their churches are not involved in any pro-life activities or programs inside or outside of the church, while 20 percent of non-Mainline Protestant pastors and 2 percent of Catholic priests said that their churches are not involved in pro-life activities or programs inside or outside of the church.
The overwhelming Catholic participation in pro-life activities and ministries compared to Protestant participation is something Hawkins has noticed through her own work in the pro-life movement.
"We have anecdotal evidence for this in the pro-life movement, whether it is March for Life or the Students for Life National Conference," she said. "In our conference halls on Sunday, we offer religious services and we offer mass and a non-denominational service. Nine out of the 10 people that are there are attending mass and in the non-denominational services are often a small handful of students."
"This is something that has been a passion point for me, having been raised in a non-denominational home — getting more Protestants involved in the pro-life movement and getting this message out there," Hawkins continued.
As last year's LifeWay survey found that only 7 percent of women who got abortions discussed their abortion decision with people at their church, Hawkins said that more churches need to create an atmosphere where women feel comfortable talking about such a taboo subject.
Hawkins suggests that churches should do something as simple as having post-abortive individuals get up in front of the congregation before, during or after a sermon to give their own testimony of regret.
"Especially in church, you are not going to say anything if you are going to feel judged. But, if someone else gets up there and shares their story and speaks about the healing that can come from talking about it, you would see a transformation in the church," Hawkins asserted. "That is something that we have to talk about first. It can't be this hidden thing that we know happens but we don't want to talk about. We have to address it head on."