Press Release December 1, 1999
Anticipating the third millennium and plans by the Presbyterian Church (USA) for a Year of the Child, four organizations made up of members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are issuing a joint statement today. The statement is intended to kick off the focus on the welfare of children by responding to the increasing incidence of infanticide in our society and a concern about voices that condone or encourage such actions.
The following organizations and entities were invited to join in the statement: Year of the Child (The Rev. Lawrence Kirby Hill, chairman); Women's Ministries Program Area (Barbara Dua, program director); Presbyterian Women (Ann Ferguson, staff); Advocacy Committee on Women's Concerns (Unzu Lee, staff); Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network and Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (Helen Locklear, staff); PC(USA) Washington Office (Eleanora Ivory, staff); Voices of Orthodox Women (Sylvia Dooling, President); Presbyterian Renewal Network (Ilona Buzick, Moderator); Presbyterian Coalition (William Giles, Executive Coordinator); Presbyterians Pro-Life (Terry Schlossberg, Executive Director).
Four organizations responded. Voices of Orthodox Women, the Presbyterian Renewal Network, the Presbyterian Coalition, and Presbyterians Pro-Life, therefore issue the following statement on behalf of members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Christians everywhere who share a concern for the protection and care of children:
The King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." (Matt. 25:40)
Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19:14)
The Christian Church historically has understood its special calling to care for "the least" of her Lord's brothers and sisters, and to bring children to Christ. In light of the General Assembly's planning for the Year of the Child beginning in the year 2000, we seek to express the unity we have in our diversity by affirming as a primary matter our concern for the lives of children in our own country. We affirm the theme chosen by the planning committee for the Year of the Child: "Children: God's Gift to the World; Christ's Call to the Church," and we resist all teaching and practices that place children in jeopardy.
Presbyterians are united in believing that at least at the time of birth a human being exists, and General Assembly policy declares that "...after human life has begun, it is to be cherished and protected as a precious gift of God." (G.A. policy on "Problem Pregnancies and Abortion, 1992, page 11).
The recent appointment of Peter Singer to an ethics chair at Princeton University is a particular concern to us because it brings his ideas into the mainstream of academia in the United States. His ethical position poses a threat to young children and to all vulnerable persons. In his book, Practical Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1998), Singer asserts that "No infant--disabled or not--has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time....The grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants." (pp. 182, 171). Singer holds that some children as old as three years do not yet comprehend death well enough to resist it ("It would, of course, be difficult to say at what age children begin to see themselves as distinct entities existing over time. Even when we talk with two and three year old children it is usually very difficult to elicit any coherent conception of death, or the possibility that someone--let alone the child herself--might cease to exist." p. 171).
The implications of Singer's ethics is not simply abstract. We see a troubling practice among too many young parents to end the lives of their newborns. We also see the legal practice of abortion extended to include infanticide of babies in the process of being born. The Presbyterian Church (USA) expressed its "grave moral concern" regarding this practice in 1997. Nevertheless, it continues largely unabated in our country.
We join our voices in protesting both the practice and the approval of the killing of vulnerable and defenseless children as a clear violation of Jesus's teaching. We affirm that the protection of the lives of children is a primary concern that we wish to raise up as we approach the Year of the Child. We affirm that Christian faith calls all of us in the Church of Jesus Christ to respond to the crisis of infanticide in our country by providing support and care as well as tangible help
- to build strong family structures and
- to meet the needs of mothers and fathers in crisis, and
- to provide shelter, safety and nurturing for vulnerable infants and children.