Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tiller Killing

My article from today's Algona Upper Des Moines about the killing of George Tiller and Lutheran stances on abortion:

Q:  Dr. George Tiller was recently murdered in Kansas because of his notoriety for performing late-term abortions.  Does the Bible approve of this type of killing?

Dr. Tiller was a nationally known figure in the controversy over abortion because of his willingness to perform abortions for reasons and at times when many other doctors would have declined to do so.  The position of the Bible, which has been affirmed by Christians throughout history, is that all human life is to be valued and respected from conception until natural death.  This means that any intentional killing of another person (except for the execution of convicted criminals, justifiable wars, or legitimate cases of self-defense) is murder.  Accordingly, Christians have typically considered both abortion and euthanasia to be contrary to God’s commands. 

Even though the majority of Christian churches throughout history have seen abortion as contrary to God’s will, there has also been near-unanimous consensus that lawlessly killing those who perform abortions is equally sinful.  This is seen in the teachings of St. Paul in the book of Romans, when he instructs Christians not to overcome evil with evil, but to “overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) He also says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12:17 ESV)  During the 1990’s, a rash of bombings and killings at abortion clinics prompted responses from national pro-life groups condemning violence against abortion providers, and following the murder of Dr. Tiller, U.S. pro-life groups again issued statements condemning the actions of the killer. 

Q:  According to the news stories, Dr. Tiller was killed while serving as an usher at a Lutheran church.  Do Lutherans approve of the practice of abortion?

In their statement on the events surrounding Dr. Tiller’s death, Lutherans for Life stated, “While George Tiller was a member of a Lutheran denomination that does not officially oppose abortion, it should be noted that almost all other Lutheran denominations do take an official stance that opposes abortion and asserts the God-given value of human life from conception to natural death.”
There are presently more than 20 different Lutheran church bodies in the United States.  The two largest of these groups, are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LC-MS).  All of the Lutheran congregations in Kossuth County, except one, are members of one of these two denominations. 

According to M. Z. Hemingway of, Dr. Tiller was, at one time, a member of a LC-MS congregation.  When the congregation began the process of excommunicating him for his refusal to turn away from his actions of aborting babies, he sought membership in a congregation of the ELCA.  While the LC-MS retains the position of Christians as early as the first century A.D in opposing abortion, the ELCA has a much more lenient position on the matter.  While not all individuals within the ELCA support this position, the church body’s official position, as laid out in their “Social Statement on Abortion” is neutral, if not somewhat favorable, toward abortion, and the health plan provided to church employees includes broad coverage for the procedure.  It is in light of these differences that Dr. Tiller was able to hold a leading position in a congregation of the ELCA, but was in the process of being excommunicated when he left the LC-MS. 

While the majority of Lutheran church bodies do oppose the practice of abortion, they do not condone actions such as Dr. Tiller’s murder.  Instead, they seek to change hearts and minds by proclaiming the message of Jesus, which promises forgiveness to all who trust in Him and turn from their sin, including women whose past includes an abortion and the doctors who have performed them. 

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