‘View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow’
FiveThirtyEight has an article up on the change in abortion rates in the U.S. following the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The most significant information is found in these paragraphs.
That topline number conceals an enormous amount of fluctuation between states. In all states that saw declines in their abortion numbers — which include the 15 states in which abortion was banned or severely limited over the summer — the number of abortions fell by about 22,000. Some of those women appear to have traveled out of state, because in other states, the number of abortions rose by an aggregate of about 12,000.
But nationwide, the movement of abortions from states with bans and restrictions to those with fewer restrictions on access wasn’t enough to make up the shortfall. Between April and August, the number of abortions declined by 6 percent, and it’s likely that the decline in abortions represents thousands of women who sought abortions illegally or didn’t get one at all. If these trends persist, there could be at least 60,000 fewer abortions in the next year as a result of the Dobbs decision (emphasis added).
Banning abortion reduces abortion. In fact, banning abortion is proving to be the single greatest tool for reducing abortion. For years there were evangelicals and conservatives who argued that overturning Roe was not a good use of energy, that there are more effective means of reducing abortion besides banning it. Even after the Dobbs decision I heard pro-lifers talk about how it would be counterproductive and not the best approach.
Dobbs has directly led to a 10% decrease in abortions in the United States, even as abortion is still legal in a majority of states with the majority of the population. That is easily the single greatest drop in abortions in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade. There will be illegal abortions, and people will travel to states where it remains legal to procure them, but the more abortion is banned, the less it will occur. Banning it on the state level should become the top strategic priority of the pro-life movement.
For those who think that 60,000-a-year number represents a repressive injustice, I suggest waiting until 2040 and listening to the interviews with 60,000 18-year olds who would have otherwise been killed.
The “Everything-Goes Presbyterian Church.” Plenty of pastors in the EPC have heard our church described that way. The EPC has a well deserved reputation for charity, for not splintering over non-essential issues, for valuing relationships over litigiousness. For that reason the EPC has become a refuge for many. I count myself among them. At the same time, this relaxed and charitable posture has been perceived as lackadaisical, that the EPC is the denomination you join if you want to be presbyterian and evangelical but still do whatever you want.
I expect that in the next few years the EPC will start receiving an increasing number of requests to join us from disaffected PCA congregations. Within the PCA there are a number of debates raging over what dissatisfied congregations may view as secondary issues which demand liberty. The allure of the EPC to these congregations is as an apparent landing place where they can now freely practice what is contested or banned in their current church.
My own Reformed ministry began in a PCA church before I headed to the EPC, and I retain a love for the PCA. The EPC is a more relaxed church than the PCA, but we are not in reality an “everything-goes” church. Below are a few areas that disgruntled PCAers should be aware of the EPC’s actual stands.
1. The EPC is a confessional church. All of our officers, like in the PCA, vow to sincerely adopt the Westminster Confessions and Catechisms as containing the system of doctrine found in the scriptures. The EPC’s confessionalism is well known for presbyterian churches considering a new denominational home. But the implications need to be teased out. Like in the PCA, the Westminster Standards are the subordinate doctrinal standards of the church. “The Essentials of Our Faith” is often used as a shorthand for our essential doctrines, but it is not that in actuality. The Westminster Standards are. Which means the Westminster Standards restrict doctrine and practice in the EPC in the same way they restrict doctrine and practice in the PCA….
So it begins: “Historically there have been very few requests for an exception about a specific teaching. But following Synod 2022’s decisions regarding human sexuality, particularly in affirming the confessional status of the church’s traditional understanding of marriage, some Council members have been seeking a process to file an exception, indicating their difficulty with that decision.”
The CRC’s approach to scruples and exceptions, “gravamen”, has differed from the confessional subscription debates in Presbyterianism. No more. Now, at least for the Council of Delegates (denominational executive committee), “When a delegate requests an exception, the Council’s executive committee will make a decision on whether or not to grant it, based on the centrality of the belief for which the exception is sought and the member’s agreement not to publicly contradict, teach, or act against the synodical position.”
The resistance to this recommendation hits all the familiar beats…
In Ordained Servant, Darryl Hart has a review up of Reformed & Evangelical Across Four Centuries: The Presbyterian Story in America. I wrote about this book back in July, and both used and anticipated Hart’s assessments brought to bear in his review.
One of Hart’s criticisms is that the authors neglect the non-liberal, non-evangelical Presbyterian tradition, with the specific example of ignoring J. Gresham Machen but focusing on Harold Ockenga. I’m sympathetic to this criticism, and count myself as descending from the legacy of Machen. But I suspect that the confessionalist, non-evangelical wing of American Presbyterianism overestimates its importance. The OPC split from the PCUSA in 1936, but by the time the PCUSA merged with the UPCNA in 1958, the mainline denomination had 2.7 million members with the UPCNA having about 257,000. The OPC had about 10,000 in 1958; it’s 32,000 today. Hart cites two other denominations, the ARP and RPCNA, as lacking consideration. The RPCNA had a membership of 6,000 in 1958 and about 7,000 today. I can’t find the 20th century numbers for the ARP, but its current membership is about 22,000.
In other words, the non-liberal, non-evangelical denominations whose story that Hart wished was being acknowledged appear insignificant to the overall history of American Presbyterianism unless you happen to already belong to them…