It was 1983—that is all I can remember about the date. We were sitting in the waiting room of the “Women’s Clinic” in Roanoke, Virginia. I was there with my girlfriend, because it was the right thing to do. I had paid for half the abortion, because it was the right thing to do. I had been sexually active, because it felt like the right thing to do.
So why did that little voice keep saying, “This feels like the wrong thing to do”?
You would never have seen me engaged in a heated discussion of this topic in college, in seminary or in the church. No way! The few times I was backed into a corner, out came the official stand from the Social Principles, with one addition: God is able to forgive anything. I believed that applied to everyone but me.
In 2001, while I was serving a two-point charge on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, God called me to an extended fast from solid food. I asked God to reveal anything in my life that separated us. It was a life-changing experience as God showed me how I remained in bondage to guilt and shame for things in my past. I had the assurance that God had forgiven me. These were chains that I had forged and chose to wear. God delivered me from my ‘life sentence.’
My new-found freedom led me to the local Crisis Pregnancy Center and a director with a caring heart for United Methodist preachers. It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship between one of my churches and the center.
God also called me to preach a series of sermons on the topic of abortion. It was with much fear and trembling that I obeyed. The first two weeks were spent comparing the Biblical view with that of the culture. Then on week three, I would share my personal experience. That Sunday, as I walked into the pulpit, a group of about twenty teenagers from the local UM camp were sitting there. Many questions raced through my mind, but I found the Holy Spirit urging me to preach the sermon as it was written.
As those youth filed past me after the service, many would not even speak. Then I noticed two of them had stayed back until everyone else left the sanctuary. These young women told me of a friend back home who was pregnant and considering abortion. They described the agony of having no words of hope to give her—until now. They thanked me and left. As they left, I realized that God had called me to speak out, not to be liked but to bring hope to those in need.
I know the “devastating damage” of abortion, both personally and professionally. Abortion was intended to help and free women, but it has instead brought pain and misery into the lives of many people, male and female. As followers of Jesus Christ, and as The United Methodist Church, we must offer more than a quick fix: we must love them both.
—Rev. John Bright, Virginia Annual Conference