By Lori Bredemeyer, Managing Editor
As discussion and controversy involving an individual’s right to live has dominated the news recently, Chapel coordinators have given students a chance to discuss issues of life in three consecutive Thursday services focusing on abortion.
Although abortion remains a sensitive topic among Christians, campus officials said the university cannot ignore the issue.
“As part of our [mission statement], we need to acknowledge that this is a critical issue within our culture and even within the body of Christ,” said Mark Lewis, adviser of the Spiritual Life Core and director of Spiritual Life and Student Ministries. “I don’t think we want to talk about it, but the fact is that we have people in the body of Christ who have been, who currently are and who will be affected by abortion.”
He said the Spiritual Life Core, a group of students and advisers who make plans for 18:38 Chapel in Moody, realized students wanted to hear about the issue when they requested suggestions at the beginning of the semester.
“It’s something that we started at moments praying about and at others avoiding thinking about because of sensitivities that are attached to the issue,” Lewis said. “Our greatest concern was a strong sense of need to be sensitive to people … and not wanting to have this conversation and it simply lead to guilt or distress for anybody.”
Last Thursday during 18:38, Holly Whitehead, executive director of Pregnancy Counseling Services of Abilene, presented facts on abortion, including what types of abortion are offered, how it affects the mother and the fetus, and how developed the fetus is at certain points in the pregnancy.
This Thursday, a representative from Christian Homes of Abilene and a local physician will present opposing views from pro-life and pro-choice perspectives. On April 14, a woman from the community will give her testimony about having an abortion, and that night in the Hilton Room, she will speak more in-depth about her experience during a coffeehouse discussion from 8 to 10 p.m.
Steve Rowlands, director of the University Counseling Center, said the Spiritual Life Core approached him about possibly addressing the topic, and Rowlands agreed it was something the university was ready for and needed to discuss.
“I think it’s a reality of the culture that we live in that we have students that get pregnant out of wedlock or unexpectedly and are faced with the choice of whether to keep the baby or have an abortion,” he said. “So our silence doesn’t help them in that choice.
“Our wish for every student would be that they remained pure and had a healthy dating relationship and sex wasn’t a factor in that,” Rowlands said, “but I think that many of our students struggle with that temptation and are having sex outside of the context of marriage. … The reality is there are girls who are getting pregnant and who are choosing to have abortions. This is a hard topic, and I think we can’t stick our head in the sand about it.”
Dr. Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life, said his office has engaged the campus about many controversial topics in the past, but not abortion. He said he would like students to “have a really good education about a topic and at a Christian university, to bring in the Christian perspective.”
“I think if students don’t talk about it,” he said, “and if we don’t have forums and opportunities to explore truths and facts and good information, then people are left to make decisions perhaps in an uneducated way if they’re not seeking education. That can be dangerous.”
Lewis agreed that one main objective is to raise awareness about abortion.
“Part of our goal as we launch students out of here is to be versed in the stuff that our culture is dealing with,” he said. “And maybe a 22-year-old won’t have all the answers when they leave here, but at least they’ve been exposed to some of the arguments.”
Rowlands said because students deal with abortion, he wants to make sure they’re comfortable approaching Christians on campus for support.
“The goal is that we can talk about this; it doesn’t mean that we endorse abortion, but … I wouldn’t want anybody leaving this community not feeling that they could be supported.
“I think as Christians, none of us are perfect, and if we can’t support somebody else during a struggle or during a time when they’re dealing with something that has arisen out of a poor choice, then I think we’re falling down on what God’s called us to do-love and support each other.”