GREENSBORO, N.C. — A minister with the American Baptist Church (ABC-USA) has been volunteering as an escort at a North Carolina abortion facility, according to recent reports.
In December and January, Yes Magazine covered what it described as “harassment” by pro-lifers against escorts and abortion-minded mothers entering A Woman’s Choice in Greensboro. The facility offers abortions up to 20 weeks gestation (5 months).
Among those interviewed was Michael Usey, who leads College Park Baptist Church, which identifies itself as “progressive, diverse, ecumenical.”
“Our LGBTQ-friendly church has many LGBTQ members, in addition to gay/lesbian ministers, deacons and staff members,” its website states. “We perform same-sex weddings, and welcome many that have been beaten up by the Bible at other churches!”
Usey told the outlet that while he had only recently begun volunteering as an escort at A Woman’s Choice, he has been involved with Planned Parenthood for some time. An escort is an individual who guides those arriving to the abortion facility into the building.
“I’ve been doing this for about three months,” he stated, being interviewed in November. “But I’ve been involved in reproductive justice and access issues since I was in seminary in the early ‘80s.”
“It really hit home when I was a college minister in Waco, Texas, and no one, absolutely no one, was talking about sex ed or sexual ethics or reproductive responsibility in that city at that time except Planned Parenthood,” Usey continued. “So, I worked with them there, and in Atlanta, and here too, when I was on the Planned Parenthood board for years.”
In 2016, Usey delivered a message in which he outlined his views on abortion, stating that while he “grieve[s] deeply at the proliferation of abortions” as they demonstrate “that reproductive and abortion decisions are not taken with enough moral seriousness,” and opposes abortion as a form of birth control, he also believes a woman should have a right to choose according to her conscience.
He said that Christians have differing opinions on when life begins, and therefore, mothers should also be able to come to their own individual conclusions.
“This is why as a Baptist I strongly support Roe v. Wade: it gives an individual the ability to make the choice before her God,” Usey stated. “Surely the dignity of women requires this ability to choose. Many of us might not choose abortion as a personal decision, yet the dignity of women demands this ability to choose.”
He advised that he urges women to consider other options, especially adoption, but “[s]ince there is no moral consensus or biblical mandate, we should accord women the legal, moral, and religious freedom to choose.”
“And, since abortion is a serious moral crisis, we should be around to guide her beforehand and to support and love her through whatever decision she, under God, makes,” Usey concluded. “In short, we should reduce the need but protect the right. It’s possible to be pro-life and pro-choice.”
The American Baptist Church says that there are diverse opinions on abortion within its denomination, outlining in a resolution:
“Many American Baptists believe that, biblically, human life begins at conception, that abortion is immoral and a destruction of a human being created in God’s image (Job 31:15; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:44; Proverbs 31:8-9; Galatians 1:15).
Many others believe that while abortion is a regrettable reality, it can be a morally acceptable action and they choose to act on the biblical principles of compassion and justice (John 8:1-11; Exodus 21:22-25; Matthew 7:1-5; James 2:2-13) and freedom of will (John 16:13; Roman 14:4-5, 10-13).”
“… Consequently, we acknowledge the freedom of each individual to advocate for a public policy on abortion that reflects his or her beliefs.”
As previously reported, a number of liberal clergy members have identified themselves as supporting abortion access, including the Washington-based Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which conducts so-called blessings inside abortion facilities. See reports here, here, here and here.
“The religious right has really hijacked the conversation on this issue, and we need to let women know that there are people of faith who are in favor of safe and legal abortion,” Laura Young, a United Methodist minister who also serves as the executive director of the Ohio chapter RCRC, said in 2015.
An Episcopal priest was also recently named the president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF).
“Abortion providers are some of my personal heroes and modern-day saints,” Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, a lesbian, said in a statement. “It is an honor to be able to serve and support NAF members as they provide compassionate health care amid increasing attacks and challenges.”
NAF noted in its press release, “Ragsdale has preached about how abortion is a blessing and has been active in clinic defense work and other activities to support abortion providers for more than 35 years.”
However, a number of clergy throughout history have also been outspoken against abortion, unequivocally declaring it to be murder.
In his 1869 sermon entitled “Ante-Natal Infanticide,” E. Frank Howe, the pastor of the Congregational Church of Terre Haute, Indiana, said, “[I]t makes no matter that the victim cannot stretch out its hands in defense. … It matters not that it … can utter no cry of pain or reproach. The sacred gift of human life is taken — is deliberately taken, and this constitutes the crime, and that crime is murder.”
He lamented that “men and women place their own ease and pleasure above God’s law” and that “public opinion is so corrupted there is no voice of reproach,” forthrightly declaring, “Put what face upon it the community will, disguise it under whatever name you please, you can make no more or less of it than simple murder.”
The late preacher Lee Roy Shelton wrote in “The Crimes of Our Times”, “Life is cheap today to the average individual, but not to God. … God is concerned about that baby in the mother’s womb; He gave it. It came into being, I know, by normal process of a male’s and female’s being joined together as one, but it was God who gave the life in conception, and God alone has the right to say when it should be taken away.”
“God’s Word says in Psalm 127:35, ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.’ Children are a heritage of the Lord; God alone gives little children; therefore, woe be unto that woman or man who destroys them, whether in the womb or out of the womb,” Shelton said.