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The Evangelical Lutheran Church released a statement Tuesday stating opposition to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade.
The ECLA, a medium-sized denomination with approximately 3 million members in the U.S., made the announcement via their website and social media. Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, the head of the ECLA, cited the church’s 1991 social teachings document as the basis for the church’s support of abortion access.
“The people of this church and this country have various and perhaps contrasting responses to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion on abortion,” Bishop Eaton wrote. “Regardless of where each of us stands on the issue, the ELCA’s 1991 social statement on abortion speaks to all of us.”
The church teaches that abortion must be regulated, but not outlawed, according to the 1991 document. ECLA acknowledges a fetus as human life and a “neighbor” of the woman and the community.
“In the social statement, this church holds both women and ‘developing life in the womb’ as neighbors. This church declares that any person who has become unexpectedly pregnant has moral agency to discern what to do, and this decision-making usually happens in a community – not only the person who is pregnant but with God, family, partners, friends, doctors and pastors. While this church longs for a future with fewer abortions every year, the social statement points out that outlawing all or nearly all abortions is not the way to do this. The ELCA opposes both ‘the total lack of regulation of abortion’ and ‘legislation that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances.'”
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The ECLA is a mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S. established in 1988 via the combination of three churches – the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The AELC originally left the larger Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod due to the AELC’s more progressive political views and less literal belief in the divine inspiration of scripture.
Eaton stressed the relevance of the 1991 social statement in the Tuesday pastoral message. The bishop drew connections between the church’s historic teachings on abortion and the drafted Supreme Court opinion leaked earlier this month.
“Any ruling similar to the leaked draft will upend 50 years of legal precedent in our nation and damage the health and well-being of many,” Eaton wrote. “The prospect is daunting. As Christians, we persevere in hope. We must continue to be bold in our prayers and in our public witness for a more just society that cherishes and guarantees the dignity of all.”
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This is not the first time the ELCA has garnered controversy for its progressive ecclesiology.
The ELCA installed its first openly transgender bishop, the Rev. Megan Rohrer, in a 2021 service at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Rohrer was ordained to lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.
Rohrer, who had previously identified as lesbian, was described as “non-binary” and prefers to go by “they/them” pronouns.
“I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.”
Christian leaders condemned the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for its decision, calling the move a “subversion of the creation order” and proof that some mainline Protestant denominations have abandoned Christianity altogether.
Fox News contacted the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but did not receive a response.
Fox News’s Tyler O’Neil contributed to this report.