By Aallyah Wright, Capital B, Jul 21, 2022
The Rev. Leonard Edloe doesn’t discuss abortion in the pulpit of his rural Virginia church. While the issue disproportionately affects Black women, members at New Hope Fellowship haven’t shared any abortion-related concerns or questions with him, he said.
But outside of the church walls, some have come to him seeking guidance about the procedure. Edloe said he approaches each conversation with nuance and tries to “get people to see things in a Biblical way, to appreciate life.”
While he opposes abortion, Edloe said his goal is to understand, empower, and support women rather than condemn them. The issues are complex, he said, and there is no easy solution for a complicated problem.
“I always say that children are a gift from God, and we celebrate them,” Edloe said. But, he added. “Jesus never made anybody do anything. He changed people with his words and actions.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade — which has led some states to ban or severely limit the procedure — supercharged American politics and white evangelical churches, where many declared victory and held celebratory demonstrations.
But the response in many Black churches has been muted. While Black religious leaders typically don’t shy away from politics in the pulpit, abortion hasn’t been the subject of many Sunday sermons or Bible studies.
Understanding that Black women will be the hardest hit by the Supreme Court decision, especially in rural areas where there is limited or no access to reproductive health care, the approach of Black churches has been delicate. Many see old ways of Biblical teaching as out of touch with abortion in light of the complexities that exist in Black communities — poverty, racism, and other social challenges — which require the issue be discussed with sensitivity and care.
The ambivalence among Black Christian leaders creates a clear divide with their white counterparts, said Jamil Drake, assistant professor of African American Religious History at Yale Divinity School.
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