The purpose of my column this week is to extend to you an invitation: please join me, along with hundreds of clergy and thousands of believers, on Wednesday morning, January 22, 2014 in Washington, DC for mass followed by the Twentieth Annual National Memorial for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers. This interdenominational, national prayer service will be held in the historic and beautiful Constitution Hall. Mass is at 7:30, the prayer service starts at 8:30, and we'll be done by 10:30, leaving plenty of time to get to the March for Life Rally.
You'll get an idea of the enthusiasm of the crowd and the beauty of the venue if you watch the short video clip at the event's website, NationalPrayerService.com. Last year, we were blessed to have clergy from denominations representing practically every letter of the alphabet! We had a dozen bishops of the Anglican Church from across America, leading Lutheran and Charismatic Episcopal bishops, and many other religious leaders from denominations large and small. Dr. Robert H. Turrill, President and CEO of the Evangelical Church Alliance was present, as were Roman Catholic priests and seminarians. Our organizing committee for the service includes Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, Charismatic Episcopal Church, Anglicans, and Catholics.
What is the importance of attending this event?
First of all, this is the premier National Prayer Service for the sad commemoration of the Roe vs. Wade decision each January 22. We have to combat the culture of death first of all with prayer, and on the day of the national March for Life, what better way to begin than with a vibrant prayer service?
Secondly, the educational value of this event is tremendous. It is not every day that one can see leaders of so many different Christian denominations gathered together. And in praying with them and hearing about the denominations they represent, we learn so much about Christianity in America, and about the real unity we have despite the differences from one denomination to the next.
Interestingly, each year, when the sad date of the Roe vs. Wade decision (January 22) is observed, Christians are in the midst of also observing the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25). This Providential convergence teaches us something both about the pro-life cause and about Christian unity.
In regard to the pro-life cause, it brings to mind Pope John Paul II's words in The Gospel of Life:
“Service of the Gospel of life is thus an immense and complex task. This service increasingly appears as a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities, in accordance with the practical ecumenism which the Second Vatican Council authoritatively encouraged. It also appears as a providential area for dialogue and joint efforts with the followers of other religions and with all people of good will. No single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life. These are everyone's task and responsibility. … [O]nly the concerted efforts of all those who believe in the value of life can prevent a setback of unforeseeable consequences for civilization.” – (March 25, 1995, EV, #91)
The convergence of these dates also reminds us that efforts at authentic Christian unity are not limited to the important dialogues that take place, but also include carrying out the Christian mission side by side. In this regard, exactly two months after issuing The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II issued Ut Unum Sint, his encyclical on Christian Unity, in which he writes:
“Many Christians from all Communities, by reason of their faith, are jointly involved in bold projects aimed at changing the world by inculcating respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowly, and the defenseless…Christians who once acted independently are now engaged together in the service of this cause, so that God’s mercy may triumph” (May 25, 1995, "Ut Unum Sint," n. 43).
I am delighted to join with so many other pro-life groups in working to fill Constitution Hall this year with enthusiastic pro-life believers. The groups working together include The National Pro-Life Religious Council, The National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill, Faith and Action, Priests for Life, and Gospel of Life Ministries. Other pro-life groups are co-sponsoring or hosting the event, including Austin Ruse and the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, Brad Mattes and the Life Issues Institute, Sam Casey and the Jubilee Campaign Law of Life Project, Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council, Alveda King, Director of African-American Outreach, Priests for Life, Charmaine Yoest, Ph. D., President and CEO, Americans United for Life, Pastor Luke J. Robinson, Director, Voice of Truth and Life Ministries, Pastor, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, Archbishop Craig W. Bates, Patriarch of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and
Ernie Ohlhoff, National Right to Life Committee
I hope you will be among them! Please talk with your pro-life groups, parishes, dioceses, Knights of Columbus Councils, and schools that may be planning to come to Washington, DC, and arrange your schedules so that you can join us on January 22! Constitution Hall is located at 1776 D St., NW (18th and D St), Washington DC. See you there!