Editor’s Note: Below is a guest post from Justin Edwards. Justin was one of the leaders of the Abolitionist Society of North Carolina, a chapter of the larger AHA movement. Justin is married to Jennifer, and they have three children. You can learn more about his testimony at his blog, airō.
I am an abolitionist. What I mean by that is I seek the end of the heinous act of the murder of children, and I do so in the context of preaching the Gospel and loving my neighbor as myself (both born and pre-born). The 55 million children who have been slaughtered over the last forty years in America are not merely statistics. They are people. And for the most part, they have been forsaken and forgotten by most Americans and by most American churches, even by what would otherwise be the most faithful, doctrinally sound, and Gospel-driven churches. How do I know the latter part to be true? Just visit your local abortion mill and observe how many churches are [not] present on these sidewalks to proclaim the only Hope and Deliverance from darkness available to the perishing and to “rescue those who are being taken away to death; [to] hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11). Be that as it may, it is not the primary aim of this article to address the Church’s apathy to the greatest evil of our generation.
I haven’t always known I am an abolitionist. Frankly, I had never really considered the word and it was not a part of my vocabulary. This not until last summer when I learned of the movement, Abolish Human Abortion. Giving a full detailed history of how I became involved with AHA is not within the scope of this article, but suffice it to say I was encouraged by a lot of information I was learning about ‘abolitionism’, its history, and some of the methods used by modern abolitionists to defend the rights of the needy and helpless. AHA helped refine my thinking and understanding of the failure of pro-life incrementalism and how calling for the immediate abolition of all abortion without exceptions is the only solution. Ultimately, I bought the t-shirt (literally, t-shirts and other materials from the AHAgear website), and I subscribed to AHA’s five tenets of abolitionism. I became heavily involved to the point of building the website and writing most of the material for the Abolitionist Society of North Carolina. You may have even seen a letter floating around the internet serving to encourage pastors and churches to get into the fight to love our pre-born neighbors as ourselves through the abolition of child sacrifice - yep, I wrote that. Read an article by Jahn Plesion? That was me. Sign a Whitehouse Petition to expose the hypocrisy of the Obama administration after his speech at the Sandy Hook memorial? You guessed it – I created it.
I don’t share this information to boast in anything I have built or published, but rather to shed light on my relationship with AHA specifically and my efforts to explain abolitionism in general (like here and here). I preempt my main objectives in this article with these facts so to reveal that I get abolitionism and I know AHA, so any attempt to discredit my understanding or malign my intentions will fall short and be invalid. I stand by most of my material in the above links in principle (though I have not gone back to review everything in detail), but perhaps I might rephrase some things that would possibly confuse my actual positions.
So to anticipate one objection, yes, I am still an abolitionist, but no, I no longer endorse or support AHA. I believe in the ideology, but there are methodologies being promoted and considered that preclude me from being associated with them anymore.
To be clear, I appreciate AHA’s zeal and compassion to be a voice for the voiceless and a shining light to those still in darkness (and what I mean by AHA is the founding AHA organization, the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma). Obviously (as one who helped start the AHANC page), I understand there are possibly hundreds of autonomous abolitionist societies around the nation, if not the world, but for the purpose of this article, I refer to AHA as those who began this movement in Norman, OK. In any case, AHA has done a lot of good to bring awareness to the American holocaust, and for that I am grateful. This is not a personal attack against any member of AHA, though I am sure some will take it very personally.
I know I’m getting long-winded, but one more thing before the main thrust of this article. I write it because I have been very public in my endorsement of AHA. For reasons known to God alone, He has put me in a position of influence in the online Christian community, and, by His grace alone, I am considered a leader in various aspects. But when a leader strays and leads others down the wrong path, he must bear responsibility to repair any damages in hopes those he influenced may see the dangers and get back on the right path. Not only do I bear this responsibility online, but also within my church family and personal friends whom are my cherished brothers and sisters in Christ. So my main reason for writing this article is for transparency about where I’ve been with AHA, and my decision to distance myself from the organization. I hope it clears up confusion where there was confusion, and opens the door for further discussion if necessary. Ultimately, every believer will need to decide for himself how they will continue their relationship with AHA.
I have participated in enough discussions and observed enough practices to determine I will no longer be continuing the conversation with AHA and those most deeply entrenched in the movement. If you have sincere questions or comments for discussion and we have not previously debated the issues, you are free to post a comment below.
Reason #1 why I no longer endorse AHA: “Church Repent Project”
One will hear various answers as to how AHA will call the church to repentance on her complacency to abortion. One common answer given is that the ‘project’ is still under consideration and development, yet we already see it in practice by AHA devotees. Most recently, Sarah Cleveland of the Abolitionist Society of Ohio demonstrated outside of the Vineyard Church of Columbus, and they eventually gave their responsehere. This is the modus operandi – to stand outside of churches with a variety of abortion-oriented signs (many of which I might agree with and hold myself, but not in front of churches). AHA claims they have the right to circumvent the God-given authority of the leadership of true churches and protest the congregation in hopes they will wake Christians up to the reality of abortion and get them to join AHA’s cause.
AHA is a parachurch organization that has no biblical precedent, command, or authority to rebuke or ‘exhort’ (a term I believe is abused by AHA) the local church. God has given the local church the gift of elders to shepherd the hearts of His people, and they are accountable before the Lord in how they teach them, lead them, equip them, admonish them, and exhort them to the glory of Christ. It is argued that by this “strict adherence” to the “church/parachurch” distinction that this would mean Christian from Church A cannot admonish Christian from Church B, but this only reveals a gross ignorance of God’s purposes in the local church. Of course, as salt and light of the world, Christians are free to, and must, oppose sin and address sin with those in their sphere of influence (be they believers or nonbelievers, all in the context of the Gospel). But AHA and its devotees are engaging in organized fashion (“ministry”, if you will, albeit unbiblical “ministry”) to come against the local church and its complacency to abortion. Though they will say they are for the church (after all, “abolitionism is a work of the church”), their methodology is based on a faulty ecclesiology. They are quick to say one can have a sound orthodoxy, but lack sound orthopraxy (eg preach on loving your neighbor, but not actually loving your neighbor in practice in a manner AHA sees fit), yet my observations is their orthopraxy in terms of the local church is severely flawed (more on that later).
If the church is to reform and become not only more sensitive to the abortion issue, but actually be prayerfully engaged against the greatest holocaust in human history, it will not come by rebel, misfit protesters yelling outside local churches with “WAKE UP, CHURCH!” or “REPENT, CHURCH!” signs. Any revival in this area will come by a move of the Holy Spirit amongst a broken people who mourn over the shedding of innocent blood. It will not come by self-appointed prophets protesting outside true local churches, but by local churches encouraging and praying for other local churches to be serious about this crisis.
So much more can be said, but I need to be as concise as possible. I will have no part and be attached in no way to any movement or organization that views this as an acceptable practice. Moreover, those I have observed agreeing and endorsing this practice have commonly made declarations of a local church not being “a true church” based solely on its inactivity or lack of ministry in the realm of abortion (or what some would view as their refusal to do things the way AHA does things).
I vaguely knew about this ‘repent church project’ from the beginning, but as I learned more about it and observed more of it, it is a deal breaker. I hope it is a deal breaker for you too.
Reason #2 why I no longer endorse AHA: AHA is under no local church authority
The rhetoric above insinuates that just as abortion “clinics” are not true clinics, silent “churches” are not true churches (“silent” is not defined)
The irony of it all is that AHA is calling the church to repentance when they are not part of any local church themselves. Yes, I know the claim – “we are in a local church”, but truly they are not. Essentially, AHA is a group of nomad Christians who, according to their own website Door of Hope,
do not presently have a pastor or elders or deacons (yes, we do desire Biblical leadership, but we will wait until the need arises and the Lord raises up men from within our body who are fit for the task.
AHA claims to be under the authority of the local church, yet the church many of them are a part of is not a local church ruled by, led by, taught by, or equipped by elders, which Jesus Christ has appointed to shepherd His Church realized in the local church (Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:17). Nor is this a church plant that was established under the authority of another local church, nor are the members at Door of Hope sent out to do any work of the ministry they claim to be doing. This is where their orthodoxy affects their orthopraxy in a negative way. They are in no way “subject to the elders” (1 Peter 5:5) and in no way can they “obey their leaders” (Hebrews 13:17) because they have no leaders (elders). They even state above that while they “desire Biblical leadership”, they will “wait until the need arises” (according to who?) and when “the Lord raises up men from within our body who are fit for the task” (such self-appointing leadership by a leaderless group of believers is found nowhere in Scripture!).
The reasons behind this illegitimate church plant are convoluted and multifaceted from what I have gathered. AHA seems to have an account that is colored quite differently than other perspectives and testimonies that have been shared regarding the church from where they left. One such account can be found here: Before Dividing a Church and Starting Your Own. Regardless, the fact is AHA is under no local church authority, and its members not apart of Door of Hope are not sent out to do this work (including their ‘repent church project’) by any elder-led churches to my knowledge.
Ultimately, AHA is attempting Gospel ministry and it is attempting ecclessiastical ministry, but it has no attachment to the local church under the authority of God-appointed elders. It is for this reason, I cannot and will not be associated with AHA.
My prayer for AHA is for each member to repent from its rebellion to their leaders and submit to the local church ordained by Christ. If you don’t believe one exists in your community, move, or seek out the counsel and guidance of a local church outside your community that they might help you establish a church plant in your community. This will force you to deal with the sin issues affecting your detachment from your previous local church, and Lord willing, may help you be established as a legitimate church plant.
In conclusion, I appreciate a lot of AHA’s work. One thing I observed about some of the leadership is its willingness to reform. I hope they reform in these areas as well, repent from protesting outside of churches, and repent from their refusal to submit to elders presently. I was asked to be patient about the “church repent project” until the details get worked out, but having observed it in practice on various occasions and engaged in discussions with various people who identify themselves as “AHA”, I have all the information I need.
And I repent.