Churches Move Cautiously on Abortion and Call for Calm Post-Roe

churches move cautiously on abortion and call for calm post-roe

Members of the clergy treaded carefully in discussing abortion on the first Sunday after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and they called for respectful discussions over an issue that divides many congregations.

“For many in our country who’ve been fighting for this for so long, this felt like a huge win,” said pastor Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. “But for others in our country, this felt like a gut punch. These are the cultural moments where the church has an opportunity to shine, even when we don’t necessarily agree.”

Mr. Stanley told parishioners he had strong personal feelings about the issue but didn’t discuss what they were.

At the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C., priests didn’t mention the court’s decision at two celebrations of Mass on Sunday morning. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the court’s majority in ruling that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, is a member of the church.

At Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, which says it has 49,000 members across three campuses, worshipers stood and applauded the ruling.

“While we are celebrating and slapping some high-fives, if you will, we’re also on our knees, thanking God,” said the church’s senior pastor, Jack Graham, in a video message to parishioners.

Dr. Graham, who was a member of then-President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, thanked the former president for appointing three Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. Dr. Graham said church members should work at the state and local level to oppose abortion.

“Let’s continue to fight for life, to fight the good fight of faith, knowing that the enemy is not people,” he said. “We have a spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. But people all around us—that’s the mission field.”

“It’s not a time to spike the football,” said the Rev. Christopher Walsh of St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Philadelphia in an interview ahead of celebrating Mass on Sunday.

He said he wanted to emphasize the need to help unexpectedly pregnant women as well as those in financial hardship.

A similar message came from one of the nation’s most prominent Roman Catholic churches, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan. Father Enrique Salvo avoided direct reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling and called for forgiveness toward those who make mistakes, which he said includes those who terminate a pregnancy.

Some churches and clergy had called for Roe v. Wade to be upheld and spoke out Sunday morning. At one Episcopal church in the Washington area, the priest read a statement by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who criticized the decision as harmful to women.

“We pray for the poor and vulnerable who may not have other options for access” to abortion, said Bishop Curry.

Lauren Holtzblatt, co-senior rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., said some congregants felt fear or stress, especially given Jewish precepts that put a pregnant woman’s health ahead of that of her fetus.

“I say it is OK to feel grief,” said Rabbi Holtzblatt, who spoke at Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memorial service. But “if we’re wallowing in despair, we’re not going to be able to help other people.

In the decadeslong fight to overturn Roe v. Wade, churches and other Christian organizations opposed to abortion often played an outsize role, and some are gearing up to continue advocating for abortion restrictions at the state and local level.

The Southern Baptist Convention, among the country’s largest Protestant denominations, said it would seek a ban on most abortions while supporting crisis pregnancy centers and foster-care and adoption agencies.

Still, many congregations are split on aspects of the debate. At the Washington church often attended by Justice Kavanaugh, parishioner Jim Cruller, a commercial real-estate agent who was baptized and married in the church, said he didn’t agree with the court’s rejection of Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t think overturning it is going to unify people,” Mr. Cruller said.

Another parishioner, risk-management consultant Ginienne Santoro, said she supported the Roman Catholic Church’s stand against abortion, even though it is unpopular in liberal areas such as Washington.

“There’s a lot of anger and frustration towards Catholics and women who are against abortions, and that’s not a good thing,” said Ms. Santoro.

Majorities of U.S. Christians across several categories—including white evangelical Protestants, Black Protestants and Catholics—report positions on abortion falling somewhere between absolute prohibition and unrestricted access, the Pew Research Center found in a survey of U.S. adults conducted in March.

Among white evangelical Protestants—the group generally most opposed to abortion in Pew’s survey—almost a quarter said abortion should be mostly or always legal, while 53% said it should be mostly illegal but allowed in some circumstances. About two-thirds of Black Protestants said abortion should be mostly or always legal, Pew found.

In general, Christians in the survey were more likely to favor legal abortion when a pregnancy is the result of rape or threatens a woman’s health.

“The vast majority of Americans have nuanced ideas about abortion,” said Ziad Munson, a Lehigh University sociology professor who has written books about abortion and politics.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a historian who studies religion and politics at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Christians opposed to abortion weren’t necessarily ready for the post-Roe world.

“There is no unity at all as far as what comes next, from what I can tell,” said Dr. Du Mez, author of “Jesus and John Wayne,” a book that describes the role of white evangelicals in Mr. Trump’s political success. “There’s a lot of division within evangelicalism—but a lot of joy.”

—Ginger Adams Otis and Francis X. Rocca contributed to this article.

Write to Theo Francis at and Kate King at

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White Water Rafting or KayakingMount Fuji Overnight Climb ItinerarySip & Gogh Paint Studio: Unleash Your Inner Van Gogh | LakwatseroBatanes ItineraryHow to Get to Quitinday HillsAbout Callao CaveDiscover LakawonBiking to Taal: A Fun Ride to Batangas’ Heritage TownAntique Blooming: The Rafflesia of San RemigioMalasimbo Lights and Dance FestivalBacolod ItineraryPoon HillAttractions in Mirador Heritage and Eco ParkHulhumale Public BeachRomblon Island: Bonbon Beach, Tiamban Beach & MoreAdventure in Sabah: White Water Rafting in Padas River | LakwatseroHow to Get to Hinakpan Mystical HillsWelcome to Lake SebuAbout CasiguranAbout BuscalanHow to Go to Kalanggaman IslandFaro de Cabo Bojeador (Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)Backpacking Maldives: Budget Itinerary, Expenses & TipsHow to Get ThereOffbeat Bohol Itinerary: 3D/2N of AdventuresHow to Get to Tawi-TawiAlona BeachPangilatan Falls: The Forgotten Gem of Tapaz, CapizWorld War I: SMS Cormoran II3D/2N Taiwan Itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu – ShiffenLaos for Backpackers: Getting There on a BudgetBasic RequirementsHow to Get to Antong FallsCathedral CaveHow to Go to Gubat, SorsogonAbout SadangaHow to Get to Bugui Point LighthouseHow to Get to Cabra Island LighthouseCebu Itinerary: Three-Day Adventures in the SouthAbout AndaLuna: A Day in the Show Window of Apayao | LakwatseroMargues Blue LagoonFinding Palaui’s Cape Engaño Lighthouse | LakwatseroHow to Get to Mantayupan Falls of Barili, CebuHow to Get to MaligcongLinapacan Islands: Between Paradise | LakwatseroKLIA to KLCCHow to Get to JomaligBanaug ShoalEspadang Bato – Payaran Falls Day Hike Itinerary10 Remarkable Philippine Destinations for Solo TravelMiagao Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in IloiloAbout Carbin ReefAbout Parola IslandCabra WreckageCobra Falls: Ozamiz City’s Best Kept SecretBasco: The Chapel on the Hill of Tukon | LakwatseroBack in Kathmandu’s Lovely Mess | LakwatseroHimalayan Adventure: Kathmandu to Pokhara Overland | LakwatseroItineraryChinatown Vancouver (Stop #23)Situbo Falls: Tampilisan's Awesome SurpriseHow to Get to Inambakan FallsTuasan Falls: Another Camiguin’s Charmer | LakwatseroHow to Get to Lake SebuMarinduque Loop: Biking in the Heart of the Philippines1. 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