The past week–well, ten days–were some of the most fulfilling I’ve known as your missionary to Washington, DC. I know a lot of people were upset that President Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second term–and many were lamenting the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade–but for us, promise was in the air!
First , there were the hundreds of thousands of people that passed by our ministry house on Capitol Hill and saw our banner that read, “We don’t always agree with the President, but we always pray for him. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)” I know, a few people thought the message was too wimpy, but in Washington, you must always be, as Jesus said, “Wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.” To say anything more forward about our opposition to some of the President’s policies would have invited an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, we had countless people stop, look up, read the banner, obviously consider it’s message, then discuss it, even argue it, with their companions, phone it in to somebody, and ask us about it. It was an open invitation to talk about the things that really matter. The result was a wonderful time of very fruitful ministry. Our prayer that the President would see it seemed also to be answered when his limousine went right past our front door–not once, but twice!
That same day, as I reported to you, I was at the historic Willard Hotel to pray specifically for the President. Even though the ballroom was filled with mostly his supporters, I prayed boldly and very honestly. I didn’t hold anything back. Of course, I was respectful and deferential–as I always am with those in authority–but I was also candid. One thing I’ve learned being in Washington for eighteen years, is this: If you’re not strong in your convictions and you don’t speak your mind, you will garner no respect here. In other words, if you cower in the presence of those in authority, if you are obsequious or sycophantic, you’ll be dismissed as a useless toady. On the other hand, if you are disrespectful, insulting, impertinent, you’ll be written off as a useless crank. I’ve learned to discern a very careful middle track that assures I’ll be taken seriously and given an audience. That’s what happened this week. It’s why I was invited–at the very last minute–to attend the special prayer service for the President at the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday. The person responsible for that unusual invitation knows exactly where I stand with the President–and even knew about the banner on our building–but took me seriously enough to invite me. I was grateful to be just one row of pews away from the President where I was able to pray for him in an intimate way.
Thursday I convened a special summit of some of our most valuable allies to seek their wisdom in crafting a ministry strategy for the next four years. These men and women were pastors, ministry leaders, and seasoned veterans of Gospel work. They were young, old, urban, suburban, black, white, men and women. They were enormously helpful to me and to my ministry leadership team. The Scripture says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Prov 11:14 NASB) The insights, experience, guidance, and wisdom shared by these friends of our ministry not only proved enormously helpful, it left me greatly encouraged. I was ready to commit to whatever it takes to maintain a strong prophetic presence in Washington over the course of the next four years, but coming away from that roundtable of counselors left me feeling victorious! I’m grateful to God for each one that loaned his or her time, talent, gifts, and resources to our strategic summit!
The big moment for me came on Friday, though, when many of the same Christian leaders at our roundtable joined me and scores of other clergy for the 19th Annual National Memorial for the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers at the famed Constitution Hall across the street from the White House complex. Hundreds of pro-life activists gathered there to pray for an end to the abortion holocaust, the healing of those injured by it in body and soul, and for a new day when God’s gift of life is celebrated by all and protected under law. I started the Memorial program by asking everyone to join me in a unison shout to President Obama, who lives across the street from where we assembled. Quoting the President’s very words at a news conference on the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut (with a minor modification shown in upper case), we shouted at the top of our lungs–respectfully, of course:
“President Obama: Our first task as a society is to keep ALL our children safe!”
It was a wonderful feeling to get that off our chests before we began two hours of serious prayer, praise, testimony, and worship. My long-time friend, Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, delivered a powerful message that will was streamed live around the world over the Internet and will be re-broadcast many times in the days ahead. Nearly 70 ministers from dozens of churches and many denominations each had a part in the service. A young couple that had experienced the painful loss of abortion shared their very moving story of redemption and journey of healing. It renewed all of us and prepared us to plunge back into the battle for justice for the whole human family!
One thing I didn’t get to do this past week was to drop by the massive Students for Life Conference that was held across town simultaneously with our other events. Our allied ministry partner, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, did speak to the more than 2000 college-aged kids who conducted numerous pro-life events throughout the week. His report to me and photos of these very serious Christian young people assured me that the victory for Life is already won! Join that evidence to the tens of thousands of young faces among the more than 400,000 that walked in the March for Life on Friday, and it means it’s just a matter of time!
Finally, good things sometimes come in small packages, and two fellowship dinners that Cheryl and I enjoyed with friends who were here for different reasons were just as important to us as anything else–maybe even more so. As the saying goes, none of us is an island. We all need others. St. Paul gives us the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12. We need each part in order to function properly. Sitting with friends–in this case the incomparable Paulette Farina of Columbus, OH, on Friday night–and Lt. Col. David Hensey USMC, of Las Vegas on Saturday night–reminded me of that truth. Not only do I enjoy time with friends immensely–I also need my friends. These two fellowship meals capped off the week beautifully!
And speaking of friends, that circle includes you! Your prayers, your encouragement to us, and your generosity allow us to enjoy these experiences. I will always be grateful to God for you and for your kindness to us. I will never take it for granted. Thank you!
On to our next challenge . . .
Welcome to this, the 18th annual remembrance of the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers. Fr. Frank Pavone–how wonderful to have you here to preside.
As most of you know, I’m Rev. Rob Schenck, and I’m an ordained Evangelical minister, while my identical twin brother, Fr. Paul Schenck, is a Roman Catholic priest. (That leads to many interesting conversations.) But it falls to me, the “older brother” (by ten minutes) to admit to my younger twin, that he has a lot to teach me–and–that Catholics have much to teach Evangelicals about the two-fold call to evangelization.
You see, Evangelicals are big on the saving of souls. In fact, Evangelical churches are sometimes called, “soul saving stations.” Now, the saving of souls is an indispensable part of the Gospel, but it has a parallel mission: The saving of souls is paired with the saving of culture.
Now, my brother and I have been debating since we were “womb mates” — but Fr. Paul, I’ll give you this one: The Roman Catholic Church has been saving cultures (if you will) or a long–long time. (And, Archpriest Alexander Webster, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say the Orthodox have been doing it just as long–or, you may argue, even longer; but I won’t open that conversation here!)
Any way, we Evangelicals tend to think in 10-year increments; Catholics and Orthodox think in slightly longer expanses—like 1000-year increments.
So, it’s been 18 years since we started this event. In my short-term Evangelical mind, that’s 17 years too many–because in 1995, we had hoped that the conscience of this country wouldn’t allow the killing of the unborn to continue another year.
But, another year did come and go, and another, and another, and here we are 17 years later.
Now many people–among them many of my Evangelical colleagues–have been tempted to give up on the fight for the sanctity of life, because, as one said to me recently, “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”
And, of course, yesterday marked the 39th year since seven judges, in Roe v. Wade, created a vacuum of law, leaving the most defenseless members of human society vulnerable to cruelty and death.
I don’t know how some might see it, but I see the absence of law; and the resultant callousness of abandonment; and the burning, poisoning, dismembering, eviscerating, and smothering of tiny human beings–as consummately uncivilized–in fact, barbaric–behavior!
So, the justices unleashed barbarism in our culture when they voted 7-2 to strike down laws protecting vulnerable pre-born children.
But you know something–Rome, as they say–wasn’t built in a day. (Neither was Constantinople . . .) It takes a long time–very long periods of time–to build and rebuild civilizations.
So, Fr. Frank and Fr. Alexander, and my fellow Evangelicals, we have our work cut out for us. We must still save souls by announcing the Gospel whenever and wherever we can–but we must also reform civilization. We must civilize the United States of America by ending the tyranny and tragedy of abortion in our time–while modeling and teaching compassion and care for the most vulnerable in our society–
And, that, folks, ought to keep us all busy for at least another 18 years.
Now let us light the perennial Life Candle.