For decades, The Rev. Rob Schenck was a fixture of the pro-life movement in the United States. He was the chairman of the Evangelical Christian Alliance between 2012 and 2016 and was one of the most powerful conservative preacher activists in Washington. He began his pro-life ministry in 1992 during large-scale anti-abortion rallies in Buffalo, when he was seen cradling a preserved human fetus. In 1994 he moved to Washington, D.C. out of a desire to minister to politicians. Once there, he planted the National Community Church and pastored it until he stepped down in 1996 to focus his ministry on politicians. He also organized the National Memorial for the Preborn in 1995.
Schenck participated in numerous protests, some of which spiraled out of control (Schenck himself has been arrested on several occasions). Most notably, he was arrested in 1992 for his involvement in ambushing then-president Bill Clinton with a dead fetus in a plastic container. He was also seen confronting people with dead fetuses in 1992 during abortion protests in Buffalo.
But in recent years Schenck has shifted leftward on several issues including gun control and LGBTQ advocacy. In a New York Times op-ed on May 30, 2019 he announced his support for abortion rights.
Schenck’s disagreements with conservatives go back further. In 2016, he starred in the documentary The Armor of Light, produced by Abigail Disney, which details his break with the evangelical movement over gun rights and gun advocacy. While he does not advocate for governmental gun control, he does believe in gun control on a personal level. During a 2015 NPR interview, in response to a question of whether he personally owned a gun, Schenck said, “I do not … on principle; I’ve made the decision not to own a weapon. There’s a lot of reasons for that. One is, I think it does create an ethical crisis for a Christian.” He expanded on this by saying that he does not personally own a firearm and that he does no feel that he should be the arbiter of right and wrong when it comes to a human life. In early 2016 a piece was written on this blog that talked about Schenck’s new opinions on guns and the problems therein.
It appears that Schenck had a similar change of heart regarding LGBTQ issues such as gay marriage, though this shift is less documented. There is a wealth of articles and posts which assume Schenk’s opposition to gay marriage due to his position as leader of the Evangelical Church Alliance (ECA) at the time, as well as many articles directly referencing his opposition to gay marriage through quotations. However, there is less documentation about any sort of shift in his views on this issue. He personally cites differing views on LGBTQ issues as the reason for his resignation form the Evangelical Church Alliance. In particular he cites a desire to “model more than tolerance for gays and lesbians.”
The staff of the New York Times must have been at least a little surprised when an op-ed supporting abortion came in from someone who was formerly a stridently anti-abortion leader in the evangelical community. The article itself is surprising as well. Despite its source, it contains few new ideas. Instead, Schenck presents a suite of pro-abortion talking points that have all been made before. He accuses pro-life legislation of being fundamentally racist in the effects it has on people’s lives, saying, “If Roe is overturned, middle- and upper-class white women will still secure access to abortions by traveling… but members of minorities and poor whites will too often find themselves forced to bear children…” And he talks about how poor mothers have no resources to care for their children. He unfairly alleges pro-life Christians don’t care about and aren’t helping them.
Though he seems to be challenging the church to do better on this front, he ignores the massive amount of good work that Christians already do. Christians and churches are the largest funders of crisis pregnancy centers in the nation, and many other Christian organizations provide support for expectant mothers in crisis situations. Such networks of support cannot simply be overlooked, especially amid Schenck’s smug admonishments.
I believe that this change of heart and opinion piece is a result of the organizations and ministry that Schenck presided over when he still railed against abortion. He paints a picture of pro-life advocates as hateful and lacking compassion for impoverished mothers who believe they have no choice except abortion. This is because Schenk’s own organizations and ministries were severely lacking in compassion towards these women.
Schenck fails when he generalizes his own part in the pro-life lobby to the entire movement. There are many organizations who are pro-life and demonstrate this conviction by offering free or low-cost care to expecting mothers who would otherwise get an abortion. Schenck emphasizes the importance of compassion in his article as a reason that abortion must remain legal.
But Schenck uncharitably ignores the incredible amounts of compassion shown by many who care for the women who otherwise might have no choice. He says he left the pro-life cause because he feels compassion for women with unwanted pregnancies. But he shows no compassion for pro-lifers who labor on their behalf.
Worse still, Schenck in his New York Times piece never explains what he as a Christian thinks about the value of an unborn child. He’s a clergyman who rejects church teaching about abortion but offers no theological rationale. Instead he rehashes talking points from the secular left.
Schenck famously installed a tablet with the Ten Commandments outside his Capitol Hill row house office across from the Supreme Court. Today, what does he think about the command not to murder, which he applies toward gun ownership but apparently not toward abortion?
Comment by Eternity Matters on June 14, 2019 at 4:43 pm
“He accuses pro-life legislation of being fundamentally racist in the effects it has on people’s lives, saying, “If Roe is overturned, middle- and upper-class white women will still secure access to abortions by traveling… but members of minorities and poor whites will too often find themselves forced to bear children…” And he talks about how poor mothers have no resources to care for their children. He unfairly alleges pro-life Christians don’t care about and aren’t helping them.”
Uh, seems to me that crushing and dismembering the black and Hispanic children would be the more racist thing.
Comment by Thomas on June 25, 2019 at 9:52 pm
Considering that Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, was a racist and eugenicist, this turncoat has no morals to speak against racism.
Comment by Shirlene on August 17, 2019 at 4:17 pm
Considering that this country was founded on enslavement of black people and The Southern Baptist Church was created as a split from The Baptist Church (against slavery) back in the days of slavery so the plantation owners could have a church that justified slavery. The Southern Baptists are a large part of the Evangelicals so following your logic Evangelicals have no moral standing.
Comment by David on June 14, 2019 at 7:32 pm
Another road to Damascus moment.
Comment by Lee D. Cary on June 14, 2019 at 8:06 pm
Meaning what, David?
Comment by Loren Golden on June 14, 2019 at 11:05 pm
I think you’re confusing your Sauls. It’s more like a I Samuel 16.14 moment.
Comment by Maureen on June 18, 2019 at 10:54 am
Comment by Dan W on June 15, 2019 at 8:27 am
How is adoption not an acceptable option for unwanted pregnancies? My brother and I were both adopted (1959 and 1962.) Several of my friends/classmates were adopted. It was not uncommon before Roe v Wade. Are there any long term studies comparing abortion to adoption?
(I’ll add – I thank the Good Lord for my wonderful adopted parents!)
Comment by Diane on June 18, 2019 at 1:25 am
So glad you have wonderful adoptive parents, as did my mother. My friend and his husband adopted three hard-to-place immigrant siblings from an abusive and negligent heterosexual parents and extended family. They (my friend and his hubby) make sure the children have a relationship with their biological loved ones, all of whom were judged by the court to be unfit/unstable. Evangelical Christians support foster care over same-sex adoption, which would’ve been a miserable experience for these three children, as no one wanted them as an intact family group of siblings who wanted to remain together. Evangelicals undermine their argument for adoption as a result.
Comment by Steve on June 19, 2019 at 8:40 am
Let me see if I understand your bottom line: death is preferable to foster care. Got it. The fact that you’re talking about not one but three kids raised some interesting logical issues as well (I’m assuming they weren’t triplets). Maybe someday you’ll stop posting LGBT spin on articles you obviously haven’t read and aren’t about LGBT, but I doubt it.
Comment by Maureen Wolak on June 18, 2019 at 11:01 am
Thank you so much for this article. I am just finishing Schenck’s book, Costly Grace, and am discouraged by the deviation he has taken. It has provided me with a cautionary tale to see just how devious the enemy of God is and how susceptible we all are to his lies. Armor on folks… always.
Comment by David Taylor on June 25, 2019 at 6:18 pm
I’m speculating, but Schenck seems to be following a familiar pattern: A believer comes to a point where he’s feeling guilty or acutely embarrassed about a phase in his life where he exhibited “a zeal without knowledge.” His (misguided) solution? Jettison a large portion of what he used to do and believe in favor of a more “respectable” faith. This is how he deals (incorrectly) with his guilt.
The proper solution should be obvious: Jesus is still our Redeemer (present tense). Repent of what you did wrong and move on, committing yourself to learn and walk in “the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Don’t throw away what is good in an effort to purge the bad.
As I read about Schenck’s changes of heart, it struck me that he could have changed a great deal at many stages–and still can, of course– without veering off into a dangerous and deceptive trajectory.
Comment by Thomas on June 25, 2019 at 9:55 pm
In a moment when the pro-abortion movement in the United States is more extremist than ever, showing no interest in reducing anymore the number of abortions and just seeing it as another business, this desertion couldn`t be more hypocrite. Anyway, I didn`t even knew the guy, so I guess this isn`t that much important.
Comment by Glen Kissel on June 26, 2019 at 7:52 am
Uhh…our nation as spent over $22 Trillion on the War on Poverty, which is three times the amount spent on all the military wars since the Revolution. That, at least, needs to be mentioned when someone throws out a platitude like, “poor mothers have no resources to care for their children.”
Comment by Ted R. Weiland on June 26, 2019 at 4:39 pm
“Like a trampled spring and a polluted well Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)
More fallout from today’s antinomianism, as depicted by Jude:
“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who *turn the grace of our God into licentiousness* and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4)
Eliminate God’s moral law (including Exodus 20:13, 21:22-23, Deuteronomy 27:25, etc.) and you provide a license to sin (aka licentiousness). Note this is accomplished by misusing God’s grace to eliminate God’s moral law as government and society’s standard, which, tragically, depicts the bulk of today’s alleged Christians.
For more on how Yahweh’s immutable moral law applies and should be implemented today, Google free online book “Law and Kingdom: Their Relevance Under the New Covenant.”
Comment by Denise Edmondson on August 19, 2019 at 9:20 pm
Thank you Ted and others. It seems obvious that is Pastor who is now pro-abortion is just lost! Where are the pro-life, pro-immigrant you know Sojourner, pro-environment + Christians? Am I reading a different Bible? I’ve got to do some searching for others who read the book and do their best to apply it. I am lonely for like minded, biblically minded Christians.
Comment by Ken Scott on May 20, 2020 at 11:14 am
The devil is working overtime, because his end is drawing near. As dark as it seems with the followers of the Antichrist, the light will shine brighter with the Body of Christ – true church when Israel wakes up by following Jesus in Faith against the giants of the media and Planned Murderhood who puts out all the spin. Praise the Lord!!!
The Antichrist will only have the 7 years of tribulation on the thrown as the world leader, before Jesus comes to destroy him and his followers, it is getting closer! Hallelujah!!!