Abortion demands we plant more churches

One week from now the Republic of Ireland will vote to remove the amendment to it’s constitution that protects the right to life of the unborn - known popularly as the Eighth Amendment. Should the amendment be repealed on the 25th May it will allow the government of Ireland (the Oireachtas) to legislate for abortion up to twelve weeks “without condition” and up to term if it affects the health of the mother, this includes mental health. Practically speaking means that Ireland would have one of the most aggressive abortion policies of any country in the world.

While the polls show that the vote will be close the “repeal” side have enjoyed a lead throughout the campaign. In Dublin where we live, we are confronted on a daily basis by campaign posters and lobbyists - as I write my coffee has just been served to me by a young woman wearing a pro-choice button. It is a constant reminder of the deep gospel need in Ireland.

Ireland is the least evangelised English speaking country in the world. Evangelicals count for 0.4% of the population - this confounds the old assumption that Ireland is the land of “Saints and Scholars”. On the north side of Dublin where we planted City Church there is one Bible believing Church for every 40,000 people. Yet, in the countryside the situation is even more bleak. There are:

70 towns with a population of 5000~ that have no evangelical witness.

30 towns with a population of 10,000~ that have no evangelical witness.

10 towns with a population of 20,000~ that have no evangelical witness.

Like much of Europe, Ireland is post-christian and given our history as a nation there is a cultural assumption that “religion” causes division and conflict. Practically this means that people dismiss christian ethics as outmoded and oppressive. However, every human being is hardwired to create structures of value and belief. These become the foundation to our actions in the world (our ethics). The abortion referendum demonstrates the difference in these structures and reminds us that a change of ethics is only truly as a result of a change in those fundamental commitments. Put another way - We cannot expect someone to have Gospel ethics without Gospel transformation and Gospel transformation is only as a result of Gospel proclamation - this is why we need to plant churches in Ireland. 

 

Should the abortion referendum be defeated it will be because rural Ireland has drawn on the “borrowed capital” of it’s Christian heritage. On this we should be clear - it will not be an indicator of our country’s spiritual vitality but of the mercy of God to us. The call remains urgent, Ireland needs gospel centred, culturally engaged, missionally innovative churches.  

 

Please pray that Christians all over the country would be the voice of compassion and hope, grounded in an unwavering confidence in the scriptures. That we would stand firm both on the person-hood of the unborn and on the redeeming, life giving gospel. Pray that in the midst of this darkness the light of the gospel would shine all the clearer and that Lord of the Harvest might raise up workers for his harvest field in Ireland. 

 

 Mark Smith

Timothy Farrell