Statement of the Conference of Lutheran Bishops
Concerned by the situation in Polish society, by the divisions that often run through families, as the Conference of Lutheran Bishops we wish to express our pastoral care. The biggest protests since the early 1980s have been taking place in Poland for many days now. Back then, the general strikes pertained to the economic situation, and ended with a struggle to regain freedom. Now, forty years later, it is mainly women who have taken to the streets. Men stand shoulder to shoulder with the protesters. The vast majority are young, disappointed people. The Church cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in our society. We are living in a pandemic, in a time of particular danger to the lives of hundreds or thousands of people, and yet so many people, aware of the epidemic hazard, are ready to demonstrate, to fight for their rights and liberties.
For Lutherans around the world, presence in the public debate is an important element of their Christian witness. Lutheran theology, based on the Reformation doctrine of two kingdoms, points to a clear separation of church and state powers. The Church's mission is to preach the Gospel and to shape consciences, not to force certain moral solutions by imposing them through legal regulations in the sphere of the state. The Church's task is to bear witness, not to coerce, impose its will or control.
The perspective of the Bible as well as the message of the Reformation teach us that we have been endowed with the freedom of God's children, which implies making decisions for ourselves in our lives and taking responsibility for the choices made, including the most difficult ones. This understanding of freedom today makes many people speak out loudly, often in a form that is far from verbal etiquette. The Church must listen to questions, complaints, grievances and even screams of people. It stops fulfilling its vocation when it turns its back on the frustrated, the seekers, on those who shout their anger at it and even declare their disbelief.
We are aware that the reason for such a great rebellion is the decision of the Constitutional Court, which departs from the solutions adopted twenty-seven years ago, aimed at protecting the human foetus, while at the same time ensuring the protection of the life, health and dignity of a pregnant woman and ensuring freedom of decision making in situations of extremely difficult moral choices.
In the 1991 Declaration of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession on the Protection of Life we refer to the traditional understanding of the sanctity of life, indicating at the same time that it is not the task of the Church to influence the legislator to penalise abortion. Neither then nor now, do we Lutherans wish to impose our worldview or moral vision on other citizens of our country. By preaching the Gospel of justification by grace through faith, the Church promotes an ethic of responsibility based on awareness of Christian freedom. The Church's teaching focuses on the formation of human hearts and consciences and on education aimed, in this particular context, at preventing situations in which unwanted children are to be born. The Church's task is to do everything possible to ensure that abortion ceases to be a priority in moral debate, and that by building sexual awareness and conscious parenthood, the number of abortions is minimised. We believe that women who have had to undergo an abortion for medical reasons, as a result of crimes and lethal defects, should be provided with appropriate spiritual counselling and under no circumstances should they develop feelings of guilt. At the same time, comprehensive care should be provided for families who take up the heroic challenge of bringing up children with genetic defects.
Aware of our responsibility for the community we are building, we call for mutual respect for all parties to the dispute. We appeal to those in power to avoid using force and to seek the necessary compromise in this matter. We appeal to the protesters not to move towards radical solutions, but to strive for peaceful dialogue. We trust that today's involvement of the young generation in the protests will result in their lasting commitment to responsibility for public affairs.
As Church, we continue to pray, asking God for peace and wisdom for all those who care about the good of Poland and all its inhabitants.
Adopted unanimously on 2 of November 2020
Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland