Journal of Religious Ethics 19 (2):157 - 181 (1991)
In seeking an answer to the question, How can the church speak from Christian warrants on any of the fateful choices we face in our common life, Paul Ramsey argued that, when it speaks, the voice of the church ought to be instructional rather than advocatory. An investigation of what the Episcopal Church has said over the past 20 years about abortion provides strong support for Ramsey's argument. This history suggests also that additional questions need to be asked if that church and others are to address adequately the issues raised by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. The most important of these questions are: (a) on what sorts of issues are the churches obliged to speak, (b) are these issues ones that call for agreement, (c) to whom are the churches obliged to speak, (d) in what vocabulary ought they to speak, (e) who ought to speak, and (f ) under what circumstances is anyone obliged to listen. At a minimum, an adequate ethic for ecclesiastical pronouncements requires that these questions be asked and answered.
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