Single-digit temperatures and the aftermath of a snowstorm did not deter a group of Anglican bishops from participating in the annual National March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
“We’re thankful for the sun,” said the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, earmuffs wrapped around his head and snow underfoot on the National Mall.
In addition to purple robes, Guernsey and the other bishops donned hats and mittens to stave off chilly temperatures during the march, which drew tens of thousands of mostly young people to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the United States.
“Look around you — everywhere on Earth, everything you see — is pointed towards life,” said the Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood of the Anglican Church in North America’s International Diocese. “In every case new life is fragile and vulnerable. God’s agenda is life and we are his. We have a responsibility to support the most vulnerable wherever they are.”
Atwood and Guernsey were two of a dozen bishops who marched under the banner of Anglicans for Life, a pro-Life ministry formerly known as the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL). Led by Anglicans for Life President Georgette Forney, the delegation included parishioners and clergy from across the ACNA. After participating at an ecumenical prayer service at Constitution Hall, the bishops visited the offices of the Institute on Religion and Democracy for brunch and then joined the rally on the National Mall.
Among those marching for the first time were Geoffrey and Alayne Boland of St. Nicholas Anglican Church in Kissimmee, Florida, who (at the encouragement of their bishop) took vacation time to participate.
The Bolands said they were happy to join the march, adding that as native New Yorkers they were prepared for winter weather.
“The babies who are being aborted need a voice,” said Madeleine Ruch, a high school junior from the Chicago area and a member of Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. Ruch was joined by her father, the Rt. Rev. Stewart Ruch, Bishop of the Upper Midwest.
“Without question this is the pressing, urgent civil rights issue of our generation,” Bishop Ruch said of the estimated 55 million children aborted since 1973. “I didn’t know how I could be a bishop in the one holy apostolic church and not be here. This may be my most important episcopal act of the year.”
Anglican participants reported being touched by many of the signs, including “I regret my abortion” and “I’m a product of rape.”
“I respect people for telling their story,” said the Rev. Wright Wall, rector of All Nations Anglican Church in Washington, D.C. Wall, who was participating in his first march, said he would love for the church to be known “for sanctity of life, compassion and care for everyone involved on these decisions, adoption of kids, and women in and after abortion.”
While some were first-time marchers, others had participated for years.
Kirsten Ball of Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, Virginia, arrived with a busload of fellow parishioners, a tradition that began in 1983 when “everyone was on fire at once for pro-life work” in her congregation.
The Rev. Clay Morrison from Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, Virginia, recalled riding down on a bus from New Jersey each year during his childhood to join in the annual event.
“This march introduces something else into the consciousness — that life is sacred, beautiful, and holy,” he said. “Even if it is a blip on the radar, it’s still a blip.”
“There is a significant witness in the Anglican Communion that is clear on life in witnessing to the mothers that have suffered over the last generation,” said the Rt. Rev. David C. Bryan of the Southeast Regional Network of PEARUSA (the North American Missionary District of the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda).
“It is very encouraging to see all the young people. This is hopeful for the Church,” said the Most. Rev. Bob Duncan, Archbishop of the ACNA, who was on his second march. “Our mission is to reach people with the transforming love of Christ and to help the Church understand that all of this killing is not of the Lord. Love those in trouble.”
Jeff Walton of the IRD