Copyright © 1997 AFLM
May/June, 1997 Volume XII Number 6 - IN THE NATION
Nebraska church harbors abortionist -- as a decon
by Paul deParrie
Lincoln, NE -- Larry Donlan was amazed and not surprised when he heard it.
Still, Donlan never though he would be picketing against an abortionist at a church. Yet, on February 23, here he was.
After years in the pro-life movement, Donlan, director of Rescue the Heartland, just shook his head when he first learned that the notorious abortionist, Winston Crabb, not only openly attended a local church, but was counted among their leadership.
The church was Westminster Presbyterian Church at 2110 Sheridan in Lincoln, Nebraska. Westminster is a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination (see News Notes).
Committed to dealing with the issue according to Scripture, Donlan and others first spoke to Crabb individually, then with witnesses present -- as prescribed in Matthew 18.
After having done so, Donlan sent a letter to the governing board of the church -- called a session. In it, Donlan reminded the leaders that 1 Timothy's list of qualifications for leadership in the church said that such people were to be "above reproach" and that John Calvin, upon whose reformation teaching the denomination is allegedly based, called abortion "an inexpiable crime."
"How can someone whose very profession is to commit such crimes be considered 'beyond reproach?'" Donlan asked.
After a cursory response from the session, Donlan went to the congregation as quietly as possible. Without any public fanfare, Rescue the Heartland leafleted the cars in the church parking lot during services with material laying out the complaint to the members of the church.
"Several members of the church came over and thanked us for what we had done," said Donlan.
But when even this measure failed to draw an official response, another letter was sent to the pastor, William C. Yeager, informing him that unless some action was taken by the church, a public demonstration at the church would follow.
Yeager's response? He would call the police to deal with any trespassers and that the church "is seeking legal counsel as to what our rights and privileges are."
What he said about abortionist Crabb was that he was "elected by due process" to both a deacon and, later, to the session.
"We welcome him and his Christian leadership," Yeager wrote and noted that the church was "broadly inclusive" regarding members' beliefs on abortion.
So, on Sunday, February 23, almost two dozen activists from Rescue the Heartland displayed large photos of aborted babies at all the entrances to the church grounds and passed out more leaflets on the "scandal" of having Crabb as a church leader.
Media response was so hot that a large front page article appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star the day before the event.
"Some of the people who came to the picket came as a result of the article," said Donlan. "Others deliberately drove by and indicated their support because of it."
Dozens of news agencies had reporters on site. One television station, after issuing a disclaimer, showed the graphic posters the demonstrators were displaying.
Yeager did not mention the picket going on outside during the service but relied upon an insert in the bulletin to explain his position to the congregation.
Again several congregation members indicated their support of Rescue the Heartland's actions.
"One couple brought coffee and encouraged us," Donlan said.
Crabb, though he attended that morning, was not seen by the protesters so the troupe drove to Crabb's residence at 2940 S. 24th Street in Lincoln for a prayer session after the demonstration at the church. While there a man, accompanied by his young son, screamed obscenities at the group and ended by going to Crabb's door and offering his "support." The young boy followed his father's example in shouting obscenities at the praying group.
As the man drove away, police stopped him and arrested him for drunk driving, driving on a suspended license, and other outstanding warrants.
Picketing Westminster Presbyterian Church: The "Christian" response
Lincoln, NE -- As soon as the picket by Rescue the Heartland was over, the media began seeking out comments from pastors and leaders in other Christian churches in the area.
It was a "given" that the Lincoln Journal Star would object to the tactic. And Larry Donlan of Rescue the Heartland was not surprised as the ever-insipid Lincoln Right to Life denounced them. But that pastors would condemn his actions and those of his group without so much as a phone call or an inquiry disappointed him.
One objector, Robert Kunz, a pastor at First Christian Church at 430 S. 16th Street said, "The thing that puzzles me about this particular group is that Christians are supposed to be able to sit down and talk about their differences. These people are using a violent, in-your-face approach that seems to go contrary to the idea of Christian servanthood."
Donlan noted that Kunz never "sat down and talked" with him or anyone from Rescue the Heartland before trashing him in the press. Kunz did not attend any of the events and had no first-hand knowledge of whether the activities were "violent." Nor did Kunz acknowledge the lengths to which Rescue the Heartland went to keep the matter private and engage the issue according to Scripture.
Lauren Ekdahl, pastor at Trinity Methodist Church at 1345 S. 16th Street said, "These are people who don't know how to engage in civil discourse."
Ekdahl was not present for any Rescue the Heartland activity.
Other pastors who expressed similar sentiments were Otis Young, pastor of First-Plymouth Congregational Church at 2000 D Street, Bryan Clark, pastor of Lincoln Berean 6400 S. 70th Street, James Dawson, a priest at Risen Christ Roman Catholic Church at 3500 Sheridan Boulevard.
Stu Kerns, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church at 4000 Sheridan Boulevard, who has members who regularly picket at the local Planned Parenthood, declined to state whether the Rescue the Heartland demonstrations were themselves appropriate.
"Nobody from our church was there," he said.
But Kerns, whose church is affiliated with the same denomination as Westminster Presbyterian, said he agreed with the general statement by Lincoln Right to Life that opposed all picketing of residences or places of worship.
"The question isn't whether or not people approve of protesting at a church," said Donlan, "but how a church that professes faith in Jesus Christ can appoint a known, active child-killer as a deacon and then as an elder. Our purpose was to expose this scandalous hypocrisy, and we accomplished that purpose."