By Stacey Egger
On Saturday, March 7, over 200 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) members joined more than 1,000 other pro-life individuals from the greater St. Louis area to “March on the Arch.” Participants gathered across the street from the St. Louis branch of Planned Parenthood. After a half-hour rally, they walked four miles through downtown St. Louis, ending at the St. Louis Arch grounds.
The event, organized by the Coalition for Life–St. Louis, saw its largest turnout ever in 2020, due in part to the large number of LCMS participants. The LCMS served as a sponsor and manned a table at the march’s second mile-marker.
As marchers passed by, LCMS volunteers handed out water. LCMS sponsorship was underwritten by donations from Concordia Publishing House (CPH) and Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF). A group of CPH employees also joined in the march.
“Life is what Christ saved us to experience,” said the Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission, to the Lutherans who assembled before the march.
“He is the God of the resurrection. … We’re bearing witness to salvation in Christ every bit as much as we are saying that abortion and other unnatural ways of dying shouldn’t happen.”
“We brought our employees out … with the [LCMS] International Center’s [employees] and [with] churches and congregations and schools around town to march on the Arch,” said Dr. Bruce Kintz, president and CEO of CPH. “And we’re here today … to say that all babies’ lives are important. God created them. Why should we think we have the right to end their existence?”
The Central West End Planned Parenthood where marchers assembled is the last abortion facility in the state of Missouri and faces a possible closure due to its failure in previous years to abide by state health regulations.
“We [believe] that government is a gift of God, and legitimate government does not contradict the Gospel or undermine ethics and morality, much less allow for the taking of innocent, unborn life,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, who led the LCMS group. “And so we are out here as Christians to confess Christ, and we are out here as citizens to confess a deep moral flaw in our public laws.”
The march drew many from Illinois, where increasingly brutal abortion legislation, and the surprise opening of a new abortion “mega-clinic” in Fairview Heights this past October, has spurred many pro-life residents to seek opportunities for action.
Among the Illinois marchers was Monica Shannon, life coordinator for the LCMS Southern Illinois District. Shannon’s brother worked as a contractor for the Fairview Heights clinic’s construction, completely unaware of what was being built. (To avoid protests, Planned Parenthood did not identify the project until it was completed.) When her brother found out, said Shannon, he was “beside himself.”
Shannon and a friend, Robin Schultze, were spurred on by the opening of the new clinic to get more involved in pro-life work. When the LCMS Southern Illinois District (SID) president, the Rev. Timothy Scharr, chartered the SID Advocates for Life team at the end of October, Shannon became the coordinator and Schultze the administrator of the team. In the months since then, they have seen a huge response from their district. Members from at least 24 SID churches crossed the river to march with the LCMS group in St. Louis.
Shannon and Schultze emphasized that, as Lutherans, their team is working not just to defend earthly lives, but also to share the life of Christ with those who are in darkness.
“These women, the abortionists, the babies, the elderly, the sick, the infirm, the people on hospice — they need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So it’s the work of advocating for their physical life, but, more importantly, giving them Jesus,” said Shannon.
For another supporter from Illinois, Kristi Hofferber of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hoffman, Ill., the pro-life cause is a very personal one. Hofferber, who was adopted as an infant, is now a pro-life speaker and a life and adoption advocate for Lutherans for Life.
“Life is … priceless,” Hofferber said. “I’m so grateful that my mother chose life for me and blessed my whole family.” Hofferber’s husband, who is Trinity’s pastor, was also adopted, as are the Hofferbers’ two children.
Students and faculty from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL), including some who were participating in the “40 Days for Life” prayer vigil outside of Planned Parenthood that day, joined in the march as well.
Dr. Rick Marrs, associate professor of Practical Theology at CSL, said that the answer to the “abortion issue” is clear for Christians:
“’Thou shalt not kill.’ That’s a basic commandment we have, and that starts at conception and goes all the way to natural death. We should be standing up in all sorts of ways for life at both ends of the spectrum, and in between,” he said.
The Rev. Michael Salemink, executive director of Lutherans for Life, spoke at the pre-march rally in front of Planned Parenthood.
“We are leaning in to bring joy to the desperate, to bring hope to the endangered,” Salemink said. “We are united today not simply to leave a sordid past behind, but to leap ahead into a splendid future.
“So don’t call this a protest. … This message isn’t just a cause; it is Gospel truth. And it is finished! Christ is risen! Life wins! Love prevails! This is a victory parade, and everyone is invited! Amen.”
Posted March 31, 2020