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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Roland C. Warren
Nov. 17, 2013

Offering Meaningful Care

A year ago, Roland C. Warren became president of Care Net, a network of more than 1,100 affiliated pregnancy care centers across North America. Previously, Warren served as president of the National Fatherhood Initiative for a decade. Warren, 51, recently spoke with John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel news editor.

evangel: Are more fathers taking an active role in the lives of their children?

Roland C. Warren: It’s a tale of two cities. We still have 25 million kids growing up in homes absent their biological father. That’s 1 out of 3 nationally, 2 out of 3 in the black community. It’s still a big, big issue. Not that a father outside the home can’t be involved or engaged. But on average, fatherhood tends to be like real estate: location, location, location. If you’re not where your kids live, over time it’s easy to get disconnected.

At the same time, you have fathers who are more engaged than their fathers before them, who have a much more holistic view of what it means to be a father. It’s not just being a provider. Good fathers do three things. They provide, they nurture, and they guide. It’s not just about presents, what money can buy; it’s about presence — what money can’t replace — your time.

evangel: What has been the result of an increase in absent fathers?

Warren: We’ve sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind of negative consequences. There is lower academic performance, higher teen pregnancy, more criminal activity — all factors correlated closely with kids being raised in homes absent their fathers. When you unpack the “why” of the story behind the story, in so many situations it was because they were raised in a single-parent home.

evangel: How has Care Net changed in response?

Warren: My girlfriend — later my wife — and I had an unplanned pregnancy when we were in college. Student services health-care folks encouraged her to have an abortion. She was a sophomore and wanted to be a doctor, and they said, “It’s best that you abort the baby.”

I was 20; she was 19. I said, “We’re going to get married. I’m going to be a husband to you and a father to our child.” Our pregnancy was unplanned, but it wasn’t a crisis because we created a family.

When I got involved with the National Fatherhood Initiative, I thought we should partner with organizations at the nexus of children and family, and help them engage fathers as an aspect of their mission. The pregnancy care center world was one of these organizations. There was no strategy to engage fathers. There were no fatherhood programs. Now there are.

God has a design for the family and how to deal with unplanned pregnancy. He laid it out pretty clearly with the birth of Jesus, whose birth was unplanned from Mary’s perspective. But God made sure Jesus had a married mother and father who loved each other and loved Him. This is the model we should seek to achieve. Care Net must be helping create families where fathers and mothers love each other, and they in turn will love their children.

evangel:  I suspect some Christians believe if the state in which they live has enacted tougher abortion laws it will result in less of a need for pregnancy care centers.

Warren: If states outlaw abortion, that won’t outlaw unmarried sex or unplanned pregnancy. There are 1.2 million abortions every year in this country. What would happen to those women and men if abortion was outlawed?

An interesting analogy is abolition of slavery. In a sense, the abolitionists were not really prepared to win. Slavery was outlawed, and the slave walked out of the plantation free but with no place to go. Moreover, the hearts of the people in the North and the South hadn’t really changed toward embracing the ex-slave as a fellow human being.

Abolitionists won the legislative battle, but a lot of these ex-slaves walked back into the plantation and became sharecroppers — essentially slaves again.

Are we prepared to win on abortion? It’s shortsighted to just focus on legislation. We’re supposed to be conveyors of compassion and care. If people don’t have abortion as an option, is our strategy to just create 1.2 million single-mother homes every year? Is that God’s design?

evangel: What can the church do in this whole scenario?

Warren: There is a role for pregnancy centers, but there is a broader role for the church. Over 18 years in the life of a child, the needs increase but a pregnancy center’s ability to meet those needs does not. If you come into a pregnancy center with a 5-year-old, they can’t help you. It makes women more abortion-vulnerable when they don’t think they can raise the baby on their own.

Some 85 percent of abortions involve unmarried women because they don’t have long-term resources. Married women have a support system because they marry the father. But when marriage doesn’t happen, there is an opportunity for the church.

evangel: You’re talking about more than financial support.

Warren: Yes, I am talking about “life support.” Life decisions require life support. If you are in a boat and you see someone drowning, you throw a life preserver. If that person doesn’t catch it, you don’t say, “Oh well.” No, you throw another one, and you keep doing so until it’s caught.

Similarly, such buoys are needed for a woman thinking about having an abortion because she doesn’t have a place to live, or the father is unemployed or she doesn’t think she can be a good mother. The pregnancy centers only have a limited number of buoys, so this is where the church comes in. Someone in the church could hire the husband or boyfriend, or mentor her.

evangel: What is the biggest challenge facing Care Net?

Warren: There are always issues. Ultimately Care Net is about winning the hearts and minds of the culture so abortion is inconceivable. It’s along the lines of what’s happened with smoking. Nobody affirms smokers, and smoking is considered hurting yourself. It’s always a big challenge getting our message out and helping people understand abortion is an important issue and we need to do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable among us.

The other challenge is helping the church to be more proactive, coming alongside those facing unplanned pregnancies and helping them understand how to build strong marriages. More pastors need to speak from the pulpit and say, like Joshua, as for me and my house, there will be no more abortions in this church. Not because we are going to treat women like the woman caught in adultery, but we’re going to do what Christ did and say, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” We need to make this declaration and have programming in the church to support it so women don’t end up at the abortion clinic.

Sixty-five percent of those who have abortions claim to be Catholic or Protestant. Those folks are in our churches. We have to reach out to them with love and compassion.


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