Governor Dummer Academy, Student & Faculty Reaction, January 1985

John C. Rankin

In college, my wife’s roommate and closest friend was one of twins, and her twin sister continued on to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and then became chaplain at Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts. It is the oldest private boarding school in the United States, founded in 1763, grades 9-12, currently with 450 co-educational students.

I was asked to address the weekly chapel service in January, 1985, and in a season where the school was rapidly moving away from any serious biblical moorings. Per request, my topic was the debate over human abortion, and in my presentation to a packed room of students and faculty, I used the text of Leviticus 20:1-5 as I did in my sermon at Gordon-Conwell one year prior (click here), making analogy between child sacrifice and human abortion. As well, now just over a year into my full-time pro-life ministry, I added some facts about the abortion industry I had since learned.

Now, I had been a youth pastor from 1978-1984 (and a season as a de facto interim pastor as well), so I understood high school audiences. Yet, too, I hit the topic head-on, and in a way I would do more strategically now in terms of preparing the human spirit to face real horror. I painted the candid profile of child sacrifice in the ancient world according to one archaeological report I then read — the bronze idol, with a roaring fire inside of it so that the bronze glowed with heat; with outstretched arms to receive the infant (usually a boy, often the firstborn) to be burned alive, the screaming then suffocating child, cooking flesh, the mother not allowed to utter any public grief — and this was hard enough to confront.

But when I then described human abortion in terms of the suction apparatus, dilation and curettage, saline solution etc., the horror swept the audience as groans, moans and deep murmuring protests erupted. Especially from among the faculty. It was a baptism into the debate at this threshold, making me think of reactions to Jesus when he discussed judgment on sin.

The school headmaster was not pleased, and this was later communicated with me. Yet, I described reality, and there was no room for it, it appeared, as part of the education of young people at Governor Dummer Academy. None of us like to look at images of the Holocaust of Jews and other human beings who had been utterly dehumanized and destroyed by the Nazis. Yet Auschwitz and other concentration camps, with all the tactile, graphic and photographic images in place, are preserved as a memory so that we can all learn: Never Again. When might this same reality and response come to pass concerning the Holocaust of the Unborn at the hands of a male chauvinistic abortion industry?

But the chaplain was pleased, as she wrote me on January 28, 1985: “Thank you for your time and effort in communicating results of abortion to the student body here at GDA. Much is needed in the area of moral teaching here, and you have made it one step easier. Thank you. I”ll keep in touch as to the feedback I receive.”