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“I Was Hoping to See Some Cultists”: Pastors at Shepherd’s Conference Warned Not to Engage Abolitionists

“They told us not to talk to you guys,” the pastor told the abolitionist.

 A group of abolitionists gathered in Los Angeles March 1–5 to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout their city, to call people to repent of the sin of child sacrifice running rampant in their culture, and to confess the neglect of justice and mercy that allows it to continue in the midst of millions of professing born-again believers.

The mission in LA was called “Project Nineveh” and abolitionists left no segment of the city disengaged.

They went first to the unbelievers in the public square, calling people in the streets, malls, high schools, and child sacrifice centers to repent and believe the Gospel. This is the normal day-in-day-out work of unified abolitionists in the United States—a movement known by their symbol and rallying cry as “Abolish Human Abortion.”

While this group is known for their staunch commitment to “bringing the gospel into conflict with the evil of abortion” they are increasingly under attack for what some people call their “cult-like” and “jihadist” disposition towards the American Church.

An example of this behavior was the highlight of the Project Nineveh Mission in LA.

The Shepherd’s Conference (ShepCon2017), a yearly gathering of thousands of pastors from around the nation and world, was also meeting in town during the week abolitionists gathered.

Naturally, abolitionists determined to go to them as well, believing that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ alone possesses the means and power to abolish abortion. 

Their primary goal in engaging the men attending ShepCon2017 was to provoke thought and self examination among church leaders regarding the state of our nation’s salt and light in relation to the daily slaughter of thousands and thousands of image-bearing neighbors.

Image from one of the Pamphlets being handed out in LA. The red dots are Abortion “clinics”. The white dots are churches.

They brought neither signs nor bullhorns, but simply stood outside the conference building passing out pamphlets and asking the questions: “Do We Love God and Our Neighbors As Much As We Love Our Theology?” and  “Are the Churches Guilty Again?”, referring to the manner in which Churches in Nazi Germany failed to strongly and uniformly oppose the Jewish Holocaust.

Their secondary goal was to find brothers and sisters who would become potential co-laborers in the cause of establishing justice for the preborn fatherless.

Arnold Davtyan, the organizer of the event, explained the purpose of attending the Shepherd’s Conference, saying “Since we believe the Church is foundational and a necessary component to bringing about the abolition of abortion, we decided to engage a large group of shepherds to exhort them unto love and good works. If we can bring the plight of the unborn to their attention, calling one another to repentance from our apathy, we hoped they would do likewise with the flock of God they have been given under their guidance and stewardship.”

Abolitionist Toby Harmon described their presence there in a live video from outside the Shepherd’s Conference on the first day.

The response from pastors to the presence of abolitionists varied widely.

One pastor, featured in the video below, explained that he had been “warned” inside the conference about men and women handing out literature and told to ignore them as they were cultists who should be avoided. However, being a faithful Christian, he chose instead to engage them in hopes of sharing the Gospel. Contrary to the testimony he had been given, he found the abolitionists to be clearly brothers and sisters, had a friendly discourse on justification through Christ, sanctification, and what Christianity looks like in a culture that kills its children.

Another pastor, seemingly under the impression that abolitionists were not believers at all, also tried to share the Gospel with them, asking “if you died today would God let you into His Kingdom?”

Perhaps it was because of these warnings that many pastors snubbed the abolitionists and gave them a cold shoulder as they hurriedly went in and out of the conference building. Some pastors were outright rude and a number were visibly anxious to avoid them.

However, there were many pastors who chose to have amicable conversations with the abolitionists and said that they would read their material in the light of scripture and give it a fair hearing. Some pastors returned to abolitionists the day after they read the literature and explained that they in fact agreed with it and approved of the abolitionists’ decisions to exhort churches to lead the way in the cause of abolition.

One conference attendee, a member of John MacArthur’s church, even took a stack of pamphlets inside the conference to distribute them.

Still others determined to find out for themselves if what they were hearing about “AHA” was true and came out to ask the abolitionists clarifying questions.

Abolitionists believe that much of the confusion and conflicting information surrounding their presence can be traced back to men of influence in Christian communities who actively sowed discord and misinformation against abolitionists before they even showed up.

For example, well-known Christian podcaster Dr. James White issued a warning to Shepherd’s Conference organizers about abolitionists before they even made an appearance, hinting that they might be volatile enough to require extra security.

Security was indeed on heightened alert the first day, but by the end of the conference, they thanked the abolitionists for their orderly and gentle conduct.

When abolitionists failed to behave badly on site, White again took to social media, this time seizing on the comments of abolitionists who weren’t at the conference (and whose comments were criticized even within the abolitionist movement as lacking in clarity), taking the opportunity to label abolitionists as enemies of God and mark them out as a “self-guided cult.”

JeremiahCry Ministries likewise took to Facebook to alert conference attendees of the presence of “AHA” and question why they were at ShepCon “protesting”.

Blogger Jordan Hall has worked tirelessly for months to paint abolitionists as cultists and enemies of Christ, in posts like the following:

Polemics Report: An Open Letter to AHA

Polemics Report: Thirteen Points of Rightful Criticism Toward AHA

As a recent encounter with well known preacher Paul Washer well documents,  false testimony against abolitionists has been very effective at sowing discord with statements like, “AHA is a cult”, “AHA hates the church”, “AHA destroys church buildings”, “Abolitionists don’t believe in Biblical church leadership”, and so on—accusations repeated again and again by men with platforms and accepted without question by many who listen to them.

Similarly, a brother outside of the Shepherd’s Conference, presumably having heard these things himself, opened his conversation with abolitionists by saying “I want to exhort you on your ecclesiology.”

According to abolitionists, the accusations that they are in an “anti-church cult” could not be further from the truth.

They contend that they were not protesting the Shepherd’s Conference, nor did they pose any kind of threat.

They were not there because they hate the Church (the Body of Christ to which they belong as blood bought sinners). They were there specifically because they love the Church, and believe that it is the Body of Christ that will rise up to slay the great dragon of child sacrifice.

Abolitionists plead with influential pastors and elders in the body of Christ because they are members of the church and have the opportunity and influence to exhort other members to rise up and bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into conflict with abortion in their local communities.

“Going to a place like the Shepherds Conference, where it is estimated that over 5,000 are in attendance, most being pastors/elders of congregations; should be seen as a wise and prudent decision by Abolitionists,” said Jason Sanchez, abolitionist and host of Reconstructionist Radio’s War Room podcast. “Where else can you exhort and build up the Church of Jesus Christ by reaching so many men who have influence over the body of Christ across this globe? Where else can you reach so many men who are to be servant-leaders, in one place, and over such a short span of time?”

Abolitionists also hoped to combat unbiblical ideas regarding the abolition of human abortion and clarify thinking they believe has been clouded by decades of compromising pro-life strategy.

In the end, many pastors were able to recognize that abolitionists were indeed brothers and sisters who were there sounding the alarm about child sacrifice and proclaiming the duty of the Body of Christ in the midst of a great holocaust. Abolitionists distributed approximately 1500 pieces of literature during the week and reported many good engagements.

“There have been mixed reactions… from great conversations and brothers gained, to many fleeing while no one pursued,” Sanchez said. “May God be glorified and our most defenseless neighbors, image-bearers of God, gain more voices speaking out for them in love. This is what we pray for. This is why we went to exhort our brothers and sisters at the Shepherds Conference 2017.”

To hear more about the event from Abolitionist Society of Los Angeles director Arnold Davytan, listen to the Awake O Sleeper podcast interview, and read this letter to the editor from Gayane Barnes, a member of Grace Community Church.