‘Today, you’re hurting.’ On Sunday, Miami’s congregations split after Roe v. Wade decision

·3 min read

Miami’s spiritual leaders faced divided congregations during the first Sunday services since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

On Friday, the Supreme Court terminated women’s rights to an abortion under federal law, leaving it to each state whether to uphold or ban the medical procedure. Protests erupted across the nation. Eleven states with trigger laws — laws put in place that were designed to go into effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned — immediately banned or limited abortions since the decision on Friday.

The Miami Herald attended two religious services where some celebrated Friday’s decision during Sunday morning services while others tread cautiously.

“God’s word shows us that he values the life inside of the womb just as much as the life outside of the womb,” said Omar Giritli, lead pastor at Miami’s Christ Fellowship Megachurch.

Primarily located in the Miami area with locations across Latin America, Miami’s Christ Fellowship Megachurch started in 1917. Part of the ministry for over 10 years, Giritli gave his sermon on Sunday surrounded by a musical band and a backdrop of projected graphic designs.

“With the reversal of Roe v. Wade, just even limiting abortion, you see all the anger. You see all the protests. Literal anger,” Giritli said. “All that anger you see out there is the sinful heart with hostility towards God’s truth.”

In Little Haiti, pastors at VOUS Church took a unique approach Sunday, acknowledging the difference in opinion that can exist in any given congregation. In an auditorium at the Thomas A. Edison Education Center, steps from the local hot spot for Jamaican cuisine Clive’s Cafe, nearly every seat was filled as blue and purple stage lights illuminated the band that was playing on stage. The scene looked like a concert swarming with passionate fans, professional photographers and crew with security earpieces.

“We’re pro-life, and that’s not a political statement for us by any means, it really comes into our interpretation of God’s word,” said VOUS Pastor Rich Wilkerson, who leads VOUS alongside his wife and fellow pastor DawnCheré Wilkerson.

Despite their personal stances on the issue, they had words for anyone who felt differently within their church.

“We understand that there are people in this room and part of our community who see it differently, and today you’re hurting, today you’re confused, and we don’t take that lightly, and we definitely don’t just brush it to the side,” DawnCheré added. “This is your family. This is where you belong. This is your church and we’re not a church that is just about making declarations. We’re a church that says come to the table. Let’s have a conversation.”

VOUS leaders are aligned with others whose teachings are based on the bible, including Muche Ukegbu of the Brook Miami, a Christian church in Little River, and Thomas Wenski, who overlooks the local Roman Catholic churches as the Archbishop. Both Ukegbu and Wenski applauded the court’s decision on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sultan Mohammed, imam at the Islamic Foundation of South Florida, said his religion believes in looking at abortion on a case-by-case basis.

Rabbi Alan Litwak, of Temple Sinai of North Dade, a Reform synagogue, is among the religious leaders to disagree with Friday’s decision. Jewish communities have different viewpoints on abortion, but Litwak believes that Judaism says one becomes a person at birth.

“In a country that has prided itself on the separation of church and state, this is a major step back,” he said. “A step that has been coming and is not the only one in terms of religious liberties and freedoms.”

Miami Herald staff writer Rebecca San Juan contributed to this report.

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