Rev. Jim Grove stirred pot to make anti-abortion point

I never got a chance to interview the Rev. Jim Grove, but I am sure it would have been an interesting experience.

I have encountered similar figures in the past. I grew up near Binghamton, N.Y., where Randall Terry made many headlines with his Operation Rescue anti-abortion campaign.

In this file photo, Stephanie Seaton, executive director of the York City Human Relations Commission, chants ‘U-N-I-T-Y, U-N-I-T-Y’, in an attempt to drown out the Rev. Jim Grove, seen in the background, during the seventh annual York Unity March in 2007.

Terry was again in the news last year when he attempted to buy air time during the Super Bowl in support of his primary campaign against President Barack Obama. His commercial contained images of dead fetuses.

Grove, 66, died Thursday from complications related to an August kidney transplant.

He employed many of the same shock tactics used by Terry and others. Grove’s efforts to enter a gory anti-abortion float in York’s Halloween Parade led to significant changes in how the parade was managed. Grove had won a $50,000 free speech court decision against the city, which, in 2006, handed the parade over to private sponsors, and political floats were barred from entering.

In 2011, the YWCA York decided to allow political floats again – but Grove declined to apply for a permit.

Judging by the number of comments on our story and the ongoing debate that always surrounded Grove’s demonstrations, there is significant disagreement on whether he was in the right.

I personally feel abortion is such a traumatic event, there really isn’t any need to rely on additional shock value. The ensuing controversy does more to detract from the message than it does to enhance it.

I am not sure whether the York faith community agrees or disagrees, but I appealed to well over 100 pastors and churches for comment on Grove and received one response.

This, from the Rev. Tom Shelley of the Zion (Shaffer’s) United Lutheran Church in Seven Valleys: “I sometimes felt some angst that those opposed to
abortion might be tarred with the brush of extremism due to these

What are your thoughts on these graphic anti-abortion displays? Effective, or unnecessarily distracting?

Here is Pastor Tom’s full response:

Pastor Grove was the quintessential separatist Baptist. (Honestly, I
was quite surprised to read in the stories and Obituary that he had
engaged in some wider fellowships and missions). Nothwithstanding, he
knew that on many social issues–including abortion–that I stood with
him, agreeing in message but not in medium, in declaration but not in

Perhaps that is why our dealings were always cordial and respectful.
Doctrinally an evangelcial catholic Lutheran and a separatist Baptist
are about as polar opposite as can be, but our conversations when we
would encounter each other at local businesses were always charitable.
I did’t try to “convert” him, and he never tried to do the same with me.

While the graphic public demonstrations certainly exposed the horrific
nature of abortion I doubt that they did much to further the pro-life
movement. Indeed, I sometimes felt some angst that those opposed to
abortion might be tarred with the brush of extremism due to these
displays. Far better, perhaps, to heed the prophecy of Isaiah
concerning God’s chosen servant :

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

(Isaiah 42:2-3, Old Testament lesson in many lectionaries for this
coming Sunday, January 13, festival of The Baptism of Our Lord)

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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