ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Church and pro-life ministry leaders were encouraged at a Southern Baptist-sponsored event Thursday evening (March 3) not to tire at this stage of the near 50 years of legal abortion history in the United States.
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) organized “Stand for Life: Road to Roe50” at the headquarters of the North American Mission Board. The ERLC brought together pastors, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, leaders of pro-life organizations and others to consider how Christians can serve women and their unborn children, particularly if the Roe decision v. Wade’s 1973 which legalized abortion nationwide is undone.
“[W]Above all, we cannot lose hope now – not now when the number of abortions has been reduced, when more people are affirming the dignity of prenatal life, and not now when we stand on the brink of what could be a new era for this nation’s environmental law,” Acting ERLC President Brent Leatherwood told the audience, in his prepared remarks.
“No, if anything, now is the time to lean in and redouble our efforts. . . . [T]That’s what we do at the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission,” he said. “This work is fundamental for us.”
Abortion, Leatherwood said, “is an injustice. She must continue to be confronted with the truth that challenges the conscience of those who would be tempted to look away. But it must be done in a way that offers love, compassion, support and hope.
Many life and abortion rights advocates believe the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to use a case that term out of Mississippi to overturn the Roe decision and the 1992 opinion Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Casey decision upheld Roe but allowed some state regulation of abortion. The ERLC and several other pro-life organizations have asked the High Court to overturn Roe and Casey, a decision that would return abortion policy to the states.
The Road to Roe50 is a collaborative church engagement effort in which the ERLC plays a leading role. The initiative will include an age-based program, a multi-stop tour in fall 2022, an event in Washington, D.C. in January 2023, and a digital campaign to affirm the value of human life, as well as train and mobilize Christians to serve. mothers, unborn children and families. The Roe50 page is available here.
“As we use this season to mourn the lives that have been lost as a result of [Roe]our hope is that Southern Baptists and any Christian who cares about the dignity of the unborn will join us on the road to Roe50,” said Elizabeth Graham, vice president of operations and life initiatives at the ERLC, in comments written for Baptist Press Friday (March 4).
“We have several initiatives that we will roll out in the coming months to serve and equip the church,” she said. “Events are designed to help the church thrive and serve in a post-Roe world.
“We believe the greatest hope we have for change is in Christ,” Graham told BP. “Our calling as believers is to live the gospel as the hands and feet of Jesus. Our desire is to see a day when vulnerable mothers will be served, foster children will find safe and loving families. forever, children will be adopted and we will see families flourish.It is our joy to serve in this way, and we pray for now that abortion will become illegal, unthinkable and unnecessary in our day.
During Thursday’s “Stand for Life” event, Florida pastor Kevin Smith encouraged pastors, lay church leaders and other Christians “to fight for the life of the unborn and to to do it in a way that gives glory to the Lord Jesus Christ and to do it in a way that smells of the fragrance of Christ.
“Followers of Jesus enter cultural contexts with a distinct perspective that is scented with the Lordship of Christ,” said Smith, teaching pastor at Family Church in the West Palm Beach area. “It is not without consequence. It is not peripheral. It is essential to the life of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Smith based his remarks on Matthew 22:34-40, which includes what is known as the Great Commandment – first to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, and second to love “your neighbor as yourself.
Love of neighbor “is an important part of our public witness,” he said. Christians “working to end the legal, political and cultural claims of abortion in our society” are “more than just political strategists or cultural warriors,” he told the audience.
It is a sin “to intentionally and maliciously treat my neighbor in a way that I would not like to be treated if I were in my neighbor’s situation,” Smith said.
Christians “must also maintain a biblical understanding of love, rejecting superficial cultural understandings,” he said, adding that the clearest way to demonstrate this is “to love mothers in crisis, babies in peril and fathers in confusion”.
AB Vines, senior pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., also gave a keynote address, and writer and Bible teacher Brittany Salmon spoke about cross-cultural adoption.
A panel also discussed pro-life ministry now and in a future in which Roe was ousted. Panelists were Chelsea Sobolik, ERLC Director of Public Policy; Amy Ford, president of Embrace Grace; Jeff Bradford, president of the Human Coalition; Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International; and Herbie Newell, president and CEO of Lifeline Children’s Services.
The ERLC’s other pro-life efforts include Project Psalm 139, its ministry to help provide ultrasound technology to pro-life pregnancy centers. The ERLC has placed or committed to place more than 30 ultrasound scanners towards its goal of 50 placements by January 2023.