ROCKDALE—On January 16, Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Rockdale hosted a panel discussion titled, “The Local Church and the Pro-Life Movement.”
The panel’s date coincided with Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the Southern Baptist Convention calendar. This emphasis Sunday each year falls near the January 22 anniversary of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that has been applied to legalize abortion for nearly any reason.
Panelists were Abby Johnson, nationally known pro-life advocate and founder of Love Line, a ministry for single parents needing support in raising young children; Nathan Lorick, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Pam Nolan, director of Place of Hope, a pregnancy resource center in Rockdale; and Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life. The discussion was moderated by the church’s youth pastor, Collin Breakhouse. Meadowbrook’s pastor, Stephen Ammons, organized the event but was unable to attend while recovering from COVID-19.
Many questions the panel discussed were submitted by the live audience attending the event.
A church’s role in the pro-life movement
Local churches of any size can help by doing some things and avoiding others, panelists agreed.
Johnson cited complacency, the idea that somebody else will do it, as a big problem. “The Bible is pretty clear what God expects of us while we’re on this earth—to stand for the ‘least of these,’” she said, adding, “When we are complacent, we are guilty.”
More than one panelist was concerned about judgmental attitudes that drive women to abortion clinics for support. “The longer people walk with Christ the more they forget what it’s like to not [walk with him]. We expect people to come in the door righteous and whole. At that point we become sinful and self-righteous. Christ is pursuing them—why shouldn’t we be pursuing them? Follow the life of Christ and the people he touched. You’ll find hurting, dirty, broken people. The people he confronted were self-righteous and sinful,” Lorick said.
“It’s about life,” he continued. “The church may have the intention to help young women in need, but they don’t know how to help, or we don’t want to have to deal with controversial issues. But brokenness is brokenness; the church has to be prepared to help when a young lady walks in with a need.”
Churches can keep up with pro-life events like the January 22 Rally for Life at the capitol in Austin by using the internet, Pojman suggested, adding, “Check the websites of pro-life organizations around the state.”
Nolan recommended that her church and community “come and see what God has done through Place of Hope. You’ll see the needs. Come and pray for us at a board meeting. Help us with other kinds of support.” She related a case at the center where a mother pressured her daughter to have an abortion because the mother had had one as well, but that Place of Hope’s prayer chain was deployed and the girl ultimately chose life for her baby.
After Roe v. Wade, or not
The audience was very interested in recent talk about the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade during the current U.S. Supreme Court session, but panelists cautioned that even this wouldn’t be the end of the struggle.
“We are getting on average 20 calls a day since the Texas heartbeat bill went into effect” from women currently unable to get an abortion, Johnson said. “If there are 350 PRCs (pregnancy resource centers) in Texas, all are likely seeing a growing demand for help.” Pointing out that about half of the states could outlaw abortion after an overturn of Roe v. Wade, she added, “That’s when our work starts.”
Pojman is cautiously optimistic about an overturn of Roe, speculating that the Court has already decided what to do with Roe but likely won’t announce anything until the end of this session in late June. Depending on the outcome, so-called “trigger bills” can go into effect.
“Texas has passed a bill, the Human Life Protection Act, that protects babies from the point of conception, but it won’t go into effect until Roe is overturned,” he said. “It will be up to church-based ministries to take care of women who no longer have the option of going to Dallas and Austin for an abortion.”
He then noted a couple of advantages Texas has as a pro-life state, referring to $100 million the state has allocated to help mothers for the first three years after the birth of their children.
“This governor [Greg Abbott] is committed to life, to adoption. His daughter is adopted out of a church-based adoption center,” Pojman said.
He also responded to a question regarding a response if Roe is not overturned. “My hopes have been dashed many times,” he said. “But we continue to make progress. We’ll keep working. We’re not going anywhere. But I think we’ll get something from SCOTUS that is a step in the right direction.”
Johnson, who worked for an abortion clinic before becoming a Christian, was asked about the people who would be put out of work if abortion was illegal in Texas. “Telling them about the love of God is the first thing I do,” she said. “I want them to leave the abortion industry, but I want them to do it because God loves them. I want to tell them, ‘God has something better for you!’”
Why we care
The question of why pro-life work should be important for churches and believers prompted a clear response from Lorick, who said, “It matters to God! It is the gospel at work, with feet. If the church is not going to do the things that capture the heart of God, what are we here for?
“The key is to find a step where we can be involved in a PRC or make a donation or advocate for pro-life laws—we can pray. Start small,” he suggested. “Delayed obedience is disobedience. When God puts it in your heart, he’s going to provide an opportunity. When we all take that next step, we become a pretty big army.”