Success for the first Evangelicals for Life conference will include increased boldness and service by pastors and church members, the heads of the presenting organizations say.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family have joined together to host Evangelicals for Life Jan. 21-22 in conjunction with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. The conference, which has several other evangelical and pro-life organizations as sponsors, will conclude in time for attendees to participate in the Jan. 22 march.
Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, and Jim Daly, Focus on the Family’s president, told reporters in a Jan. 6 conference call they hope the event affects the lives of individual Christians.
Pro-life supporters gather for last year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family have joined together to host Evangelicals for Life Jan. 21-22 in conjunction with the annual March for Life rally.
A goal, Moore said, is to have people who participate in the conference ask themselves, “Lord, what would you have me do to stand up for life? That’s not going to be one answer for every person.”
The answer, he told reporters, could be running for a political office, adopting or providing foster care for children, serving at a pregnancy help center or providing a home for a woman with a crisis pregnancy. For pastors, it could mean preaching not only about protecting unborn children but about forgiveness for those who have had abortions, Moore said.
Daly told reporters it is important for evangelical Christians to keep the pro-life issue “at the forefront of people’s minds, that it’s not left to national leaders to deal with it.”
Conference organizers “hope to provide resources for evangelicals to communicate a pro-life vision of compassion for everyone made in the image of God and to give opportunities for shared fellowship and conversation about how best to do that in years to come,” Moore said.
Roman Catholics have dominated attendance at the March for Life since it began in 1974, a year after the Jan. 22 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide. The march brings together many tens of thousands of pro-lifers – or a few hundred thousand, depending on estimates – to rally on the National Mall in Washington, then walk to Capitol Hill. Leaders from the diverse organizations that make up the pro-life movement typically gather for the march and related events.
Evangelicals are heavily involved in the pro-life movement but have not made participation in the March for Life a priority, Moore and Daly acknowledged. They hope the conference will help raise awareness of the March for Life among evangelicals and motivate more to participate in the event.
While Catholic groups travel to Washington in church vans and by other means, Moore desires to see “more and more First Baptist and Community Presbyterian and gospel Bible church vans that are present also bringing people to stand in solidarity with the unborn and their moms.”
They want to make the evangelical community “more aware of what takes place in January … and what [evangelicals and Catholics] can do together to change the culture even further when it comes to the pro-life perspective,” Daly said, adding it is “time to band together and say we are all in favor of life.”
Moore told reporters, “As I told someone, I don’t want any less ‘Ave Maria,’ but I want a lot more ‘Amazing Grace’ going on at the March for Life.”
Evangelicals “need to be in conversations” with the different groups that participate in the march, he said. “This event helps to put many of them into that context.”
The inaugural conference will cover a wide range of issues under the umbrella of the sanctity of human life – from abortion to end-of-life care, as well as adoption, human trafficking and caring for those with special needs.
Evangelicals need to uphold human dignity by addressing not only the abortion culture but the harsh tenor of some comments about refugees and immigrants, as well as treatment of the elderly as expendable, Moore told reporters. Evangelicals, he said, “need a holistic understanding of human dignity as rooted in the image of God in order to bear witness to a culture that often forgets that.”
In addition to Daly and Moore, the keynote speakers at Evangelicals for Life will be David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board; Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
The conference also will include TED-like talks, panels and breakout sessions.
Other sponsors of the conference include Care Net, The Gospel Coalition, 40 Days for Life, Alliance Defending Freedom, Embrace Grace, Christianity Today, The Heritage Foundation, the National Religious Broadcasters and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Registration for and information on Evangelicals for Life is available online at evangelicals.life. The conference will be live streamed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)