Published February 7, 2017
WASHINGTON — Churches and pastors are to stand for vulnerable people because of the image and glory of God, speakers told participants Jan. 26 during the Evangelicals for Life conference.
The conference — co-hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family — continued with a schedule built around the March for Life, which also took place in the country’s capital. Evangelicals for Life attendees joined tens of thousands of others on the National Mall for a rally and the march to Capitol Hill.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the rally in a first for the March for Life, which has been held annually since 1974 — a year after the Jan. 22, 1973, legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court. Pence’s appearance marked the first time a president or vice president had spoken at the event, according to March for Life staff.
ERLC President Russell Moore opened the conference with a message on how the gospel of Jesus provides a framework for addressing human dignity.
Dallas-area pastor Matt Chandler told EFL participants Christians value life “from the unborn to the disabled to the dying,” because they value what God values. The lead teaching pastor of The Village Church described what it means for a church to be “a community of life,” saying such a church:
- “(B)elieves and declares that God is the author and sustainer of all life from the womb to the tomb;
- “(L)ive(s) compassionately for the welfare of the cities that our lives play out in;
- “(A)ctively fights for the oppressed, the vulnerable and the voiceless.”
Todd Wagner, founding pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, urged pastors to speak for the sanctity of human life and to equip church members.
“If we don’t speak up, then what’s going to happen is that the voices that are speaking will intimidate others into silence,” Wagner said, urging pastors to speak “gently and with reverence.”
Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute, told participants they must be prepared to “make a case for life.”
“From the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living and whole human being,” Klusendorf said.
“We’re all equal because we equally and fundamentally bear the image of God. We have a human nature that reflects the nature of our Creator. And you either have that nature or you don’t. It doesn’t come in degrees like self-awareness does, like physical abilities do.”
Glenn Packiam, lead pastor of New Life Downtown in Colorado Springs, said diversity among different people groups is a pro-life issue not only because of the Genesis message of each person being made in the image of God but the Revelation message of people giving glory to God.
Christians care about this issue not just because they are pro-life, he said.
“The truth is we’re in this because we’re pro-the glory of God,” Packiam told attendees. “Every life matters because every life has the capacity to bring glory to God.”
He also said, “The gospel does not erase our differences and make us bland or vanilla or neutral. The gospel actually takes our differences and our different ways of belonging and gives us a truer identity and a deeper sense of belonging that somehow fits together people ... who would not otherwise be together were it not for Christ.”
Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, urged evangelicals to value racial reconciliation and unity the way Jesus does.
“(A) lot of times we don’t want to press into the sweat of Christian unity,” Smith said, adding people say, “That’s too much work. It takes time to get to know people.”
“So I would just really press us to put the same sweat into unity that we put into personal holiness and sound, biblical doctrine.”
Panelists discussing how churches can serve families with special needs members encouraged pastors to start by listening to them.
It is difficult for such families to think of belonging to a community, said Scott Sauls, senior minister of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn. He said it is important for churches with special needs individuals “to recognize that these aren’t just people to be ministered to. They are also people to minister alongside and to be ministered to by.”
On a panel on human trafficking, Ashleigh Chapman — president of the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration and Justice — acknowledged the pressing needs of both foster care and trafficking. When churches ask her which issue they should tackle, Chapman said she tells them, “Don’t make that choice. You won’t resolve either one by ignoring the other. And we don’t need to. So it’s in every way connected and must be stopped.”
Chapman said of the link between pornography and trafficking, “When you objectify a human being — and that’s pornography — it’s wildly easy to take that next step from objectification to commodification.”(BP)
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