by Timothy Cockes
CONCORD, TN (BP) – On the Sunday after the Supreme Court’s historic overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on Friday (June 24), Southern Baptists across the country took time both to rejoice in the ruling and to discuss how Christians should respond.
Many Southern Baptist leaders not only celebrated the Court’s decision, which returns the policy issues regarding abortion back to the state level but also took time to discuss ways to minister to women who may be considering an abortion.
One such example came from First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., which hosted a panel discussion on Sunday about the decision featuring several pro-life advocates.
Among the panelists were John Mark Harrison, pastor of First Baptist Concord, Chris Johnson, vice president of church partnerships and government affairs for Lifeline Children’s Services, and Elizabeth Graham, vice president of operations and life initiatives for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
Harrison opened the panel by explaining the importance of the conversation.
“What I want to do in this moment is move us past the politics of this, and talk about how we should respond as a church and as individual Christians,” Harrison said. “This is a very important moment for us not to miss personally and as a local church.”
Graham then spent time addressing the ERLC’s role in advocating for pro-life issues, and how local churches can think of addresses these issues in their local communities.
“As a part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics and public policy arm, we get to advocate for policies that protect and defend life as well as speak on behalf of churches and then speak back to churches,” Graham said.
“I think of a church congregation’s role in this in the same way as a baby dedication. When someone has a baby and wants to dedicate that child to Christ, this is a life-long journey that the church is taking. We should think about serving vulnerable moms and moms in crisis in the same way,” Graham said.
“This is not just like a single decision of we want to see this baby rescued. We do want to see this baby rescued, but we want to provide a continuum of care. We want to bring Mom into the church, share the Gospel with her, and walk alongside her in very this difficult journey,” Graham told the congregation.
Johnson spoke about his work with Lifeline, a Christian foster care and adoption agency, and said Christians have a big responsibility to step up in this area.
“We know that this decision is going to affect the foster care system and there are going to be more children who are susceptible to coming into care,” he said.
“Of those children who are lingering in care, if someone doesn’t step in and welcome them into their family those young people are going to eventually age out of the foster care system.
“Those young people are then going to be more suspectable to homelessness, incarceration, trafficking and all of these things that really put them back in that cycle of being a part of unplanned pregnancies. Church, we can make a difference, and we must make an impact here.”
First Baptist Concord was not the only church to speak on the historic Supreme Court decision.
J.D. Greear, former president of the SBC and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., spoke about the ruling during The Summit’s Sunday service.
“This past Friday was a day that I thought I might not see in my lifetime,” Greear said during the service.
He told Spectrum News 1 RDU that conversations with his congregation have reflected gratefulness, but also awareness to the difficulty of the topic.
“In the conversations I’ve had, people have been grateful for the Supreme Court recognizing the mistake from 1973 of saying this (right to abortion) was included in the constitution,” Greear said in the Spectrum News interview. “They’re grateful that this has been turned back over to the people to decide.
“We also recognize that for many women in our congregation and in our community, this is a part of their story and it’s very difficult to talk about. We want them to know that this is a safe place for them to be able to tell their story here. We also want to work in the societal factors that create that situation where someone would feel like that’s their only alternative.”
Bart Barber, SBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville in Texas, focused his church’s opening prayer time on the news of the decision.
Three areas of prayer Barber said he wanted to concentrate on were rejoicing, mourning and commitment.
Rejoicing over the news of the decision and that lives that will be saved, mourning for the continued death toll from abortions and for women who have previously had an abortion as well as a commitment to the work that’s left to be done by both his local body and all believers, he told the congregation.
“We’re just thankful anytime that anybody gets to live, and this decision is something many of us have prayed for a long time for,” said Barber.
“There are people who conceive in all manner of difficult moments in their life, and we want to be a church that’s there to point people to God’s love and also to demonstrate God’s love in what we do. We commit to ourselves to continue to help people who are around us.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.