Downtown Nashville was decked out for Christmas and as busy as ever when I arrived last month for a meeting of state ethics leaders hosted by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Its offices are in the Southern Baptist Convention Building which sits just a few blocks away from the historic Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, along with several churches, barbecue joints, and honky-tonks. It seemed fitting to me that the SBC’s agency that deals with ethics, religious freedom, and the culture we live in today would be situated so near the epicenter of what some have nicknamed Nash Vegas.
I was grateful to be there and for the opportunity to hear from my counterparts from around the country. Leaders in the southern states have an advantage over us in Illinois: more churches mean larger budgets, while pro-life populations mean friendlier state laws. The voters in those states also hold to more biblically aligned values regarding the transgender debate resulting in standards in schools, churches, and workplaces.
We heard reports about the work your ERLC is doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. It’s amazing what a staff of just 11 people can accomplish when their hearts are in their ministry. In Washington, D.C. they’re working to pass the Born Alive Survivors Protection Act so newborns that survive abortions won’t be left to die. And ERLC is supporting heartbeat laws so states where abortion is legal can incrementally work towards a day when abortion is no more.
When I shared about issues and laws in Illinois, it was hard not to notice the expressions on some of my counterparts’ faces. Our pro-abortion and gender disfiguring laws are the stuff of nightmares to Baptists in other states. As an Illinoisan I may get numb to the culture. Friends, it’s a different world when you step outside the confines of Illinois.
I remembered in June, at the one-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade reversal, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said, “A new and vibrant culture of life is being established in our nation after decades of death caused by Roe v. Wade.” However, he pointed out, Illinois was one of the states that “have tragically chosen to go in the opposite direction.”
Several of the other state ethics leaders I met are working with their churches and state legislatures to prevent many of the pro-abortion and other laws we’ve seen passed in Illinois from happening to them. They see our state as a cautionary tale.
I remembered another interview with Leatherwood, that appeared in the January 2023 issue of the Illinois Baptist. He stated, “It’s [the abortion battle] now going to be focused at the state capital level and in our backyards and neighborhoods where it is incumbent upon Baptists and our fellow Christians to be carrying forth a message about life and human dignity.” His statement couldn’t have been more true.
As Illinois Baptists we must pull together in prayer and in ways we never have before to prioritize and value human life at all ages and stages. But if we want to see this happen across our state, it must first start with us in our churches.
Lisa Misner is social media and public policy manager for IBSA and contributing editor to the Illinois Baptist.