NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 27, 2020—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has long played an active role in advocating for the protection of religious freedom and standing for human dignity in the international context. While the ERLC remains committed to American pro-life work, the organization recognizes an urgent need that it cannot ignore in Northern Ireland.
“Without seeking the views of the people of Northern Ireland, the government has unilaterally decriminalised abortion, a place many have previously viewed as one the of last remaining pro-life countries,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC’s director of strategic partnerships. “Now, Christians there find themselves thrust into a new reality where the state will officially sanction this assault on human dignity for the first time. As an American, I can’t help but imagine going back in time in our own history when abortion was legalized in the states. In effect, it’s now 1973 in Northern Ireland.”
First, as part of the effort to save preborn lives that are now in jeopardy, the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project has pledged to fund the placement of at least one ultrasound machine with a Christian, pro-life ministry in Northern Ireland. These machines have proven to be life-saving tools for organizations dedicated to serving both vulnerable mothers and their preborn children. This will be the first international placement by the ERLC.
Through the funds raised by Psalm 139 Project, the ERLC has been able to place 21 machines across the United States. Every dollar raised by Psalm 139 goes towards the purchase of a new ultrasound machine and the training needed for local staff to operate the machine, a claim few non-profit organizations can make.
Beyond that, the ERLC is forming new partnerships with local organizations on the ground in Northern Ireland in order to come alongside and equip Christians to navigate the looming abortion crisis.
The partnering pro-life entities, in addition to the ERLC, focused on Northern Ireland, include:
- Both Lives Matter, an organization that advocates for both the mother and preborn child;
- Evangelical Alliance, a group that unites Christians from across the wider United Kingdom on issues important to believers.
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, responded to the initiative:
“The church of Jesus Christ always has and always will stand for life at every age. That’s why the ERLC feels called to respond to this urgent international threat to preborn children. Our hope is that our long and tragic experience with abortion in the United States might give us a unique ability to help equip and serve alongside the church in Northern Ireland in this moment. We are not going there with all the answers. Instead, we hope to communicate to our brothers and sisters in Christ that we will be alongside them for prayer and to help the reborn stand for the preborn.”
These partnerships will engage Christians in two unique ways. A two-day conference, Stand for Life: Belfast, will take place June 19-20 in Belfast. The event will seek to equip leaders to think biblically about issues of life and human dignity and will provide training and development for pro-life ministries. Additionally, pro-life curriculum will be developed for churches across the islands to equip their staff, lead their congregations, and be a witness for life in the communities they serve.
“We’re entering a new phase in the history of Northern Ireland,” stated Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter. “We will continue to help people re-imagine, advocate, and model a better story about the dignity of both mother and unborn child as abortion becomes more widely available here. Both Lives Matter has support across the community in Northern Ireland and we recognize that the church has a vital role to play in shaping a true culture of life.”
David Smyth, the Evangelical Alliance’s Head of Northern Ireland, said, “This is an important moment for the Church in Northern Ireland to speak with one united voice about the dignity of both mother and child. We must navigate all of this wisely. We are committed to making sure the church is ready for this moment and Stand for Life: Belfast is a hopeful and proactive response to the specific context of Northern Ireland.”
Additional details about Stand for Life: Belfast will be announced on the initiative’s website: standforlife.uk.