Archives For Illinois

Multiple pregnancy resource centers are suing Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner over a new law they say prohibits free speech and requires them to voice a message about abortion that is directly contrary to their mission.

On Feb. 9, 18 pregnancy resource centers filed for an injunction to avoid being forced to comply with an amendment to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act that was approved by the Illinois General Assembly last year and went into effect January 1. The amendment requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option, to talk about its “benefits,” and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers, said Attorney Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society, one of the legal organizations working with pregnancy care centers to fight enforcement of the new law.

“It’s an interfering by the government with their ability to communicate feely about an important moral issue,” Olp said. The law also constitutes “viewpoint discrimination,” he added, in that it only regulates the speech of people with a particular viewpoint.

Olp said the government has to have a compelling interest in order to enforce such a law, and the view of the Thomas More Society is that it doesn’t, because information about abortion is readily available. Therefore, the government doesn’t have to compel people to talk about it.

Pregnancy resource centers have already felt the effects of the measure, Olp said. “Some of them have decided not to do sonograms because that’s a medical procedure that clearly is covered by the new law.” Hope Life Center in Sterling, one of the centers represented by the Thomas More Society in a separate lawsuit filed Feb. 2, suspended its medical services at the beginning of the year. Debbie Case, the center’s executive director, posted on its website about the change in operations.

“We see any compliance with this law as morally abhorrent and have determined to obey God rather than man,” Case said. “The law is unclear on what the penalties are for non-compliance (and even what constitutes compliance), but it’s reasonable to expect that if a complaint is filed against our organization we will be fined $10,000 per violation and (even more troubling) our medical personnel will be subject to the scrutiny of the state licensing board and may even lose their licenses.”

Last December, several pro-life health care providers won an injunction against enforcement of the law. Olp said they hope for a hearing and decision on the current case within a month; an injunction would stay the law until resolution of the lawsuit, which could take another year or so, he said.

Because the pregnancy centers are not willing to comply with the law, they won’t be able to continue to operate if the lawsuit isn’t resolved in their favor, Olp said. Which is exactly what proponents of the bill want, he added.

“It’s a pro-abortion law that wants to stymie and eliminate pregnancy resources centers’ message to women who are considering abortion.”

There are more than 90 pregnancy resource across Illinois.

Publicly-funded abortions
Lawmakers could vote any time on Illinois House Bill 40, which would allow taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for abortions. If approved, the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), would provide abortions for women covered by Medicaid for any reason at any point in their pregnancy. Current state law only allows Medicaid coverage for “medically necessary” abortions or those in the case of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

Emily Troscinski, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, estimates that if HB 40 is approved, it could increase the number of abortions in Illinois by 12,000 a year.

The bill also makes wider, more sweeping provisions about abortion, including:

  • Removing language from Illinois that states “the unborn child is a human being from the time of conception…and is entitled to the right to life from conception,” and
  • Making the provision that should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade, abortion would still be legal in Illinois.

-Meredith Flynn

Throwing out a lifeline

ib2newseditor —  January 26, 2017

Resource centers and clinics aid those facing difficult choices

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Snapshots from Tennessee and Illinois    
When a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won’t find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won’t be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she’s considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won’t be pressured into a decision.

“If someone tries to talk a woman out of a decision to abort” before her heart is ready to accept it, “then someone else can easily talk her back into it after she leaves,” said Linda DeBoard, CEO of Agape House and a member of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tenn.

“When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”

Agape House is one of thousands of pro-life organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life. Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions.

Some centers minister to those who need assistance throughout a pregnancy in the form of training classes, counseling, or material goods such as diapers. Others, like Agape House’s clinic, focus on reaching women who are at risk for abortion, offering medical services and informing them of their pregnancy options. Illinois Right to Life reports there are around 100 pregnancy resource centers in Illinois.

Angels’ Cove Maternity Center, an arm of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, offers expectant and new mothers a place to live, as well as life and parenting skills, individual and group therapy, and adoption services for those who choose that option.

Doug Devore, who retired this month after almost 44 years at BCHFS, said it’s a joy to see a mother hold her child after making the decision to choose life. “Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child,” he said. “We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be. That could be teaching her parenting skills, it might mean helping her get a job, helping her find housing. Whatever it’s gonna take for her to provide the best environment for that child.”

Care at every stage
Our culture has lied to women about abortion, telling them that it is a “quick fix” and that their lives will return to normal afterward, DeBoard said. Agape House is committed to providing truthful information about all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption, and what abortion is and how the procedures work—and offering a safe space where women can process the information, she said.

DeBoard said that by offering their services this way, they have the opportunity to reach women who would never go to a church for help.

“A woman in our area who is wanting to have an abortion, and has already made the decision to have an abortion, is not going to church to tell you that she wants an abortion. She’s not,” DeBoard said. “She’s running from the church.”

A 2015 study from LifeWay Research supports that assertion. In a survey of women who have had abortions, 59% of respondents said they received or expected to receive a judgmental or condemning attitude from a local church as they considered their decision to abort, while 29% said they received or expected to receive a loving or caring response. And 54% of women would not recommend to someone close to them that they discuss their decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church, while only 25% would recommend it.

Agape staff and volunteers may ask clients whether they have a faith that might influence their pregnancy decision. This often leads to opportunities to share the gospel or to encourage women in their relationship with Jesus. They also offer a Bible study program for women who have previously had abortions.

DeBoard reminds pastors that their pews may be filled with women who have abortions in their past. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, approximately 30% of women will have had an abortion by age 45. “What abortion is and does needs to be told and spoken and preached,” DeBoard said, but with sensitivity to the women who are hurting from their own abortion experiences.

“There’s no sin too great that God won’t forgive us and set us free and use our mistakes for his glory.”

Excerpted in part from an article in SBC LIFE, newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

For more information about services offered through Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, go to BCHFS.com.

The BriefingIllinois House urged to reject taxpayer-funded abortions
SpeakOut Illinois, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family organizations across the state,  urged lawmakers in the Illinois House to reject legislation allowing taxpayer money to be used for abortions. House Bill 4013 lifts the current prohibition on state workers’ health insurance plans from paying for elective abortions, as well as the prohibition on using public money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid patients. The piece of legislation could be called up for a vote as early as this week.

How many Christians are in the new Congress?
Pew’s Religion & Public Life found that 90.7% of the 115th Congress identify as Christian, a statistic that has changed little in over a half century of keeping record. “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s,” noted Pew. Of the 91% Christian majority, 31.4% are Catholic, 13.5% are Baptist, 8.5% are Methodist, 6.5% are Anglican or Episcopal, and another 6.5% are Presbyterian.

Multi-faith network rescuing women from Isis
A secret underground network operating in Iraq and Syria has reportedly freed more than 3,000 Yazidi women held captive in sexual slavery by Isis. Kurdish and Christian civilians make up the group, along with other ethnic minorities and families of the victims, NGO Yazda has claimed. Rescues are carried out through word of mouth, driven by Yazidis who have escaped capture or whose loved ones are still being held in Isis territory.

Gay couple to pastor historic DC Baptist church
Calvary Baptist Church, a progressive Baptist landmark in the heart of downtown Washington, has named a gay couple as co-pastors. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen were presented to the congregation during worship services Jan. 8 and will begin their new jobs on Feb. 26. The 150-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012.

S. Baptists lead Congressional Prayer Caucus
Rep. Mark Walker, R.-N.C., will be the new House of Representatives co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, it was announced Jan. 9. Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., the other co-chairman of the prayer caucus, and former Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va., made the announcement. All three are members of Southern Baptist churches.

Sources: Illinois Family Institute, Christian Post, Independent, Religion News Service, Baptist Press

The BriefingIllinois B&B owners lose another round
A same-sex couple denied access to a central Illinois bed and breakfast while planning their civil union ceremony has won another legal victory in a five-year discrimination case that’s highlighted the conflict between religious freedoms and gay civil rights.

Atheists urge skipping church on Christmas
American Atheists, one of the nation’s largest secular groups, is launching a billboard campaign that encourages Americans to skip church this Christmas. The group is putting billboards up in cities across the country, including Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Georgetown, South Carolina.

Starbucks stirs up controversy — again
The culture wars come every December, fueled by peppermint mochas and venti soy lattes. The battleground is Starbucks. It’s always Starbucks, isn’t it? No one is complaining that the blue-and-brown holiday cups at Caribou Coffee take the “Christ” out of Christmas. Religion. Politics. The Bill of Rights. They all converge here, in front of a glass case full of cake pops.

Liberty advocates lament loss
Religious freedom advocates have expressed deep disappointment about congressional leaders’ failure to protect the rights of faith-based organizations in a national defense bill. The Russell Amendment was not included in the final version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which designates nearly $620 billion in spending for the armed services. The amendment would have protected the rights of non-profit religious contractors to maintain hiring practices in keeping with their beliefs.

Docs: Don’t force us to aid suicide
A group of Vermont medical professionals is suing state officials for demanding doctors counsel patients on physician-assisted suicide. The Vermont Board of Medical Practice and Office of Professional Regulation declared the state’s assisted suicide law, enacted in 2013, requires healthcare professionals, regardless of conscience or oath, to inform terminally ill patients that one of their medical options is doctor-prescribed suicide.

Sources: Belleville News-Democrat, Fox News, Washington Post, Baptist Press, World Magazine

Missions opportunities to highlight gathering in Metro Chicago

Final preparations are under way for the 110th IBSA Annual Meeting November 2-3. The event at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago will focus on cross-culture ministry opportunities in Illinois. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the SBC, called Golden Gate Seminary prior to its relocation from the San Francisco Bay Area to metro Los Angeles this year.

“Dr. Iorg is among the most compelling, thoughtful, and missional voices in Southern Baptist life today, especially when it comes to understanding post-Christian culture in America,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “I’m so grateful that he is leading our West Coast seminary into the future, where pastors and leaders will engage values and cultures that are already very different from those of the past century.”

I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.

Iorg is a former church planter and state convention executive director in the Pacific Northwest. As a leader of Southern Baptist work on the West Coast, Iorg has addressed many of the cultural challenges now facing evangelicals in the Midwest. He has written frequently on theological and biblical perspectives on marriage, sexuality, and gender. His book “Building Antioch” shows from the New Testament how an ordinary believing congregation can become a transformational community.

“Illinois Baptists will come away from Dr. Iorg’s messages challenged and transformed, I’m sure,” Adams said.

The Wednesday evening session, including Iorg, will focus on a four-phase process for engaging ministry across cultural barriers. Adams will outline the plan and share testimonies and videos of Illinois churches carrying the gospel to people unlike themselves.

“My own recent trips to Chicago have reminded me again how diverse our churches are, and even more so how varied and challenging are the cultures that our churches need to reach,” Adams said. “I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.”

IBSA President Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church and Vice President Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, will also bring messages.

In addition to the session on the variety of ministry opportunities in Illinois, the meeting will include two business sessions on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Vision tours of Chicago-area ministry opportunities are available. Seating is limited, so online registration is encouraged.

Visit www.IBSAAnnualMeeting.org to learn more.

The Faith Frontier

ib2newseditor —  October 24, 2016

Illinois has come a long way, but we still have a way to go

Illinois IL State United States of America 3d Animated State Map

When Illinois became a state in 1818, fewer than 100 people lived in Chicago, and less than that at Calhoun. The hubs of activity were places such as Kaskaskia, on the banks of the Mississippi River. The town swelled to 7,000 when it became the first state capital for one year. Then bustling Vandalia was the capital for 20 years, until Abraham Lincoln and a few others had the capital moved to Calhoun in 1839. Calhoun had been renamed after Springfield, Massachusetts, a center of trade, creativity, and innovation. They had high hopes for their new Springfield—and for all of Illinois.

Catholic priests came to the area early, following French trappers and traders into St. Louis and later Chicago, building a few churches and converting a few Native Americans. The trappers were largely unconverted. Baptists and some Methodists were on scene by 1781, starting the first Protestant congregation in Illinois and building a Baptist meeting house at New Design, across from St. Louis on the river.

Illinois was a frontier state 200 years ago. Today, in many ways, it still is.

Almost 13 million people live in Illinois. But in terms of faith, the state is wild and untamed. At least 8 million residents do not know Jesus Christ. As the population grows, the percentage who identify with any religion at all continues to decline.

The state’s population hubs are our largest mission fields, especially metro Chicago and metro East St. Louis. Our cities are teeming centers of commerce and education, with growing populations of immigrant peoples.

The last census showed Hispanic and Asian populations are the fastest growing ethnic groups in the state. In fact, the Hispanic population grew in all but one of Illinois’ 102 counties.

In Illinois, nine people groups are unreached with the gospel because of language and cultural barriers, but literally millions of English-speaking and culturally mainstream people have never heard the message of salvation in a way they have understood and believed.

On our college campuses, for example, almost 900,000 students represent a mission field with enormous potential, and historically the lowest percentage of believers among young adults ever.

The cultural withdrawal from the Christian faith is felt all across Illinois—in cities and university settings, in small towns and crossroads communities. The northwest quadrant of Illinois is one of the least-Christian areas in the nation. And scattered across the state, there are nine counties that have no Southern Baptist congregation, 12 counties have only one, and many more have minimal evangelical presence.

In 40% of Illinois counties, less than 1% of the population identifies as Southern Baptist.

By faithful, regular, systematic giving to missions through the Cooperative Program, Baptists together serve as missions pioneers, in our frontier territory in Illinois and around the world, wherever the gospel is needed.

Come to Chicago

ib2newseditor —  October 3, 2016

Annual Meeting to focus on reaching across cultures—and opportunities in Illinois

am_2016_logoWhen the lawyer—trying to get out of his moral obligation—said, “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ response produced an even greater responsibility: be willing to cross cultures in order to help another.

The requirements of love in the story he told of the good Samaritan might seem excessive if Jesus himself had not already fulfilled them. The priest in the parable refused to cross the road to aid a dying man, yet Jesus chose to cross the border into forbidden territory to help an immoral woman.

For a faithful Jewish man, this was not one, but three violations of custom and law.

“Now he had to go through Samaria,” the apostle John records (John 4:4). Had to? In what way?

Good Jews avoided Samaria. They took the long way around on a trip from Judea to Galilee just to avoid their despised half-cousins the Samaritans. But Jesus felt some compulsion to travel through the forbidden region. It was there in the town of Sychar that Jesus met and spoke to the woman who was rejected by the rest of the town because of her bad behavior. First he asked her for a drink of water, then he offered her living water.

What compelled Jesus to go through Samaria?

The easy answer is love, but love is not always easy.

It’s not just ethnicity
The IBSA Annual Meeting in November will focus on cross-cultural ministry. Sharing the gospel across cultures to people of all languages, ethnicities, nationalities, and people groups is our high calling. But no one ever said it would be easy.

What better place to do this work of reconciliation than Illinois?

We live in a multi-cultural world. As the missiologists often tell us, the world is at our doorstep. Every race, religion, and people group is represented in America—and most of them, too, in Illinois. From the first beep of Telstar and the first flickering satellite images from another hemisphere, the world in our lifetimes has become a relatively small place. Figuratively speaking, and often literally, we live elbow to elbow with people very different from ourselves. The melting pot of America has become a stew bowl of people and beliefs, not mixing so much as existing side by side, sometimes peaceably, sometimes not.

If 2016 has taught us anything it is that bringing cultures together is complicated.

Misunderstanding is probable, real understanding is not. (Watch any newscast for examples.) But the Bible has taught us that bringing cultures together—in Christ—is the goal.

“There is neither Jew not Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And Jesus himself accomplished this, “who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

What better place to do this work of reconciliation than Illinois?

With 13 million residents and at least 8 million of them without a faith relationship with Jesus Christ, the call to be reconcilers and gospel ambassadors rings loud. But it is often drowned out by clashes of race and place, divergent views on social justice, and the widening economic divide. Add growing political arguments in an atmosphere of distrust, and we might say the task of spiritual reconciliation is as challenging in the 21st century as it was in the first. The main difference between then and now, between Samaritans and Illinoisans, is sheer volume.

Which was a neighbor to the man in need? “The one who had mercy on him.”

In Illinois our cultural divides are not only ethnic. There is the upstate-downstate dichotomy, Chicago versus everything south of I-80, Northside versus Southside, city verses suburbs, the political tug-of-war between red and blue, between Springfield and the rest of the state. And if we Christians aren’t careful, the prevailing social and political prejudices spill over into our attitudes—and even into our churches.

And one more observation: crossing cultures is not only reaching across barriers to other ethnicities and language groups. It’s also reaching out to people who hold different views on sexual and moral issues, those in lifestyles that Christ-followers believe are unbiblical. It means reaching across the back fence to neighbors who look and sound a lot like us, but whose lost condition characterizes their whole lives. For people who live in a Christian culture and try to behave in Christly ways, embracing anyone outside the church is a cross-cultural experience.

But that is our calling.

9-12-16-ib-facesWelcome to Samaria
When Jesus was telling the lawyer about eternal life, how a changed life produces love for one’s neighbors, he chose to make a Samaritan the hero of the story. “Samaritan” was virtually a curse word when it described the woman at the well. “Samaritan woman” was doubly offensive. The disciples were stunned to find Jesus talking to such an outcast, but none dared confront him on it.

Neither did anyone object when Jesus said it was a Samaritan that helped a Jewish man who had been robbed and beaten and left half dead. But they were surely surprised that the Samaritan was commended for his actions rather than the priest and the Levite who crossed the road to avoid the bloody, unclean wretch, and thereby kept the law. The invective “Samaritan” was redeemed and the merciful man made a model. The Good Samaritan.

What compelled the Samaritan to help a hurting man, likely an enemy of his people, a Jew? Love is the ready response, but Jesus pointed to mercy: that holy mixture of God’s grace motivated by unfailing love, extended to mankind.

Which was a neighbor to the man in need? “The one who had mercy on him.”

The 2016 Annual Meeting in suburban Chicago offers opportunity to see Illinois—our great mission field—with fresh eyes. This vast state with its world-class cities and fruitful, abundant plains calls for multiple approaches to ministry. One size doesn’t fit all our mission fields, but one calling does: Go.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist