WASHINGTON -- The March for Life -- an annual rally held for four decades to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court that legalized abortion -- has long been dominated by Roman Catholics.
But evangelical leaders expect that on Friday (Jan. 22), there will be more evangelicals walking beside them.That's the result of Catholic and evangelical conservatives bridging the divide to work on issues of common concern, they said.
Several hundred evangelicals gathered on the eve of the rally at a hotel near the U.S. Capitol, pledging to join forces with Catholics in the anti-abortion effort.
"There's no tension between evangelicals and Catholics on this issue," said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in an interview. However, he added that Catholics have been "more intentional about communicating the march to their constituents and see the value."
After attending on his own and bringing seminary students to Washington for the march a few years ago, Moore partnered with Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly to step up evangelical involvement in the anti-abortion protest.
Daly sees a generational shift.
“When you look at the under-50 crowd, you probably have more accommodation for people’s theological beliefs and then you have collaboration when it comes to the big issues in the culture today like life, abortion, marriage,” he said.
Those in attendance at the Evangelicals for Life meeting said they are coming for the first time to the march.
“We do want to have a voice but we don’t know how so I think this is a platform,” said Greg Gibson, pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Knoxville, Tenn. Gibson, 29, said he and other young pastors hope to be further equipped to help their congregations take more action against abortion but with “convictional kindness” toward those who disagree with them.
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini, who succeeded the late Nellie Gray as leader of the organization in 2013, has sought greater evangelical support, hiring an assistant director to reach out to evangelicals. In 2014, one of the headliners was Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
This year, Daly and Moore are on the list of speakers at the rally.
Other speakers at the evangelical pre-conference included David Daleiden, who produced recent undercover videos of Planned Parenthood.
“We continue to be very concerned with abortion and we’re opposed to abortion,” said Ron Sider, president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action, in an interview after speaking to the conference. “We want to reduce it, but it also relates to death by starvation and smoking and racism.”
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And the looming blizzard forecast did not appear to be deterring the tens of thousands of marchers said to be on their way to Washington.
“This is an issue that is worth walking in a blizzard for,” said Lauren Brown, a Southern Baptist preschool teacher from Wake Forest, N.C. “I feel like every life is worth something. We’re all made in the image of God. All lives are worth fighting for, so all lives are worth walking for.”
(Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national reporter for RNS)