At our best, Christians have long been known for the ways we have cared personally for the weak, the fatherless, the poor, the oppressed, the stranger and the prisoner. As we work to discover the ways God is calling us to uphold the sanctity of human life in our current cultural context, we must first identify the most desperate needs that are preventing people from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus offers us all.
Ultimately, these societal ills produce devastating impact on the unborn, the vulnerable child and contribute to generational patterns of sin, dysfunction and suffering.
In a presidential proclamation, President Ronald Reagan declared Sunday, January 22, 1984, as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day in the United States. He invited, “the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.”
National Sanctity of Human Life Day in the U.S. intentionally corresponds with the anniversary of the January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision and has been rightly used each year since 1984 as an opportunity for the church to take a stand for the most vulnerable among us, the unwanted unborn. Still, we would be remiss to ignore the fuller context of President Reagan’s proclamation, reaffirming the unalienable right to life itself from the Declaration of Independence, that is “… endowed by our Creator on all human beings—whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped.”
He further wrote, “To diminish the value of one category of human life is to diminish us all. Slavery, which treated Blacks as something less than human, to be bought and sold if convenient, cheapened human life and mocked our dedication to the freedom and equality of all men and women. Can we say that abortion—which treats the unborn as something less than human, to be destroyed if convenient—will be less corrosive to the values we hold dear?”
While Canada’s history is unique related to abortion rights, a January recognition of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday can carry great significance in Canadian churches as well, as it corresponds closely with the January 28, 1988, anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada striking down their abortion law as unconstitutional and ushering in an “unfettered right to choose,” in the case of R. v. Morgentaler.
It is ironic that in the same recent period when our culture largely seems to be moving away from Judeo-Christian values at a dizzying speed, the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was reversed in the U.S. on June 24, 2022, and the power to determine abortion access was returned to the states. Since then, both those working to ban and protect abortion access have made a mad dash to introduce and pass legislation that would advance their agendas.
While we, as Christians, should use our power to influence public policy that upholds the sanctity of human life whenever possible, the real power and influence concentrated in the church is through the life-saving work of Jesus Christ and comes through relationship.
Consider a new initiative recently introduced by the Northeast District of The Wesleyan Church. According to Dr. Anita Eastlack, the district’s director of Evangelism and Discipleship, the purpose of the initiative is to “respond to the variety of crises in our country” and meet this moment in our culture “with a message of hope and holiness.”
The district is urging each church to mobilize in their community intentionally and actively in at least one of the following ways:
- Plant a Recovery Church to decrease the 300 daily deaths from drug overdose.
- Become a Hephzibah62:4 partner church and care for vulnerable children impacted by the many crises.
- Start an Immigrant Connection center to be the church to the stranger.
A number of shining examples of these three models already exist in the Northeast District and beyond:
Lehigh Valley Recovery Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, launched as a collaborative effort of several local Wesleyan churches. It is “a church created by the recovery community, for the recovery community” and serves individuals and families, including their children, who are finding Jesus and a community of support to come alongside them during various stages of addiction recovery. William Delgado along with three of his children, Darien, Tony and Mia, showcased the power of Jesus in redeeming their family as they performed during a Recovery Church service, singing. “Look at what he did for me. He saved my life and now I’m free.” You can watch his powerful performance and other testimonies of God’s power and faithfulness on the church’s Facebook page.
Mountain View Wesleyan Church in Bath, Pennsylvania, is a Hephzibah62:4 partner church that is impacting their community’s foster care crisis by building partnerships with other organizations, churches and local governmental agencies to invest in vulnerable children through awareness, service and foster family support. Along with providing regular tangible support directed to both youth and families impacted by local foster care, Reverend Aaron Gadsby reports they have recently completed specialized training to become a “foster friendly” church and to provide “wrap-around care” to foster families and the children who are welcomed into their church family through foster care.
Immigrant Connection New York City (NYC) opened in 2023 out of a partnership between two Wesleyan churches, Resurrection Life NYC in Manhattan and their daughter church, Esperanza de Vida, a bilingual church in Queens. Site Director, Reverend Jenn Petersen, is passionate about what their team can do to love and serve immigrant families in the city. “The immigrant population in NYC is very underserved when it comes to immigration legal services, and the need has only increased, especially recently,” said Pastor Jenn. The center is poised to provide those desperately needed legal services and the churches are each using their unique gifts to provide hope through tangible and spiritual support, welcoming immigrants of all ages into their church communities.
As our efforts to defend and protect the unwanted unborn continues, we as the body of Christ need to become increasingly creative and intentional about a holistic approach to upholding the sanctity of human life. It is exciting to see the innovative ways individuals and groups of Christians are using their unique gifts and experiences through The Wesleyan Church and multiplying proven models to powerfully impact the kingdom, for such a time as this.
Jodi Lewis serves as the director of Hephzibah62:4, a subsidiary of The Wesleyan Church dedicated to equipping and mobilizing local Wesleyan churches to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Wesleyan churches throughout the U.S. and Canada are encouraged to recognize Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on or near January 21, 2024. Visit hephzibah.org for more information on how you and your church can partner with Hephzibah62:4 and engage in holistic Sanctity of Human Life efforts.
 Ronald Reagan, “Proclamation 5147—National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 1984.”
 Supreme Court of Canada, https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/288/index.do.