By Randy C. Davis
TBMB President & Executive Director
We really can do more together. That isn’t just a catchy phrase tossed around to describe the Cooperative Program. Last week I experienced it in the form of tangible support.
Throughout 2019, our Tennessee state legislature has wrestled with proposed “heartbeat bills” in the hope of protecting unborn children in Tennessee and creating a law that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Unfortunately, the Tennessee House and Senate bills in the spring were quite far apart and the decision was made to send the Senate bill to a special Senate summer study committee that is currently in session. Senate Bill 1236 is at the center of the debate. It is a historic piece of legislation that calls for the protection of unborn babies from the moment of conception. If passed, it would virtually eliminate abortion in Tennessee.
However, what fueled my passion for testifying was the scene from New York in January when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the most murderous abortion law in the history of the United States. As he signed it, New York legislators offered an ethusiastic standing ovation.
How have we sunk so low, and devalued life so much, that we rise to our feet and enthusiastically celebrate the murder of unborn children, many of whom under normal circumstances would be minutes away from the final journey into the waiting arms of their mothers?
I’ll never forget the disbelief, devastation, and disgust I felt in that moment and I felt we as Tennessee Baptists needed to be heard on the issue. We never want to see a moment like New York repeated in Tennessee. As recently as 2015, messengers to the annual Summit affirmed their position on abortion through a resolution. With time of the essence, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board launched a petition initiative called, “I Stand for Life.” We didn’t know how much of an impact we could have given that we only had three weeks before the Senate committee meeting last week. However, Tennessee Baptists rallied to the occasion.
Our goal was to capture signatures from 10,000 Tennessee Baptists and at least 1,000 pastors. We scrambled to get the online petition launched, and even though we only had a limited time window, decided to make a hardcopy version of the petition available. And you responded.
When all was said and done, I sat before our senators with a massive binder at my elbow containing signatures with more than 16,000 Tennessee Baptists and more than 945 pastors. I was asked by one senator about the numbers we’d received. When I gave the total, and that names were still being added, he was impressed. Tennessee Baptists, you sent a strong message to our state legislators that you stand for life in Tennessee.
That’s why I want to express to you a deep appreciation for your participation and especially your prayers. Many people indicated through calls, texts and on our Facebook page they were praying for me. The confidence I felt in testifying came from knowing I was communicating how God feels about the life He creates and having 16,000-plus like-minded people backing me up. Thank you for making your voice heard.
And that’s where we really can do more together. We received an overwhelming number of hardcopy petitions from some of our smallest churches located in some of our most rural areas. Some of those petitions had maybe five names on them, others had 11, others 14. We received dozens and dozens of petitions just like that. But they all added up. Every signature mattered; every person was counted and together we were a force. That is the beauty of cooperation. We really can do more together.
I want to commend our TBMB staff. It was all hands on deck in the Church Support Center working on your behalf to get those names from the hardcopies entered into the database so that those who signed were represented in the document I took to the Senate hearing. “We serve churches.” It’s not just an expression we use, it is the reason we exist and our staff exemplified that.
Beyond saying a heartfelt thank you, I want to ask you to stay at the ready. This goes way beyond a political battle; this is a spiritual battle. The evil one seeks to murder, kill and destroy these sweet unborn gifts of God. Our desire is to see an end to abortion in Tennessee. This bill, SB 1236, is the best chance for that to happen. Unfortunately, it may never have the chance to protect those unborn children if it doesn’t make it out of this committee. Pray that it does, and then pray that it makes it through the full legislative session in the spring for it to be signed into law by Governor Bill Lee.
To get there I may need your help again, and if so, I know that Tennessee Baptists will rally to the cause of Christ.
It truly is a joy to be on this journey with you.