Lisa Rowe

Angie Weszely



Lisa Rowe 0:20

Hello everyone. It’s so good to see you. Welcome to our abortion healing provider meeting for the month of September. Get comfy. We have a great conversation for you today. We’re letting all the boxes fill in and everybody join. Welcome.

Lisa Rowe 0:47

Give us about a minute to get everybody logged in. This is wonderful. So good to see everybody’s faces. Okay. I think things have settled down. We are recording just to let you know, so that we can provide this to those who couldn’t make it. We are going to be launching our Facebook live here in a minute. The team is in the background working together and, I’m going to open up by kind of sharing a little bit about what we’re doing here and, where we’re going and, kind of give you the lay of the land. 

My name is Lisa Rowe. If you haven’t been here before, I am the CEO of Support After Abortion. A little over a year ago, we started hosting these meetings alongside of our online conferences because we started to feel a need for people in the abortion healing movement to connect with one another. So these meetings have grown, both live and in recording, and we are just thrilled to see the momentum continue. And, about maybe six or eight months ago, we switched to a speaker platform where we try to deliver best practices to each of you and to bring conversations that maybe you’re having locally to a more of a national or international level. And as we connect with people, we want those conversations to continue out loud in front of you. And so that’s what we’ve been doing. 

If you’ve missed any of the presentations from prior months, go to training.supportafterabortion.com and you’ll be able to pick up all the different conversations that we’ve had. We’re going to be here together for an hour today. 

We’re going to hear from our special guest, then we’ll have an opportunity to open it up for conversations, questions, answers, and all that great stuff. And then just about 1:00 EST, we’ll close up our meeting. 

If you find yourself new to this platform, I want to kind of lay out the way that we use it. We ask that you keep your volume off until it is time to ask questions. You are more than welcome to keep your video on, whatever it is that you like to do. It won’t offend us if you don’t. We have a chat feature at the bottom of the screen, where if you feel led while you’re listening to ask a question that you can’t hold onto or share something, please use the chat feature. It does not distract us as speakers. We’ll get to it as we can. My team is in the background, answering questions and helping to connect some of the dots. Maybe there’s going to be links shared and different opportunities inside the chat. And we’ll use that same chat feature when we get to the part where we’re asking questions, and you can also use the raise hand function while we are asking questions. If you’d like to ask your question out loud. 

So without further ado, I have the opportunity to introduce you to my friend, Angie, from ProGrace. I always like to share where I connect with all these amazing speakers. I just fell into Angie’s blog, I think is how it worked out. I’m on her email list serve, and I was reading some of her statements and her just beautiful and eloquent way of communicating about abortion and abortion healing. And I was like, I need to get to know this woman. And so I’ve been pursuing her for, I don’t know, six, eight months, maybe even longer. And I am delighted to share her with you today. She’s going to introduce herself because her story wraps into the ministry that she leads. But you guys are in for an amazing treat, potentially an opportunity for you to really glean some great language and some great ways to communicate the message of healing and how to speak with compassion in your community, specifically inside your churches. So without further ado, Angie, I’d love for you to take it away and introduce yourself for us.

Angie’s Story and ProGrace’s Mission

Angie Weszely 4:56

Thanks, Lisa. Hi everyone. It’s really an honor to be with you this morning. As you’re hearing my story, I have a lot of experience in a pregnancy organization, and I love local churches, and that’s part of what I do now. So when Lisa asked me to speak to you all of course, I said, yes, I jumped at the chance because, I believe you’re called by God to be the hands and feet of the church of Jesus in this issue. And so I really look forward to our discussion today.

I will start with my story. It goes back to 2006. That’s when I began leading a pregnancy organization in Chicago, which I didn’t think would be controversial. We were supporting women facing unintended pregnancy; however, through research and then conversations in the community, I was hearing significant criticisms of organizations like ours. Now this was my first time in this space. So I was concerned to hear that. And I started looking at our practices and what I found was that our staff would go through a checklist of information with a woman. And it was mainly around her decision, but they weren’t really listening very much to her, to the panic, isolation, and shame she was experiencing and what support would be meaningful. So I actually sat in on counseling sessions and just watched these missed opportunities as they had like a pre-program set of things they wanted to say, and they were missing opportunities to hear her and what would be helpful to her. 

Then I started looking at our language and I found that even though our organization was not technically tied to anything political, we consistently used divisive political terms to describe our mission. And we even used shaming language to talk about the women we serve. So that was a really painful journey for me, as you guys can imagine, because I had to reckon with and acknowledge that some of these criticisms were true. 

And so, as I was wrestling with all this, I remember walking down the office hallway one day as parts of Psalm 1:39 started coming to my mind. And this is often how God speaks to me, right? Just through bringing scripture to mind. And in Psalm 1:39, you all know, it says, God knits us together. He ordains all our days. All of us are fearfully and wonderfully made. And as I was thinking of that, I sensed God, say to me, I know you’ve always heard this scripture applied to the child, but it is just as much about the woman. And I had never thought of that before. And maybe you guys are already there. This is 16 years ago for me, this was a paradigm shift. And I realized that this divide of who are we going to advocate for – the woman or the child – that’s what was causing these tensions within me. And God wanted to expand my theological perspective to a third option. 

What I now call a third option is God values the woman and child equally. So I actually started writing this theology down. It’s what I’m passionate about. Then my colleague and I used this framework to help our team have a similar paradigm shift because they were having a hard time trying to change what they’d been doing for years. So they had a paradigm shift as well with this theological framework, we then worked on changing language, and then we changed the way we engaged with women. 

A couple years after that, we developed a passion to connect women to our local churches. We thought, let’s try this same framework with our churches, our church partners. We were in Chicago, so it was church partners like the Moody Church, Willow Creek, Progressive Baptist, Lutheran churches. We were blessed to have a really diverse group of churches around us. So we adapted this content into a workshop for these church leaders and they were having the same paradigm shift and they were reevaluating their language and they were wanting to engage women differently. 

That’s what led a fire in me to want to equip more Christians to frame this within a third option. What I say is a kingdom perspective rather than a political one. So my co-founder and I launched ProGrace six years ago to do that. What we do is we equip Christians with a new way to think, talk and engage around the abortion issue. 

We do that through online discipleship programs, through two tracks, we have one track for churches and that’s a small group study that’s online. Then we have a track for pregnancy organizations that’s an onboarding workshop and ongoing support through a learning community. 

The reason we do this is because our theory of change is really, as Christians think differently, as we intentionally value the woman and child equally, and that thinking pattern impacts our posture, then we’ll also begin talking differently, right? We’ll replace that polarizing language with welcoming speech. And that means we can then engage differently. So engage conversation within our churches, in our community, and ultimately with those who are impacted by unintended pregnancy and abortion. 

So it’s really our dream that as more and more Christians adopt this third option, we can shift the statistic that I think you guys are familiar with that right now only 7% of people approach a church with an abortion decision. They cite fear of judgment and lack of visible support as the reasons. For us at ProGrace, that is such a motivating factor because we know from research, fear of judgment and lack of support is why people, many people ultimately choose abortion anyway. And if they could bring those fears to the church, if they felt safe, we have seen God time and time that he can create pathways of hope for women and children. So we focus on the transformational part of the Christian community, believing that if we become a safe community, God then can create these pathways of hope as we welcome people into these communities. 

I’ll just start with one story that’s very recent to me and very tied to what you all do. My church actually asked me to be part of the sermon just this past Sunday here in Chicago. So I was up there with a couple of pastors and I was sharing the ProGrace theology and this approach and some new language and our staff team said We want to start the conversation with those of you in our church who have lived experience with unintended pregnancy and abortion. And we just watched as so many people came forward because we framed it to them as we want to hear what kind of church can we be, right? What would have helped you in that journey? It was very emotional actually and one young woman who came up to me as women and men were coming up to a lot of the staff people said to me, “You know, this is only my second time at this church. When I heard that the topic was abortion, I almost ran for the door. But as soon as you said you were reframing it and you led with grace, I stayed. I just want to tell you that I recently made this decision.” And then the tears just slowly started coming down her face. She said, “I haven’t been able to tell my mom. She’s very religious, but I feel glad that I can tell you. And I want to be part of what the church is inviting us to, to talk about what would’ve helped us.” And so that’s really it – the dream is opening up this conversation. And now our staff is really motivated about having these conversations. They had no idea. There were so many people in our congregation who’d been impacted by this. They were surprised how many men came forward as well. And so I just am thrilled to talk to you guys today because what we’re seeing is that when we lead with grace, God really does start to open up this conversation. So that’s a bit about me and what I do,

What is the greatest opportunity for churches right now on the abortion issue?

Lisa Rowe 12:52

I hope you guys are hungry for more. Angie is an amazing, talented, super articulate speaker. And Angie, you know, as I think about this group of people, we have 67 people here and a number of people that will watch afterwards. I always like to remind us that we are like-minded, you know, we are 67 like-minded people who hear your message and go, yeah, that’s right. I mean, we’re all on board with this. So this message might not necessarily be for you, but tools for you to take back into your community. Some of you may remember when I have you raise your hand and do that survey, like how many of you are actually talking about abortion and abortion healing outside of your workplace, outside of your circle of women and men that you connect with and trust and love. Very few people raise their hand to say I do that, right? We’re so comfortable where we are comfortable. And what I hope Angie does inside of you today is stir in you some new understanding about how to bring this to the church, give you confidence on how to deliver this message, provide you with resources so that you can take this back and make tangible change in places that you might not have otherwise started this conversation. Because if we only take this as the 67 of us and don’t take this further, we’re limiting ourselves, we’re limiting the men and women who need to be supported in the way that Angie was able to. It just took that tweak and a conversation to create space enough for somebody to come forward. We say that all the time, there are 22 million people, based on our research, that right now, if they knew where to go for help and they didn’t feel judged and they felt supported, they would reach out for healing. And so Angie’s one small example is exactly what could happen in every community that is represented here, if we were able to articulate this well and get leaders drawn in. So Angie, without further ado, what do you think the greatest opportunity for the churches right now on the abortion issue?

Angie Weszely 14:55

That’s a great question, Lisa. So I have been processing what has been happening in the church since Roe versus Wade was overturned. And I’m not going to claim to have full understanding, right? It’s only been three months, but I’ve been in this work for 16 years now and I was sensing something is changing. And I would say it’s an obstacle and an opportunity at the same time. And that is that some of the undercurrents that were there in the church before this are now rising to the surface and people are seeing them. 

One that I’m very aware of is that there’s been a growing discontent among a lot of Christians in the last 16 years. I’ve seen with the part of the pro-life narrative that is tied to politics and feels very anti-woman. And that’s actually part of my journey. And that’s what you can hear triggered me. I started thinking, is there a different way? 

I actually don’t use the terms pro-life or pro-choice to describe me or to describe PrpGrace because they are tied to a political party. We can unpack that later, but what’s happening in churches right now is, I believe, pastors are surprised by how divided their churches are, right? So now people who may have quietly been becoming dissatisfied with that framing that’s coming from the pro-life side, they have decided to identify as pro-choice because there are only two options right now, right? 

This is not because they are fans of abortion. It’s because they are not fans of how things are being framed. And because there are only two political options, they’re framing this now as pro-choice, and it’s starting to happen on social media, and I’ve heard it from both sides. People will say to me, I had no idea. My friend was so fill-in-the-blank pro-life or pro-choice, I can’t believe what they wrote on social media. I don’t even know if I can have them over for dinner anymore. 

At first this was breaking my heart. Like, oh no, now we’re dividing people and they’re shutting down, which is happening. They are doing that at the same time. I believe pastors and church leaders are seeing this and that is making them more aware of something that’s been under the surface for more than a decade. And that is, they need a new way to talk about this and they cannot keep framing it in politics.

My church never asked me to give a sermon before. And as soon as Roe versus Wade was overturned, my senior pastor started wrestling and man, they were so nervous to talk about this, but they wanted me as a partner, right. Because they needed someone to walk through this with them. So we are. As we are talking to pastors and church leaders, we’re just saying, listen, the church is divided on abortion. That’s something we wouldn’t have said even six months ago, but it’s becoming so apparent right now. And we can actually have this conversation with you that can lead to uniting the church. If we will, if we’re willing to take the politics out, to look at our judgments and have a new way to frame this. 

So I actually see that as an opportunity. I believe that God is behind a lot of this growing discontent in the church of aligning with a political way of framing this. And so I know it feels, for me at least, frustrating. Sometimes I feel tension with it, but God’s been speaking to me and my team to really lean into it, and have those conversations and see what he’s doing and say, “Holy Spirit, what are you doing?” There are several issues happening like this in the church, which I won’t mention all of them, but they’re coming to the surface, which shows me God wants to do a new thing. 

How might I start this conversation with a particular individual?

Lisa Rowe 18:38

Yeah, Angie. What we’re hearing and seeing too, is that oftentimes we’re programmed, like you said, to see abortion as an issue of sides and to never even look for another way to look at it. And so perhaps again, now we’re at 71 like-minded people who have seen and can see abortion from different angles, but the people that are closest to us might not. So what I hear you saying, Angie, is that they’re victim to this program thinking where they only see two sides, but the invitation then comes from us that perhaps there’s a new way. 

Maybe we could role play this for a minute. Perhaps I am attending a church and I’ve been a little nervous about bringing this to my pastor, or men’s leaders, or women’s leaders. How might I start this conversation with that particular individual?

Angie Weszely 19:38

That’s a great question. I think we can start by saying, “Hey, Susan, I know that you’re passionate. [I’m just making up a name for you.] I know that you’re passionate about the church having a compassionate response to abortion. What I’m seeing in my work is that across the nation, really across North America, is that the church is more divided than ever since Roe versus Wade was overturned. And I want you to know that I see that, and I believe there’s a way for us to lean in and have a different conversation in this atmosphere. Would you have a second for me to talk to you about that?”

Then what I do is I lead with the theological points. Here’s what I’m finding… So in these mental models of pro-life and pro-choice that, anytime we talk to someone they’re scanning us. We have this little moral cortex right here that’s like, “Are you on my side or not? Are you in my tribe or not?” Our biggest obstacle is that we have to say to someone, regardless of where they’re coming from on the political spectrum, as a believer in Christ, if you agree with these two theological truths, then we can have this conversation. 

And by the way, if I forget to tell you, this is all in our free ebook, that you can download www.prograce.org. We can even put that in the chat. What I’m going to share is written out, if you don’t want to scribble down notes.

The first theological point is what I talked about from Psalm 1:39, God values the woman and child equally. I lead with that with people, because again, that’s what they’re scanning for. Are you for the woman or the child? So right away, we come in and we call it theological. And we build this common ground with Christians, right? That we all agree on that. 

And then the second core theological belief is that grace is God’s path for transformation. We want to look at the hidden judgments within the church that keep people from coming to us for help. So I start with those two places. And then from there, whatever questions they ask me, I can direct it to different places. But if I just go in saying, “Let’s have a new conversation, let’s take politics out,” that sometimes makes people nervous. So you want to lead with this common ground of what we all believe about God and his heart.

What other topics do pastors preach that they could draw parallels to abortion?

Lisa Rowe 21:50

Absolutely Angie. And what you’re opening up for me, is that then you’re going to have this awakening. I have pastors then say to me, but you know, every time I’ve ever talked about this issue in the past, 50% of my congregation has emailed me upset afterwards, and 50% is celebrating it. So there’s an immediate fear that this is going to become this adversity, a big thing for the church and the pastor’s going I don’t want that. So what you’re inviting them into is saying, Hey, this isn’t about that anymore. So what other topics do pastors preach on that you might then be able to draw parallels to so they can see abortion is no different than ___. Maybe you can help us process that, Angie.

Angie Weszely 22:42

That’s a great question. I actually, Lisa, I don’t have any topics that I draw parallels to because I think this is with some other topics as ones they’re completely afraid to talk about. The only parallel I could make, Lisa, is that those are political issues too, right? What’s happening is that pastors are trying to bring the word of God and God’s compassion for all people being made in the image of God. People’s political paradigms are what cause 50% of the church to email this or that. That’s why we have a whole pastor resource page that you can direct pastors to, because they’re saying to us, How can I talk about this?

I tell them the same thing, Lisa: Frame this first in theology and get people saying, yes, yes. The other piece I tell them is, you have to take this out of politics. So that might be where I draw other parallels – think of all the other issues that you avoid, why do you avoid them? It’s because of the political. And I try to point people’s eyes up to Jesus. 

One thing I say a lot to leaders is What did Jesus do when the Pharisees tried to trap him? Several times it says they did this intentionally to trap him. They would either bring a moral or political dilemma to him, right? Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not? That was a very political question they had for him to try and trap him. He didn’t answer those, did he? He did not fall into the binary. He had a third kingdom answer. 

So I try to ignite hope in Christian leaders. Listen, we don’t have to be bound to politics. We have this God who’s brilliant. We can be creative and think about a third way to talk about this. That does seem to ignite some faith in people because I just think for too long it’s been like this heavy piece on their shoulders – I can’t talk about this. And as they see it getting more divided, right, they just pull more and more away. 

The other thing I would say is that pastors really appreciate talking to someone who spent some time doing research on this. They don’t have time to go look at every issue. We could name five issues that are almost just as explosive for them right now as abortion. So coming as someone who spent time researching and you’re in this field and you can point them to resources that will make it easier for them, for example Here’s a response your church can use after Roe versus Wade was passed. Directing them to some of those very tangible resources helps them have the courage to open up the conversation because even if we’re just talking philosophically, they might agree, but as you said, Lisa, be thinking I’m going to have a sermon and half the church is going to be angry. So if we can direct them to resources, such as Hey, here’s a theological Ebook that’s written for you or Here’s a way you can address it that helps them engage in the conversation.

How has your work been impacted post-Roe?

Lisa Rowe 25:37

Angie, you are giving us such empowerment right now. This has been such a frustration for me because we all, I can’t say this enough, we all carry this. Like just have a compassionate heart, everywhere we go. But because we live in a culture that is shaped by this paradigm, we’re limited by that. So what I feel like you’re giving us is this hand up to say, stop being limited by this. Here’s the courage, here’s the context, here’s the training to take this to the next level – and you’ve had success with it.

I hope that everybody is really leaning into this conversation because the 10 people that you’re serving every year, the 15 people that you’re serving at your church, the five people you’re serving right now – think about that exponentially. If we could get the church involved and really get this spoken from the platform, think of how many more leaders would be present with us. Think of how many more people would understand how to have these conversations around their dining room table. Think of how much more compassion we’d walk with grace, like Angie is sharing. So Angie, thank you so much. As we talk about post-Roe America, how has that really impacted your work specifically, Angie?

Angie Weszely 26:53

That’s a great question. I’m typing in an answer. People are asking about some of the resources it’s www.prograce.org. I put it in the chat, so you have it and we can talk about it more later. There’s a free Ebook there, there’s a page for pastors for free resources. 

How it’s changed for us, Lisa, is, I guess, just what I was saying. I used to be a little more careful, I think. I’m just trying to figure out how to lean into the tension. I’m calling it out more like what I was saying. That’s really, what’s changed in terms of what we do. Nothing has changed. We offer these online small group studies for churches, as well as all these free resources I was recommending because we see when they start thinking and talking differently, women and men start coming up. It makes such a big shift. We’re going to do that. That’s our mission. 

It’s more in not changing our mission or our strategy, but in how we message it and how we get people’s attention. And I would say before my language was a little, maybe softer or more nuanced. Obviously I still want to lead with grace like we talk about, but not being afraid to just step in and name what is happening. I think there’s a boldness that I’m experiencing to just say I want to be part of what the Holy Spirit’s doing, so I’m just going to be bold and talk about it. So we’ve just redone our website with that, and I’d love to get your feedback on it as you guys look at it. We’re just being much more upfront in saying Hey, the church is divided, and if we take it out of politics and do this, we can see a solution. A lot more clarity on that, I think, is an opportunity for all of us to really say Hey, aren’t you tired? Aren’t you tired of this being so divisive? It’s just an opportunity to engage people. 

Lisa Rowe 28:46

I was watching the news station last night with my husband. And, the particular commentator said there are two issues in America in the next 70 days with our voting, and one of them was abortion. We are seeing abortion on our public news stations, on our social media. Everywhere we turn, we’re hearing abortion as an issue. I’ve said this since we started hearing that we were going to see an overturn [of Roe v Wade] that people who have experienced abortion are going to see that word differently than somebody who has been programmed to see that at as a political word. And the more they see that word, the more potentially they could become triggered, or so many other things could happen. So I love that you are following in that boldness because, as loud as these other spaces and places are, we need to be equally as loud.

Angie Weszely 29:42

I think that, as they get so loud, it’s just more and more frustrating for people. So that’s I think why I’m feeling encouraged to tell more people and get in there. We’re offering them a way to relieve this tension. Here’s the tension for people – that they’ve said this in research – I feel like this is an important issue to God, but the way I see this playing out does not feel like Jesus. So there’s literally a theological dissonance with them and we need to affirm that, right? We’re validating what they’re feeling. 

I frame it like this, listen, political parties were created by people to impact laws. Neither one of them is going to be completely biblical. That’s impossible. Right? We have a way for Christians to think about us being citizens of a kingdom and unite around this kingdom answer. That is freeing for people. I think maybe that’s it. If we’re afraid to bring it, like you said, Lisa, there’s so much we don’t want to cause tension, or we don’t want to trigger people. But if we understand that we are relieving them from tension, and we are empowering them to actually engage in something that they think is important, but it feels so gross, they just can’t engage. I think those of us in this work have interpreted that as apathy before. I don’t think it’s apathy. Granted not everyone you talk to is going to have this passion, but when we free them like that, you will see people coming forward who say I’ve wanted to engage, but I wasn’t able to. So you’re out there just looking for those who God is already making ready for this message. And you were unlocking and disconnecting it from the political and giving them the freedom to say Tell me more or Can I engage more? That includes people impacted by unintended pregnancy and abortion because they are remaining silent until they hear someone speak about this a different way.

Lisa Rowe 31:42

Wow. I love that metaphor that you just said, this is ready to be unlocked. Yes. The door, the lock, the bolt is made to be unlocked and locked, right? And right now the only position that it has known to be put in is locked. What I just heard you say, Angie, is you have the key to help them unlock it. It’s ready. It’s created that way to be unlocked. It just never knew it could be unlocked, right? So that’s what you said about the dissonance or the disconnect – you don’t know how something works until you’re explained or shown how it works. So I love that metaphor, Angie, and I really hope that those of you listening can hear this message in a way that perhaps you never have. 

Now we’re at 78 – each of you could pick three people that you’ve never had this conversation with, and that could then spread to 300 people and 3,000 people and 300,000 people because we’re spreading a new way of thinking and we’re unlocking an understanding. So good. That’s awesome, Angie. 

How can pregnancy centers and churches work together to bring hope to their communities?

Lisa Rowe

So we know that a lot of folks that are joining our call today are pregnancy centers. How might you suggest that a pregnancy center work together with the church to bring about this message and to bring hope to the community?

Angie Weszely 32:58

That’s a great question. This comes out of my journey, right? I was leading a pregnancy organization, but wanted to share this content with the church, and that’s actually why we left the direct service work and now focus on the church because we weren’t able to do both. There’s a tension. My staff was like, we serve women. And I was like, I’m passionate about the church changing. So basically ProGrace has created everything we would have wanted to have as a pregnancy organization to engage our churches. 

So when we work with a pregnancy organization in our program, which we call Equip, we give them all these messaging tools that I’m pointing you guys to. We just say, Go out and use these to have this conversation with your church

So I see it happen like this: A lot of times churches are used to pregnancy organizations being like every other nonprofit in the community and coming and asking for volunteers and financial support, right? We’ve done research; you don’t know how many requests for that we get. If a pregnancy organization says Hey, I have some resources to share with you that could help you navigate this conversation, now the relationship has changed, and that’s what I saw happen in Chicago. 

Pastors were calling me for advice. People that never would have taken my phone call before are now calling me for advice because I’m giving them a resource. So you actually changed the nature of the relationship with your churches when they understand you are a resource. 

Secondly, I would say, and we’re seeing this from a lot of our partners, churches are backing away from pregnancy organizations when their message is highly political. So, if you’re a pregnancy organization that doesn’t have political messaging, if you can let them know that, you’ll bring their guard down, and they’ll feel safe connecting with you, because, right now, there’s an assumption Oh, that’s too political, I can’t connect with them. So now you’re helping them know you’re a resource. You’re not political. That’s another way.

So what I see happen is when the ProGrace message goes out into a church, different people say Oh, I want to have this conversation more in my home or my community. And then there’s a lot of people saying, Oh, I want to go directly impact women. So they end up getting connected to the pregnancy organization. So it really does become this synergistic relationship. 

The more the pregnancy organization says Hey, there’s this new way to think and talk, here’s some resources, the more the church engages in that, and the more people come back to the pregnancy organization as donors or volunteers, or even staff. 

So this is how I see it: this movement, the pregnancy center movement, was mainly started by churches, right? The organization I worked for was started by the Moody Church in 1985. That happened in communities all across North America. And kind of the attitude then was Hey, the church is saying, Hey, we know women don’t come to us before an abortion. So instead of doing the hard work of saying, Why don’t women come to us?, they launched pregnancy organizations as separate 501C3s. 

I do think the new move of God is now to use the pregnancy organizations to say Hey, church, let’s integrate because we actually can’t do this work without you. So I love that the pregnancy organization has a special call from God. I see you all as being the bedrock in the community that’s going to stay passionate about this issue because you’re called to it. And you kind of become the center then of the spokes on this wheel. You’re continually bringing it in front of your churches because when that happens, imagine the change in reputation, right? 

That’s what we’re ultimately looking for – that in your community, when someone gets pregnant, they’ll say, Hey, go to this pregnancy organization or this church, because I’ve heard they’re very welcoming. I’ve heard they don’t judge. That’s what we’re looking to shift. So ultimately, it’s my dream is that this is God’s answer to the abortion issue – pregnancy organizations and churches working together. But it’s really by focusing on our own transformation first and stepping back a bit and asking that question that the churches didn’t ask in the eighties, which is Why don’t people come to us? How can we be a safe community? How can we change the reputation so that people are as drawn to us as they were to Jesus? Wow. That’s the goal.

Reframing the conversation and message

Lisa Rowe 37:15

Angie, I can’t help but think if they’re afraid to go to the church before they make an abortion decision, what are the statistics after that abortion decision was made, right? So you said something, as we were preparing for this call, you said you were going to be preaching about it on Sunday, and I’d love for you to share – it was such a gift to me as you shared it – you talked about politics being here and us being here and – I don’t want to give it away. Would you end with that message for us? And then I’ll begin to receive all of the questions that you guys have through the chat, or if you want to raise your hand. Go ahead, Angie. 

Angie Weszely 37:54

Again, it’s this reframing, right? Of thinking that you’ve got pro-life that talks about the needs and rights of the child, and you’ve got pro-choice that talks about the needs and rights of the woman. Our God, our abundant loving God says yes, yes. And this is the idea that God sees. And that’s what I try to tell people – we’re not narrowing down or taking anything away from Christian theology. We’re actually backing up and asking God to expand our way of looking at this to his way of looking at this idea that he sees the big picture, he sees everything that’s happened before, right? Why are a woman and a man together, a family? Why are they considering abortion? How have they been hurt before? What are the systemic reasons pushing them towards this? What are the messages they’re receiving? His heart of compassion sees it all. 

That is where both political sides take a bit of that, don’t they? They each have some compassion for what’s going on and God says Bigger. He just wants this bigger understanding from us as his people, this kingdom perspective that he sees it all; his heart is of compassion. And I think he wants to increase our faith, that he has a way that both the woman and the child could thrive during and after the pregnancy; he has a way for that. And that he also has a way, if a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy, to meet her in that, and for her life afterward. He is so much bigger and better, if I can say that, and more full of grace than we’ve realized. So that’s what we’re calling ourselves to because I know it gets tiring in this work. That’s what we’re calling other Christians to – let’s believe in something better than this binary that pits the two against each other. Let’s ask God for more.


Lisa Rowe 39:47

That’s awesome. And that’s what I heard – let’s transcend, let’s rise above this narrative that some of us have gotten locked into, but especially those that our lives are connected to. If we only stay here, what I hear Angie saying is, we’re limiting ourselves and we’re limiting the world.

Angie, I am so grateful for you. I could keep talking. I love this woman. We’re going to open it up for questions. Deb, I see that your hand is raised. So we’re going to start with Deb. If you have questions, please continue to put them in the chat. As you can see, Angie is not a threat at all. Any question is a good question. My sweet sister, Deb, would you ask your question?

Deb 40:29

What an incredible conversation. So vital; love, love it. This is something that our team on the west coast dealt with recently with an event that we just had a week ago. We had churches set up and then as Roe was overturned, they started to pull out because of the division that was going on within their churches. We did finally find a church in Richland, Washington, Grayson Truth Community Church, but it was about five weeks out from the event. 

Everything that you said was so spot on. Many of us believe that Roe was a gift from God to give the church an opportunity, just like you said, to rise above all of the politics. We move away from the politics, but remember that healthy public policy is what we need, and that’s where the church needs to engage, but not in all the fray and all the noise that’s out there. One of the ways, that through the healing recovery work that we have done, is engaging pastors. 

Most, everybody probably does a memorial service in the midst of their abortion healing recovery programs. We actually ask the women to, if their pastor is one they feel safe with, and if they would be willing to ask their pastor with the permission of the other women in the group, if they would give a five to 10 minute message of hope. And one of the things we see every time is the pastors are so blown away with hearing the raw honoring that these women do of their children once they’ve gone through their healing. Is that something that you guys have been doing? We’ve been able to engage pastors in a way that all the other ways weren’t really working, but we then had a group of pastors that they were almost competing for being able to do that because they, it just really melted all of their preconceived ideas about abortion. Some of them even acknowledged their own abortions that they, the pastors, had not healed from. So it’s not really a question, but it’s more just kind of adding that this is a vital discussion for such a time as this, right here, right now.

Lisa Rowe 43:18

Thank you so much, Deb. I’ll turn that back to you, Angie. Is there anything that you would like to add on what you heard Deb share before we move on to the next question?

Angie Weszely 43:27

We really are focused again on the church transforming their mindset. So, the way people engage afterwards changes church by church. So we don’t have any curriculum to answer your question about that, but really want to see that conversation handled with grace, and with counseling when it’s needed, and all of that. So I’m grateful for organizations that are doing that.

Lisa Rowe 43:53

The invitation inside of the healing journey makes it personal and brings humanity to the conversation. So for a pastor, a clergy member, or a leader of a church that has never really experienced the impacts of abortion personally, it can have a major impact. And what Deb’s sharing is the invitation to understanding.

Angie, I’m turning over to the chat for a moment. So if you want to follow along, it says, if there’s a political organization having an educational event on after abortion stress, is it recommended that a pastoral organization not go to this event with a resource table? I guess said differently: If it is a pro-life event or a pro-choice event and a pastor attends, is that in conflict with what you’re sharing?

Angie Weszely 44:42

Again, this is for everybody to navigate. You just have to think, What am I communicating? And if you’re thinking, I’m not sure what we’re communicating, I love, Lisa, how you said, What if it was the other political side? How would you feel about aligning? So I think we have to see them both as equal. And I appreciate what Deborah said. We all live in a democracy. I take my mandate to vote very seriously. It’s just that that’s not my lane in my work, right? So I have this higher calling in my work to not align with either political side. So if I’m going to do one, I need to be able to do both. That’s my personal opinion because people can’t separate your moral stance on abortion, let’s say from your politics. And if, again, if that’s hard to understand, flip the tables and think of our stereotypes of the other side, right? It’s just, we can’t do that. So if we’re going to an event like that, where it’s aligned, any person there who’s been impacted will think we have the characteristics of that political group. It’s just the way the human mind thinks. And so that’s a decision we all have to weigh every time.

Lisa Rowe 45:51

Thank you for that. This next question really meets people that say, I need to call abortion what it is, it’s murder. This particular individual says How can you address or reframe the sinful part of abortion? That is the main source of fear of judgment and seeking healing.

Angie Weszely 46:09

So I would recommend definitely getting our Ebook because I walk through that theologically and even some of the things that trip pastors up, right? They’ll say they don’t want to open up this conversation because they don’t want to say Hey, we’re totally fine with everybody having sex outside of marriage, right? That’s the thing. And so what we do is we understand grace means that none of us, none of us, are up to Jesus’ standards – grace levels the playing field. I think what people are nervous about is Are we minimizing sin? 

No, we’re saying that we all fall short of God’s glory. And we’re actually looking at how Jesus interacted with people. So that’s where all of this is taken from – is if you look at his order, read his stories, especially John 8, which we walk through in the ebook, the order of Jesus. And think about, now compare this to the abortion conversation. When people talk about a sin whose sin do they want us to address? Usually the person who had the abortion, right? And specifically the woman, maybe the man. Jesus has a similar experience in John 8, but when they ask him to address the woman’s sin, whose sin does he talk about first? The religious people’s, right? 

He says to them, if any of you are without sin, cast the first stone. To me, this is a fascinating story for us to look at and hold this up to how we’ve addressed the abortion issue. We do this even more in our training as well, our small group study, because it’s so important in having this mindset shift. The other thing is, when Jesus turns to her, what’s the first truth he says to her? Because people say that to me, grace and truth, grace and truth. It’s like, okay, let’s look at the story. What’s the first truth he shares with her? He says there’s no condemnation. The first truth out of his mouth is grace. He’s going to die to pay for the Pharisees’ sins, for hers. Actually, think about it. We don’t know that she wasn’t trafficked or abused. We don’t know that stuff wasn’t done to her, as well. He is setting her free, there’s no condemnation. And then the third truth he talks about is how she can go live a transformed life. So, again, not trying to water down the gospel, actually trying to expand how we understand the gospel, which is Jesus extends radical grace because he knows that’s the way any of us transform. Shame and judgment doesn’t transform anyone. I’ve never been transformed by shame and judgment. I just take my sin and hide it. Right? And that’s what’s happening in the abortion issue. It just drives it underground. It’s actually causing abortions. When people won’t go to their Christian families, shame is actually causing the abortion, and then shame keeps it hidden. So we have to really look at what does Jesus demonstrate about grace? What does Paul say about grace? And really dive into the scripture. Grace is radical. He extends grace first. Once we know we’re accepted and forgiven, that’s when we can start to live a transformed life. We’ve just so often gotten this backwards in the abortion issue, and that’s part of unlocking people and setting them free, and why I lead with theology and tell everyone to download the ebook or go through our course because we actually systematically walk people through that. We spend a couple hours on just the theology, letting people wrestle with it, letting them write down, letting them talk, so that they can have this Aha experience because that’s what actually frees them up to become the community that would welcome this conversation

Lisa Rowe 49:42

What you just did, Angie, you compared your sin to other people’s sin and what we are all programmed. I see a question in here about what about a Catholic education, or these things, and what I would say to a question like that is that sin is sin and we’re educating about sin no matter what the sin is, except our world has taught us that abortion is the biggest sin. And so what you’ve just articulated so well is that increases the shame. It increases the condemnation. And so if we were able to get out of that robotic understanding and reprogram ourselves, that abortion is one of the many things that our human damaged selves chooses in sin. We would start looking at this issue as we look at domestic violence and divorce and poverty and substance abuse and name the thing that you have seen most prevalent in your family, it would become part of that conversation much like what you did. And that is wonderful. Sometimes that’s the key that needs to be unlocked. Oh, I’ve held that up here and it’s not up here, it’s with everything else.

Angie Weszely 50:56

Yep. Part of my passion is for the church to understand we hold a responsibility in this. Look at what’s happening in the #ChurchToo movement, right? Where you’re seeing all these church leaders that were actually abusive towards women. It is some of the Jesus stories, right? Where the hypocrisy is coming out. Abortion doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a lot of things happening to people, as well. So just opening up that conversation, we’ve been so focused on this one woman at this one time making this one decision and Jesus sees all, right? And he understands everything that led to that. There’s empathy, there’s compassion. And then, like you said, Lisa, there’s the, I’m the same. I don’t have unintended pregnancy or abortion in my lived experience, but I am the same as anyone at the foot of the cross because I have a lot of other things where I’ve tried to meet my needs in the wrong way. So, for the Catholic question, here’s what I would love, I’m going to type an email address if you guys want more information support@progress.org. For the Catholic question, I’d love to give you our course for free actually. And [ask you to] tell me if this will resonate with Catholics, because we did our initial beta testing with a group of Catholic priests and their comment was that this is exactly what the Pope is talking about. So I think it’s interesting that this is happening all across Christendom right now, this idea of grace. So I welcome, even though we come from an evangelical background, our heart is to interact with Christians from all denominations, and I would love for the Catholic folks to give our program a try and see what they think. 

Lisa Rowe 52:38

Absolutely. We have time for one more question. Pauline, if you’re still interested in asking your question, I see your hand raised. If you’ll come off mute and share your question with us.

Pauline 52:50

Hi, uh, my name is Pauline, and I do have a question. Are the resources available in Spanish?

Angie Weszely 52:59

Not yet. Great question, Pauline. They’re not.

Pauline 53:04

Okay. <laugh> okay.

Angie Weszely 53:07

But we’re always paying attention to what God is doing. So again, Pauline, if you want to email that, if you have an idea of where you’d think it would be used in Spanish, just let us know. We can have that conversation offline. Yeah.

Lisa Rowe 53:21

Awesome. Okay. Angie, we have about five minutes left. This has really left some food for thought for us. There was a question at the very beginning and I’d like to end with this. You said there are two theological points that we all as Christians should walk with when we’re talking to people that are maybe programmed to see this as a political issue, what would you, can you repeat those and maybe send us home with a word of love and compassion.

Angie Weszely 53:51

So the first theological point is that God values the woman and child equally. When you play this out to our language, this is why I don’t use the word pro-life or pro-choice ever to describe myself. Because as soon as we say one of those words, we’re communicating to half the population that we don’t care about the other person. And so this is why language follows the theology. That is the first thing I’d love people to think about. Even as we describe what we do, what are different ways that we can talk about it? So people will believe us when we say we value the woman and child equally. 

The second is that grace is God’s path for transformation. So thinking about all the ways that we have hidden judgments toward people who become pregnant, and how we put that on this one woman at this one time without understanding there’s a man involved, without understanding a lot of people in our churches are engaged in sex outside of marriage. And the church needs to really talk about that. Understanding that Jesus says lust is the same as adultery and hatred, the same as murder. So again, it’s like church, let’s have this conversation aboutGod’s intent for sexuality. Don’t put that on the pregnant woman. Now you’re just making her be silent. Let’s expand the conversation. 

The other thing I’d love to say to this group is thinking about some of our language as we talk about women who’ve experienced abortion. So I discovered a few years ago that the word post-abortive is very offensive to some people. And I started asking why, and it’s because it’s an identifier. It’s as if we’re saying this is the identity, you are a post-abortive person. I’m not doing that with my sin. I’m not calling myself a post- whatever God has freed me from. Right? So just thinking about that subtle thing – why don’t we just say a woman who has experienced an abortion, right? Or a man who was part of an abortion? That doesn’t identify; it’s part of their story. It’s not an identifier. [Saying] abortion experience is great. Maybe no one on here does this, but that’s one word that comes up over and over in working with pregnancy organizations. No one is doing it on purpose. We just haven’t had a conversation where someone [says] Ooh, ouch. And that’s the point of getting out there and talking about it differently because then people will be honest. They’ll say actually When you say this, I don’t believe that you value the woman in child equally, right? Or I don’t believe you’re leading with grace. So that’s the last thing I’ll say about it.

I love that you guys are doing what you’re doing. I love that you’re leaning in after Roe versus Wade. If we can be of any support, I put the email in there, www.prograce.org, you can go on the website. There’s ton of free resources. I just want to say thank you for wanting to have a grace-filled conversation that reflects Jesus to people. I love it.

Lisa Rowe 56:42

Angie, thank you so much for your time. I hope that she gave you lots to chew on today and that you’re inspired to take this back to those three people that you have never talked to about abortion and walk with a compassionate message. We will be emailing you all of the resources Angie shared, but if you want to click on the chat quickly, she’s also dropped them there. And I heard her offer you a free resource. If you don’t take her up on it, that’s on you. Her resources are huge and life changing. We’ll see you next month. The link to register will be in that email as well. I appreciate each of you and the time you took out of your day to spend it with us and I look forward to seeing you next month. Thank you Angie.

Angie Weszely 57:29

Thanks everybody.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent or the program host, Support After Abortion.