The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) hosted a much-needed panel event addressing Evangelical women in public policy and our public witness on the evening of November 2, 2017, at the offices of Alliance Defending Freedom in Washington, D.C. Originally live streamed, I encourage you to watch the recorded video of in its entirety posted below.
To set the tone for the event, as moderator I began with these opening remarks:
Thank you everyone for joining us, your host the Institute on Religion & Democracy, for what promises to be an informative and enlightening discussion.
My name is Chelsen Vicari. I’m a wife, mother of precious 4-month-old baby girl and I have been on staff as the director of IRD’s Evangelical program since 2013. Since I started, this gathering of Evangelical women for training and discussion has been a vision of mine.
It’s our hope that this gathering is the start of much-needed coalition building and training specifically for Evangelical women working in advocacy, ministry, and public policy in the D.C. area, though we welcome the gentlemen in the audience.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the IRD has been around since 1981 as an ecumenical Christian think tank advocating for thoughtful and constructive Christian social and political witness in America and abroad. IRD’s founders were deeply committed to strengthening American churches’ spiritually, culturally, and politically. To do this they knew America’s churches and Christians must first uphold Jesus Christ and orthodox, or in other words, traditional Biblical teachings, and Scripture’s ultimate authority, no matter the direction the ever-changing winds of culture blow.
Over the years, the IRD has watched mournfully as many mainline Protestant churches—such as the Episcopal and Presbyterian Church USA—lost their cultural legitimacy in America. They did so by either remaining silent or totally revising their doctrine on Christian sexual ethics to appease cultural elites. These once-influential churches failed to bear witness to Christ and His commands. The result is dwindling congregations and nearly non-existent evangelism.
Now the IRD is monitoring a growing cultural conformity among many Evangelicals, largely prompted by feelings and concern over secular perceptions. But revising Christian teaching has already been tried. And as we’ve seen with many of the Mainline denominations, these attempts ultimately fail to spread the Gospel.
The warning signs are there, but many popular Evangelical and post-Evangelical women and men aren’t paying attention.
Perhaps you’ve noticed some in your church are starting to affirm same-sex marriage as “loving.” Or you’ve noticed some Christian thinkers placing scare quotes around the term “religious freedom” and referring to a “Christian persecution complex.” Or maybe you’re simply unsure as to why Christians support Israel or should promote the human rights of a baby in utero.
Some might accuse us of culture warring, but to remain silent is to forfeit a credible public Christian witness. As I recently heard distinguished Catholic philosopher Robert George say, “let us have the courage to speak the truth in love and out loud.”
The critical point of this gathering is not a piece of legislation or promoting a politician or organization principle. It is to come together as Evangelical women, for a moment, to reflect on our faith’s impact behind the issues we care about.
In 1 Peter 3:15, the Apostle Peter instructed his listeners to “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
We pray this gathering—and hopefully those to follow— will offer you clarity and practical help in “making a defense” for innocent life, Christian sexual ethics, and religious freedom at home and abroad. Above all, we wish to encourage you in knowing you’re not facing these challenges alone.
This evening we will hear from four Evangelical women, from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, offering their expertise on four major cultural topics facing the Church: human sexuality and gender as self-identity, Christian engagement in the Middle East, the sanctity of life, and religious freedom. Afterwards, we’d like you to join the discussion with a Q&A session, time permitting.
Let me briefly introduce our panelists.
Alison Howard Centofante serves as the Director of Alliance Relations at Alliance Defending Freedom working to serve, strengthen, and expand the alliance on life, marriage, and religious freedom.
Rebecca Gonzales serves as the Constituent Relations Director of the Philos Project, a leadership community dedicated to promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East and providing educational programs, immersive travel, networking and advocacy opportunities.
Bethany Goodman is the Assistant Director of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, overseeing the March’s digital strategy, social media, and Evangelical outreach.
Patrina Mosley is Family Research Council Action’s Assistant Director. She oversees daily operations and communications and content marketing for voter education, activist tools, and grassroots mobilization projects.
Following the panelists’ opening remarks, we invite you all to engage with a brief Q&A session.