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The need for a new conversation
Both Angie Weszely and Denise Stein were new to the space of abortion and unintended pregnancy when they accepted leadership positions at a pregnancy center in Chicago. And almost immediately, they both began to experience tensions around how this faith-based pregnancy center was operating.
They joined the organization with a passion to serve both women and children, yet found that some of the practices seemed to minimize the needs of women and focused primarily on “saving the baby,” even to the point of being manipulative and misleading at times.
When Angie and Denise began to discuss and implement changes with some staff and other pregnancy organizations, they were accused of “going to the other side.”
But they couldn’t shake this question:
Were these practices an accurate demonstration of God’s heart for women and children? Were they allowing us to meet the woman's physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, so both she and her child could thrive, during and after the pregnancy?
Sadly, the answer was no.
To change this, Angie worked on the philosophy behind the practice changes while Denise, as an MSW, transitioned the services to a counseling-based model.
Within 3 years, with full Board support, the organization operated within all the bounds of social work ethics, including empathetic listening, non-agenda service delivery, and case management.
Once this phase was complete, Angie and Denise starting networking with local agencies and health clinics, trying to build bridges. But many leaders of these community organizations had negative reactions to the work they were doing, based on past practices and even past personal experiences.
Which led Angie and Denise to ask:
Was there truth in any of the community’s concerns about us and our organization?
And there was.
Angie and Denise owned the truth in some of the criticisms and apologized freely for practices that had been a part of their Christian pregnancy center that were not a true reflection of God’s equal value for women and children. Because followers of Christ should be interacting with people the way Jesus did - with full truth and disclosure, understanding, compassion and empowerment.
They were both encouraged by how leaders of community agencies responded to these conversations, and the way trust was rebuilt.
Another hurdle that Angie and Denise faced was the realization that many local churches were not safe places for women to go to for acceptance and support when facing an unintended pregnancy. So, with a desire to connect women to local churches, Angie and Denise started exploring how this could look with their church partners.
They found that many local pastors were hesitant to even address the issues of unintended pregnancy and abortion because they lacked language that was both biblical and compassionate. And pregnant women reported they wouldn’t go to a church for support because they feared judgment.
Which led them to wonder:
If we could help equip pastors to talk about this with grace, would the church become a safe place for women to ask for help?
They believe the answer to this question is a resounding Yes! Based on what they saw happening when local Chicago churches started approaching the issue with grace, they developed a training and equipping program that has now become ProGrace.
Throughout this journey, Angie and Denise have continued to ask God two primary questions:
1. If Jesus were here today, how would he be addressing the issue of abortion?
2. What is really leading women to think abortion is their only option?
The ProGrace Network was created as a result of a lot of prayer, conversations, studying of the Gospels, and research. We are asking God to elevate the Christian approach to abortion beyond the political debate and into a deeper understanding of the dignity and value God places on every woman and every child.
Hear for yourself
Listen to Angie tell their story of discovery in this podcast. You'll hear a whole new way to understand God's design for women, children, and pregnancy.
Angie has spent the past 14 years involved in the abortion conversation, first as President of a Christian pregnancy organization, and now in her work with ProGrace. She is passionate about seeing Christian leaders rise up with a grace response to abortion, because she thinks that will change everything. As an accomplished speaker and coach, Angie leads ProGrace workshops and training sessions. She is also the strategic mind behind the mission, vision, and direction of ProGrace. Follow Angie on Twitter
A social worker by profession, Denise has worked in non-profit Christian ministry for the last 30 years, with a passion and focus on supporting women. Along with Angie, Denise has a huge desire to see the Christian community approach abortion in a new way, one that fully represents God’s whole heart for both the woman and the child. Denise trains all pregnancy centers and leads program development and operations.