Lancaster Bible Church in Pennsylvania was founded in 1986 in a three car garage with about 40 people. It quickly grew and by 1991 moved to its current complex on Lancaster's suburban fringe. It's a classic mega-church, with 4,000 attending weekly services. Members come in casual dress and worship with contemporary music. There are numerous volunteer opportunities, and everyone has the opportunity to join a small "care group" to stay connected to the church.

Following are excerpts of a two-hour conversation that occurred Aug. 27 between Beliefnet's Deborah Caldwell and five members of LCBC.


Jim Whiteman, 45, spiritual formation pastor: The thing that has driven most of my votes in recent years is the pro-life issue. It's sort of along the same lines as the compassion theme. That baby is a living being and that's sort of the ultimate in non-compassionate response is to put that child to death. But I get annoyed sometimes that I'm sympathetic to the views of candidates that might be pro-choice but because of my strong feelings about abortion I sort of feel like I get pulled in a direction I'm not always comfortable with. There are secondary issues and I'm not totally comfortable with the candidate I'm voting for so I sort of end up voting for someone I'm not real thrilled with.

There is no question there are many cases that are very difficult when it comes to abortion: rape and incest and the life of the mother. But that isn't what usually happens. Since 1973 there have been something like 44 million abortions in this country. That's a travesty. That's where I come from on it. I'm not an extremist who's going to say in all cases it's wrong. I do recognize there are difficult situations that require thought. But that's not the majority.

Ben Donahower, 20, government major: I am a pro-life Democrat. I have felt that, for one, if you want to make real progress on that issue you have to elect Democrats, like [the late Pennsylvania governor] Bob Casey. I think that it's such a politically sensitive issue and whenever an elected official tries to effect some sort of incredible change in that area it involves so much political capital, you need someone who can reach people on the other side. I think someone more moderate can do that.

Brenda Coffin, 45, life coach and stay-at-home mother: I'm pro-life but I would make an exception for incest, rape, the condition of the mother. So I qualify it.. It's not a black and white thing in certain cases.

Mary Steffy, 57, mental health advocacy director: Whichever side you take there is incendiary language and even within the bounds of scripture the answer is very often "it depends." There are people who are pregnant who were raped, sometimes by their own husbands. And generally speaking men are making decisions about women when women had no choice in the pregnancy.. As a blanket statement I am in favor of life.

Don Hershey, 44, systems analyst: I would have to say I'm most concerned about issues like abortion and gay marriage. Those are issues that are confronting our culture today and we're struggling as a community. As a Christian I'm trying to work in the pro-life area, issues that I think are clearly defined in the Bible in terms of a biblical basis. That would include every aspect of that debate. {That means] pro-life, but also other cultural issues that would have a biblical basis in terms of right or wrong. What is laid out in the Bible, which would include homosexual marriage.

Gay Marriage

Hershey: Gay marriage is the issue in the forefront. I think a lot of progress has been made in the pro-life arena and where major decisions will be made in coming months is probably in the gay marriage arena.

Donahower: I disagree with the term marriage because holy matrimony has very distinct religious qualities to it. And I think churches should be opposed to homosexual relationships, but I also think there are some values you have to give to people as people and when it comes down to it they're going to live their lives how they want. We should be trying to effect change in their lives. And then they'll change their behaviors. But on the other end, I support civil unions because they are people and they deserve some sort of benefits extended to them. Such as, if they have children from a past heterosexual relationship, and they need visitation rights, that's something we as people should have respect enough for other people to give to them. But as far as giving them the whole kit and caboodle and calling it gay marriage I think that goes too far. I think we need to draw a line between what is moral for them as people and what is entitled exclusively to heterosexuals.