Illinois state senator and Chicago megachurch pastor James Meeks is looking for approval from a specific crowd as he considers running for governor.

"Making the decision will be widely based on the support that I will be given from the white church," he told CT.

The pastor of the state's largest church, Meeks would use an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage platform and said white evangelical leaders have encouraged him to run. "I've had tremendous response," Meeks said. "We are both very concerned with the direction of Illinois." If he decides to run, Meeks would need a minimum of 25,000 signatures—just a bit more than his Salem Baptist Church's 22,000 members—by June 26 to get on the ballot. (Salem Baptist has a regular attendance of 9,000. Willow Creek Community Church in suburban South Barrington has a larger weekly attendance but fewer members.)

Meeks serves as an independent in the Illinois Senate, but is seeking re-election as a Democrat. He says he would run as an independent against gubernatorial incumbent Democrat Rod Blagojevich and Illinois state treasurer Republican Judy Baar Topinka, both of whom both support gay rights and abortion rights. Blagojevich has received criticism from social conservatives and prolife groups after his April decision to make Illinois the only state that requires pharmacy distribution of Plan B, the "morning-after pill."

President of Moody Bible Institute Michael Easley contacted Meeks's office to applaud his anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage platform. "Moody Bible Institute does not endorse candidates, but I am encouraged to see Sen. Meeks, or any politician, tackle these issues I believe are crucial to our families, cities, states, and country," Easley said in a statement.

James ...

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