Ethicist Russell D. Moore and pastor Matt Chandler addressed issues ranging from preaching on political topics to relating to homosexual friends to adopting embryos during a question-and-answer session held in conjunction with the 2014 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the convention’s moral issues and public policy entity, sponsored “Questions & Ethics Live” June 10 at the Baltimore Hilton. Moore, the ERLC’s president, and Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, responded to issues raised by an audience of more than 200 people.
Chandler, who has been at The Village Church nearly 12 years, said he has preached on such issues as abortion and homosexuality but doesn’t recall he has “ever explicitly tried to be political in regards to the things I’m addressing.”
Photo by Paul W. Lee
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas Metroplex, addresses an issue during the ERLC's "Questions & Ethics Live" session June 10 in Baltimore in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. ERLC President Russell D. Moore (left) also participated in the discussion.
“At the end of the day, I feel like if I make it like a full-on, political, party issue, then what ends up happening is I start to lose people in the crowd whom I think I can persuade with the Word of God,” Chandler told Phillip Bethancourt, moderator and the ERLC’s executive vice president.
Chandler said if he teaches on what the Bible says about an issue, “then I think I’m addressing political things and cultural issues without making it a Democratic Party issue or a Republican Party issue. And so I have found that by doing that I don’t lose my Democrats, that they’ll listen and they’ll hear. And they might not necessarily land where I land, but at least now we’re talking about the Bible and not partisan.”
The key to not being labeled “culture warriors” is “to talk about people,” not just a topic, he said.
“[I]f you are going to talk about homosexuality, you had better talk about homosexuality in light of the reality that there are ... more than likely people in your congregation that struggle themselves or love people that struggle or have a neighbor who walks in that lifestyle,” Chandler said. “And if you ignorantly paint this issue, you are going to jam up the people you have been meant to lead; you are going to push people who are struggling into silence and quiet and not towards confession and the seeking of help.”
One participant asked how Christians “communicate with conviction without being known as the people who are against everything.”
Moore said, “To some degree, it doesn’t matter what you do and say, you are going to be known as the people who are against things if you are against the things that people like. So, when you’re talking about following Christ, there are always going to be those idols that people are going to hold to. And if you start messing with those idols, they are going to find a reason to say the problem is with you.”
He said, “You need to just make sure that if people are getting angry at you, they’re getting angry at you because they clearly understand what you are saying and that you don’t stop there with the anger and you don’t return evil for evil but you keep moving toward gospel presentation and reconciliation, and that means not giving up on people.”
Regarding relating to gays and lesbians, Moore and Chandler agreed Christians should welcome them into their homes. They have welcomed several homosexual people into their home for dinner, Chandler said.
Christians should not attend a same-sex marriage ceremony, however, “because of what a wedding actually is,” Moore said.
“A wedding is about the people who are there who are the witnesses to this vow. So the couple there, they are making vows and the people who are gathered there are saying we are here to hold you to your vows,” he said.
“[T]he people who are gathered are witnesses to the vow; they are actually participating in the event,” Moore said. “So, if I had a gay or lesbian couple, friends of mine that I am witnessing to who said, ‘Would you come to our wedding? Would you come to our civil union?’ ... I would say, ‘You know what? I love you. Be happy to have you over to the house and do those sorts of things. I can’t come to that and here’s the reason why. Because I would be involved in something that is against my conscience and I wouldn’t be able to do that.’”
He would encourage couples to adopt embryos or “Snowflake babies,” as they are sometimes known, Moore said.
“[S]ometimes people will say, ‘A Snowflake adoption is the wrong thing to do because of the ethical problems with in vitro fertilization.’ That is not the case, because what is happening with Snowflake adoption is not the creation of new people through in vitro fertilization,” he said. “This is actually rescuing already conceived persons who are locked away in cryogenic storage units. So adopting an embryo is the exact same thing morally and ethically as adopting a child in any other way.”
Among other topics discussed were how to deal with pornography and how to talk to children about same-sex marriage.
“Questions & Ethics” is an ERLC-produced podcast in which Moore replies to questions asked about ethics and culture.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)