‘Pray for Marriage’ ERLC urges for Supreme Court

April 9 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is inviting Christians to pray regarding what might be a landmark decision on marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ERLC launched its Pray for Marriage initiative April 7, three weeks before the high court’s April 28 oral arguments involving same-sex marriage. The justices are expected to issue an opinion by late June or early July.
In asking Southern Baptists and others to pray, the ERLC pointed in a post on its website to the importance of the high court’s decision: “Before the Court is an up or down vote to redefine marriage. ... [W]hat the Supreme Court decides regarding whether to redefine marriage will be on the same historic level” as the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, which legalized abortion throughout the country.
“The outcome of this decision will shape the landscape of the church’s ministry in the United States for generations to come,” according to the ERLC, “and it will have significant consequences on the future of religious liberty.”


The ERLC and its president, Russell Moore, have signed on to friend-of-the-court briefs urging the justices to uphold the authority of states to limit marriage to a man and a woman. In its invitation to pray, the ERLC provided a sample prayer guide based on various biblical passages. In it, the entity asked Christians to:

  • “Pray that all people, including governing authorities, would honor the institution of marriage.

  • “Pray for the Supreme Court justices, that they would be receptive to the arguments being made passionately before them.

  • “Pray for lead attorneys who will be arguing on behalf of the states seeking to uphold marriage. Ask God to give them clarity and wisdom, for their arguments to be persuasive, and for God to give them favor before the justices.

  • “Pray for those who disagree with us, that God would help them understand and respect the opinions of those whose definition of marriage is grounded in the biblical witness.

  • “[P]ray and hope for the best but plan for [an adverse ruling]. Even in the event of a bad decision, marriage will always be what marriage truly is.”

At its website, the ERLC urged prayer by churches and organizations specifically on April 28 at 10 a.m. EDT, when the oral arguments begin. The entity also encouraged the use of a new avatar provided on its website for social media accounts and the inclusion of the hashtag #PrayForMarriage with posts. (The ERLC post and avatar are available at Pray for Marriage.)

The ERLC and Moore called for prayer not only for the preservation of biblical marriage by the Supreme Court but for the strengthening of the institution.
“[W]e need to pray that marriage will not be treated as if it were a tattered house standing in the way of government construction – there to be plowed out of the way in the name of progress,” Moore wrote in an April 7 blog post. “And yet, on the other hand, we must pray and ask God to give us wisdom so that moving forward we would be able to spell out with convictional kindness why marriage matters” in light of the gospel and of the difference in the sexes.
Moore also urged prayer for Jesus to “overcome the atrophy that we’ve allowed our own marriages and families to fall [into] for too long. The belief in our churches that culture was enough to keep marriages intact has been exposed as a disastrous folly.”
Most importantly, Moore said, Christians “must pray that, regardless of whether our land’s highest court recognizes the unchangeable or not, we will hold steadfast. We must love our neighbors enough to have the confidence of people who have heard a word from God and the compassion of a people who are on mission with God.”
The Supreme Court’s oral arguments will come in a case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which became in November the first federal appellate court to rule that states have the authority to define marriage as only a heterosexual union. Five other appeals courts have invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage. The opinion by the Sixth Circuit Court, based in Cincinnati, took place in challenges to laws in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. It also is legal in the District of Columbia. Court rulings have produced legal gay marriage in more than two-thirds of those states.
The expansion of same-sex marriage has resulted in a growing clash between the rights of gay couples and the religious freedom of individuals and organizations. Florists, bakers, photographers and other business owners who have conscientious objections to providing their services for same-sex ceremonies have been penalized or are facing penalties for their refusal.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/9/2015 10:19:55 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Americans share views on marriage, church & state roles

December 3 2014 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

About half of Americans are ready for separation of church and state when it comes to weddings, a LifeWay Research survey shows.
Six in 10 say the government should not define or regulate marriage.
And more than a third of Americans – and about a quarter of Protestant pastors – say clergy should get out of the civil marriage business.
Those are among the findings of two new studies from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said Americans disagree about the meaning of marriage.
“In many countries,” he said, “there’s a split between civil marriage and religious marriage. In the United States, those two aspects have been combined. That’s led to some tension, as American views about marriage change.
“Christians tend to see marriage as a sacred covenant between God, the church, and the couple being married,” he said. “Many others see marriage as a contract that ties the couple together in the eyes of the state. It appears Americans are divided on how to reconcile these differences.”
Researchers asked 2,000 Americans and 1,000 Protestant senior pastors about their views on civil and religious marriage in surveys conducted September 11 to October 5, 2014.


LifeWay Research found Americans are skeptical about the government’s role in marriage.
Six in 10 (59 percent) disagree with the statement, “Marriage should be defined and regulated by the state.” About a third (36 percent) agree. Five percent are not sure.
Those who identify as Christians (37 percent) are more likely to agree than the nonreligious (30 percent.) Evangelicals are less likely to disagree (55 percent).
About half of Americans favor a split between civil and religious marriage.
Forty-nine percent agree with the statement, “Religious weddings should not be connected to the state’s definition and recognition of marriage.” About four in 10 (41 percent) disagree. Ten percent are not sure.
Men (54 percent) are more likely to agree, as are those over 65 (40 percent).
Catholics (53 percent) are more likely to agree than Protestants (45 percent). Evangelicals are less likely to agree (44 percent.)
LifeWay Researchers found many Protestant senior pastors are hesitant to give up on performing civil weddings.
In the United States, most clergy are allowed to solemnize a wedding by signing a marriage license. This act makes the marriage legally binding.
Now that an increasing number of states allow same-sex marriage, some clergy are wary of performing the civil half of their wedding duties.
Hundreds of pastors have signed a new online pledge at the conservative magazine First Things, saying they will no longer sign marriage licenses.
But a strong majority of pastors believe clergy still have a role to play in civil marriage.
Seven in 10 (71 percent) disagree with the statement, “Clergy should no longer be involved in the state’s licensing of marriage.” About a quarter (24 percent) agree.
Clergy in the South (19 percent) were least likely to agree followed by those in the Northwest (24 percent), Midwest (28 percent), and West (29 percent).
Americans show less support for clergy performing civil marriages. About a third (36 percent) agree with the statement, “Clergy should no longer be involved in the state’s licensing of marriage.” Half (53 percent) disagree, while one in 10 (11 percent) are not sure.
Men (40 percent) are more likely than women (32 percent) to want clergy out of the civil marriage business. Catholics (37 percent) are more likely to agree than Protestants (29 percent) or Evangelicals. The nonreligious (51 percent) are more likely to agree than Christians (32 percent) or those of other faiths (36 percent.)
Stetzer said despite the tension over the meaning of marriage, there seems to be “limited support” for the idea that clergy should stop being agents of the state during weddings.
“It’s the size of the minority view, among pastors and Americans, that surprises me -- a noteworthy number are ready for pastors to stop saying, ‘By the power vested in me by the state ...’ during a church wedding,” he said. “Because this is the first time the question has been asked, we don’t know if the view is growing, but it certainly is worth noticing.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 19 – Oct. 5, 2014. The calling utilized random digit dialing among landlines (60 percent) and cell phones (40 percent). Quotas and weights were used for age, gender, region, ethnicity, and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 2,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus 2.4 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 11-18, 2014. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
See additional research here and here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)

12/3/2014 10:51:21 AM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Famous marriages ‘breathe life’ for couples

November 25 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In 1523, Martin Luther found himself the matchmaker for 12 nuns who had escaped in pickle barrels from a Roman Catholic nunnery near Wittenberg, Germany. He secured husbands for 11, but the 12th, Katharina von Bora, rebuffed two potential husbands.
Her heart was set on the great Reformer.
Finally Luther married her in 1525 for strikingly unromantic reasons: to provide his father with grandchildren and to spite the pope by breaking the vow of celibacy he had taken as a Catholic monk. Though it didn’t seem like the makings of a storybook romance, Luther’s marriage to Katie, as he called her, blossomed into one of church history’s most tender unions.
Learning about famous Christian marriages, like Martin and Katie Luther’s, can “breathe life” into the marriages of believers today and “give some guys and their wives courage to get real and be honest,” radio host and marriage expert Dennis Rainey told Baptist Press.
Good marriages demonstrate how a spouse’s love can lift a Christian “out of doubt and discouragement and perhaps even losing heart,” Rainey, president and co-founder of Family Life, said. Stories of more challenging marriages can encourage believers to persevere through their own marriage struggles, he said.
“There was only one who was perfect, and He wasn’t married,” Rainey said. Being part of God’s Kingdom requires “humbling ourselves and admitting our humanity and sharing the stories of our humanity in some of its stench and ... coming clean and getting real – because that’s where everybody is.”
In contrast with the joyful marriages of Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and others, Methodist movement founder John Wesley and revivalist George Whitefield struggled in their marriages. Wesley made his wife agree that she would not ask him to lighten his schedule of itinerant preaching. The couple eventually separated and she was dead for three days before he found out.
Whitefield once left his wife Elizabeth in America while he returned to England by boat without telling her. One of Whitefield’s protégés said the great revivalist viewed his marriage as a “distraction” and when Elizabeth died, “his mind was put at great liberty.”

“Uncommon unions”

The Luthers’ home was “joyful” and “playful,” Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP.
“Luther had a deep sense of the joyfulness of the Christian life, and marriage simply exacerbated that,” said Haykin, who has compiled “The Christian Lover,” a book of love letters written by famous Christians.
Though Luther refused to back down in arguments with the pope and fellow Protestant Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, he often yielded to Katie’s opinions and preferences, Haykin said. Among the ways he deferred to her was changing his custom of bathing only once a year – a common practice in the 1500s – because “she would not have it so,” according to one of Luther’s letters.
Since the Luthers raised pigs, Martin playfully referred to Katie by such titles as “high mistress of the Wittenberg pig sty,” Haykin said.
Fellow Reformer John Calvin “epitomizes the Protestant rediscovery of marriage,” Haykin said, referencing the Reformation critique of Roman Catholic celibacy vows.
At age 29, Calvin was driven out of Geneva, Switzerland, and settled in Strasbourg, on the border of modern-day Germany and France, where Protestant leader Martin Bucer attempted to find a wife for him. Bucer and other early Protestants believed that a pastor like Calvin should be an expert on family, and ideally be married himself.
The first three or four potential wives proved unsuitable, including one who spoke only German – a poor match for Calvin who spoke French and didn’t know German. Calvin wrote that he would never marry her “unless the Lord had entirely bereft me of my wits.” Eventually he met and married on his own Idelette de Bure, the widow of an Anabaptist he had known in Geneva.
They were married only eight and a half years before her death; they had experienced two or three pregnancies, though none of their children lived to be more than three days old. Calvin didn’t mention Idelette much in correspondence or sermons, but several surviving letters reveal the depth of their love.
In 1541 a plague raged through Strasbourg, so Calvin sent his wife away for her safety. He wrote to a friend that “day and night my wife has been constantly in my thoughts, in need of advice now that she is separated from her husband.”
When Idelette died in 1549, Calvin wrote, “Mine is no common source of grief. I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordered, would not only have been the willing sharer of my indigence, but even of my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance. She was never troublesome to me throughout the entire course of her illness; she was more anxious about her children [from her first marriage] than about herself.”
The marriage of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards was “a passionate love story,” Haykin said, noting that Edwards was among the Puritans in England and North America who, among other notable practices, broke from the longstanding tradition of arranged marriages.
“The whole idea of falling in love and then getting married is very much rooted in the Puritans,” Haykin said.
Edwards met Sarah when he was 20 and she was 13. She was six feet tall and “striking in terms of her physical beauty,” Haykin said, but “what caught his eye was her spirituality” and love for God. They married in 1727 with Sarah wearing green, which Edwards believed was God’s favorite color.
The mother of 11 children, Sarah was a “fabulous home economist” and Edwards “relied upon her enormously,” Haykin said. On one occasion when Sarah was away from home to attend a funeral, Edwards wrote a letter asking her to “please come home” because “things are falling apart here.”
When Whitefield stayed in the Edwards’ home for five days in 1740, he wrote that he had not seen a “sweeter couple” and began praying that God would provide him with a wife like Sarah.
Among Edwards’ last acts before he died was to give his daughter Lucy a message for Sarah: “Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever.”
Charles and Susannah Spurgeon represent another strong marriage from church history, though she had a “very poor first impression” of the great Baptist preacher, Haykin said. The Spurgeons met when he preached for the first time at the London church that came to be known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
“He was sweating profusely ... and he pulled out this huge handkerchief with polka dots on it,” Haykin said. “And she thought, ‘What kind of country yokel have the deacons brought in to preach?’“ But soon they were married.
Among other strong marriages in church history were Martyn and Bethan Lloyd-Jones, B.B. and Annie Warfield and Francis and Edith Schaeffer.

Challenging marriages

Not all famous Christians, however, enjoyed vibrant marriages. C.T. Studd, a legendary missionary and author of the poem “Only One Life, ‘Twill Soon Be Past,” went to China for some 15 years without his wife Priscilla, Haykin said. Then he returned home only briefly before going to the Congo without her.
Studd “is often held up as a model of total commitment to Christ,” Haykin said. “I have problems with him in my mind because of his marriage.”
Foreshadowing his own marriage troubles, John Wesley once tried to convince his brother Charles that marriage interfered with commitment to Christ. The week before Charles was to be married with John officiating, the brothers began a journey to the wedding site that should have taken two days. But John scheduled so many preaching engagements along the way that they barely arrived in time for the wedding.
“Charles, in his diary, was absolutely furious at his brother,” Haykin said. John “was giving his brother an object lesson ... that preaching the gospel is more important than marriage.”
When John married two years later, he made sure his wife Molly never interfered with his preaching – with disastrous results. Molly travelled with him for a year. But after “tramping around the British countryside, sleeping under hedgerows, eating half-cooked meals, she told him she was settling down in London,” Haykin said. “Their marriage then began to disintegrate.”
John and Molly experienced ongoing tension over letters he exchanged with other women. She publicly accused him of infidelity at least once, though no evidence exists to substantiate the charges, and monitored his mail before they separated.
Although Whitefield prayed for a wife like Sarah Edwards, when he married, he was far less considerate as a husband than Jonathan Edwards. Whitefield once wrote that he was “not one of those lovers who is swooning for love at his beloved.”
Haykin said Whitefield demonstrated a consistent “lack of husbandly care of his wife.”


Though some may overlook the marriage difficulties of well-known Christians because of their spiritual impact, Haykin sees the matter differently.
“If their marriages would have been solid, I think of how much better their ministries might have been,” he said.
With Wesley, for example, “we don’t see” the impact of his marriage failures “at this distance, and people may not have seen it even in his own day,” Haykin said. “But inevitably it would have had a kickback on ministry. How can he go out to preach the love of God to a crowd and he’s just had a row with his wife? Surely it had some sort of spiritual impact.”
On a positive note, Rainey of Family Life said ministers like Wesley and Whitefield illustrate that God still uses people who don’t “have it all together.”
“I think one of the big fallacies of being in ministry is the lie ... that you have to have it all together in order to preach the gospel,” Rainey said. People are “desperate” for “authentic human beings who are like them, who fail and then get back up and ask for forgiveness from God and their spouse, or their child, and make things right and keep going.”
But Rainey and Haykin agreed that preachers must have godly marriages.
“Marriage is a reflection of the love of God for His people and for His church,” Haykin said. “... Therefore, a Christian pastor who is representing God, speaking God’s Word to His people, if he is married, needs to have a solid marriage.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/25/2014 12:29:12 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marriage draws cheers at SBC of Virginia

November 24 2014 by Brandon Pickett, Baptist Press

One of the loudest cheers of affirmation at the 2014 Southern Baptist Conservatives (SBC) of Virginia Annual Homecoming was heard after a resolution on biblical marriage was read to the messengers and guests.
Nearly 1,000 messengers and guests attended the Nov. 9-11 annual meeting at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights.
“We were challenged, encouraged and built up in the Lord,” said host pastor Randy Hahn said. “Oh, and we got some business done also. So grateful for the SBC of Virginia and its leadership that gives us opportunity to be so blessed in coming together for the work of the Lord. Annual Homecoming is a revival!”
This year’s theme, “Strong Churches with a Bold Commitment to the Great Commission,” was woven throughout the meeting, including sermons by keynote speakers Alistair Begg, Eric Geiger, Grant Ethridge and John Marshall.
Begg, drawing from 2 Timothy 3:14-17, noted that Timothy was not about magnifying himself. “He was like a styrofoam cup which has significance only in that which it contains. It is disposable. It will be gone in a moment,” Begg said. “It only has benefit on the strength of that which is in it.”
Begg also spoke to 128 church planters and sponsors during a special dinner where he reminded them of the importance of staying true to the Word of God. Later that evening to the entire convention, he reminded attendees that the task of pastors is one of a constant reminder, like parents do with their children. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. We are people of The Book. People become convinced by the scriptures. Only God can soften hearts and give hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind.”
Brian Autry, SBC of Virginia’s executive director, gave a virtual missions tour around the Commonwealth in his Monday night report. He highlighted the efforts to reach Muslims in the Washington, D.C., metro area and in urban outreach in the Southeast, then called attendees to gather around church planters for a special time of prayer.
“Our Annual Homecoming was totally about the business of being boldly committed to the Great Commission,” Autry said. “From celebrating disaster relief volunteers, to praying over church planters and partner churches, to encouraging churches in the midst of revitalization, our focus is on honoring and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Autry highlighted the story of pastor Don Paxton and how he and a mission team from Rosedale Baptist Church partnered with a church planter in northern Virginia to bring physical help along with the gospel at an Arab festival attended by some 10,000 people.
Four resolutions were approved unanimously by the messengers: Gratitude to the Lord and The Heights Baptist Church, Appreciation for Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Reaffirmation of Biblical Marriage, and Gratitude to the SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief Team. The text of the marriage and Forbes resolutions follow this story.
Mission Service Corps couple Matt and Susan Clonch were commissioned on Monday evening to reach hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Representatives from their sponsor church, Fincastle Baptist, and the Executive Board’s missions and communications committee prayed over them.
Messengers approved a 2015 Ministry Investment Plan of $9,000,000, the same amount as 2014. SBC of Virginia treasurer Eddie Urbine said the budget allocates 51 percent for SBC ministries and promotion and 49 percent for SBC of Virginia ministries. Since the inception of the SBC of Virginia, $116,374,396 has been given through the Cooperative Program.
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, encouraged messengers in the work they are doing for the Lord through the local church and through the SBC of Virginia. But he also exhorted them to increase their missions giving to see even more Kingdom impact.
Messengers unanimously re-elected Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, as convention president.
“The reports of what God is doing in church planting and church mobilization to reach different people groups in Virginia were nothing short of miraculous,” Ethridge said. “God is moving and I have never been more proud to be a part of the family called SBC of Virginia.
“But the annual pep rally is over. Now is the time to be bold in our praying and preaching. Now is the time to be bold in our living and giving. Now is the time to cry out to God for revival in the church and spiritual awakening in our nation.”
The convention’s other officers also were elected unanimously: First vice president Brad Russell, senior pastor of Old Powhatan Baptist Church in Powhatan; second vice president Brent Vickery, senior pastor of Ramoth Baptist Church in Stafford; and secretary Matthew Kirkland, senior pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Christiansburg.
On both Monday and Tuesday afternoon, hundreds attended special luncheons. Monday’s lunch celebrated disaster relief volunteers with guest speaker Congressman Randy Forbes. Tuesday’s lunch highlighted SBC of Virginia’s Acts 1:8 Network with missionary and author Nik Ripken.
Autry, thankful for the atmosphere of highlighting missions throughout the entire three days, said, “Seeing pastors and church leaders representing various nations and generations at our Annual Homecoming serves as a reminder that we are living in the midst of a harvest field. We must work together to bring in the harvest.”
The gathering also featured a hands-on mission opportunity. Nearly 1,500 backpacks from more than 40 churches were loaded into a North America Mission Board tractor-trailer to be delivered just in time for children in need at Christmas.
Jerry Daniel, Love Loud team leader for the North American Mission Board, spoke of the importance of local churches connecting to the mission project, noting, “It’s a way for people to express generosity and compassion. A lot of churches enjoy encouraging their children to be a part of packing the backpacks because they get to talk about sharing and be concerned for those who have needs.”
Scott Bullman and the Sounds of Liberty from Liberty University led worship throughout the meeting. On Sunday evening, The Heights praise team, orchestra and choir led worship. On Monday evening, recording artist TaRanda Green joined the Sounds of Liberty and a combined choir from multiple SBC of Virginia churches for a special time of worship.
Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton will host the 2015 SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming Nov. 8-10. Keynote speakers will include Ronnie Floyd, Vance Pittman, K. Marshall Williams and Dennis Swanberg.
Following are SBC of Virginia resolutions on marriage and Congressman Randy Forbes
WHEREAS, we the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and is the lens through which we see and understand God’s gracious and loving design for marriage, (Gen 2:24) and
WHEREAS the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and its affiliated Churches reaffirm the historic and biblical definition of marriage, and the need for it in our society; and
WHEREAS we affirm Article III section 1 of the Southern Baptist Convention Constitution which states, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” and
WHEREAS some within our current culture, and judicial system, promote and recognize alternate definitions of marriage in an increasing number of states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, Be it
RESOLVED that we affirm that the term “marriage” has only one meaning: marriage, as instituted by God, is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, permanent, exclusive union. (Genesis 1:27; 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6) God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. God has commanded that no one engage in intimate sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. (1 Corinthians 7:1-9) Be it further
RESOLVED that we, affirm that declaring God’s Word and warning people of the consequences of their sins, including sexual sins, is an act of loving concern (James 5:19-20). God’s Word remains true and His prohibitions – including those on sexual sins – cannot be changed by any human government. (Acts 5:29) Be it finally
RESOLVED that we affirm God’s offer of redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:9-13) We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. (Ephesians 4:29-32; 1 John 4:20-21) Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual, including those involved in sexual sin, are not in accord with scripture nor the doctrines of the church and are to be repudiated. (Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Peter 3:8-12)
WHEREAS, Congressman J. Randy Forbes, since elected to Congress in 2001, has set his key priorities to protect and defend our nation; and
WHEREAS, Congressman J. Randy Forbes “founded and chairs the Congressional Prayer Caucus and has led this group of bipartisan Members in national efforts to protect prayer and our nation’s spiritual history”; and
WHEREAS Congressman J. Randy Forbes has expressed public appreciation and recognition for the SBC of Virginia’s disaster relief volunteers and response efforts, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that we the SBC of Virginia express our love and gratitude to God for the life and work efforts of Congressman J. Randy Forbes; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that the SBC of Virginia would pray the Lord’s blessing on Congressman J. Randy Forbes’ continued service in our nation’s Congress.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett is director of communications & mobilization for the SBC of Virginia.)

11/24/2014 12:14:43 PM by Brandon Pickett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Warren at Vatican: be ‘winsome under attack’

November 20 2014 by Baptist Press Staff

Christians must defend marriage by facing opponents winsomely and demonstrating that God’s plan of one man and one woman for life promotes human flourishing, Rick Warren told international religious leaders at the Vatican Nov. 18.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in the Los Angeles area, said he supports God’s unchanging model for marriage and opposes gay marriage because “the only way to always be relevant is to be eternal. What is in style goes out of style. But no revolution lasts. Every lie eventually crumbles under its own deception. Cultures rise and fall. Cultures come and go. It isn’t necessary to be on the right side of culture. It is necessary to be on the right side.”
Along with Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Warren provided an evangelical Protestant viewpoint on the complementarity of man and woman during the second day of a Vatican-sponsored colloquium on marriage. About 350 religious, academic and civil society leaders from 23 countries and various world religions gathered at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church for the Nov. 17-19 event.
Warren said he planned to speak on “Why Marriage Matters” but changed his topic to “What Must We Do?” after the 27 speakers on the program before him explained thoroughly the importance of traditional marriage. He outlined action steps for leaders to take in defense of marriage following the Vatican gathering. Among them:


Rick Warren (bottom right) was among 350 international religious leaders gathered at the Vatican Nov. 17-19 to discuss the defense of traditional marriage.


Believe what Jesus taught about marriage.

Male-female marriage is God’s idea, not man’s, and sex was created for marriage, Warren said.
“Even if you disbelieve the Bible, every human body, every living person, is a witness and testimony to God’s intended purpose for sex,” Warren said, according to his manuscript. “Sex was not created for recreation, but for the connection of a husband and wife and the procreation of life.”


Celebrate healthy marriages.

“We will convert more opponents by being winsome and positive about the beauty and joy of marriage than by being negative about immorality,” Warren said.
Churches should encourage people with happy marriages to share their testimonies, he said. Highlighting the benefits of marriage is also important, including healthier children, increased safety for women and greater economic stability, Warren said.


Engage every media to promote marriage.

“Right now, the church is being out-marketed by opponents of marriage,” Warren said. “The minority view is getting the majority of media attention. Right now, Christians are known more for what we are against than for what we are for. Whichever side tells the best stories wins.”
To stem the cultural tide in favor of gay marriage, Christians should promote “tasteful” movies and television shows that celebrate marriage, Warren said. Media produced by marriage proponents should portray “the joys and benefits of healthy marriages and the hard work it takes to maintain a great marriage.”
Social media should be used “to mentor the next generation” regarding marriage, he said. Warren personally uses nine social media channels, he said.


Face attackers with joy and winsomeness.

“Culture has accepted two lies: that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must hate them or are afraid of them [and] that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do,” Warren said. “Both are nonsense.”
Citing the Bible’s commands to “overcome evil with good” and “bless those who curse you,” Warren said, “Attackers are not the enemy; they are the mission field. Jesus died for them.”
To “stay winsome under attack” believers must be willing to face ridicule for the truth and remember that they “live for an audience of one,” he said.
Traditional marriage advocates must also give people hope that a biblical marriage is attainable and teach the purposes of marriage, Warren said. He listed among marriage’s purposes eliminating loneliness, channeling sexual expression and multiplying the human race.
But the deepest purpose of marriage is to illustrate “the mystery of Christ’s love for His bride and body,” the church, Warren said.
“No other relationship, including the parent-child relationship, can picture this intimate union,” he said. “To redefine marriage would destroy the picture that God intends for marriage to portray. We cannot cave on this issue.”
Warren concluded, “The church must never be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by applause, frustrated by problems, debilitated by distractions or intimidated by evil. We must keep running the race with our eyes on the goal, not on those shouting from the sideline. We must be Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so that we cannot be bought, will not be compromised and shall not quit until we finish the race.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/20/2014 11:49:22 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Moore at Vatican: Gospel vital in marriage

November 19 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist told international religious leaders Tuesday (Nov. 18) at the Vatican they should defend man-woman marriage for the common good, but Christians also must champion it for the sake of the gospel.
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), provided an evangelical Protestant viewpoint on the complementarity of man and woman during the second day of a Vatican-sponsored colloquium on marriage. About 350 religious, academic and civil society leaders from 23 countries gathered at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church for the Nov. 17-19 event.
Speaking to representatives of at least 15 religions, Moore said he joins them – despite their theological differences – in recognizing that marriage and family constitute “a matter of public importance,” yet he possesses “an even deeper concern” – the gospel of Jesus.


Russell D. Moore addresses those gathered at the Vatican for a colloquium on marriage.

“All of us must stand together on conserving the truth of marriage as a complementary union of man and woman,” Moore said, according to his manuscript, which he reportedly followed closely in his remarks. Marriage, and the “sexual difference on which it is built, is grounded in a natural order bearing rights and responsibilities that was not crafted by any human state and cannot thus be redefined by any human state,” he said.
Yet “there is a distinctively Christian urgency for why the Christian churches must bear witness to these things,” Moore told the assembly.
Marriage and family are “icons of God’s purpose for the universe,” he continued, adding Christianity teaches that the “one-flesh union points beyond itself to the union of Christ and His church.”
“Our neighbors of no religion and of different religions do not recognize a call to gospel mystery,” he said. “Marriage is a common grace, and we should speak, on their own terms, of why jettisoning normative marriage and family is harmful.”
But as a Christian, Moore said he also is impelled to speak of “the conviction of the church that what is disrupted when we move beyond the creation design of marriage and family is not only human flourishing, although it is that, but also the picture of the very mystery that defines the existence of the universe itself – the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“With this conviction, we must stand and speak not with clinched fists or with wringing hands, but with the open hearts of those who have a message and a mission,” he said.
Moore was one of two American evangelicals to speak at the colloquium. Megachurch pastor and popular author Rick Warren also spoke Nov. 18. Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist church in Southern California.
Warren, who spoke on the “What Must We Do?” told the Orange County Register, “It’s great to be with leaders from different streams of Christianity from all over the world.” The paper quoted him as saying, “Although we have some differences, we all love Jesus Christ and we all want marriages and families to be healthy and strong.”
Pope Francis spoke Nov. 17 during the opening session of the conference. The pope affirmed the biblical, traditional definition of marriage; the complementarity of the sexes; and the need for children to have a father and a mother. “Complementarity,” which refers to the unique roles of men and women in marriage and a variety of other contexts, is “at the root of marriage and family,” the pope said.
In his address, Moore said a husband and a wife exist as “one flesh, cooperation through complementarity.”
God created human beings as “male and female identities that correspond to one another and fulfill one another,” he said. “We are not created as ‘spouse A’ and ‘spouse B,’ but as man and as woman, and in marriage as husband and as wife, in parenting as mother and as father. Masculinity and femininity are not aspects of the fallen order to be overcome, but are instead part of what God declared from the beginning to be ‘very good,’” he said in a reference to Genesis 1:31.
A man, Moore said, is made “to be other-directed, to pour himself out for his family. Headship in God’s design is not Pharaoh-like tyranny but Christ-like sacrifice.”
The sexual revolution celebrated in Western culture has not resulted in freedom, he told the assembly.
“The sexual revolution is not liberation at all, but simply the imposition of a different sort of patriarchy,” Moore said. “The sexual revolution empowers men to pursue a Darwinian fantasy of the predatory alpha-male, rooted in the values of power, prestige and personal pleasure.”
This sexual revolution “cannot keep its promises,” he said. “People are looking for a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death. They cannot articulate it and perhaps would be horrified to know it, but they are looking for God. The sexual revolution leads to the burned-over boredom of sex shorn of mystery, of relationship shorn of covenant.”
Christians must reject the call by many to speak in “more generic spiritual terms” on these issues, Moore said.
“To jettison or to minimize a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed to us, and we have no authority to do this. Moreover, to do so is to abandon our love for our neighbors.”
Christians, he said, will speak “with the confidence of those who know that on the other side of our culture wars, there’s a sexual counter-revolution waiting to be born, again.”
The colloquium came at a time when marriage as a permanent union of only a man and a woman is threatened, especially in the United States: Recent judicial rulings have set the stage for same-sex marriage to be legal in 35 states; the percentage of American adults who have never married is at an all-time high; and cohabitation and divorce are problems in the culture and the church. In addition, the religious freedom of Americans who decline to provide their services for same-sex weddings based on their convictions increasingly is threatened.
Other speakers during the colloquium included:

  • N.T. Wright, popular Christian author and professor at the University of St. Andrews.

  • Charles Chaput, Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia.

  • Jonathan Sacks, professor at both New York University and Yeshiva University and former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the United Kingdom.

Among the speakers were representatives of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism and the Sikh religion.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

11/19/2014 2:24:35 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Appeals court upholds state marriage laws

November 7 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A federal appeals court upheld state laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage Thursday (Nov. 6), seemingly preparing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide a contentious issue it has avoided so far.

In a 2-1 opinion, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled four states – Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – did not violate the U.S. Constitution by limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman. The decision conflicts with rulings by four other federal appeals courts that struck down state laws that refused to recognize gay marriage.

The same-sex couples who lost could ask for “en banc” review of the ruling, which would include all the members of the Sixth Circuit Court, or they could appeal to the Supreme Court. If they take the latter course and the justices grant review, the high court could issue a decision on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage before its current term ends next summer.

Advocates for the biblical, traditional definition of marriage welcomed the Sixth Circuit’s opinion and the opportunity for the Supreme Court to make a final decision.

“We applaud the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court, breaking a string of decisions by activist judges and courts who have imposed their personal belief systems on the public,” Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said in a statement. “We pray that the Supreme Court will take up this matter and, specifically, that it will uphold the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Russell D. Moore said in a statement, “This circuit split means that the Supreme Court’s ignoring of this issue will not be able to continue. The people of the states have the right to recognize marriage the way virtually every human culture has, as the union of a man and a woman. The Supreme Court should affirm this right, for all fifty states.”

Byron Babione, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a written release, “As the [Sixth] Circuit rightly concluded, the Constitution does not demand that one irreversible view of marriage be judicially imposed on everyone. The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.”

The Supreme Court has refused so far to review appeals court decisions invalidating state laws prohibiting gay marriage. The Sixth Circuit’s opinion, however, establishes a clash at the appellate level the justices apparently were waiting on before being willing to rule.

On Oct. 6, the high court denied review of appeals court decisions overturning marriage laws in five states. That order not only meant gay marriage would be legal in those five states but, presumably by extension, in six other states in the same federal circuits. That action – plus an appeals court ruling the next day – set the stage for legalized same-sex marriage to expand to 35 states plus the District of Columbia. Before, it had been legal in 19 states and D.C.

Given its past actions, the current Supreme Court appears highly unlikely to permit state bans on same-sex marriage – something the Sixth Circuit majority acknowledged.

“From the vantage point of 2014, it would now seem, the question is not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen,” wrote Jeffrey Sutton in the Sixth Circuit’s split decision. “That would not have seemed likely as recently as a dozen years ago. For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world.”

The three-judge panel does not have the option of deciding “whether gay marriage is a good idea,” Sutton wrote. Instead, it must determine whether the Constitution bars a state from defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, he said.

States are permitted to define marriage under previous Supreme Court rulings, Sutton said. It is better for states to be able to determine an issue – marriage, in this case – that has traditionally been in their purview, he explained.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

11/7/2014 11:25:56 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore to speak at Vatican conf. on marriage

November 5 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Lead Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore will speak at a Vatican-sponsored, inter-religious conference on strengthening marriage and family life, it was announced Nov. 3.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, will present an evangelical Christian perspective during the international colloquium, which is about the "complementarity of man and woman" in marriage. The event will be Nov. 17-19 at Vatican City, which is located within Rome and is home to the Roman Catholic pope.
While evangelicals and Catholics have "real and ongoing differences" on salvation and the church that will remain after the conference, Moore said he is privileged to have the opportunity to speak about marriage at the event.


Russell Moore

"In a day in which marriage is increasingly marginalized and attempts are made to redefine it, I'm honored to present the biblical view that marriage is a picture of Christ and His church to this diverse group of religious leaders," Moore said in a written statement. "Even though we disagree on many things, I hope to speak to God's design for human flourishing as rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Moore said he is grateful the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "decided to convene this gathering on such an important issue."
"I hope that the conversation that we have together will underscore the significance of the complementarity of man and woman for marriage and for the common good," he said.
Moore's hope for the colloquium is that its participants will "stand in solidarity on the common grace, creational mandate of marriage and family as necessary for human flourishing and social good," he said in a Nov. 3 blog post. "I also hope that we can learn from one another about where these matters stand around the world. And I hope that those of us from the believers' church tradition can represent well our views of how marriage is more than just a natural good (although it is never less than that), but is a picture of the Gospel one-flesh union of Christ and His church."
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California and popular author, will join Moore as the two American evangelicals to speak at the colloquium.
Pope Francis will speak during the opening session of the conference.
Other scheduled speakers include:

  • N.T. Wright, popular Christian author and professor at the University of St. Andrews.

  • Charles Chaput, Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia.

  • Jonathan Sacks, professor at both New York University and Yeshiva University and former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the United Kingdom.

Other scheduled speakers include representatives of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism and the Sikh religion.
The colloquium comes at a time when marriage as a permanent union of only a man and a woman is threatened, especially in the United States: Judicial rulings have set the stage for same-sex marriage to be legal in 35 states; the percentage of American adults who have never married is at an all-time high; and cohabitation and divorce are problems in the culture and the church. In addition, the religious freedom of Americans who decline to provide their services for same-sex weddings based on their convictions increasingly is imperiled.
Moore's blog post may be accessed at
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

11/5/2014 12:51:07 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bolster family, ERLC speakers urge

October 31 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical Christians should graciously and truthfully minister to homosexual people while also pursuing a family reformation, speakers said Oct. 29 in the final session of a Southern Baptist-sponsored conference.
A leading Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastor, Baptist educators and leaders in the movement to strengthen and protect marriage addressed attendees, who totaled more than 1,300 registrants, at “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” the first national conference of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Christians need not adopt the two-option narrative – “affirmation or alienation” – offered by American culture in regards to homosexuality, J.D. Greear told the audience in the closing address of the three-day conference. Instead, he said Jesus provides another alternative – “full of grace and truth” – that calls for courageous proclamation of God’s Word and compassionate outreach to human beings.


ERLC Photo
“As believers, as Christians, we have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality, which means that our relationship with them must not be contingent upon their agreeing with us about sexuality,” J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church, said Oct. 29 during the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s conference, “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.”


“As believers, as Christians, we have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality, which means that our relationship with them must not be contingent upon their agreeing with us about sexuality,” said Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. “It means that when they disagree with us we don’t push them away.”
Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, told attendees the church has “an unprecedented opportunity” at this cultural moment. Christians need the rallying cry of “a family reformation,” he said.

“[F]or many Americans, the unmet thirst for a good marriage, a solid family represents a need we must address as followers of Jesus Christ,” Rainey said. To have a family reformation, the church must “set its sights on becoming the marriage and family equipping center in their community,” he said.
Greear offered nine ways Christ’s teaching in the Gospels shows how “Jesus-representing churches” can minister with “grace and truth” to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Such churches, he said, will:

  • Be known as the friends of the LGBT community.

  • Not stigmatize sexual sin.

  • Put forward God’s design for sexuality, not merely condemn its aberrations.

  • Begin with a call to repentance.

  • Not be bullied into silence.

  • Preach the possibility of sexual-orientation change but acknowledge that may not happen in this life.

  • Present the multi-faceted beauty of the gospel in dealing with sexual sin.

  • Not fear suffering for Christian confession.

  • Not make sexual ethics, but the gospel, the center of their message.”

Sexual ethics, Greear told the audience, “should not be central or dominant in our message. His cross should be.”
The Christian call for repentance should not focus exclusively on homosexuality, he said. “Our message is not simply, ‘Stop your sexual sin.’ Our message is, ‘Behold your God,’ because it is amazement at God’s love for us that delivers us from all the lesser attractions.”
He also said, “If what the Bible says about homosexuality is true, how can it be loving not to tell them?”
Greear apologized for the failure of Christians, including himself, to stand up to abuse and injustice toward those in the LGBT community.
“I think the question for us as church leaders is: Have you drawn the gay and lesbian community close?” he said. “Are you their friends? When you find out someone is gay, how interested are you in them as a person beyond their sexuality? Do you see them primarily as gay and lesbian or do you see them primarily as people created in the image of God just like you but with gay and lesbian desires? ... Would gay and lesbian people feel loved to be in your home?”
In addition to calling for a family reformation, Rainey also urged husbands and wives to pray together daily and encouraged churches to “enlist, equip and empower couples to become missional.”
“Don’t ever threaten divorce in your marriage,” he said. “If you have, repent. Ask your spouse to forgive you. Get down on one knee with a child and weep and say, ‘That will never happen again.’
“We must repent of our cavalier attitude about divorce while at the same time loving those who are divorced.”
He told attendees, “The Great Commission begins at home, but it’s not intended to stay at home. The family is not designed by God to be a holy huddle but to pierce the darkness.”
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the biggest shift in parenting is “not only filtering” but of “interpreting culture in light of God’s Word.”
Allen, a member of a panel discussing the preparation of next-generation leaders for a “post-marriage culture,” pointed parents to the church. “Don’t underestimate the formative power of the local church, and have your family deeply immersed in the local church,” he said. Over 10 to 20 years, children in the church are “being formed holistically by the people of God.”
Steven Smith, vice president for student services and communication at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the audience, “We have to avoid the persecution complex ... wearing our feelings on our sleeves. The gospel is bigger than that.”
Ryan Anderson, an expert on marriage and religious freedom at the Heritage Foundation, addressed the clash between “sexual freedom and religious liberty.”
“Government ultimately should respect the rights of all citizens,” he said. “And a form of government that’s respectful of free association and free contracts and free speech and free exercise of religion would protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. After all, protecting religious liberty and rights of conscience doesn’t infringe on anyone’s sexual freedom.”
Matt Boswell, pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, led worship throughout the conference.
Videos of the conference sessions, which were held at the Opryland Retreat and Conference Center, are available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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10/31/2014 11:01:38 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former homosexuals: Gospel approach needed

October 30 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical Christians need to change their approach to the hot-button issues of homosexuality and marriage, thinking with a gospel focus and practicing gospel community, participants in a national conference were told Oct. 28.
Southern Baptist leaders, former practicing homosexuals and others provided guidance to a crowd of about 1,300 registrants on the second day of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) first national conference, “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.” The event at Opryland Retreat and Conference Center concluded Oct. 29.
Evangelicals cannot repeat the “same old mistakes” in which they “slowly adapted to a sexual revolution that is now ravaging our churches and our culture,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the ERLC.
Instead, “we contend for marriage and we contend for family and we contend for holiness, but we do this in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. If evangelicals make the same mistakes, Moore told attendees, “we won’t just lose a marriage culture; we will lose the gospel itself.”
Poet Jackie Hill-Perry, who came to Christ out of a lesbian lifestyle, said a church that “is gospel-centered with gospel-centered people” is what has helped her the most in following Jesus. “My greatest growth has been in being connected to a community,” she said.


ERLC photo
Russell Moore talks with Rosaria Butterfield on “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian and now a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother, said, “One of the first things that we can commit ourselves to doing is being a community of believers who share the gift of repentance unto life in a way that other people can see.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if just this week all of your unsaved neighbors actually knew that church membership was a vital, life-giving gift to you,” she said.
David Platt, new president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, pointed attendees to the missiological implications of marriage and singleness. Both portray the gospel, he said. “The purpose of marriage is for the display of the gospel and a demonstration of the glory of our God,” Platt said.
“Today’s cultural climate provides a huge opportunity for gospel witness,” he said.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, urged the audience to follow the New Testament directives for Christians to love and act kindly toward those who oppose them on the marriage issue.
“If you want to fight the culture, you’re not going to win the culture. You’ve got to persuade the culture,” he said.
“We are soaked in an ocean of His grace, and we don’t want to give a cup to anybody.”
Moore said, “If we are responding to those who disagree with us with vented outrage and shock and horror and condemnation, what we are revealing is a lack of confidence in the gospel, in our mission, in our Christ.”
The Oct. 28 addresses and panel discussions continued a recurring theme in the three-day event of calling Christians to preach and live out faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and marriage while also reaching out graciously to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as advocates for same-sex marriage.
Evangelicals did not fare well in the last battle over marriage, which resulted in a divorce culture, Moore said. He pointed to four reasons that happened:

  • “We unintentionally accepted the view of marriage of the culture without ever even knowing that we were doing so.

  • “We were often cowardly and fearful.

  • “The divorce culture happened because it became normal to us.

  • “The reason we adapted to this is because the preaching on this issue was often so genuinely condemnable,” not calling for repentance and not offering reconciliation through Christ.

Of the church’s cowardice, Moore said, “If we are simply standing up and editing the Word of God when it comes to our own sins, if we are willing to preach the gospel except for the very thing that is ravaging our churches at that moment, we are not preaching the gospel at all; we are simply selling indulgences.”
The family values evangelicals assumed the rest of culture shared with them “are no longer there,” Moore told attendees, adding in a reference to John 3. “We cannot go back to the Nicodemus culture of superficial religion.
“Baptizing lost people and teaching them how to vote Republican is not a revival.”
The current upheaval in culture may mean some churches will become unfaithful, while “there are many other congregations that will become authentically counter-cultural communities that stand with the gospel no matter what,” Moore said. “That will mean that we will be uncomfortable with American culture, and we always should have been uncomfortable in American culture.”
Platt drew four missiological conclusions from foundational truths found in Gen. 1-3:

  • “We must flee sexual immorality for the sake of God’s glory in the world.

  • “We must defend and display sexual complementarity in marriage for the spread of God’s gospel in the world.

  • “We must work for justice in the world in order to exalt the judge of the world.

  • “We must spend our singleness and our marriages pursuing peoples still unreached by God’s redeeming love.”

Platt said, “Our bodies have been created not just by God. Our bodies have been created for God.” This culture “screams at every turn, ‘Please your body.’ The Bible shouts at every turn, ‘Please God,’” he said.
In a question-and-answer session with Moore, Butterfield told about God’s salvation of her out of “serially monogamous lesbian relationships” over 10 years. She said of the pastor who, along with his wife, patiently cared for and shared the gospel with her, “I never felt like a project, because Ken Smith always realized that the big sin in my life was unbelief, and everything else would get worked out in the wash.”
The author of the book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert said “People are not different. Original sin is the great leveling playing field. It democratizes everything. “
In addition to the ministry of other Christians, Hill-Perry, who was married earlier this year, cited two other truths that can help Christians struggling with same-sex attraction: (1) Christians are new creations, and (2) Jesus is “not only Savior from sin but in temptation.”
British pastor Sam Allberry, who has acknowledged he deals with same-sex attraction, commented on the charge that Christians who teach the biblical message on homosexuality harm same-sex-attracted young people:
“We’re not the ones saying that sex is everything. And my concern is that a culture that says, ‘You are your sexuality; sexual fulfillment is the key to human fulfillment,’ I want to turn around and say, ‘Actually, I think that is putting more pressure on young minds and lives than anything we’re saying.’”
Christopher Yuan, a former practicing homosexual who now teaches at Moody Bible Institute, counseled parents to love their LGBT children, which is what his father and mother did.
“I think the last thing is to kick them out of the home,” Yuan said.
“There’s a total war going on,” he said. “And if we push or let go, you’re just pushing them into the world, into the arms of an embracing world. We’ve got to show them what real love is like.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Stories:

Russell Moore questions gay therapy
Marriage crisis predated gay marriage, conference speakers say
Marriage, homosexuality focus of conference

10/30/2014 11:48:00 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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