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‘Future of marriage’: topic of ERLC conference

April 10 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Escalating support for same-sex marriage from the American people and their court system is part of a new wave of challenges for Christians, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist says.

A revolution “surrounding sexuality and marriage is happening across America, creating new and challenging questions for Christians and churches,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), noting that the Bible “presents marriage as an unchanging picture of the gospel through the union of one man and one woman.”

“Our desire at the ERLC is to equip faithful Christians on the importance of looking to Scripture, not the ever-changing culture, as our guide,” Moore said.

The ERLC announced Monday (April 7) a national conference to help with that goal. The event, titled “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” will be held Oct. 27-29 in Nashville.

The announcement of the conference came as same-sex marriage experiences unmatched popularity in polls and unprecedented gains in courts and legislatures. And it came as evangelical pastors and churches seem increasingly to be seeking ways to evangelize those who identify as gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons, while also helping Christians struggling with same-sex attraction.
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Public opinion surveys in March demonstrated the dramatic shift in favor of gay marriage in recent years:
  • 59 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 34 percent oppose it, according to a poll by The Washington Post and ABC News. The result was nearly the exact opposite of the same poll in March 2004, when only 38 percent favored legalizing gay marriage and 59 percent opposed it.
  • 50 percent said the U.S. Constitution protects the right of homosexuals to marry, while 41 percent disagreed in The Post-ABC poll in March.
  • 69 percent of American adults under 30 years old support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center. Among those 18 to 29 years of age who identify themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, 61 percent agree with legalizing gay marriage. Meanwhile, the same survey shows overall 54 percent of Americans and 39 percent of Republicans, or those who lean toward the GOP, support same-sex marriage.
Gay marriage’s advance in the United States has been even more pronounced in courts and legislatures.

In the first three months of 2014, federal judges struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. A judge in Utah issued a ruling invalidating that state’s ban in December. Those decisions have yet to be enforced while the cases go through the appeal process.

Also this year, federal judges in Kentucky and Tennessee have issued opinions requiring those states – in spite of their bans – to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. A federal judge in Ohio has said he will issue a ruling in mid-April to require the state to recognize gay marriages entered into legally in other states.

Apart from those recent court decisions, the same-sex marriage movement had its best year yet in 2013, when eight states legalized gay unions. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

These kinds of developments indicate “irrefutable momentum for the freedom to marry,” gay marriage advocate Evan Wolfson told reporters in a phone conference call Tuesday (April 8). Wolfson is president of Freedom to Marry.

In this cultural setting, the ERLC says it hopes to address at its October conference such issues as ministering to homosexuals; equipping Christians with same-sex attractions to be sexually faithful; developing a healthy marriage culture in churches; providing pastoral counseling to same-sex couples who seek to join churches; and talking to children about sex.

In addition to Moore, others speakers will include Rosaria Butterfield, author of “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,” which describes her journey from a lesbian lifestyle to Christ; Sherif Girgis, co-author of “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense”; J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Registration for the conference, which will be at the Opryland Hotel, will begin June 1. Information on the event may be accessed at erlc.com/conference.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
4/10/2014 11:56:10 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



World Vision reverses gay hiring decision

March 27 2014 by Baptist Press

World Vision U.S. is reverting to its longstanding conduct policy of requiring faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, expressing regret with an earlier decision to hire legally married gay Christians.

World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns and board chairman Jim Bere announced in a letter the reversal March 26, just two days after drawing ire from the Christian community by saying World Vision would begin hiring legally married gays.

"Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy," they said in the letter. "The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."

"We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority," the board reported. "We ask that you understand that this was never the board's intent."

Hiring married gay Christians would have broken with the ministry's commitment to biblically traditional marriage, and was made without adequate counsel with ministry partners, World Vision said.

"In our board's effort to unite around the church's shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.'s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, 'We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God,'” the letter said. "And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage."

World Vision confirmed its commitment to the biblical view of marriage and asked for the Christian community’s continued support.

"We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead," the letter said. "While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect."

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor.)
3/27/2014 8:40:11 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Minister’s wife uses experience to encourage others

November 11 2013 by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide

The N.C. Baptist Minister’s Wives had its 58th annual meeting Nov. 11 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro. Women from all over North Carolina joined together for breakfast, worship and an encouraging message from Janice Drum of Conway, S.C.

“[Ministry] is what you make of it,” said Drum, whose husband Hampton serves as senior pastor of Langston Baptist Church in Conway.

The fellowship, with the name “The Master’s Hands, My Man’s Heart, gave around 80 pastor’s wives an opportunity to renew their relationships and to encourage one other in the Lord. The time was also used to review business reports, budgets and to announce upcoming officers.
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Melissa Baker ministers with her husband John at Green Hill Baptist Church in Rutherfordton, and has been to several of these meetings. She enjoys the time to spend with other women who are in her same situation and who have had many of the same experiences. Pastor’s wives of less than a month were joined together with women who have been pastor’s wives for more than 40 years.

Drum spoke passionately about her 30 years spent in ministry as a pastor’s wife. Her main topic was a wife’s responsibility to support and love her husband as he obeys God’s calling on his life. Drum was adamant that pastor’s wives build up their ministers with respect, a response to his ministry and by seeking after their hearts.
 
Wives were instructed to ask themselves, “Is your man your minister?” and
“Are you building him up like you should?”
 
Barbara Watkins from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Bryson City was attending the meeting for her first time. She, like many others, was moved to tears during Drum’s message.
 
“An excellent speaker,” said Watkins. “She really challenged me to look at my position in a different light. It was such a blessing for me to be here.”
 
The meeting ended with all the women standing together holding hands in prayer – a fitting symbol of the unity and support meant to be fostered among the wives at the yearly meeting. Afterward they lifted their voices again in worship led by a youth worship team from Hull’s Grove Baptist Church in Vale. Beth and Mikala Qualls, Samuel Redding and Taylor Stamey used the Veteran’s Day holiday to serve as the worship leaders for the group.

The N.C. Baptist Minister’s Wives officers for 2013-2014 are Harriet Lovett as president, Lisa Miller as vice president, Gina Powell as secretary/treasurer; Susan Stamper, publicity. For the 2014 retreat, Becky Blakely is chairwoman and Donna Burnop and Talitha Gwaltney are vice retreat chairwomen. For the 2015 retreat Amy Harmon is chairwoman with Diane Smith and Kim Gates as vice chairwomen. Regional representatives include: Beverly Spears, eastern; Diane Smith, central #1; Amy Harmon, central #2; Julie Pierce, western #1; and Sylvia Murphey, western #2. The group has vacancies for president elect 2015, vice president elect 2015, secretary/treasurer elect 11/2014.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Dianna L. Cagle, BR production editor, contributed to this story.)
11/11/2013 10:06:12 PM by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments



After porn: A marriage is restored

September 20 2013 by Joni B. Hannigan, Florida Baptist Witness/Baptist Press

LAKELAND, Fla. – Seven years after Cathy Dyer and her husband were married, pornography erupted as a crisis in their marriage, nearly destroying it.

Dyer recounts her real-life story of “God’s ability to turn tragedy into triumph” in Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives, a resource for women coauthored with Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.

Utilizing handwritten pages from her personal journal, Dyer gives readers poignant insight into her private pain and process of restoration after her husband’s secret addiction to pornography came to light.

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Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives is part of the Join 1 Million Men campaign to help men win the battle against pornography. Dennis pioneered the initiative at First Baptist Church at the Mall and introduced it to the Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting last June in Houston.

In Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives, as noted on Amazon.com, Dyer and Dennis address issues women encounter once pornography has entered the marital relationship – including how to keep the marriage intact and preventive steps wives and moms can take to keep their families porn-free.

Dyer and her husband Greg, who have two children, have now been married 19 years.

Dyer, in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, answered questions about the book, released by New Hope Publishers, a division of Woman’s Missionary Union.

Q: What did you anticipate will result from the release of your book?

Dyer:
I hope and pray that the book for women, along with the books Pastor Jay has written for men and pastors, will be a catalyst for many things: for people to find a kindred spirit, practical advice, help and deliverance. Additionally, it has been my prayer that pastors will use these materials with their congregations and join the movement.

Q: How have you prepared for any of the “shame” issues that come with disclosing such personal information to the public?

Dyer:
Honestly, shame was a minor issue as I worked on this material. My husband and I have been involved in some capacity of ministry in this area since about 2003, so I’m fairly used to putting my story “out there” and sharing openly. However, when we first started sharing with groups of people, it was nerve-wracking. Until you get used to it, telling people that your husband was unfaithful and a porn addict is an awkward topic to broach; but Greg and I realized – from our own situation – that this is a topic that sorely needs to be addressed. Someone has to be bold and have those awkward conversations. Why not us?

Q: How do you think this will help other women who are dealing with the same issue?

Dyer:
When I was going through all the mess of my marriage, it helped so much to read people’s personal stories, to know that someone out there had gone through the same thing ... and survived. One influential book for me was by Bonnie Keen, called Blessed Are the Desperate. I hope many things for my book, but my number one hope is that women who are struggling with pornography or even an affair in their marriage will find solace in my story, that they will connect with my pain and then see the hope on the other side, that they will draw near to God as they are going through all the wreckage.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives” and other resources in the Join 1 Million Men initiative can be accessed at www.join1millionmen.org.)
9/20/2013 2:23:07 PM by Joni B. Hannigan, Florida Baptist Witness/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gay marriage now legal in Minn., R.I.

August 6 2013 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Gay marriage became legal in Minnesota and Rhode Island after both legislatures approved the unions, extending gay marriage to 13 states and the District of Columbia.
 
“This is a sad day in Minnesota and Rhode Island as politicians have allowed a mockery to be made of the institution of marriage, which throughout our history has been our only social institution to bring men and women together for the benefit of any children born of their union,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a written statement Aug. 1.
 
“Today Minnesota and Rhode Island embark on a new path that jettisons the interests of children from their state marriage law, and puts people of faith in harm's way for being punished for their beliefs. We will work tirelessly to hold the politicians accountable for this travesty,” Brown said.
 
Gay couples in Minnesota married as early as 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1 in locations including the Minneapolis City Hall, St. Paul's Como Park, the Mall of America’s Chapel of Love and at many county courthouses, The Washington Post reported. Officials in the state estimated 5,000 gay couples would marry there in the first year.
 
Ceremonies in Rhode Island were performed as early as 8:30 a.m. Aug. 1 when municipal offices opened, the Christian Science Monitor reported, citing speculation that many gays there had already married in neighboring states where the practice was legalized.
 
Brown predicted the changes in law will lead to the criminalization of the Christian view of marriage as between one man and one woman.
 
“It’s only a matter of time before people of faith are targeted for punishment by government officials, and cease to enjoy the full rights of citizenship because they believe what their faith teaches them – that marriage can only be between one man and one woman,” Brown said.
 
“Based on what has already happened elsewhere, we predict that people of faith will face lawsuits, lose contracts, be denied employment and be forced to stop providing goods and services. Charities will be forced to close,” Brown said.
 
The National Organization for Marriage has pledged to spend up to $600,000 to publicize politicians’ voting records on gay marriage in Minnesota and Rhode Island.
 
“Virtually no politician in Minnesota or Rhode Island ran on a platform that openly pledged that he or she would redefine marriage if elected to office,” Brown said. “Yet, when given the opportunity, they did so. ...
 
“When the inevitable consequences happen, we will make sure that voters know who is responsible for them,” Brown said. “This issue is far from settled in either of these states.”
 
Already, the Minnesota Human Rights Commission has issued guidelines making no exceptions for religious or conscience objections for individuals, according to NOM. Rhode Island’s marriage law similarly allows no exceptions for individuals or small businesses, NOM reported.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.) 
8/6/2013 11:12:32 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



After marriage ruling, are your church policies adequate?

July 29 2013 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

As the future of marriage across the country seems uncertain after the Supreme Court ruled on this issue in June, many pastors in North Carolina are wondering how churches should prepare in case same-sex marriage is ever legalized nationwide.
 
For now, officials and legal counsel for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) recommend that churches update or establish wedding policies.
 
But changes to their articles of incorporation, constitutions or bylaws are “not necessary at this point,” said Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer of the BSC.
 
“[With] the issue of marriage, we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg of the changes and challenges that are coming,” he said.
 
On June 26 the High Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and chose not to get involved with Proposition 8 in California, essentially allowing gay marriage to resume in that state. North Carolina law, however, only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.
 
“The rulings related to what the Supreme Court has done … only impacts the state of California in a very specific matter,” he said. “And when it impacted DOMA, that … again is not impacting us here.
 
“That’s why we’re saying we should not rush to change constitutions and bylaws … at this point.”
 
Davis clarified that a church constitution and bylaws can take more time and effort to amend than church policies that allow for regular reviews, updates and adjustments.
 
While churches need to pay attention to news reports, new legislation and cultural changes, any response by the church should begin with a review of their day-to-day policies.
 
“Start there,” Davis said. “If you don’t have wedding policies, this is a great time to look at establishing [them].”
 
“This is oversimplified [but]… your constitution and your articles identify who you are and what you do,” he added. “Your bylaws identify how you do it, in the broad sense, but … what governs your day-to-day activities is found in your policy manuals.”
 
And simply put, policies sound less bureaucratic.
 
“What you don’t want when you’re sitting down with a couple is to say, ‘Now here’s our constitution and bylaws. … [Instead you can say,] ‘Here’s our wedding policy.’”
 
What do good wedding policies look like?
 
A wedding policy could include expectations for counseling, conduct during weddings and receptions, and a clear statement in the introduction that explains the church’s beliefs on the issue of marriage.
 
“A good wedding policy should not focus on who you will not marry, but who you want to marry and how you want to help them,” Davis said.
 
“You don’t want to just focus on doing weddings. You want to build families. So make it a very positive and proactive statement about who you are and what your stance is on marriage as opposed to this being a list of the things we want to do.”
 
John Small, an attorney who provides legal counsel for the BSC, also added that churches should be prepared to discuss more than same-sex marriage when making changes to any governing documents.
 
“You’re going to get into issues,” Small said. “If you want … a wedding policy that says certain marriages can be performed and certain marriages can’t be performed in the church that’s fine. …  Just be ready to address a whole range of issues if you open that door.”
 
Any new policies or adjustments to governing documents could spark conversations about other issues such as divorce, cohabitation before the wedding, whether or not couples should be members of the church and much more. Focusing on one issue in a policy or governing document also can create the perception that other related situations are allowed.
 
“You may think you’re solving one problem, and you may be creating another,” Small said.
Churches that rent out their facilities for weddings to non-members also could encounter more questions and challenges than churches that only allow members to be married on their property.
 
“If they’re members then there is a connection with the church,” Small said. “They’re going to be somewhat in agreement with the desires of the church.”
 
Most churches, however, don’t have any type of wedding policy other than information about the facility and wedding fees.
 
“We don’t have a wedding policy,” said John Attaway, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in State Road. “I think you would find that most don’t have any policy [about weddings].”
 
In most cases, Attaway said, churches leave it up to their pastors to decide who should and shouldn’t be married. He added that establishing a policy could be helpful.
 
“If a church has a strong position [on] kinds of marriages they don’t believe are right, they need to state it,” he said. “That solves a lot of problems down the road when the new pastor comes in [and] nobody even bothered to ask about that particular aspect, and he has a different viewpoint than the church.”
 
Right now, Attaway is leading his church to seek legal advice over their membership policies.
 
“We’re trying to make sure we have adequate safeguards on the way our membership policies are stated, so somebody couldn’t use that against us legally,” he said. “The wording is important. … The idea can be right, but the wording can be wrong, and it can become a point of trouble.
 
“Some churches have stated that they were going to put in their bylaws ‘No gays,’” he said. “That’s like a red flag. … You’re singling out a certain subset of society. … Somebody would challenge that in court. I guarantee it.” 
 
The important thing is to identify potential problems early, and be prepared to handle them before it’s too late, Attaway said.
 
“We need to be proactive and jump on this now and not wait until 50 churches in North Carolina are being sued,” he added. “We don’t need to be reactive; we need to be proactive.”
 
For more information contact Brian Davis at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5506, or bdavis@ncbaptist.org. The Christian Life and Public Affairs blog also provides a list of several websites the BSC recommends that address this issue. You can find that list at http://blog.ncbaptist.org/clpa/.
7/29/2013 3:06:30 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Prop. 8 case: Calif. high court refuses stay

July 17 2013 by Baptist Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A California Supreme Court case regarding Proposition 8 will continue into August after the court refused to grant a stay Monday (July 15) as it considers whether the state’s county clerks are legally issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“This has become more than just a fight over marriage,” Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, Proposition 8’s official proponents, said. “The authority of local government officials, and the future of the initiative process itself, is put at grave risk if state officials are allowed to nullify a proposition by executive order, backed by no binding legal precedent.

“Now it is up to California’s highest court to breathe life back into the people’s power of initiative,” Pugno said, referring in part to the 7 million California voters who approved Proposition 8 as a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

ProtectMarriage.com, along with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a petition with the California Supreme Court July 12 asking the court to enforce Proposition 8, which has not been struck down by a qualified court despite publicity surrounding a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Although we would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to issue a stay so that the state’s marriage amendment would be respected sooner rather than later, the proponents of Proposition 8 will continue to urge the court to uphold the rule of law,” Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for ADF, said.

“We remain hopeful that the court will recognize that Proposition 8 remains the law of the land in California and that county clerks must continue to enforce it,” Nimocks said in a July 15 news release.

Kellie Fiedorek, ADF’s litigation counsel, wrote in a blog post Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to defend the amendment in federal court did not impact the validity of the marriage law.

“The only direct effect that the Court’s decision has on marriage in California is to permit the four plaintiffs in that case, and them alone, to seek and receive marriage licenses,” Fiedorek wrote. “The district court’s ruling extends no further than to these four individuals.”

ADF’s lawsuit contends that at least 56 of 58 county clerks must continue to follow Proposition 8 because they were not involved in the recent case against it.

“It is simply not true that one unelected district court judge has overturned this voter-approved ballot initiative,” Fiedorek wrote.

When the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Proposition 8, no legal precedent was left declaring the amendment unconstitutional statewide, ProtectMarriage.com said.

“California’s constitution requires public officials to enforce any voter-passed initiative until an appellate court declares it to be unconstitutional statewide,” ProtectMarriage.com said.

Pugno compared the current case to former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempt to order the county clerk to disregard the man-woman legal definition of marriage. In this case, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris ordered county clerks statewide to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Mayor Newsom had no authority to instruct the county clerk to defy state law, and today we contend that the governor and attorney general don’t have that authority either,” Pugno said.

“With so much at stake,” ADF’s Fiedorek wrote, “we owe the citizens of California – and future generations of Americans – nothing less than every ounce of our efforts to seek justice in this matter.”

The state Supreme Court has given both sides until early August to file all their legal arguments.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
7/17/2013 3:55:42 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Calif. high court asked to enforce Prop. 8

July 16 2013 by Baptist Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Proponents of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on July 12 to order the state’s county clerks to enforce the state’s marriage amendment by ceasing the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its June decision, did not rule on Proposition 8’s constitutionality, and there’s a 15-county jurisdiction limit of the trial court that originally ruled against the voter-approved amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Everyone on all sides of the marriage debate should agree that the legal process must be followed,” Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said.

ADF filed the petition with the California Supreme Court, along with the general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, Proposition 8’s official defenders.

SaveCalifornia.com, also supporters of traditional marriage, explained that the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court that ruled against Proposition 8 only extends to 15 counties, in the San Francisco Bay Area and along the Northern California coast.

“Therefore, homosexual ‘marriages’ are unlawful in at least 43 California counties,” SaveCalifornia.com said.

After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay of the district court order June 28, ADF said the California state registrar ordered all county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses. 

“Even though the registrar does not have the authority to issue such orders to county clerks, California Attorney General Kamala Harris publicly stated that she will take legal action against any clerk who declines to follow the registrar’s directive,” ADF said.

The district court’s 2010 injunction against Proposition 8 does not bind all county clerks, ADF said in its petition, and the state Supreme Court’s case law requires officials to execute their duties regardless of their views about the constitutionality of the laws.

ADF also noted that California’s constitution “prohibits government agencies and officials from declaring state law unenforceable, or declining to enforce state law, on the basis that the law is unconstitutional, unless an appellate court has first made that determination.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry has been vacated, ADF said, so there is no appellate decision holding that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

“Petitioners are thus entitled to a writ of mandate requiring Respondents to comply with state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” ADF’s petition said. 

ADF and ProtectMarriage.com earlier filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Ninth Circuit lifted its stay prematurely, after saying the stay would remain in place “until the final disposition by the Supreme Court.” 

Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has 25 days to request a rehearing, and the court said it would not finalize its judgment in the Proposition 8 case until after that waiting period elapsed. 

But Justice Anthony Kennedy denied that emergency request to halt the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in California.

“The more than 7 million Californians that approved Proposition 8 have a right to see the rule of law – and the constitutional initiatives that the people enact – respected,” ADF’s Nimocks said.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Christians mistakenly may see this as simply more culture-war legal back-and-forth, of little import to anyone but television pundits. They’re wrong.

“We’re in the midst of a massive shift, culturally, politically and legally,” Moore told Baptist Press in June. “Churches must be ready to speak, with convictional kindness, why we believe the Christian vision of marriage and sexuality is right. And we must root ourselves in the wisdom of our Baptist forebears to learn how to articulate the natural right of religious liberty and soul freedom.”

Without California’s marriage amendment, 29 states remain with constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.) 
7/16/2013 10:54:40 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘A dark day in American history,’ says N.C. pastor; others join concerns on marriage ruling

July 15 2013 by BR staff

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage June 26, many North Carolina Baptist leaders haven’t shied away from voicing their disappointment on the controversial issue. They’ve also addressed how Christians should move forward. 
 
The following is a series of quotes from N.C. Baptist pastors and seminary professors who shared their thoughts on the High Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In another case, the Court also essentially allowed to stand a federal judge’s invalidation of a California amendment that limited marriage to heterosexual couples. Though the Supreme Court stopped short of legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country, many N.C. Baptists remain uneasy about the future of the nation and the Church.
 
John Attaway
“A dark day in American history,” is how John Attaway, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in State Road, described the Supreme Court’s handling of the issue.
 
“I believe this ruling shows the depth of America’s rebellion against God and what He defines as moral and right,” Attaway said. “As a nation, we continue our headlong march toward total rejection of God’s truth and law. Like Israel, we refuse to do what is right in the sight of the Lord. The church, more than ever, must stand on God’s Word without wavering. We must proclaim it and live it unapologetically. It comes down to a question of authority and truth, and the church must uphold both as found in the Bible. We can expect opposition, even persecution, for doing so. We will be marginalized, criticized, and demonized for proclaiming ‘thus saith the Lord,’ but say it we must!  These are ‘Noah days’ and perilous times, and we must remember that God is faithful, and will not abandon His people!”  
 
Bobby Blanton
“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling has been attributed to the shift in public opinion,” said Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville.
 
“Why wouldn’t public opinion be changing on this issue? You can’t watch a sitcom on television without seeing a character who is portrayed as a nice, friendly, normal, caring, responsible, funny person who just happens to be homosexual. Homosexuals are held with the highest of respect and admiration and even called ‘heroes’ when they ‘come out.’ 
 
“At the same time, Bible-believing Christians are portrayed as mean-spirited, narrow-minded homophobes. When we have been fed a steady diet of this propaganda from Hollywood – and Washington – for the last 20 to 30 years, it is no mystery why public opinion, particularly among our younger generations, have been largely won over to the homosexual agenda. 
 
“There is a growing softness of this issue from within the church,” he added. “The softness toward same-sex marriage has come from many parents who have seen their children drift into this lifestyle as well as their own lack of biblical foundation. Sadly, many church members gain their perspective and insight more from the media than from God’s Word. … The recent High Court’s ruling should be a reality check for the church for the days ahead.  … There has never been a time in our nation’s history for a greater need of holiness and cross-bearing from within the church. The church will either be a catalysts for spiritual renewal across our nation, or one of the sad reasons for its downward spiral.” 
 
Nathan Finn   
“As our culture becomes increasingly comfortable with homosexual marriage, the church must consistently and winsomely proclaim two complementary messages,” said Nathan Finn, associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
 
“On the one hand, we need to communicate the biblical vision of marriage as a lifelong, covenantal commitment between one man and one woman. This view of marriage is a picture of the gospel itself (Ephesians 5:22-33), so we must not retreat, even if our views seem bizarre or even insulting to many in our culture. America, like much of the West, is in a moral free fall. The church must be salt and light. 
 
“On the other hand, we need to be diligent in applying the gospel to three types of people affected by this issue. Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction need to be reminded that no temptation is too great for them to bear with God’s help and the support of other believers (1 Corinthians 10:13). Believers who have engaged in same-sex sin at some point need to be reminded that all those who are in Christ have been forgiven of their sins, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and need not be haunted by the past (Colossians 2:13-14). Those who identify as homosexuals and pursue that lifestyle should be urged to repent of their sins and look to Christ for their salvation because homosexuality is unacceptable to God and leads to spiritual death (Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
 
Daniel Heimbach
“In the land of the free and home of the brave, disagreement over something so fundamental as marriage should be left to the people as instructed by conscience, tradition and faith,” said Daniel R. Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
 
“But what the Supreme Court majority has done is enshrine into the Constitution a radical redefinition of marriage under which sexual difference makes no difference.
 
“This is a tragedy that exalts private desires over the public good and sentiment over God’s ordering of creation. … The DOMA decision brands faithful Christians as un-American bigots driven, not by faith or even reason, but by nothing more than ‘bare … desire to harm.’ Such aspersion is not only completely false but demonstrates deeply rooted animus toward those who cling to faith in the wisdom and power of God.”    
 
Marty Jacumin
“It serves as a reminder of our fallen world but it also reminds us of our God-given task,” said Marty Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh.
 
“Our gospel message has not changed, and we must continue to proclaim that message with conviction and purpose. It will be the gospel that changes hearts, not legislation.”
 
Ryan Pack
“When I think of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, one word comes to mind … opportunity,” said Ryan Pack, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville. “… When darkness gets darker, light shines brighter. Remember that the New Testament church grew and multiplied under some of the worse sexual perversions in history. This is an opportunity for the church to expand. Secondly, I believe this is an opportunity for revival. The American church is asleep and needs to wake up. Could this be our wake-up call to repent of our sins, fix our marriages and set a better example to a watching world? May God send revival!”
 
Joel Stephens
“The recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the reaction of the American people to them should serve as a wake-up call to the church in America,” said Joel Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in Westfield.
 
“We cannot afford to live in denial anymore. Biblically-based morality is the minority opinion, and its ranks are shrinking exponentially. But this is not a time for despair. As the darkness deepens, the Light of Christ shines more brilliantly.
 
“Perhaps at no point in our nation’s brief history has the church been so needed as now. It’s time to rise up and be the church Christ desires – ‘a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but … holy and without blemish.’ America doesn’t know it, but she desperately needs a revived Church. But there will be no revival in the Church unless there is first an emphasis on holiness.”
 
Rit Varriale
“The decision of [the Supreme Court] was discouraging,” said Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby.
 
“Yet, the general apathy and cowardliness of the church in America is even more discouraging,” he added. “If we want revival in America, then we need the courage to obey God before we obey the government. When that happens, we’ll have revival” (Acts 5:29-32). 
7/15/2013 2:31:36 PM by BR staff | with 1 comments



Post-DOMA, gay marriage backers target states

July 11 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – At least five states are facing legal battles over marriage definitions that could determine whether the tone set by the Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) demise will resonate in individual states.

An Arkansas lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court that alleges the unconstitutionality of an Arkansas amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the Arkansas Baptist News said. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, another lesbian couple has pushed for the legalization of gay marriage in Michigan, another state with a marriage amendment.

Gay marriage advocates also have announced plans to try and overturn traditional marriage laws in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. 

The suits, if eventually taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, could result in gay marriage being legalized nationwide. The Senate and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts already are supporting an affirmation of same-sex couples’ rights to federal benefits no matter what state they live in, The New York Times reported.

Maggie Gallagher, author of Debating Same-Sex Marriage, said American political order shifted when the Supreme Court made its decision to overturn DOMA June 26, with traditional marriage supporters becoming a “disempowered and disfavored” minority.
07-11-13doma.jpg

Maggie Gallagher, author of Debating Same-Sex Marriage, said American political order shifted when the Supreme Court made its decision to overturn DOMA June 26, with traditional marriage supporters becoming a “disempowered and disfavored” minority.


“Marriage as an important cultural status is rooted in a shared belief that we need to bring together male and female to make and raise the next generation together, and that adults have a serious obligation to make serious sacrifices, including their sexual life, to make that happen,” Gallagher said to editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online.

“Marriage, after gay marriage, is an under-defined commitment to love and caretaking, whose public character and status is newly uncertain,” Gallagher added. “Why love? Why sex? Why just two? What does this have to do with parenting? What other relationships have an equal right to be counted as marriage?”

The Boston Globe said Indiana and Iowa could become the focal points for traditional marriage supporters trying to pass marriage amendments. 

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was not surprised the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, but he was startled by the justices’ reasoning, he said.

The majority “essentially said there’s no reason to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman exclusively except for hostility and animus toward persons, which we don’t believe is the case,” Moore said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” 

“I think [Associate Justice Antonin] Scalia is right [in his dissenting opinion], that it will be very difficult for the court now to allow states to state-by-state define marriage in the way that they currently do,” Moore said. “I think the language there is setting the court up for a Roe v. Wade type of decision in the future.”

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated all state restrictions on abortion.

Lawsuits against state bans on same-sex marriage were “nearly a given” after the DOMA decision, said Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith & Ethics Council. Gay marriage opponents may not have been expecting the lawsuits so quickly, he added, but same-sex marriage advocates are taking advantage of the shock waves created by the Court’s decision.

“What we are witnessing is the metamorphosis of the U.S. Supreme Court – it has ceased being a fair and impartial arbiter of legal disputes in which it interprets the law,” Page said. “[It] has transformed itself into a forum in which political correctness and the whims of popular opinion dictate its decisions, rather than the strict letter of the law or the will of the body politic as manifested in legitimate elections.”

Arkansas constitutional Amendment 83 bans same-sex marriage, which lesbian couple Kendall and Julia Wright said “violates their constitutional rights.” The Wrights were married in Iowa and are suing on behalf of 11 other homosexual couples in Arkansas.

Same-sex partners April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have adopted children separately, according to the Detroit Free Press, but wish to legally marry and unite their families in Michigan. Bernard Friedman, a federal judge in Detroit, said the couple is “entitled to their day in court and they shall have it.”

But same-sex marriage supporters are not the only group reveling in the Court’s decisions, Religion Today reported. Polygamists also are celebrating the overturning of DOMA. Some say the decision could eventually provide equal rights to having multiple marriage partners.

“Proponents of ‘plural marriages’ are riding the homosexual movement’s wave of success all the way to legitimacy,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “They’re using the same playbook, the same sound bites. ... After all, who are we to say that two or three or nine consenting adults shouldn’t be able to make the same commitment? Love is love, right?”

Gallagher said she would like to see Congress pass an expanded DOMA that would include specific statements forbidding polygamous marriages.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Beth Byrd.) 
7/11/2013 1:45:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments



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