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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.

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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 http://erlc.com/conference/liveblog/.
 
(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.

 
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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.)
 

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



Russell Moore questions gay therapy

October 29 2014 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore denounced reparative therapy at a conference, saying the controversial treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation has been “severely counterproductive.”
 
Moore, who serves as president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), spoke to a group of journalists Oct. 28 covering the group’s national conference.
 
“The utopian idea if you come to Christ and if you go through our program, you’re going to be immediately set free from attraction or anything you’re struggling with, I don’t think that’s a Christian idea,” Moore told journalists. “Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ. It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to change.”
 
Moore said evangelicals had an “inadequate view” of what same-sex attraction looks like.
 
“The Bible doesn’t promise us freedom from temptation,” Moore said. “The Bible promises us the power of the spirit to walk through temptation.”
 
Moore gave similar remarks to an audience of 1,300 people at the conference. The same morning, the conference featured three speakers who once considered themselves gay or lesbian.
 
Moore joins a chorus of psychologists and religious leaders who have departed from the once-popular therapy.
 
In 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution urging mental health professionals to avoid reparative therapy. Since then, California and New Jersey have passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors, and several other states have considered similar measures.
 
Earlier this year, the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors amended its code of ethics eliminating reparative therapy and encouraging celibacy instead.
 
John Paulk, who was once a poster boy for the ex-gay movement, apologized in 2013 for the reparative therapy he used to promote. Earlier this year, Yvette Schneider, who had formerly worked for groups such as the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and Exodus International, published a “coming out” interview with GLAAD calling for bans on reparative therapy. In addition, nine former ex-gay leaders have denounced conversion therapy.
 
“There were utopian ideas about reparative therapy that frankly weren’t unique to evangelicalism,” Moore said. “That was something that came along in the 1970s and 1980s about the power of psychotherapy to do all sorts of things that we have a more nuanced views about now.”
 
Some pastors, like John Piper, a respected Minneapolis preacher and author, still encourage the possibility of change for those who have same-sex attractions.
 
Exodus International, one of the most prominent ex-gay ministries shut down in 2013. While other ex-gay groups such as Restored Hope Network still exist, many religious leaders are now encouraging people with same-sex attraction to consider celibacy.
 
“The idea that one is simply the sum of one’s sexual identity is something that is psychologically harmful ultimately,” Moore said. “And I think also we have a situation where gay and lesbian people have been treated really, really badly.”
 
Moore said the ERLC is working with parents of those who are gay and lesbian.
 
“The response is not shunning, putting them out on the street,” he said. “The answer is loving your child.”
 
For years, gay evangelicals had three options: leave the faith, ignore their sexuality or try to change. But as groups such as Exodus became unpopular, a growing number of celibate gay Christians have sought to be true to both their sexuality and their faith.
 
A newer question among some Christians is whether those with same-sex attraction should self-identify as gay.
 
In his address Monday, traditional marriage advocate Sherif Girgis plugged the website Spiritual Friendship, intended for Catholics and Protestants who identify as gay and celibate. Some Christians are debating whether identifying as gay or having a same-sex orientation is itself unbiblical.
 
“It’s not the way I would articulate it because I think it puts on an appendage to a Christian identity,” Moore said. “So I don’t see them as enemies who are trying to be destructive; I just don’t think it’s the best way to approach it.”
 
Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian who rejects the “ex-gay” label and the movement behind it, said Christians should not use “gay” as a descriptive adjective. Moore interviewed Butterfield, whose address at Wheaton College generated protests earlier this year, during Tuesday’s conference.
 
“There is no shame in repentance because it simply proves that God was right all along,” Butterfield told Moore.
 
Another conference speaker and Moody Bible Institute professor Christopher Yuan teaches a more traditional message of celibacy for those who, like him, are attracted to the same sex. He shuns labels, but he believes more younger Christians are self-identifying as gay and celibate.
 
“I’m kind of label-less,” Yuan said before his address. “I think I’m a dying breed, though.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.)
 

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10/29/2014 12:55:15 PM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Facebook & Apple cover workers’ egg freezing

October 23 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A rise in the single population and the emergence of employers paying for female workers to freeze their eggs may indicate that America has wandered further from biblical sexual morality.
 
“The sexual revolution is the governing principle of our time,” Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press (BP). The refusal of many sexually active people to marry and bear children indicates that “ultimately it’s the god of eros that’s reigning today.”
 
The population of Americans over 16 who are single has eclipsed 50 percent for the first time since the government began compiling such statistics in 1976, Bloomberg reported. That includes 30.4 percent of American adults who have never married and 19.8 percent who are divorced, separated or widowed.
 
Meanwhile, Facebook and Apple have announced they will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs – a move The New York Times said “could be seen as paying women to put off childbearing.”
 
In January Facebook began covering up to $20,000 for female employees to freeze their eggs, the Times reported. Apple told NBC News it will begin covering egg freezing in January 2015, joining companies like Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft which offer similar benefits.
 
Walker believes the rise of singleness and employer offers of egg freezing are related, both reflecting a devaluation of marriage.
 
God has given some people the gift of singleness as described in 1 Corinthians 7, Walker said, yet a large number of singles are seeking sexual fulfillment outside marriage and refusing to channel their desires in a husband-wife union. The freezing of eggs may indicate that some people want to separate the bearing of children from a one-flesh union between husband and wife, Walker said.
 
“The main reason” marriage is “breaking down is that the goods of marriage” like children and intimacy are now “attainable outside of marriage,” Walker said. When those things “can be attained outside of marriage,” some may ask “why do you need to enter marriage in the first place?”
 
Additionally, Walker fears that employer-paid egg freezing could lead to the destruction of embryos. Often women who freeze their eggs later attempt in vitro fertilization, where sperm is used to fertilize the egg in a laboratory and then a tiny human is implanted in the woman’s uterus. Unless conducted within strict ethical parameters, in vitro fertilization can involve the indefinite freezing of embryos or even their destruction.
 
Although some reports have touted egg freezing as a way to delay child bearing, the Times reported that women under 35 have only a 10 to 12 percent chance of giving birth per egg, and women over 35 have a 6 to 8 percent chance or lower.
 
Egg freezing involves a two-week process of hormone injections and extraction under sedation, The Times reported. Generally it takes another two weeks for the patient to feel back to normal, and a cycle of extraction costs up to $15,000, with many doctors recommending more than one cycle. Storing the eggs costs about $500 per year.
 

‘Consumeristic mindset’

Larry Mayberry, a pastor in New York City, confronts the issues of delayed marriage and child rearing on a regular basis. He told BP his church is attempting to teach singles that marriage is a covenant and not a consumer product.
 
A “consumeristic mindset” common among New York singles “makes it way more difficult to settle down because you only want a mate that can give you ... what [you] think you want,” Mayberry, community pastor at Connection Church in Queens, said.
 
The oldest regular attendee at Connection is 45 and many worshipers are single, especially the women, Mayberry said. He does not believe many New York singles have the biblical gift of singleness but thinks they are distracted from the blessings of family by career, social life and a worldly approach to romance.
 
For one single woman at Connection, surrendering her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior led to a transformed perspective.
 
Before becoming a Christian, “her desire was to move up in her career. Her desire was to get to the top and to do it as quickly as possible. And she was delaying marriage because of that,” Mayberry said.
 
As the woman started to grow in her relationship with Jesus, “she began to see that if she really desired to be married, then she had to make sacrifices. It’s not just getting and getting and getting, but it’s about giving. So just in the last month she and a single man in our church have begun dating with the intent to marry,” Mayberry said.
 
While he did not comment on the bioethical implications of egg freezing, Mayberry said there can be legitimate reasons for Christian couples to delay child rearing, including the desire to provide adequate housing for a family.
 
“Having or not having a child is not a decision one should make solely based on your income,” Mayberry said. “However, if you live in a studio apartment as a young couple and you need to move into a one-bedroom – which may cost as much as $1,000 more a month [in New York] – one of the steps to getting there might be advancing in your career to one more promotion where you can get a raise.”
 
Determining whether delaying children is appropriate for an individual couple should always be done “in unity” within the marriage and “in community” with a local church, Mayberry said. He added that married couples should regard children as a blessing and not a curse.
 

Help for couples

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, writes in his book What Is the Meaning of Sex? that it can be ethically permissible for couples to delay child bearing. But he notes they should never use a method of birth control that prevents implantation in the womb of a fertilized egg.
 
Burk offers several principles to guide Christian couples. Among them:

  • “Christians must reject the contraceptive mentality that treats pregnancy and children as ‘impositions to be avoided rather than gifts to be received.’“

  • “Each and every marriage act” of intimacy does not need to be aimed at conceiving a child as long as there is a general “openness to children over the course of a marriage.”

  • “Scripture does not order married persons to pursue the largest number of children that could possibly be conceived.”

Like Mayberry, Burk condemns the worldly mindset that regards marriage as a commodity and children as burdens.
 
“A selfish, materialistic mind-set is often blind to the blessings that God offers through children,” Burk writes.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/23/2014 12:22:46 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. marriage amendment anniversary rally, May 8

May 5 2014 by L.A. Williams, Christian Action League

It has been almost two years since North Carolinians affirmed their belief in marriage with the passage of our Marriage Protection Amendment – an anniversary the Christian Action League believes worthy of commemoration.

"We're going to celebrate with a lunchtime rally on Thursday, May 8 in downtown Raleigh, so make plans now to attend," said Mark Creech, Christian Action League's (CAL) executive director. (Details here)

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The CAL is joining the N.C. Values Coalition, the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, the N.C. Family Policy Council, Return America and Called 2 Action in sponsoring the "Second Anniversary Rally," set for noon to 1 p.m.

"We all worked hard to get the Marriage Amendment passed two years ago," said Tami Fitzgerald, director of the N.C. Values Coalition and chairwoman of Vote for Marriage N.C. She urged marriage supporters across the state to spread the word about the rally.

Attendees should pack a lawn chair or blanket and a bag lunch to enjoy the time of celebration, prayer, music and fellowship.

"Our marriage amendment – approved 61 to 39 percent on May 8, 2012 – is currently under attack in the court system, but our victory in holding up God's standard for marriage is no less significant now than it was on that election night," said Creech. "In fact, it's more important than ever that we continue to rally and take a stand for marriage."

Opponents of the Marriage Amendment, including the Campaign for Southern Equality and other homosexual rights groups, are planning to stage a protest on May 8 with same-sex couples expected to demand marriage licenses from the Wake County Register of Deeds Office or to insist that their out-of-state "marriages" be recorded there.

"It is extremely important for us to exhibit a strong showing for natural marriage and North Carolina's Marriage Protection Amendment, which we all worked so hard to secure," posted the North Carolina Family Policy Council in its online announcement of the event.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – L.A. Williams is a correspondent for the Christian Action League.)
 

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5/5/2014 10:00:03 AM by L.A. Williams, Christian Action League | with 0 comments



Mohler mistaken about N.C. marriage law

May 5 2014 by Mark Creech, Christian Action League

There are certain people in the evangelical community for whom I have profound respect. I feel more a student of their knowledge and expertise than a peer. Such is the way I regard Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Mohler, in my estimation, is a spiritual and intellectual giant in our time. I don’t see myself as someone worthy to even unlace his sandals.
 
But recently (Tuesday, April 29) on his daily broadcast called “The Briefing,” Mohler erroneously maligned North Carolina’s Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA). The great preacher and theologian seemed to be taking his cues from a New York Times article that was egregiously misleading about a novel approach by the United Church of Christ (UCC) to knock down the state’s MPA on the basis of the First Amendment.
 
The lawsuit alleges that N.C.’s MPA violates the religious liberty of churches like the UCC that want to perform same-sex weddings. Mohler cited the New York Times piece as saying “the denomination argues that a North Carolina law that criminalizes the religious solemnization of weddings without a state-issued marriage license violates the First Amendment.” He also mentioned David C. Clark, Jr., general counsel for the UCC who argues clergy members in the state that perform “religious blessings and marriage rites” for homosexuals “are subject to prosecution and civil judgment.”
 
Mohler then went on to add, which was the crux of his concerns, that he is a strong defender of traditional marriage, but believed North Carolina’s MPA went to an extreme by addressing the behavior and speech of clergy. His concern was that the UCC, under such circumstances, would have a good argument in court, and the prohibition of any celebration of same-sex marriage in their churches could also result in faithful churches supporting traditional marriage ultimately being forced to perform same-sex weddings.
 
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Mark Creech

The trouble here, however, is the New York Times got it wrong, and consequently Mohler’s alarms about the Tar Heel state’s MPA and its alleged infringement on religious liberty were completely unfounded. As a matter of fact, North Carolina’s MPA says just the opposite. The state’s MPA actually reads:
 
“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
 
It’s obvious from such clear and precise language that N.C.’s MPA in no way restricts the religious liberty of any faith group. It says nothing about what ministers or their churches can or cannot do. The amendment simply clarifies the state’s sovereignty to recognize marriage with all its legal rights and privileges is to be defined only as between a man and a woman. It does not bar contracts and other means private parties may agree upon. How much plainer could the amendment possibly be? None!
 
The confusion seems to be fostered by the New York Times article, as well as the UCC’s lawsuit mixing the language of the amendment with the language of the state’s two marriage statutes.
 
So the next day in his briefing, Mohler corrected his assertions against the state’s MPA, this time defending it, but then he went on to express his apprehensions about the state’s marriage laws instead. North Carolina’s marriage laws read:
 
“Solemnization without license unlawful. No minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of the state shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of said persons, signed by the register of deeds of the county in which the marriage license was issued or by a lawful deputy or assistant.
 
“Every minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this state, who marries any couple without a license being first delivered to that person, as required by law, or after the expiration of such license, or who fails to return such license to the register of deeds within 10 days after any marriage celebrated by virtue thereof, with the certificate appended thereto duly filled and signed, shall forfeit and pay two hundred dollars ($200) to any person who sues therefore, and shall also be guilty of a Class I misdemeanor.”
 
Mohler argued N.C.’s marriage statutes were problematic or potentially problematic in that they essentially declare ministers “must not bless what the state has cursed.” He contended the state should never be directing the way ministers or churches carry out their professed religious duties. His remarks were partly correct. The state shouldn’t be telling ministers or people of faith how to practice their religion. Nevertheless, his conclusions about the state’s marriage laws are in error, as were his comments about the N.C. MPA.
 
In an article titled, “Laws Defining Marriage as Union of Man and Woman Do Not Violate Religious Liberty,Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation discusses N.C.’s marriage laws and rightly interprets them, maintaining:
 
“This law isn’t talking about ministers celebrating marriages in churches solely for religious purposes, but about ministers who are acting as agents of the state to celebrate a state recognized marriage. But, again, there’s no religious liberty right to have the relationship of your choice recognized as a marriage by the state. And there’s no law preventing churches from celebrating marriage however they see fit.”
 
I wouldn’t bother to point out Mohler’s mistakes in this situation, except his influence is far and wide. In my estimation, he is the E.F. Hutton of Southern Baptist life. What he says carries a tremendous amount of weight. And, unfortunately, he drew from a liberal and biased newspaper to wrongly criticize and defame North Carolina’s MPA, indict those who crafted it, and argue evangelicals ought to be troubled.
 
The next day he partially corrected his course in his second briefing on the subject. (Wednesday, April 30). He revised his statements on the amendment, but still hadn’t seen the light on the state’s marriage statutes and held them in question. In his second briefing, he also noted that he had contacted N.C. House Majority Leader, Paul “Skip” Stam, as a more reliable source of information than something like the New York Times. But wouldn’t Mohler have done better to have contacted the people who worked on North Carolina’s MPA – members of the executive committee of N.C. Vote for Marriage (a committee on which I served) – or at least even contacted Paul Stam – before launching an attack on the credibility of the state’s marriage amendment or its laws by saying they could negatively impact religious liberty? The assertion is nonsense.
 
All of this matters because Dr. Mohler’s words unintentionally provide fodder for the enemies of marriage that this issue is about religious freedom, a First Amendment matter, when it is not. In fact, that claim is nothing more than a legal fiction on the part of the UCC.
 
Make no mistake, the real question is not religious freedom for these people and their cohorts, it is the redefinition of marriage! And for those of us in North Carolina who have been fighting to protect marriage as one man and one woman for a decade, it’s no help when an individual of Mohler’s stature in the evangelical camp wrongly associates the redefinition of marriage with the free exercise of religion.
 
Mohler’s remarks were a critical error. They were like tearing open a feather pillow in the midst of a great gust of wind. One may try to clean up the feathers afterward, but one will never succeed in removing all of them from the landscape of the debate.
 
Perhaps a lesson to be gleaned from these unhappy circumstances is the need to be exceedingly careful that in our zeal to right a perceived wrong we don’t inadvertently create another wrong – something I earnestly pray I haven’t done in faulting Dr. Mohler – someone for whom I have intense admiration and respect.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Creech is the executive director of the Christian Action League. This piece was originally posted to the Christian Action League’s website.)
 

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5/5/2014 9:50:25 AM by Mark Creech, Christian Action League | with 1 comments



Mohler revises statement on N.C. marriage law

May 5 2014 by R. Albert Mohler

Earlier this week, we looked at the controversy in North Carolina where the very liberal United Church of Christ has filed suit against the state of North Carolina, alleging that that state’s amendment identifies marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman violates religious liberty by preventing clergy from performing same-sex ceremonies and weddings.

Now as we have considered over the last several days, there could well be religious liberty complications in such a law, but in the case of the amendment in North Carolina, there is no such concern, and the statutory law there in North Carolina should not operate in such a way that it would violate religious conscience and it never has. In other words, that law in North Carolina has never been employed or used in any way but to regulate how legal marriages are performed by ministers in North Carolina. Analyses by Ryan T. Anderson at the Heritage Foundation and by Mollie Hemingway, writing at The Federalist, have made this point very clear.
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R. Albert Mohler


But we also see in this situation that there are religious liberty complications on the horizon every time the intersection of marriage and law comes about because as the church operates on its understanding of marriage and as Christians committed to the Bible operate on an exclusively biblical understanding of marriage, we see a conflict on the horizon. And even a law like that on the books there North Carolina could, if in the wrong hands, in the wrong way, be used against evangelical ministers.

 The principle is simply this: what the law enjoins, the law can also require. And that’s why we’re going to have to look at these things very, very carefully. What happens, for instance, when a state says to a minister, if you’re saying, “By the authority granted to me by this state, I declare you man and wife,” if that minister as an agent of the state says, “I will refuse to say you’re husband and husband or wife and wife,” how long is it before the state shows up, as it has in the offices of county clerks, and says, “As an agent of the state, you’re going to have to do what the state says and you’re going to have to be nondiscriminatory when it comes to marriage.”

That hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And that’s why those who care for religious liberty, who want to defend marriage as a pre-political institution that has and must always mean the union of a man and woman, are going to have to watch these things very, very carefully. The debate in North Carolina is just one indication of the kind of conversation we’re going to be having state-by-state in years to come.

This, too, is the chaos spawned by moral revolution.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Biblical Recorder received the following statement from the office of R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a transcript of his comments in the Friday, May 2 edition of "The Briefing.")

Related stories:

Mohler mistaken about N.C. marriage law
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5/5/2014 9:29:17 AM by R. Albert Mohler | with 0 comments



‘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



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