The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on April 28 related to the question: Does the 14th Amendment – which ensures “equal protection of the laws” for all citizens – require states to license and recognize same-sex marriages? The high court is expected to reach a decision in June or July.
The following North Carolina Baptist leaders were asked the question, “Do you believe Christians should be concerned about the court’s decision? What should Christians to in the meantime?”
Jeremy Evans, pastor at Wendell Baptist Church, Wendell; associate professor of philosophy, Southeastern Seminary
The most pressing concern deriving from the upcoming Supreme Court decision pertaining to same-sex marriage is religious liberty. More specifically, is the government going to force institutions that have a moral objection to the practice of homosexuality to recognize a same-sex marriage as a legitimate marriage? Since the Biblical Recorder has already addressed that issue, then I would like to focus my few comments on what Christians should do as we await the decision.
First, pray for the people of our country as well as our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3). It’s important for us to remember that prayer causes things to happen, and that God can turn the hearts of those in positions of responsibility (Proverbs 21:1).
Second, remember that the issue of same-sex marriage is derivative of another issue – homosexuality; as such it is primarily a biblical/theological issue and only secondarily a political issue.
The traditional Christian view is that homosexual acts are sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Romans 1:24-28). Accordingly, Christians should be advocating for change at the source of the problem and less on the periphery. Such is not to say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in government, or concerned about legislation. Instead, it is to keep our eye on the ball.
Just as Roe v. Wade provided legal grounds for abortion, the upcoming legislation could provide legal grounds for same-sex marriage (notice, I did not say moral grounds). However, when people’s hearts change, so do their values. Abortion could be both legal and non-existent because people value life as created in the image of God. The same can be said for the current discussion: same-sex marriage can be legal and there be no same-sex marriages. So, in the event that the Supreme Court finds in favor of same-sex marriage, there is still the work of sharing the gospel and allowing it to reform lives.
Bruce Ashford, provost and dean of faculty and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Seminary; lay elder, The Summit Church
On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court entertained arguments about same-sex marriage, and whether or not the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution applies to same-sex marriage. The Equal Protection Clause declares, “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
This case is significant for several reasons. First, the Court has tended to locate its protection of same-sex relationships in due process rather than in equal protection (e.g., Lawrence v. Texas, 2003). This case could signal a major shift.
Second, this case is significant because, as Christians, we believe that marriage by definition is between a man and woman. We believe the Court would not be discriminating by denying marriage to same-sex couples because marriage is an entirely different category, a category for procreative unions.
Third, this case is significant because society is built upon the family unit, and the allowance of same-sex marriage will foster a further weakening of an already-deteriorating American family unit. Sociologists such as Harvard professor Carle Zimmerman have demonstrated that societal health is directly linked to familial health. We believe that familial health is fostered by marriages of one man and woman, in covenant marriage under God.
Christians should be concerned about this decision because the stakes are high. While we are waiting for the Court’s decision, Christians should make their voices heard on this issue, but should do so with grace and joy rather than with anger or fear. We should love our homosexual neighbors and colleagues, affirm their dignity as humans and their value as citizens, and at the same time make the case that marriage is reserved for the union of one man and one woman.
Kevin Clubb, pastor at Cape Carteret Baptist Church, Cape Carteret
The short answer to whether Christians should be concerned about the decision of the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage is yes. There are at least two reasons that make this the obvious answer.
First, this is an issue that deals with God’s design for His creation and another example of exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man (Romans 1:23). Second, this decision has the potential for changing the way we practice our faith in Jesus, making our land more like first century Israel and less like 20th century America.
What should we do in the meantime? First, we should pray for all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-8). Second, we should model the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman as God designed (Ephesians 5:22-33). Third, we should prepare for the difficulty that is coming to the Church in America (1 Peter 2:11-17). And finally, we should rest in the sovereignty of our great God Who is still redeeming a people for Himself.
Kelly Bullard, pastor at Temple Baptist Church, Fayetteville
Supreme Court justices will render what will prove to be one of the most important judicial decisions in the history of our nation.
While I firmly trust in the sovereignty of God, I also believe as Christians we have a biblical mandate to “pursue righteousness.” In regards to the forthcoming decision from SCOTUS, I believe pursuing righteousness looks like this: we pray like we have never prayed before for SCOTUS and that the Holy Spirit of God would move upon their hearts to render a decision that is honoring to Him and to the historical tradition of our nation.
I also believe we must “fight the good fight of faith.” We must be concerned about this decision and its implications for the church. Regardless of the outcome we must stand firmly upon God’s Word. We must echo the words of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.”
Scott Davis, pastor at Pitts Baptist Church, Concord
Should the court act to redefine marriage, it will have unavoidable consequences for all believers. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently wrote a piece on this, quoting a source from 2005, “The legalization of same-sex marriage would represent the triumph of an egalitarian-based ethic over a faith-based one.”
If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, religious liberty will be crushed concerning this issue. Christians will not have a right to operate contrary to a Constitutional provision except under the threat of penalty. We will find ourselves where the believers in Acts were when they said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
More tragic still for believers are the theological implications. The scripture says the marriage relationship of husband and wife is a visible image of the relationship of Christ and His church. I recently read a profound statement by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, where he said, “Likewise, the destruction of a Christ-imaging, gospel-announcing family order is as antichrist as desecrating the temple of God.”
I had never heard it put so forcefully, but theologically speaking, he is absolutely right. The deliberate undermining of the biblical image of Christ and His church ought to be the most offensive aspect of this whole debate to Christians.
Richard Mills, pastor at Faith Baptist Church, Youngsville
I think we have two particular concerns as we await the Supreme Court decision.
The first concern was voiced when Chief Justice [John] Roberts addressed Mary Bonauto, an attorney arguing on the side of same-sex marriage. The chief justice noted that extensive research has convinced him that, throughout history, marriage has always been a heterosexual union and told Bonauto, “if you succeed, that definition will not be operable.” Roberts then stated, “You are not seeking to join the institution. You are seeking to change the institution.” At stake is a fundamental changing of what marriage has always been.
The second concern is the religious liberty of those refusing to celebrate homosexual marriage. It was obvious from questions raised by justices that if the religious liberty of those who refuse to provide housing for homosexual couples is endangered, then religious organizations that will not hire homosexuals as staff may soon find their religious liberties in danger.
When asked about issues of religious liberty, responses suggested such matters will be left up to the states. Yet, we have seen already what happens when the federal government disagrees with matters that have supposedly been left to the states; the federal government exerts authority over and against the states.
As believers, of course, we are to give ourselves to prayer. And we are also to educate our members so they can intelligently and carefully address issues while refusing to compromise the truths to which we are bound.
Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte
The upcoming SCOTUS decision will be a landmark and historic moment for America.
Everything that defines who and what America is rests upon the foundation stone and bedrock of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. This may be the most important religious liberty and freedom of conscience decision since the adoption of the First Amendment.
Defining same-sex marriage as a basic civil right will provoke a religious liberty crisis. We have already seen repeated attempts to hijack the consciences of Americans and use government as a weapon to coerce people to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. If the Supreme Court deems same-sex marriage a basic right, then government at every level will increasingly strong-arm business owners to violate their consciences – and let’s not fool ourselves, churches and religious schools would be next in line to be required by the government to affirm the homosexual lifestyle and to perform same-sex ceremonies.
Recent headlines remind us of bakers, florists and business owners whose religious liberties have been trampled already in direct attacks on their First Amendment rights.
We must all pray fervently that the justices will make the right decision for our country and for our basic American freedoms.*
Bruce Martin, pastor at Village Baptist Church, Fayetteville
Christians should be very concerned about the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. The decision hinges on whether same-sex marriage will be a federally sanctioned constitutional right, or a right that remains under the purview of the individual states. If it becomes a federally sanctioned right, then it becomes a right that is federally enforced.
When hearing the case, some justices pointed out that if same-sex marriage is federally sanctioned, then some Christian institutions which oppose same-sex marriage and gay rights, could lose tax exempt status, and face federal penalties. Religious colleges were mentioned. There was also the hint that this could lead to churches losing tax-exempt status.
It was pointed out by one justice that if the marriage decision stays in the hands of the individual states, then states could more easily determine these issues by the vote of the people, and not by the decision of a court.
This decision could let “the camel into the tent.” This decision might be the vehicle that allows the federal government to intrude into our church life, and begin to penalize Americans for their beliefs.
Mike Whitson, pastor at First Baptist Church Indian Trail, Indian Trail
The upcoming Supreme Court decision should be of extreme importance to all Christians everywhere. The impact of a decision in favor of same-sex marriage will have an immediate effect not only on churches, but also on all faith-based organizations.
Consider the plight of ministries, like ours, that have a Christian school. Failing to hire a teacher or other employee because of their sexual orientation would be against the law, regardless of our scriptural convictions.
Recently an attendee of First Baptist Church Indian Trail was instructed that as a magistrate, if she did not perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, then she would lose her job – and did. That decision was on this side of the Court’s ruling. Imagine how it will be if there is a ruling that all states would be required to recognize the union of same-sex couples.
Churches, bakeries, florists and other businesses would be required to accommodate their services and facilities for the use of events surrounding those unions. Church staff would be required to conduct the ceremonies regardless of convictions.
Faith-based organizations as we know it today would be a thing of the past. They would be replaced by an equal opportunity, governmental system.
Yes, we should be concerned and prayerful because persecution will increase on those who stand on biblical convictions.