THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

All 50 states have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Baptist Press reports, even those in which officials disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

The_Briefing“We don’t have a choice but to comply,” said Louisiana Governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, “even though I think this decision was the wrong one.”

In Texas, the state’s attorney general said “numerous lawyers” are willing to defend officials who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and therefore could face lawsuits and fines. Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains intact.”

Read the full story at BPNews.net. And here’s a state-by-state update from CNN.

The Supreme Court’s decision continued to dominate headlines over the weekend, as Christian leaders and others offered a range of perspectives on what the country now faces:


In other news:

Six people were arrested after heckling Houston pastor Joel Osteen during a church service Sunday.

Among Barna’s findings on women and church: While only 5% name church or religious activities as their top time commitment, 22% say that’s the area of their life they’d most like to improve.

Almost the same number of Americans believe Islam is a threat to religious liberty at home and abroad, LifeWay Research reports in a new survey.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Nate_Adams_June29I am writing this just a day after returning from the 2015 South­ern Baptist Convention in Columbus, and four days before my wife, Beth, and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. So, as unromantic as it may sound, I find myself reflecting today on both the past three days with more than 5,000 other church messengers, and the past 30 years with the one woman God gave me for life.

They’re not entirely dissimilar. To both my wife and to the Southern Baptist Convention, I have made deep commitments that, by God’s grace, are standing the test of time. With both I share impor­tant beliefs and values. And with both I share purpose and direction that allow us to walk together joyfully.

That’s not to say we agree a hundred percent of the time on a hundred percent of the ques­tions or issues we face. There were times this past week in Columbus when I read or heard something and thought to myself, “Why on earth would we want to do that?” or “Don’t you see what needs to be done over here?” or “I’m not sure he’s the best person to entrust with that.”

But the truth is Beth and I have both asked those kinds of questions of one another over the past 30 years too. In fact, a few years ago when James Merritt was President of the SBC, I remember him saying that he and his wife had agreed long ago that he would make all the major decisions in their marriage, and that she could make all the minor decisions. Then he quipped, “And I’m proud to report that in 25 years of marriage we’ve never actually had a major decision.”

There’s quite a thread of truth in that silly exaggeration. When you share a deep commitment to someone over time, you simply don’t allow relatively minor disagreements to threaten either your relationship or the overall pur­pose you’ve embraced, whether it’s raising a healthy family or obeying the Great Commission. You defer to one an­other whenever possible, and you reserve strong words for truly important subjects. Then, most of the time, you move forward by consensus rather than casting ballots, or stones.

That’s why I was able to spend at least as much of my SBC time out in the hall­ways, or exhibit area, or in collaborative meetings, as I did in the voting sessions, most of which went forward smoothly and without dissent. And I noticed I was not alone. As important as the main sessions were to those attending, it was the hall­ways, restaurants, and hotels that were the settings for countless informal reunions and meetings, for prayer, for collaboration, for counseling, or simply for much needed encouragement.

There certainly are occasions during our long commitments over time when we need to gather in big meetings to confront big things. And there are times when we need to come together for celebrations and worship, or for special efforts like the Tuesday night session in Columbus when thou­sands of us gathered to pray for awakening and revival in our land.

But most of our long commitments over time are lived out between big anniversaries and annual sessions. We believe the Bible together, we serve our churches together, we send missionaries and support missions projects together, and we worship together. And so my deep commitment over time to the imperfect yet wonderful Southern Baptist Convention continues.

And as Beth and I continue to make the bed together, raise the kids together, pray together, serve churches together, and face the challenges of life together, my deep commitment over time to her continues as well, now for 30 years and counting. May the Lord bless you as He has me, with a life of deep commitments over time.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Church_blogNEWS | Following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Christian leaders quickly weighed in on how churches should respond to the ruling.

“The challenge for Christians now is to speak the truth in love & to speak love in truth. Love of neighbor means we cannot lie about marriage,” tweeted Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, released a statement calling himself a “conscientious dissenter” from the Court’s decision.

“Despite this ruling,” Moore continued, “the church of Jesus Christ will stand fast. We will not capitulate on this issue because we cannot. To minimize or ignore a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed down to us, and we have no authority to do this.

“At the same time, now is not the time for outrage or panic. Marriage is resilient. God created it to be so. Marriage in the minds of the public may change, but marriage as a reality created by God won’t change at all. The church must now articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage and work to rebuild a culture of marriage.”

Moore also issued a statement Friday along with other evangelical leaders, opposing the ruling and offering six “points of engagement” for churches:

1. Respect and pray for governing authorities.
2. Teach the truth about biblical marriage.
3. Affirm all persons are created in God’s image and deserve dignity and respect.
4. Love our neighbors regardless of disagreements over marriage.
5. Live respectfully alongside those with whom we disagree.
6. Cultivate a common culture of religious liberty.

Other leaders who signed the statement include Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, author and radio host Nancy Leigh DeMoss, pastors Tony Evans, David Jeremiah and Matt Chandler, and theologian J.I. Packer. For the full statement and a list of signatories, go to ERLC.com/erlc/herewestand.

Prior to the Court’s decision, several past SBC presidents at the June 16-17 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, signed a statement vowing they would not participate in same-sex unions. The presidents also stressed the need for churches to be prepared with clear bylaws and constitutions that say what it means to be married in their churches.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said what concerns him most are the small and medium-sized churches “that have never thought through their bylaws and constitutions. Challenges will probably come to those small churches that are ill-prepared.”

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention said Friday in a statement that while it will likely take weeks to determine the impact of the decision and next steps, “In the meantime, churches should work with their legal and accounting advisors to determine whether their governing, employment, building use and other documents or policies need to be reviewed in light of the expanding definition of marriage.”

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said, “GuideStone remains committed to advocating for the churches, ministries and pastors we serve during these days and will share information to help churches remain compliant in their health care and retirement plans.”

Springfield, Ill. | Illinois Baptist pastors and leaders shared what they will say Sunday to their congregations following Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.


Fear and anger are responses that reflect lack of faith. Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ can all people find identity, hope, and peace. We as the church have our priorities set: Love the LORD your God…and love your neighbor…Nothing has changed about that. In fact, our opportunity is greater than ever. Now let’s continue our purpose of making, baptizing, and teaching disciples.
Scott Nichols, Crossroads Community Church, Carol Stream


Exactly what Dr. Ronnie Floyd said at the SBC Annual Meeting—love them, show them Jesus, but in no way will I or our church be involved in a same-sex union. We must not compromise God’s Word, even if it means lawsuits and jail time.
Bob Stilwell, First Baptist Church, Paxton


This is a matter that I have addressed before, especially in light of the fact that Illinois had previously declared same-sex marriage to be legal. I have spoken clearly from God’s Word about how and why it is wrong. I have spoken privately with numerous persons in my church family about this issue. I have discussed the potential ramifications for our church ministry and pastoral leadership.

Through it all, I have repeatedly reminded people that to declare this act as sin does not mean we don’t love those who practice it. God’s call to holiness leaves no sin untouched or insignificant. We are heartbroken by this decision from the Supreme Court. We pray for God’s mercy upon our nation and, as always, we seek to be messengers of God’s reconciling message of grace.
Odis Weaver, Friendship Baptist Church, Plainfield


Psalm 33:10-12 says that God’s purposes will always prevail no matter what. The very ruling of the Supreme Court will be used by God to further his purposes. We do not need to throw our hands up and think that God did not know this was going to happen.

Our very faith says that the worst possible legal decision [was] handed down by both Jewish and Roman courts to accomplish the salvation of God’s people. If God accomplished that much through the legal proceedings that sent our Lord to the cross, then we have no reason to fear any decision from any court under heaven. God reigns over every legal decision ever handed down so let us rejoice in our sovereign God who has his way in the whirlwind.
Phil Nelson, Lakeland Baptist Church, Carbondale


We will continue to teach God’s design for marriage and we will agree with God and call any activity that falls short of his design what the Bible calls it: sin. Since the Bible says in Romans 3:23-24 (NKJV), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” we will love those who disagree with God’s design the way Jesus told us to love them, we will share with them how to receive His grace and redemption in Christ, and we will teach them to embrace God’s design by turning from what they want to what God wants.
Bob Dickerson, First Baptist Church, Marion


At Delta, we are going to use our pastoral prayer time to address all that has taken place today. We are going to shepherd our people by guiding them on what to do/not do and how to think/not think. We will point to Scripture as to the goodness of marriage and God’s design in how it relates to the gospel (Eph. 5). Then we will point our people toward the gospel, pointing out that it is all-sufficient even in times such as these, and that the gospel compels us to love our neighbor. We will look to the scriptures for encouragement on how all this holds together and then pray.
Jonathan Davis, Delta Church, Springfield


I understand it, I believe that we should love other folks, people that believe in same-sex marriage. I believe that we should love them and try to share the gospel with them just like we would anyone else. But when a person rejects the word of God, there’s nothing else we can do.

It’s not about us, it’s just about the Word of God. And I think it’s very plain and simple that [the ruling is] against what he says. I’m not concerned about how politicians feel about it, or the president, or the Supreme Court, or even [church members]. It’s just against the Word of God, and we are people who believe in the Word of God.

I know a lot of Christians may have different points of view on it, but that’s our take on it.
Marvin Parker, Broadview Missionary Baptist Church


This is just one more attempt to undermine God’s authority. But God will not be mocked. Keep praying to Jesus; and continue reaching out to the individual and show God’s love anyway we can to save them from an eternity in hell.
Jerry Higdon, New Hope Baptist Church, Coal Valley


While we may be outraged and angry about the Supreme Court’s ruling…our response must follow the biblical mandate to do what is honorable in the sight of God and thus the world. Anger only begets bitterness and eventually hate.

The church needs to steadfastly stand firm for biblical marriage and simultaneously demonstrate godly love, mercy and grace towards those bound up in sexual immorality and racial hatred by being light in the darkness.
Kevin Carrothers, Rochester First Baptist Church, who’s finishing a series of messages from Romans 12 on “Elevating Others”


The world around us is changing, but our God is unchanging and his Word stands forever. As a pastor, I would want my congregation to know that what God identifies as sin we must also identify as sin. Marriage in the Bible is the union of one man and one woman and is described in the Book of Ephesians, by the Apostle Paul, as a picture of Christ and his bride.

Therefore, I would declare before my congregation that if it meant being sued, fined, prosecuted or ultimately jailed, I WOULD NOT perform a same-sex marriage or allow the church to be used for such a union. And once I made that public statement, I would stand on my conviction, just as the early apostles did when it says in Acts 4:18-20, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'”
Pat Pajak, Illinois Baptist State Association


On Sunday: Culture may change; views may change; laws may change… but our calling has not changed. This is the time for the Church of Jesus Christ to stand on the authority of God’s Word and speak with clarity and do so with great compassion. There is much, much brokenness in the LGBT community–and we need to be ready to minister.
Joey Krol, Southtower Community Baptist Church, Dawson


It’s a sad day in America when five of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. While the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, they are not the final nor supreme word on this subject.

Long before there was a U.S. Supreme Court, there was and is and ever will be The Universal Supreme Court of Heaven which has the final and most supreme word on this subject. Here it is:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,b and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ (Gen. 1:26-28, NIV)

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” (Gen. 2:18, NIV)

“So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Gen. 2:21-25)

May God add His blessing to the reading and obedience to His word.
Michael Allen, Uptown Baptist Church, Chicago

Court_columnsSpringfield, Ill. | Following the 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the Illinois Baptist State Association urged measured and thoughtful action by church leaders to protect their congregations’ religious liberties.

“This split decision by the Supreme Court is indicative of the increasingly split moral fiber of our nation,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “In times like these, it is reassuring to remember that God is neither surprised nor anxious about decisions made in human consciences or human courts. We must be resolute in trusting Him and in obeying in His word.”

The Court’s ruling comes after several years of argument over the legalization of same-sex unions and a shift in public opinion toward approval by a slight majority of Americans. In that time, Southern Baptists have taken stands defending a biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Illinois Baptists opposed legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois with a 2013 resolution approved by messengers at the IBSA Annual Meeting.

“For a few years now, leading up to the time ‘same sex marriage’ became legal in Illinois, IBSA has been seeking to inform and resource churches regarding steps they can take to protect their freedoms of speech and religious exercise,” Adams said. “In light of this latest Supreme Court ruling, we would again urge churches to be vigilant in pursuing the recommended steps in their constitutions and policy manuals to help protect those freedoms. On this issue, as on others before it, the local church and churches banding together in unity and cooperation are likely to be the primary opponents of laws that threaten religious freedom.”

IBSA offers several marriage-related resources at IBSA.org/marriage, including:

  • sample bylaws on marriage and church membership
  • a sample facilities use agreement
  • the 2011 and 2013 resolutions on marriage approved by messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has published “Protecting Your Ministry,” a 44-page booklet designed especially for churches. The free guide may be downloaded at ERLC.com/store.

A number of Southern Baptist leaders have said the marriage issue would prove to be a dividing line among evangelicals.

“Even churches that have not been actively engaged in the defense of marriage issue must now be vigilant in defending their freedoms of speech and religious expression,” Adams said.

Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board end a joint Church and Mission Sending Celebration by recognizing missionaries with a standing ovation at the June 17 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by John Swain/NAMB

Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board end a joint Church and Mission Sending Celebration by recognizing missionaries with a standing ovation at the June 17 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by John Swain/NAMB

Columbus, Ohio | Meredith Flynn

A missionary “Sending Celebration” during the Southern Baptist Convention last week signaled a new, urgent day for SBC missions in North America and around the world. The vastness of lostness, said the leaders of the denomination’s mission boards, requires new thinking about getting missionaries on the field—and supporting them while they’re there.

That could mean sending out missionaries—students, retirees, and professionals— who are financially self-supported. Baptists who traditionally have focused on giving from the pew in order to support missionaries are now being called to go to the nations too.

The celebration in Columbus, Ohio, marked a shift from 20 years ago, when the commissioning might have featured flags of the world and missionaries in brightly colored international dress processing into the auditorium to “We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations.” But in Ohio, photos of the missionaries and families flashed up on large screens in the convention hall, with their home state, sending church, and a brief snapshot of the region where they’ll serve.

Across the room, the missionaries stood as their slides played, illuminated only by book-shaped lights fanned out in front of them.

The low-key, somber service hinted at the desperate spiritual need the missionaries will encounter here and abroad. In the Northeast U.S., said International Mission Board President David Platt, 82% of people don’t know Christ. In the western U.S., it’s 87%, and in Canada, 90%.

Those numbers are small compared to India, where 1 billion people are spiritually lost. Platt and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, focused on the role of the local church during the sending celebration, urging congregations to consider their responsibility to take the gospel to the nations.

Platt also pointed to the possibility of new strategies for supporting missionaries on the field. In 2009, he said during his report prior to the celebration, the IMB had 5,600 missionaries serving around the world. The number is 4,700 now, and headed toward 4,200, due to the Board’s inability to financially support them.

“We are evaluating all of our structures and systems to discern how we can more efficiently and effectively use the resources Southern Baptists have entrusted to us,” he said. But we’ll always be limited, he added, as long as full financially supported missionaries are the only way we think about getting the gospel to the nations.

Throughout the IMB’s history, the Board has sent about 25,000 missionaries to serve around the world. “Which is awesome, but the reality is we need 25,000 now,” Platt said.

After a year in which the IMB operated $21 million in the red, a new plan is needed to send more people to more places and people groups. And everyday Christians play a key role in that plan, Platt said, painting a picture of students and retirees and professionals forming a network of support around missionaries and church planters around the world. Regular people with regular jobs, leveraging those jobs to go overseas.

“What if God has designed the globalization of today’s marketplace to open up opportunities for the spread of his gospel?” Platt asked.

The time is now, he urged during his final challenge to the audience in Columbus. “Not one of us is guaranteed today, much less tomorrow. So, brothers and sisters, let’s make it count. Let’s make our lives and our churches and this convention of churches count.”

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (left) interviews former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus.

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (left) interviews former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention.

Columbus, Ohio | Lisa Sergent

I’ve been reflecting on the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention, now that it and Columbus, Ohio, are in my rearview mirror.

The city and the Convention were a study in contrasts. While we were there, the city was issuing proclamations welcoming the LGBT community and celebrating the upcoming Gay Pride Week. The Convention featured panel discussions, sermons and press conferences emphasizing biblical marriage.

An article in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper celebrated that Jim Obergefell, the Cincinnati man at the center of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, was in Columbus to lead the gay pride parade the Saturday following the convention. Meanwhile, discussions at the Convention expressed concern that the case, which could cause the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, will lead to further encroachment on religious freedoms in the U.S.

That concern is very real.

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran spoke at the SBC Pastors’ Conference held just prior to the Convention. Cochran was fired from his position for stating on one page of his 160-page book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” that homosexuality is sinful.

Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist who was sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, made an appearance during the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s report. She lost her case and is in danger of losing her home and business. After ERLC President Russell Moore shared her story, she came to the stage for prayer.

As International Mission Board President David Platt noted at the Pastors’ Conference, “There is no question we live in a culture increasingly hostile to Christ. We cannot pick and choose what issues we will preach and which issues we will ignore.”

In his report, Moore said, “For most of this last century Southern Baptists have been comfortable in the culture in their soft cocoon…Some said that the Southern Baptist Zion was below the Mason-Dixon Line. Those days are gone and not a moment too soon; those days are over thankfully.”

Much of the time devoted to discussing issues affecting our SBC churches was made possible by a new Convention schedule and format. Much of the business took place on Tuesday afternoon, which allowed time for the Wednesday afternoon panel discussion on the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage.

One of my favorite parts of the Convention has always been the SBC Pastors’ Conference which precedes it. But this year, with SBC President Ronnie Floyd and others following God’s leading, the Convention itself was a must see and hear. The best was yet to come.

I think the same is true for the Southern Baptists and evangelicals. While I do believe our freedom of speech and right to freely practice our religion are going be infringed upon to an even greater extent, I do know God will honor those who stand firm and follow His Word. For this we shall grow closer to Him and find strength. And that is truly the best to come.

Lisa Sergent is contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association.