On November 5 our Illinois state legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage, effective next June. Much could be written about how and why that happened, and what its consequences will be for churches, in the culture, and within families. Right now, however, none of those lamentations are as important as the need for individual churches to get prepared for the future under this new law.
To begin with, churches that haven’t already done so need to review their bylaws and written policies to make sure they protect their beliefs and practices as much as possible. At http://www.IBSA.org/ssm, you can find some recommended language, as well as other resources, and further information on the legislation that was just passed.
Churches would also be wise to clearly and intentionally communicate to their members the biblical reasons for their position on same-sex marriage. During last month’s IBSA Annual Meeting, messengers unanimously approved a resolution concerning “The Preservation of Biblical Marriage and Affirmation of Religious Liberty of Illinois Churches and Faith-based Organizations.”
This resolution is also available at http://www.IBSA.org/ssm, and presents a brief, biblically supported rationale for opposition to same-sex marriage that can be used as a teaching tool or handout for church members.
At the same time, churches also need to prepare themselves and their members to minister in a culture where LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) citizens more openly assert themselves. I’ve read several good articles on this recently that challenge churches to stand firmly on biblical conviction, but also to look for opportunities to reach people in this new environment, and to recognize the double standards that may unwittingly exist in the church related to other sinful behaviors.
Like it or not, churches also need to recognize that in surveys, a majority of Americans now appear to have an accepting or at least apathetic attitude toward same-sex marriage and individual sexual expression.
That means that even professing Christians may disagree or have varying opinions on what the church’s posture should be toward the changing culture. Nurturing a balanced, biblical unity in the church will mean equipping and encouraging members to neither condemn people, nor to condone sin.
During this fall’s convocation at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg, referring to the moral decline described in Romans 1:32, said, “Sexual sins are not the final step on this downward spiral. The last step of rejecting biblical morality is when people applaud or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices. We have reached that point in America.”
Iorg went on to refer to 1 Peter 4:1-11 and stated, “As a result of your unwillingness to affirm their choices, unbelievers will slander you. I predict that today’s slander is a precursor to more serious social, legal and physical opposition coming in the next few years.”
Dr. Iorg concluded his warning, however, with an exhortation to a loving Christian response: “Believers cannot become preoccupied with opposing immoral behavior; instead, they must realize that moral choices come from a person’s spiritual condition. Unbelievers act like unbelievers. While we uphold our moral convictions, expecting unbelievers to model Christian behavior is a misplaced hope.
“Your first and best response to immorality in your community is to preach, teach, share, witness and live the Gospel. The greatest need of every person in the world – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, adulterer, fornicator or straight-laced puritan is still the Gospel.”
After November 5, we as Bible believing Christians may feel like a moral minority. But so did the early Christians, and most of the Old Testament prophets, and certainly Abraham when he pled for the city of Sodom. Our shifting culture simply makes our own pursuit of holiness as believers more important, and our advancement of the Gospel here in Illinois more urgent.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.