New marriage rulings surprise SBC leader

Meredith Flynn —  February 13, 2014
Russell Moore, pictured here at the SBC's 2013 annual meeting,

Russell Moore, pictured here at the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2013 annual meeting, told Baptist leaders this week that marriage is more a Gospel issue than a political one.

Courts moving ‘very, very fast,’ Moore says

NEWS | Eric Reed

“I expected 2014 to be ‘the year of same-sex marriage,’ I just didn’t expect it to be in Utah, Oklahoma, and Kentucky,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

His comments came on Wednesday, the same day a federal judge in Kentucky struck down a law which protected that state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Courts in nine other stated have issued similar bans.

“This is moving very, very fast, and in some unexpected ways,” Moore said. He spoke by Skype to executive directors of SBC state conventions and editors of Baptist state newspapers meeting in Idaho.

Asked about his advice for pastors and denominational leaders, Moore said, “We need to equip our people to deal with same-sex marriage. And not just in the blue states, but in places like Mississippi and Alabama.”

Moore pointed to the battles in the courts as determinative for states that have not approved same-sex marriages or that have banned it. Ultimately the United States Supreme Court will decide. That’s why it’s important for Christians to be involved in court actions early in this process.

“The principle we ought to see is from the apostle Paul appealing to Caesar. His appeal was not about his rights as a Roman citizen, but for the ability to preach the Gospel—for everyone.”

The marriage issue is a Gospel issue, he said, more than a political issue.

Moore pointed to the impact of court rulings on the institutional level. The most vulnerable ministries are not the churches themselves, that they may be forced to perform same-sex marriages, but the institutions that operate as separate ministries of churches or denominations. He cited Kentucky’s Sunrise Children’s Services (that state’s Baptist children’s home) that faced a lawsuit over its hiring practices.

And, closer to home, Moore said individuals who refuse services to gay couples will be increasingly vulnerable. One example is the owner of a Washington state florist sued because she didn’t wish to provide flowers for a gay wedding.

“A government that can pave over the conscience of that florist or photographer can pave over the conscience of anyone,” Moore warned.

Moore addressed several other issues including immigration reform and abortion. He finds little real difference of opinion among national politicians on immigration and is optimistic that some meaningful fix can come within a year or so.

On abortion, Moore said he is “both optimistic and pessimistic.” He is optimistic that 40 years after Roe v. Wade the prolife movement is strong. The rallies he has attended since assuming leadership of the ERLC are “filled, filled, filled with young people.”

But Moore is pessimistic that the decision will be reversed, even though experts on both sides of the argument admit Roe v. Wade is what Moore called “bad law, a train wreck of a ruling.” Abortion activists remain well funded and well organized, he said.

Pro-life activists need to be watching the developments in abortion technology, he said. The next front for pro-life is not clinical, where abortions are performed, but chemical, drugs that make abortions more easily obtained.

Eric Reed is IBSA’s associate executive director, communications, and editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.