IBSA urges churches: Prepare for challenges to liberty

Meredith Flynn —  June 26, 2015

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.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.