Nashville, Tenn. | The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s summit on the Gospel and sexuality drew to a close this morning. Much was said on a variety of topics related to sexual ethics, and we’ll cover the conference extensively in the May 5 and May 26 issues of the Illinois Baptist. For now, here are three threads that ran through the conversation in Nashville this week.
Same-sex marriage isn’t the only threat to biblical marriage, and may not be the biggest. In a breakout session this week, Andrew Walker of the ERLC outlined 11 contemporary threats. Same-sex marriage was #6 on his list that also includes economic pressures, divorce, singles aspiring to find their soul mates, and the rise of “professional marriages,” in which spouses have individual bank accounts and separate social lives.
Closing speaker Kevin Smith summarized it this way: “I don’t know what homosexuals shall do or can do to the institution of marriage in the future, but I know marriage is jacked up right now in America in the popular culture and among believers because of heterosexuals.”
The call to reclaim biblical marriage is more urgent. Summit speaker David Prince probably raised some eyebrows when he said that as a pastor visiting new parents, he prays over their babies, and specifically for their future spouses. One grandfather in a hospital room expressed his disbelief that Prince was praying that way already, the Kentucky pastor said. But several leaders this week echoed the principle: At a time when marriage is being redefined, and fewer people are getting married in the first place, it’s up to evangelicals to reclaim and profess the biblical meaning of marriage.
Embrace the strangeness. One of Moore’s main messages during his first year as ERLC president has been that Christians will be increasingly strange – he has even used the word “freakish” – as nominal Christianity falls away and culture continues to move away from previously held values. Twitter proved that point this week, as posts with the hashtag #erlcsummit poured in during nearly every session. The majority of the feedback was negative from those watching online or following along on Twitter, but that’s not surprising, Andrew Walker said.
“We are talking about the Christian sexual ethic being more unique and distinguishable in society, and we’re trying to warn Christians, ‘Hey, the ground has kind of fallen out from beneath you. The culture has changed on this issue. And one way to really gage that is to see what social media is saying.'”
The correct response to our increasing strangeness, Moore said, is an awareness of what’s happening in the world and a commitment to speak lovingly into the culture. “We have to understand that as we speak prophetically within the church and outside of the church when it relates to issues of sexuality or any other issue, we have to do that in a way that opposes the devil, without acting like the devil.”