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ERLC_Summit_logoNEWS | Meredith Flynn

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.”

 

An almost-Gospel is no match for the sexual revolution.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

A gentle and quiet spirit is not about volume.

“Woo-hoo! Otherwise, I’d be in trouble.

“It’s about a heart that fears and loves the Lord.”

Trillia Newbell, speaking on biblical womanhood

When I die, I want my children to be able to say that was the godliest man I ever met. And I want my wife to be able to say I would marry him all over again.”

Pastor Matt Carter, on his two life goals

Our approach to teaching our children about Christian sexuality cannot be, ‘Just say no. Just don’t do it.’ That’s not a Christian sexual ethic. …We want them not to just have a right view about what to say no to, we want them to have a comprehensively Christ-centered, Christian view of sexuality.”

David Prince, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist in Lexington, Ky., at the ERLC summit on the Gospel and sexuality

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

Nashville, Tenn. | There are few things that make the Gospel more offensive and more out of sync with culture than what the Bible teaches about sex. But the church has to keep talking about it.

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told leaders gathered for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s summit on the Gospel and sexuality that the church can’t surrender the “high ground” in talking about sex, and also shouldn’t avoid hard topics like homosexuality. Greear also stressed that the root of sexual sin is idolatry, and the Gospel is powerful to deal with it.

“Our message cannot simply be, ‘Stop having sex.’ Our message has to be, ‘Behold, your God.'”

Encouraging leaders not to avoid hard topics, Greear said he had struggled two years ago with whether to speak publicly in favor of his state’s attempt to define marriage as between a man and a woman. He did and was met with harsh criticism, including one blogger who published the Greears’ home address.

For three weeks, Greear thought he and his leadership team might have made the wrong decision, he said. But now he has little doubt it was the right thing to do. Teaching his church to think “Christian-ly” about the issue was the goal; also, his church has seen several people come out of a homosexual lifestyle, accept Christ, and be baptized.

Greear’s message and the first day of the ERLC summit got a lot of attention on Twitter; by Monday evening, #erlcsummit was one of the social media site’s top trends. Posts from conference attendees were positive, but others watching from home or following the tweets expressed different views. The Twitter traffic seemed to increase when several leaders joined Greear on stage for a panel discussion on the Gospel and homosexuality.

There were light moments, like when Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins told pastors to reject “redneck theology” when talking about homosexuality. No more “Adam and Steve” jokes, he said. But the conversation was serious when the panel talked about what pastors should do when gay people or couples want to join their church, or how to counsel a Christian who still feels attracted to members of his or her same sex.

“There are things that are broken because of the curse of sin that you becoming a believer doesn’t automatically fix,” Scroggins said. That’s why pastors have to preach the second coming of Christ, he said, and the transformation of all believers who are in Christ. “In some mysterious way that I can’t comprehend, He is going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Scroggins said. Breaking into a grin, he added, “Can’t wait to see these tweets.”

Watch the ERLC Summit online at live.erlc.com.