Archives For Marriage

The BriefingNY Times asks: What does it mean to be evangelical?
Donald Trump’s popularity with evangelicals has led some church leaders to break with the term. The New York Times Opinion Page asked four evangelical writers to share what it mean to be an evangelical today.

Gary Smalley passes away
Best-selling author and world-renowned marriage and relationship expert Gary Smalley has died at age 75. Smalley passed away March 6 after a lengthy illness, his family announced on Facebook March 7.

Christianity Today apologizes for ‘son-in-law’ job posting
The flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today has tweeted an apology after publishing a job listing for a son-in-law that raised some eyebrows on social media. The ad, which ran in the March edition, was bought by an unnamed Chicagoland church elder who is based in Wheaton, Ill., the magazine’s longtime home.

Millennials increasingly view the church negatively
Since 2010, millennials’ view of churches and other religious organizations as having a positive effect on the country has fallen 18 percentage points, according to Pew Research. In 2015, 55% of young adults believed churches have a positive impact on the country compared with 73% five years ago.

Florist who refused gay wedding gets appeal
The highest court in Washington state has agreed to hear the appeal of florist Barronelle Stutzman found guilty of violating state laws and the constitutional rights of a gay couple when she refused to arrange flowers for their wedding, citing religious beliefs.

Bible translators split over Trinity description
Wycliffe Associates (WA) is leaving Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA), a partnership of more than 100 Bible translation agencies around the globe. WA cited several reasons for its decision, starting with controversy over the language used to describe Jesus. In some Bible translations, the language of Jesus’ relationship to God the Father (e.g. “Son of God”) is softened to stem confusion and anger from Muslims.

Sources:, Christianity Today, Facts and Trends, Focus on the Family, Religion News Service, New York Times

NEWS | As the country marked the one-month anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, religious institutions continued to wrestle with the possible implications.

“The Supreme Court left unresolved what rights faith-based universities will have in regard to their religious liberty,” Gene Crume, president of Judson University in Elgin, Ill., told the Illinois Baptist. “The federal government controls financial aid for students, so there is a very real possibility that there could be restrictions to federal financial aid for faith-based institutions if they do not recognize same-sex relationships.”

Crume also noted that since the Court’s ruling, some leaders have favored protecting the tax-exempt status of faith-based universities that oppose same-sex unions, while others have called to do away with the protection for those institutions.
That particular concern arose during oral arguments heard by the Court prior to their decision, when Justice Samuel Alito asked if institutions like religious schools could lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed same-sex unions. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli responded that “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) told The Weekly Standard in July that he had no “quick answer” about the “challenging area” presented by schools and their religious liberty concerns.

“There’s no question this was an historic decision, and now we’re going to go through a series of suggestions for new laws to implement it,” Durbin said. “I can’t predict how this will end. But from the beginning we have said that when it comes to marriage, religions can decide what their standards will be.”

The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service testified before a Senate committee in July that Christian schools will not lose their tax-exempt status if their policies oppose same-sex marriage, The Christian Post reported. But Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) was skeptical of Commissioner John Koskinen’s use of the phrase “at this time” in explaining the IRS’ position.

Lee told media, “While I greatly appreciate Commissioner Koskinen’s word that he will not target religious institutions for their religious beliefs, it worries me and it should worry every American that the IRS does not absolutely disavow the power to target religious institutions based on their religious beliefs, even if the current IRS commissioner has committed not to use that power for the time being.”

SBC entity appeals mandate
GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention announced last month it had filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court against a health care mandate that requires some companies it works with to provide abortion-inducing drugs.

While GuideStone and churches are exempt and will not have to pay penalties for refusing to cover drugs like the morning-after pill, the federal government has argued that other religious employers are protected by an accommodation in the mandate.

In a report on the Baptist Press website, GuideStone General Counsel Harold R. Loftin Jr., said the Southern Baptist entity “has, from the filing of our case, objected to the so-called ‘accommodation’ because the government is attempting to rewrite the terms of GuideStone’s plan” to use the plan “to provide access to drugs and devices GuideStone believes to be impermissible.”

GuideStone officials said they are optimistic that the Supreme Court will accept its appeal by the end of September, but regardless of the outcome, President O.S. Hawkins said the organization remains committed to the ministries potentially affected by the mandate if the Supreme Court upholds it.

With reporting from Baptist Press,

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_BriefingTwo men who were shot in the July 16 attacks on Tennessee military facilities were connected to Southern Baptist churches. Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, 21, was killed by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez at a Navy support center in Chattanooga. Three other Marines also were killed, and a Navy petty officer later died from injuries sustained in the attack.

The Sunday following the shootings, Wells’ one-time church, First Baptist of Woodstock, Ga., placed a Marine flag at the seat he occupied as a clarinetist in the church orchestra, Baptist Press reported.

In Harrison, Tenn., near Chattanooga, members of Bayside Baptist Church prayed for the families of the victims and for Dennis Pedigo, a church member and police officer injured during the attacks. Pedigo, whose name was released after this Baptist Press story was published, is expected to make a full recovery.

Former Planned Parenthood clinic director reaches out to exec caught on video
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now has a ministry dedicated to helping abortion workers find a way out of the industry, has written an open letter to Deborah Nucatola, the subject of a video made by an anti-abortion organization in which she discusses the sale of body parts gained through abortion.

“We want you to find peace,” wrote Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. “We want you to find true happiness. We know that won’t happen as long as you are involved in Planned Parenthood.” More from Johnson’s letter, published by LifeSiteNews, can be read at, with this warning: The letter contains some graphic details that are difficult to read.

Christian colleges could hire staff in same-sex marriages
Two Christian colleges have added “sexual orientation” to their non-discrimination policies, said Christianity Today, meaning they could hire faculty and staff members who are in same-sex marriages. Both schools–Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., are affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA, which voted in July to reaffirm same-sex marriage as a sin, but also to allow churches to perform same-sex marriages if their regional conferences allow it.

GuideStone loses case against health care mandate
“Today was a setback. It is not the final outcome,” said GuideStone Financial Services President O.S. Hawkins after a federal appeals court ruled it must comply with a mandate requiring employers to cover the cost of contraceptives–including some that can potentially cause abortions. GuideStone, the Southern Baptist entity responsible for health and financial benefits, is considering an appeal of the ruling, according to a statement on the organization’s website.

Americans rooted in their communities, Barna finds
59% of Americans aren’t sure they’ll move from the place they currently live, or never plan to, according to a Barna survey on why people put down roots in a particular place. Among the findings: The largest share of Americans–45%–describe their community as suburban, and 24% currently live in the city or town where they were born. Among those who don’t, family ranked as the most popular reason they moved to their current location.

Churches, institutions prepare for fallout from marriage decision

NEWS | From the Illinois Baptist

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, leaders of churches and Christian institutions are asking several key questions: Is the threat to religious liberty as real as we imagined? And will our insurance cover the costs if our churches and schools are sued?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide flipped the final switch on a new marriage culture many observers believed was a foregone conclusion. In the days and weeks following the announcement, Christian leaders urged churches and ministries to evaluate their policies to determine if they will be adequately protected against potential infringements on religious liberty.

“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,” IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said immediately following the Court’s decision.

“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.”

New research from Barna indicates 56% of Americans are concerned that religious freedom will be more restricted in the next five years, with adults over age 40 more likely to say so than those under 40.

The numbers soar when Christians answer the question: 77% of practicing Christians and 93% of evangelicals are concerned about religious freedom over the next five years.

Those polled by Barna were more likely to protect the rights of churches than those of businesses: 38% of U.S. adults say businesses should have to provide services for same-sex weddings, while only 19% say religious institutions should be legally required to perform same-sex weddings.

But some, including Illinois pastor Danny Holliday, say churches could be in danger. “I think some churches are going to end up having to close because of the Human Rights Act and the building usage issue,” Holliday, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Alton, told the Illinois Baptist.

(Illinois’ Human Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination based on classifications like race, gender, and sexual orientation. It was used by Chick-Fil-A opponents in 2012 to file complaints against the company after President Dan Cathy vocalized the business’ views on marriage and family.)

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission released “Protecting Your Ministry,” a booklet for churches, schools, and businesses. The guide, available for free at, provides checklists for navigating the new marriage culture (and avoiding lawsuits).

If churches do face lawsuits resulting from their refusal to perform same-sex weddings, said Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company attorney Joshua Lederman, the claim would most likely be “emotional injury as a result of improper discrimination.”

While some insurance companies only cover emotional injury claims caused by physical injury, said Lederman, Brotherhood
Mutual offers a Religious Freedom Liability Coverage endorsement that covers “alleged discriminatory acts, religious communication, challenges to your ministry’s tax exempt status, reimbursement for declaratory judgment actions that your ministry initiates in order to protect its right to pursue a belief-based decision or practice, and liability defense reimbursement coverage.”

Churches aren’t the only institutions potentially affected by the ruling: Oral arguments heard by the Court in April touched on
concerns for schools, specifically related to whether they could lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex unions.

A few weeks after the Court’s ruling, two Christian colleges, Hope College in Holland, Mich., and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., announced they would extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. But Shapri LoMaglio, a representative for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, told Baptist Press that as long as Christian colleges and universities “ensure that all of their policies are clearly tied to their religious beliefs,” the threats of losing tax-exempt status and being held liable for discrimination aren’t immediate.

While nothing will change for most Christian organizations in the short term, said David Dockery, president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., schools like his and other institutions could face challenges in the areas of hiring, financial aid and accrediting.

“It is also possible that the ‘free exercise of religion’ as defined by the First Amendment and echoed in the Civil Rights Acts of
the 1960s could be reduced to a more narrow understanding of ‘freedom of worship,’ thus applicable only for the ‘heart, the home, and the pew,’” Dockery told the Illinois Baptist. “As Chief Justice Roberts suggested in his minority expression, this could have implications for religious expressions in education, publishing, social services, or other spheres.”

That’s why a holistic understanding of religious liberty—one that harkens back to Baptist leaders in the 18th century—is important, Dockery said.

“We want Mormon schools to be able to hire only Mormons if they choose to do so. We want Buddhists to be able to hire only Buddhists if they choose to do so. We want Muslims to be able to only hire Muslims if they choose to do so.”

Following the Court’s ruling, Dockery advised a “wise, careful, and prudent” approach for Christians in the days ahead.

“At this point it is important for Christians to carry out their callings in a faithful and joyful manner, seeking to be kind and civil in all of our responses with all people, even as we seek to remain convictional about the teaching of Scripture and the pattern of Christian truth.”

Read the July 20 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper online at

COMMENTARY | Charles Lyons

Floyd and Rad certainly stood out when they showed up in our tiny congregation. I had been pastoring a couple years. Obviously not from around here, they did seem familiar with church. Conversation revealed they were both from Arkansas; one from a Baptist church, the other from an Assembly of God church. Maybe they were 20 years old. My guess is they met in high school.

Charles_Lyons_July16They, like thousands before them, had fled home and familiarity for faraway, big-city anonymity. I’m not sure why, but they didn’t hide their homosexuality from me. I’ll never forget the anguished question during one tearful conversation with Floyd:
“How can this be wrong?” He was overwhelmed with need, emotion, passion, and counterfeit love.

I have to say, getting to know them as individuals radically changed my rabid hostility toward those I before would have called “perverts.” I didn’t change what I believed. My conviction that God’s Word is true was not threatened. But I had an overwhelming desire to be a channel of grace and, as John puts it, “love in truth.”

It was God’s truth and love by God’s definition that eventually contributed to Floyd and Rad drifting away from the church,
looking for something else I could not offer.

Let me tell you! I’m as opinionated a person as you’ll ever meet. Furthermore, I am able to passionately, hey, vehemently
articulate my views. I’m especially dogmatic and emphatic when it comes to behavior I don’t engage in, and I can really preach against that stuff!

Many of us have gone through a process to get where we are today. We used to regularly rant against “easy targets” like communists and hippies, and these days those targets have been replaced by homosexuals, transgender, and “gay marriage” (as if there really were such a thing). And some continue to rant rather than to take a Bible approach.

Should we ignore these things or begin to accept them? Of course not, but we need to confront them biblically. After all, we
are not just guarding our culture or doing battle with sinners. We are representing God and his grace as well as his warning.

Jesus’ harshest condemnations target self-righteous religious zealots. His greatest compassion is expressed to those most
ignorant of, rebellious toward, or distant from God. He said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

It goes without saying, those who are determined to pursue any kind of sin are not going to be comfortable or in close fellowship in a Bible-preaching church.

That said, there is a whole slice of “sinnerdom,” and for sure some wrestling with same-sex attraction, who would seek help
from people they knew loved them. Is that not the spirit of Jesus?

How do we communicate God’s love?

How do we communicate God’s love to those who are out of bounds in any way, shape, or form? Think over-indulgence. Adultery. Consider any form of destructive behavior. What about unnecessarily angry people?

How do we express God’s love to those who are way, way out of bounds?

Is God’s love unconditional? Is the love I live, preach, teach, and lead our congregation to demonstrate just as unconditional?

Should the church be the last place these out-of-bounds think of for seeking help?

Do the kids attending our churches know these are safe places to bare their souls and share their secrets?

Understand me. There is always someone reading between the lines looking for compromise if not sellout, and I am not advocating in any way changing or messing with what God says about any particular sin. I am saying our churches need to be havens of hope, dispensaries of love and deliverance, places of grace.

The rebels and unrepentants will cast themselves into an eternity without God… but they should go with the knowledge that we loved them. Those willing to believe God’s promises, trusting him for rescue, and willing to fight the flesh in fellowship with God’s people should never wonder if they have a home.

Charles Lyons pastors Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_BriefingFollowing the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, churches and Christian institutions, including colleges and universities, are navigating the potential religious liberty ramifications.

Christian colleges in Michigan and Tennessee announced last week they would extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. But a representative for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) told Baptist Press that as long as Christian colleges and universities “ensure that all of their policies are clearly tied to their religious beliefs,” the threats of losing tax-exempt status and being held liable for discrimination aren’t immediate.

“At this point, there is no reason to believe that religious institutions, who do immense good by educating first-generation and low-income students, providing thousands of hours of volunteer time to their communities, and are institutions essential to the fabric of their communities, would be targeted to be penalized in this way for their longstanding religious beliefs,” said Shapri LoMaglio. “The test for tax-exemption is public good, and our institutions absolutely serve the public good.”

Neither of the two schools who announced benefits for same-sex spouses–Hope College in Holland, Mich., and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.–are affiliated with the CCCU. Belmont, which was affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention until 2007, added “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy in 2011, BP reports.

Durbin says schools are ‘challenging area’ after marriage decision
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he doesn’t “have a quick answer” about whether religious schools that oppose same-sex marriage are protected from religious liberty concerns in the same ways as churches. “There’s no question this was an historic decision, and now we’re going to go through a series of suggestions for new laws to implement it,” Durbin told The Weekly Standard. “I can’t predict how this will end. But from the beginning we have said that when it comes to marriage, religions can decide what their standards will be.”

But on the schools question, Durbin said, “Getting into a challenging area, and I don’t have a quick answer to you. I’ll have to think about it long and hard.”

Baylor drops ‘homosexual acts’ ban from conduct policy
Christian school Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has removed “homosexual acts” from behaviors banned in its sexual conduct policy, the Houston Chronicle reported this month. However, a “Statement on Human Sexuality” on the Baylor website says, “Christian churches… have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior.”

Carter says Jesus would be OK with same-sex marriage
Former President Jimmy Carter says he has no problem with same-sex marriage, and Jesus wouldn’t either. “I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else,” Carter told interviewer Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live.

Carter did say he’s not in favor of the government being able to force churches to perform same-sex weddings.

Wheaton denied injunction against contraceptive mandate
Wheaton University in Illinois will be required to notify the federal government that it objects to providing emergency contraception through its employee healthcare plans, after a judge denied the school’s request for an injunction. That notification will allow health plan participants to receive free contraception coverage, Christianity Today reported.

“…[W]e remain hopeful for a time when the government will allow us to provide healthcare for our employees and their families in full accordance with our common faith,” said Wheaton President Philip Ryken.


THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

While 62% of American adults believed nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage was inevitable, slightly less than half (49%) are in favor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision in favor of it, Barna reports. 43% disagreed with the decision, and 7% were unsure how they felt about it, according to the researcher’s July 1 report.

When it comes to how Christians feel about the Court’s decision, Barna found, 28% of practicing Christians (defined as “those who say their faith is very important to their life and who have attended one or more church services during the past month”) approve of legalized same-sex marriage, compared to 43% of people who identify as Christians but don’t qualify as practicing.

Only 2% of evangelicals support the Court’s decision. Read the rest of Barna’s report at

U.S. Episcopal Church votes to approve same-sex marriage
Right after the Supreme Court made it legal nationwide, the U.S. Episcopal Church moved to approve same-sex marriage in the denomination, The Christian Post reports. Episcopal clergy are now authorized to perform same-sex marriages, but can opt out, according to two marriage-related resolutions passed in late June at the denomination’s General Convention.

The resolutions were opposed by 20 bishops who issued a minority report stating, “The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage are linked to the relationship of man and woman,” and by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said the decision “will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.”

Church violence survivors share in Charleston grief
After nine people were killed in a South Carolina church last month, Southern Baptists who have experienced similar tragedies expressed their sympathy and grief over the June 17 shooting.

“I don’t know if you ever recover from something like that,” said Cindy Winters, whose husband, Fred, was killed in his Maryville, Ill., pulpit in 2009. “I think you learn how to get through it, but I don’t think you ever get over it this side of eternity,” Winters told Baptist Press. “I know one day I will when I’m with Jesus. Obviously only by the grace of God am I able to get up each day and go forward, and find beauty and meaning…and find goodness in living.”

Burned churches receive assistance from Baptist missions agency
African American churches in need of assistance after a recent spate of church fires can receive help from a fund established by the North American Mission Board, the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Southern Baptists should be the first to condemn acts of hatred toward African Americans,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said, according to Baptist Press. “Regardless of the causes of these fires, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to come alongside and offer whatever assistance we can.”

None of the fires have been deemed hate crimes, and only some are suspected arsons. However, one confirmed arson case is Charlotte’s Briar Creek Road Baptist, a predominantly black Southern Baptist church.

Barnabas Piper: Parents, ‘Don’t fight unbelief in your kids’
“At least don’t think of it as fighting,” Piper said in an interview about his new book “Help My Unbelief.” “Belief, ultimately, is a miracle, death made life by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can work in myriad ways, and questioning is a significant one,” Piper, son of preacher and author John Piper, told Ed Stetzer.

“As parents our job is to declare and display the work of the Spirit, our relationship with God, so that children can see where the answers to those questions truly lie. Don’t argue; answer. Don’t fight; exemplify. Don’t give up; pray.”