Archives For Marriage

Supreme Court will hear pregnancy center case
The Supreme Court announced this month it will rule on a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients of abortion options available elsewhere.

The FACT Act, passed in 2015, shares some similarities with an Illinois law that requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers. Multiple pregnancy centers in Illinois sued Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year over the law, and were granted a preliminary injunction.

Dockery elected to lead theologian group
The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theology Society focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The group also elected David Dockery, a Southern Baptist and president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as president.

Zimbabwe’s Christian leaders see unrest as ‘opportunity’
The conflict between Zimbabwe’s president and its military could be resolved by a “winner-takes-all-mentality,” many of the country’s religious leaders wrote in a letter following President Robert Mugabe’s military arrest. But it doesn’t have to, they said, calling the the situation an opportunity for “permanent healing” in Zimbabwe.

Hillsong pastor won’t change marriage views, despite Australian vote
While Australian voters decided in November to legalize same-sex marriage, Brian Houston, who pastors Sydney megachurch Hillsong, said his view of marriage as between a man and a woman “will not change.”

Coming to the big screen: Apostle Paul
A silver screen version of Paul’s life is set for release next Easter. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” tells the story of a persecutor of Christians who became the world’s most famous missionary and martyr. James Faulkner stars as Paul, and “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is Gospel-writer Luke.

The Briefing

IBDR flood response teams activated
The heavy rains that fell in late April and early May leaving behind several inches rain have caused major flooding in Southern Illinois and the St. Louis Metro area. Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) has been monitoring the situation and called assessors. Now, multiple IBDR flood response teams are on the ground in Williamson and Franklin Counties in Illinois.

Samford U considers pro-LGBT student group
A recommendation by Samford University’s faculty to approve a pro-homosexual student group could have “serious implications … for the relationship” between the university and the Alabama Baptist State Convention, according to a joint statement by the convention’s president and the executive director of its State Board of Missions.

Americans view of morality studied
Most older Americans say right and wrong never change. Younger Americans — not so much, according to a new study released May 9. The study by LifeWay Research found a significant generation gap in how Americans view morality. More than 6 in 10 of those older than 45 say right and wrong do not change. For those 35 and younger, fewer than 4 in 10 make that claim.

Religious liberty order doesn’t answer evangelicals’ prayers
In his biggest religious liberty push since taking office, President Donald Trump officially laid out in an executive order some of the protections he has promised faithful supporters for months. The move came on the same day that evangelical leaders gathered in Washington for the annual National Day of Prayer. One problem: This is not the executive order many evangelicals had been praying for.

Army secretary nominee bows out over marriage views
President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of the Army has withdrawn from consideration amid criticism of his positions on marriage and gender. Mark Green, a state senator from Tennessee, said in a statement that false and misleading attacks against him made his nomination a distraction.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, Florida Baptist Witness, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, World Magazine

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: BPnews.net, 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, BPNews.net

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 BPNews.net, 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 http://www.ERLC.com/store, 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 IBonline.IBSA.org.

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.