This past Sunday we made reference to a statement supported by many evangelical leaders in response to the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Our quantity of hard copies disappeared pretty quickly, so we wanted to point to it here. You can download the statement or view it online.
The statement, posted by The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is titled, "Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage." It recommends six points of engagement by the church:
• Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
• Teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
• Affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
• Love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
• Live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
• Cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom for those who live and believe differently to prosper.
The statement closes with a pledge to “...stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.”
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June 11 2012 at 7:01 pm 2 Comments
Mark Mitchell has compiled a list of helpful articles and videos that speak to this subject:
On the church’s response to homosexuality and same-sex “marriage”:
- J.D. Greear, “Homosexuality, Christianity, and the Gospel,” jdgreear.com (three videos)
- Kevin DeYoung, “The Church and Homosexuality: Ten Commitments,” The Gospel Coalition
- John Piper, “‘My Eyes Shed Streams of Tears’ – Thoughts on the New Calamity,” Desiring God
- Matt Chandler, “A Biblical and Cultural Examination of Homosexuality,” The Gospel Coalition (three videos)
- Al Mohler, “Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections,” (PDF, 143 KB) in John Piper et al, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ
- Tom Schreiner, “God’s Word on Homosexuality,” Spurgeon Conference, 2005 (four audio files)
- Sam Williams, “Lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,” The Gospel Coalition (video, audio and transcript—scroll down)
- Robert Gagnon, “What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality?” The Gospel Coalition (one video—scroll down)
On the definition of marriage:
- Sherif Girgis, Robert George and Ryan T. Anderson, “What is Marriage?” Social Science Research Network
On the important connection between marriage and children:
- Helen Alvare, “Traditional Family Law: Connecting Marriage with Children,” Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good
On biological tendencies toward homosexuality
- Justin Taylor, “Biological Disposition toward Homosexuality—and Other Sins,” The Gospel Coalition
Look for audio and an outline of Joshua’s message in the Resource Library.
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May 21 2012 at 4:24 pm 3 Comments
Yesterday in church, Mark Mitchell took a few moments to speak with us as a congregation about the issue of Same Sex “Marriage” in Maryland:
Mark briefly described the background: that the Maryland legislature approved a bill in February redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, and that organizers have launched a statewide effort to gather qualified signatures for a petition in order to place this issue on a referendum ballot. He went on to talk about how Covenant Life members can sign the petition and other ways the church will speak to the questions that arise out of this important biblical and moral issue.
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February 5 2009 at 5:10 pm 0 Comments
Last Sunday we took some time to pray for our nation and President Obama. I read a prayer written by Dr. Albert Mohler, and since then several people have asked me for a copy of it. You’ll find it here on his website, www.albertmohler.com.
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January 27 2009 at 4:40 pm 2 Comments
This Sunday we’ll take time during the meeting to pray for our new President and his administration. To help us pray effectively, I wanted to share the following article written by my friend, Ligon Duncan. (Ligon is Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., an author, theologian, and part of Together for the Gospel.) Regardless of your political affiliation, I would encourage you to read his comments and let them inform your prayers for President Obama now and in the coming years:
As Americans, I suspect that none of us can fully appreciate the far-reaching significance of this event, though our nation and much of the rest of the world are electric with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States of America. To say that this is historic, is a gross understatement.
Many are rejoicing at this very visible public realization of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence at the very pinnacle of our civic life. In the ascendancy of an African-American from less-than-privileged circumstances to the leadership of the free world, we see the fruit of aspirations of the Founders: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” You don’t have to read far in the newspapers of the world to see them marveling at yet another astounding accomplishment in the great experiment that is America.
Do you realize that our republic has now enjoyed 44 peaceful transitions of power in our two-plus centuries of existence? There is no parallel for this in human history. And we need to thank God for his singular blessing in bestowing it upon us, undeserving as we are.
But I said I wanted us to think about all this Christianly (and not just as grateful or concerned Americans, much less as giddy Democrats or grumpy Republicans!). And this presents us with some challenges, doesn’t it?
As much as we may feel “this is my President and I want him to succeed,” as much as we may feel sympathetic joy with millions who watched President Obama’s inauguration with tear-filled eyes and hope-filled hearts, feeling themselves a part of the American story in a way they’ve never felt before, there lingers a question as to how to think about our leader in areas where his views and policies conflict with biblical conviction.
Many Christians find themselves profoundly conflicted because of some of the moral positions and social policies that Mr. Obama espouses. So how do you pray for your President when you disagree with him?
Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about such a question. After all it commands us to pray for all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2), no matter their party, policies or religion (or lack thereof). It is vital that we think Christianly, which is to say, biblically, about this issue (and not just as Democrats or Republicans who happen to be Christian). So, back to the question. How do we pray for Mr. Obama? Here are some ideas (and I want to thank Al Mohler and Justin Taylor for many of these thoughts and words) for praying for our new President, Barack Obama:
First, it needs to be said, that we ought to commit ourselves to pray for our new President, for his wife and family, for his administration and for the nation. We will do this, not only because of the biblical command to pray for our rulers, but because of the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor,” and what better way to love your neighbor than to pray for his well-being. Those with the greatest moral and political differences with the President ought to ask God to engender in them, by His Spirit, genuine neighbor-love for Mr. Obama.
We will also pray for our new President because he (and we) face challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. We will pray that God will grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life and hold them close together.
We will pray that God will protect this nation even as our new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.
We will pray that God would change President Obama’s mind and heart on issues of crucial moral concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.
For those Christians who are more concerned than overjoyed about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance that as our President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Romans 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Romans 13:1, 5; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Thus, again, we are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are to respect Barack Obama (Romans 13:7). We are to honor Barack Obama (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17).
For those Christians who are more overjoyed than concerned about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance of our ultimate allegiance: Jesus is Lord (and thus, He, not we, decides what is right and wrong), we serve God not man, and the Lord himself has promised to establish “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:18). Thus, where our new President opposes or undermines biblical moral standards in our society, fails to uphold justice for the unborn, undermines religious liberties or condones an ethos that is hostile to the gospel, we will pray for God’s purposes to triumph over our President’s plans and policies.
Without doubt and whatever our particular views may be, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must all expect to be frustrated and disappointed. Some now may feel defeated and discouraged. While others may all-too-soon find their audacious hopes unfounded and unrealized. We must all keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up leaders and nations, and it is God who pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think like unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.
So, now, Christian. Let’s get to work. And pray.
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September 16 2008 at 1:17 pm 12 Comments
Recently a couple pursuing membership in our church wrote me a very thoughtful, humble letter with questions generated by the recent sermon “Don’t Waste Your Vote.” In particular, they took issue with the emphasis placed on the issue of abortion. While pro-life themselves, they felt that by highlighting abortion we were essentially endorsing a particular party. I wrote them back and sought to share the perspective of the pastoral team, why we did what we did and how we view this issue.
I’m sharing our correspondence here (with their permission) for two reasons. First, because I think it’s an encouraging example of how Christians should interact on what are often heated subjects. We need to be able to speak about these issues with charity and respect toward each other. I think the way this couple raised their questions and disagreements is a model for this. Second, I share it because I think the issue of abortion is a vital subject for Christians to examine from a biblical perspective. Though you may not agree with my perspective, I hope it provokes you to prayerfully search God’s word for yourself.
What follows is the original letter I received and then my response…
We recently moved to the area and have been attending Covenant Life Church for the last couple of months. We have been very refreshed to worship with the Covenant Life body. The sermons have challenged us, the thoughtful and powerful lyrics of the songs have enabled us to enter into genuine times of worship and praise, and the consistent emphasis on “impassioned orthodoxy” has stirred our hearts. We came to this area in search of a local church that unabashedly presents the unadulterated Gospel, in full humility and in view of God’s mercy. Through our experiences and prayers thus far, we have felt a growing excitement that Covenant Life may indeed be this local church, and we have started attending the Starting Point classes. At our first class, we were further heartened to read in detail the church’s Statement of Faith, which we believe has been more thoughtfully prepared and presented than any other we have ever read. Overwhelmingly, we have been very blessed and had been eagerly looking forward to joining the community of believers at Covenant Life to know the Lord deeper and to make Him known.
However, the recent sermon entitled “Don’t Waste Your Vote” has really taken us aback. We did not have an opportunity to attend the sermon since we were in the Starting Point class at the time, and it would have been too much for our baby if we had tried to attend the first service as well. We listened to the sermon Monday evening instead and were surprised and discouraged regarding much of the sermon’s content. We are not in the habit of writing this sort of letter in response to sermons. Rather, in the past we have made it a point to send e-mails of encouragement to our pastors for sermons that have blessed us. However, since we are trying to find a home church, we feel that it is very important for us to take the steps now that are necessary for us to be certain of the church’s stance and pastoral unity on certain topics.
We were really interested to listen to the “vote” sermon as it was introduced as one that would challenge us to consider what it means to think responsibly and biblically about our citizenship. Instead, the bulk of the content centered around the very strong suggestion that we ought to consider abortion the most important issue facing us today. Indeed, the intense discussion on abortion made up the vast majority of the sermon’s second point entitled, “what to do,” seemingly implying that the correct thing to do once making our list of important issues is to realize that voting for candidates who oppose abortion is “what we should do.” The emphasis on abortion, especially to the exclusion of other topics that many Christians believe God speaks clearly on as well (caring for His earth, aiding the disadvantaged of our society, supporting humble rather than ethnocentric leadership, etc.) led us as listeners to either feel that we must vote based on abortion alone or feel incredibly guilty before the Lord if we don’t. The world is so complicated, and it is not easy to understand how the Lord would have us “vote,” but we feel that it is a great travesty that in the Christian community we are wrestling with this less and less and, instead, making it seem like a simple answer by equating a Christian vote with the pro-life candidate.
We profoundly appreciate the importance of teaching the community of believers to be thoughtfully, prayerfully, and humbly involved in our country’s political process so that our privilege to vote, and to reflect the character of the Lord in that act, is not “wasted.” However, although the sermon started in this manner, the entire second half was almost exclusively focused on the sin of abortion. While we do view abortion as an egregious sin, our experience is that such imbalanced focus on abortion as a single hot button issue, especially within the church, not only does harm to our political process, but weakens the capacity of congregants to think for themselves about how to reflect the character and heart of God in the midst of a world that has far more going on than just abortion. The pastor who preached this sermon began by encouraging people to become aware and involved in the political process, but we fear that for many, this sermon basically ended up providing a simple answer about how to vote. The surprising and exclusive emphasis on abortion as the issue that everyone should consider as most important, or at least most black and white from the Bible, is practically equivalent to holding up a sign that says “Vote Republican” or “Vote John McCain”.
We recognize that you shared some welcomed words on your blog that “we’re not interested in identifying with a political party or candidate,” and as we were leaving the Starting Point class, we heard the thoughtful things that you shared after the sermon about how the Gospel in its entirety is far more important than a single issue. However, at best, we feel that there is a mixed signal when the senior pastor says that there is not party affiliation, but the preacher implies, “vote for the pro-life candidate” for much of the sermon. At worst, it makes congregants like us worry that there are serious disconnects between what the church says it stands for and what it actually does.
I emphasize that it is not at all fair, nor productive, to make accusations. This is NOT our heart and motivation behind this letter. We just feel so wary, weary, tired and disheartened by a wing of influential Christians who have made Christianity into a fight against abortion and homosexual marriage, with no thought given to just about anything else. We want desperately to know that the church we are about to join wants to fight this hijack. Not with clubs, swords and angry words, but by humbly and thoughtfully presenting the Gospel in its entirety, and the Lord in His incomprehensible fullness.
We hope very much that we have not offended anyone in this letter. We understand that there will be things in any church that some will not be able to agree with, and unity must always be sought in the midst of that. But we wanted to write this letter to honestly share our feelings and to learn more about the church’s stance on what we feel is an important issue. We know that you must be incredibly busy, and we’re not sure how shepherd/sheep correspondence about things like this works at Covenant Life, but we would very much appreciate hearing from you in this regard at your earliest convenience. Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for your letter. I know it was probably difficult to write. I appreciate you taking the time to share what you’ve been encouraged by at the church. And it really is a joy to have you coming.
The first thing I’d like to register with you is that I share your frustration over the lack of political “options” for Christians who believe that human life is sacred and should be protected. I assume from your letter that you share this view. One of the reasons that I pray Roe v. Wade will one day be overturned is that even though it won’t get rid of abortion completely in our nation, I think it would lead to the end of one party “owning” the pro-life issue. The current state of affairs is very unhealthy. If individual states were given the ability to decide about abortion, you’d have candidates from each party taking different stands on the issue of life. In a limited way even now there are pro-life democrats, just as there are pro-choice republicans. If this were more the norm, I think it would be easier for Christians to take a strong stand on the issue of abortion without sounding as if they were advocating one particular party. I realize Robin’s message could leave us open to that charge, but I’d like to explain why he did what he did in that message.
First, I agree that there are other important topics that Christians should consider. And I would even say that Robin could have done more to highlight these other issues. Neither I, nor Robin, would want to try and argue that it was the perfect message on this complicated topic. But what I would argue for is the view that few other issues in our generation rise to the same level of moral urgency as abortion. When we’re talking about millions of innocent lives being taken, and I’m just not aware of another issue where Scripture speaks so clearly. If this were an issue of a candidate supporting human trafficking or the sex trade, would we say that other issues were just as important? I understand your weariness over how politicians have used this issue to secure a block of votes, but I don’t think it changes our responsibility to continue to work for justice on this issue.
We believe our role as pastors is to speak clearly to those areas that God’s word clearly addresses. When it comes to other areas where there is freedom in Scripture to hold different views, we don’t want to pretend that our viewpoint—mine or Robin’s or anyone else’s—holds some sort of special authority. So for example, I think the issue of the environment is very important. But I can’t say that God’s word speaks to a specific policy or political platform. But I can say that God’s word condemns the taking of innocent human life. And because of that, I think I have the responsibility to speak to it very clearly.
My concern for my own heart in this issue (and my concern for you and others) is that we would grow weary of the issue of abortion and stop thinking biblically about it. But if we were looking back on other issues in our nation’s history—the issue of slavery for example—I think we could more clearly see that regardless of other important issues of the day, that one issue should rise above others in its priority. I wonder if we would fault the Christian abolitionists of the past for being “one issue” voters on that topic. Or Christians who stood for civil rights in the 1960s. John Piper has stated this view much better than me in an article entitled “One Issue Politics.”
All this is to say that I don’t think there’s any discontinuity in saying “we’re not interested in identifying with a party,” and saying, “the issue of abortion is uniquely important for Christians to consider.”
I don’t know that I can convince you that this is the right church for you. (I can say from the tone and thoughtfulness of your letter that I want people like you to be part of this church!) I understand and can sympathize with your concern over the church being used as a pawn of right wing conservatives, and I don’t want any part of that. And I think if you look at what we say and do you’ll see that we don’t emphasize these issues or involve ourselves in politics in the same way some churches do. I think it’s perfectly within our liberty as Christians to have different points of view on politics and different priorities on different issues. But, as I said, where God’s word is so clear in condemning the taking of innocent human life I must speak to that—even if it could be interpreted as some sort of endorsement of one political party. I pray for the day when that won’t be the case.
I’d love to have you set up an appointment with Robin or any other pastor to discuss these matters. If it would serve you to hear how our church involves itself in these issues, we’d love to do that. I also understand if our views on this issue make it untenable for you to join the church. That would sadden me because I don’t think it has to be the case, but I would understand.
I also want you to know that am not offended by your letter. I respect your thoughtful approach to these issues. Thank you for writing with such a humble spirit. Thank you for taking the time to get to know our church’s doctrine and practice before you join. I respect you for caring about these issues. Please let us know how we can serve you or continue this conversation.
After I sent this letter, I received a very gracious response from the couple. While they respectfully disagreed with some of my statements, they appreciated the dialogue and informed me they still planned to pursue membership here at the church. I hope that reading this interaction serves you as you think about your role as a citizen of both the United States and the Kingdom of God. Regardless of whom you vote for in the upcoming election, let’s all pray for God to have mercy on our nation and to give us leaders who will lead with wisdom, integrity and a commitment to justice and mercy.
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