By / Feb 15

NASHVILLE (BP) – The first season of the Ethics & Religious Liberty’s relaunched podcast primarily focuses on a highly requested topic, gender and sexuality.

Before launching the retooled podcast in the fall of 2023, the ERLC spent months conducting research and surveying Southern Baptists to learn which issues or questions were at the forefront for pastors and churches.

Lindsay Nicolet, ERLC editorial director and podcast host, said among the feedback received, “this set of issues (gender and sexuality) rises to the top.”

In a culture that has redefined marriage, thinks being male or female is something that can be changed and has no boundaries regarding sexuality, we want to equip you to be confident about what the Bible says and how to live that out.

Lindsay Nicolet

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Dec 14

We began our gender and sexuality series by examining what the Bible teaches us about these important topics. And as we close out this series with two more episodes, we’re going to concentrate on the Church and how pastors and leaders can disciple their members to wrestle with and hold fast to God’s good design for us. Because gender confusion has disproportionately affected younger generations, we’ll spend a lot of time today focusing on discipling those at the forefront this ideological assault. 

As we discuss these important topics, you might have additional questions. We’d love to hear from you. Please e-mail us at [email protected] and let us know how you’re processing this conversation. 

Joining us on today’s episode are several of our former guests: Katie McCoy, the director of women’s ministry at Texas Baptists; Steven and Amy Castello from City on a Hill Church in Boston, where Steven is the lead pastor and Amy is the director for women’s discipleship and care; and Christopher Yuan, a professor and the creator of “The Holy Sexuality Project.”

You’ll also hear from Dr. Dub Oliver. Dr. Oliver is the president of Union University, a Southern Baptist college. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Baylor University, Master of Science degree in educational psychology, and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational administration from Texas A&M. Dr. Oliver and his wife, Susie, have one daughter and two grandchildren. 

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Jill Waggoner, Lindsay Nicolet, and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Nov 30

On our previous episode in our series on gender and sexuality, we looked at the family and how parents can approach these important topics with their children. Today, we’re turning our attention to an issue that has caused anxiety for some parents: gender and sexuality in schools and how to direct our children as they are confronted with teaching and examples that contradict what the Bible says. 

As we discuss these important topics, you might have additional questions. We’d love to hear from you. Please e-mail us at [email protected] and let us know how you’re processing this conversation. 

Joining us on today’s episode is Shaka Mitchell. Shaka serves as a Senior Fellow for the American Federation for Children. He is also an elder at his local church.  He has previously served as Associate Director of Policy and Planning at the D.C.-based Center for Education Reform and led outreach efforts at the Institute for Justice, a constitutional law firm based in Arlington, Virgina. He is an alumnus of Belmont University where he teaches as an adjunct faculty member. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Wake Forest University School of Law. Shaka and his wife live in Nashville with their children and are active in several non-profit organizations.

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Jill Waggoner, Lindsay Nicolet, and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Nov 16

So far in our gender and sexuality series, we’ve learned what the Bible teaches about God’s design, we’ve traced the sexual revolution in our society, and we’ve heard a powerful testimony of honoring God in the midst of a struggle with sexual sin. Today, we’re going to discuss talking with our kids about gender and sexuality.

We’re going to hear some helpful advice for parents as they seek to teach their children a biblical view of sexuality.

As we discuss these important topics, you might have additional questions. We’d love to hear from you. Please e-mail us at [email protected] and let us know how you’re processing this conversation. 

On this episode, Steven and Amy Castello are going to help us think through some important aspects of teaching our kids God’s intent for gender and sexuality. Steven is the Lead Pastor and planter for City on a Hill Church in Boston, MA. He previously planted Immanuel Church in Birmingham, AL, before moving to Boston. Steven holds an undergraduate degree from Samford University and a M.Div from Birmingham Theological Seminary. 

Amy is the Director for Women’s Discipleship and Care for City on a Hill Church. She also serves as the Spouse Care Advocate for a non-profit in Boston called “For Greater Boston”. Amy has served in the local church, discipling and counseling women since 2009. 

Steven and Amy are parents to four daughters who are in middle school and high school. You’ll also hear briefly from our friend Katie McCoy who also joined us in episode 341 of this series, Society’s Spiraling Sexual Crisis.

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Jill Waggoner, Lindsay Nicolet, and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Sep 8

Do parents have a right to know if their child is socially transitioning to a transgender identity in school? The issue of gender identity policies in schools has become increasingly contentious, with parents correctly feeling they have a right to know when their child socially transitions at school, and many public schools arguing that schools have a responsibility to “protect” students by keeping that information from parents.

Social transition describes the process by which children or adolescents adopt the name, pronouns, and gender expression, such as clothing and haircuts, that aligns with a transgender identity. 

Social transition in school districts

Increasingly, school districts across the country are attempting to keep parents from discovering when such social transitioning is occurring at school—and they’re being supported by the federal courts. 

Maryland: In August 2023, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 that three parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, lacked standing to challenge the school’s gender identity policy because they had not alleged their children were transgender in the first place.

The policy, which the Montgomery County Board of Education adopted for the 2020-2021 school year: 

  • permitted schools to develop gender support plans for students to ensure they “feel comfortable expressing their gender identity”; 
  • directs school personnel to help transgender and gender nonconforming students create a plan that addresses their preferred pronouns, names, and bathrooms; 
  • and bars staff from informing parents of those plans without a student’s consent. 

Lawsuits are pending challenging similar policies in other states. 

California: In July, a federal court dismissed a similar case brought against a California school district by a parent who alleged the district had violated her constitutional rights by failing to tell her that her child had asked to use a different gender pronoun. U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez said in his ruling: 

“The issue before this court is not whether it is a good idea for school districts to notify parents of a minor’s gender identity and receive consent before using alternative names and pronouns, but whether the United States Constitution mandates such parental authority. This Court holds that it does not.”

The states that do—and do not—require parental notification

School gender identity policies on informing parents about students who are transgender or social transitioning vary widely among school districts and states. Here are some states that have issued guidance on this issue:

  • Alabama: State law requires that no school staff shall “withhold from a minor’s parent or legal guardian information related to a minor’s perception that his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with his or her sex.” 
  • Arizona: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • California:  While policies vary by school district, the state issued legal guidance issued by the California Department of Education, which expressly states schools may not disclose a student’s gender identity without the student’s permission. The California legislature also passed a law which makes the state of California a “safe haven” for minors to receive irreversible, sterilizing surgeries and treatments. The bill allows minors to act against their parents’ wishes and travel out of state for these procedures without parental consent.
  • Florida: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Idaho: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Indiana: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Iowa: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Kentucky: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Montana: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents.
  • North Carolina: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Utah: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents.

In states not listed, there is no state-level requirement to notify parents. 

What every concerned parent can do

Even in states that require notification, concerned parents should make a direct effort to determine whether their child secretly identifies as transgender at school. A simple way to do this is to access the student’s records and see if the child is using a different name or pronoun. Two federal regulations—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment—require schools to provide parents with access to student records and federally funded instructional material until a child turns 18. 

Unfortunately, this is one of the few options available to all parents in the U.S. As Ryan Womack of Alliance Defending Freedom observes, “Parental rights are not always protected in every state or federal court as carefully as are other fundamental rights.” 

Eventually, the Supreme Court will have to determine whether public schools will be required to respect parental rights. 

Christian parents, in particular, ought to be vigilant and take the initiative to directly protect their children from the confusing and harmful gender ideology touted by the prevailing culture. The Bible is clear that parents should be the ones primarily responsible for instructing their children in the Word of God (Deut. 6), and this includes what Scripture teaches about sexuality. As Christian parents help their children walk in the way of wisdom, they point to the goodness of God’s design and encourage the flourishing of their families and communities. 

By / Mar 10

On this episode, we feature a webinar hosted by Jason Thacker on discipling your church for a world in sexual crisis. Thacker talks to Dean Inserra, Katie McCoy, and Andrew Walker about a biblical sexual ethic and how to communicate it with truth and grace in a secularized society. 

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By / Jun 14

During the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting this week in Birmingham, Alabama, Southern Baptists took several significant actions to address the crisis of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.

Representatives at the convention, known as “messengers,” voted to adopt one resolution and approve two changes to SBC governing documents that deal with sexual abuse.

The first vote changed the SBC bylaws to make the Credentials Committee a standing committee with the authority to address allegations of sexual misconduct made against SBC-affiliated churches. The committee will conduct inquiries about whether churches are acting in accordance with Southern Baptist beliefs on sexual abuse, racism, or other issues, and make recommendations to the Executive Committee on whether an offending church should be deemed as “not in friendly cooperation” with the convention. 

The Credentials Committee will consist of nine members: the chairman of the Executive Committee; the SBC registration secretary; three members nominated by the Executive Committee; and four members nominated by the SBC Committee on Nominations.

In response to the vote, ERLC President Russell Moore wrote on Twitter, “Milestone moment as #SBC19 approves overwhelmingly the executive committee recommendation to form a standing credentials committee. This is a key piece in combatting sexual abuse.”

The second vote approved an amendment to the SBC constitution that would explicitly state that addressing sexual abuse and racism is a part of what it means to be a Southern Baptist church. Since amending the constitution requires a two-thirds vote by messengers at two consecutive annual meetings, this change will need to be approved again at the annual convention in Orlando, Florida in 2020.

“May this world know that the Southern Baptist Convention stands against all forms of sexual abuse,” said Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. “May this world know that this convention of churches—47,000 churches, plus a few thousand congregations, just under 52,000 churches and congregations—has given a clear signal not only about what we believe about sexual abuse, but we also stand against all ethnic discrimination in the United States and around the world.”

The SBC also adopted a new resolution, “On The Evil Of Sexual Abuse.” The resolution includes a call for civil authorities to review sex abuse laws, including statute of limitations that allow predators to avoid prosecution because their victims did not come forward in the required timeframe. The new resolution also implores “all persons to act decisively on matters of abuse, to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities according to the laws of their state, to intervene on behalf of the abused, to do everything possible to ensure their safety, and to exercise appropriate church discipline upon abusers.” (The SBC had previously adopted resolutions related to child sexual abuse in 2007 and 2013.)

The SBC also launched Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused, a new training curriculum produced by LifeWay Christian Resources, ERLC and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group that includes a handbook, an introductory video, and 12 lesson videos to “help leaders understand and implement the best practices for handling the variety of abuse scenarios at church, school, or ministry.” Every messenger at the convention received a free copy of the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused handbook.

SBC President J.D. Greear encouraged every SBC church to also take the “Caring Well Challenge ,” a new initiative launched by the ERLC and the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (appointed last year by JD. Greear) that is designed to confront church sexual abuse. According to the Advisory Group the initiative “provides churches with an adaptable, and attainable pathway to immediately enhance their efforts to prevent abuse and care for abuse survivors.”

While the changes at the annual convention are important steps toward addressing sexual abuse in our churches, SBC leaders made it clear that more still needs to be done.

“It’s going to take ongoing reform, and that’s the case at the local church level as well,” said Moore. “Congregations have to not only have good policies and procedures in place, but they have to constantly be evaluating, reevaluating, updating those policies and procedures as well.”

“This has to be at least a 20-year project that’s constantly reevaluated,” Moore added. “I hope that 20 years from now that we can look back and see sexual abuse in churches as something unthinkable and a long-buried horror of the past. We’re a long way from that.”

In a press conference hosted at the close of the annual meeting, Greear said that “bold resolutions and sweeping statements are not sufficient” to tackle the crisis of sex abuse.

“We’ve tried to be very clear that this is not something to put on a list and check off and say, OK, we dealt with that in 2019,” said Greear. “This is a milestone in something that will go on for the rest of our lives. It is the inculcation of certain values, and the inculcation of an awareness in a way of approaching things that will not just shape 2019, but will shape future generations.”

The ERLC is also hosting it’s National Conference in October around the theme of sexual abuse in churches: “Caring Well, Equipping Churches to Confront the Sexual Abuse Crisis.”

By / Nov 3

Matt Chandler speaks on The Mingling of Souls at the 2018 ERLC National Conference. 

By / Jul 17
By / Jul 15

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, redefining marriage everywhere in the United States, has left many of us wondering: What do we do now? In my just-released book, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, I present a comprehensive roadmap on how citizens of every walk of life should respond to the Court’s ruling. Here I want to suggest four things the church in particular should do to help rebuild a strong marriage culture. After all, the church—either through action or inaction—will play a major role in the debate over the meaning of marriage.

First, the church needs to present a case for biblical sexuality that is appealing and that engages the best of modern thought. The virtues of chastity and lifelong marriage are enriching, but after fifty years, the church has still not devised a compelling response to the sexual revolution. The legal redefinition of marriage could take place when and where it did only because the majority of Americans lacked a sound understanding of the nature of man and the nature of marriage.

The church needs to find a way to capture the moral imagination of the next generation. It needs to make the truth about human sexuality and its fulfillment in marriage not only attractive and appealing, but noble and exhilarating. This is a truth worth staking one’s life on.

In the face of the seduction of cohabitation, no-fault divorce, extra-marital sex, nonmarital childbearing, pornography, and the hook-up culture, what can the church offer as a more fulfilling, more humane, more liberating alternative? Until it finds an answer, the church will make no headway in the same-sex marriage debate, which is the fulfillment of those revolutionary sexual values.

A proper response to the sexual revolution also requires engaging—not ignoring—the best of contemporary thought, especially the best of contemporary secular thought. What visions of the human person and sex, of marriage and personal wholeness do today’s thinkers advance? Exactly where and why do their ideas go wrong? The church needs to show that the truth is better than a lie. And that the truth can defeat all lies. I provide a philosophical defense of the truth in Truth Overruled, we need theologians to continue developing theological defenses.

In these efforts, we shouldn’t discount the potential of slumbering Christian communities to wake up. It’s easy to forget that, in 1973, the Southern Baptists were in favor of abortion rights and supported Roe v. Wade. Today they are at the forefront of the pro-life movement. Christians who are on the wrong side of the marriage debate today can change their minds if we help them.

The church’s second task is to develop ministries for those who experience same-sex attraction and gender identity conflicts. Such persons, for whom fidelity to the truth about human sexuality requires special courage, need our loving attention. Pope Francis’s description of the church as a field hospital after a battle is especially apt here.

These ministries are like the pro-life movement’s crisis pregnancy centers. Abortion is sold as the most humane and compassionate response to an unplanned pregnancy. It’s not. And pro-lifers’ unprecedented grassroots response to women gives the lie to that claim. Likewise, those who believe the truth about marriage should be the first to walk with men and women dealing with same-sex attraction or gender identity conflicts, showing what a truly humane and compassionate response looks like.

Young people experiencing same-sex desire can face isolation and confusion as their peers first awaken to the opposite sex. They suffer humiliation if they say too much, but they bear the heavy burden of a secret if they keep silent. Parents and teachers must be sensitive to these struggles. We should fight arbitrary or abusive treatment of them. As relatives, coworkers, neighbors, and friends, we must remember that social hardship isn’t limited to youth.

A shining example of ministry to the same-sex attracted is Courage, an international apostolate of the Catholic Church, which has produced the documentary film The Desire of Everlasting Hills. Every community needs groups like this to help their same-sex-attracted neighbors discern the unique life of loving service to which God calls each of them and find wholeness in communion with others. But this work can’t just be out- sourced to special groups and ministries. Each of us needs to be willing to form deep friendships with men and women who are attracted to their own sex or struggle with their identity, welcoming them into our homes and families, especially when they aren’t able to form marriages of their own.

After all, the conjugal view of marriage—that it is inherently ordered to one-flesh union and hence to family life—defines the limits of marriage, leaving room for meaningful nonmarital relationships, especially deep friendships. This is liberating. The same-sex attracted, like everyone else, should have strong and fulfilling relationships. Marriage isn’t the only relationship that matters. And as I explain in my new book, the conjugal view of marriage doesn’t denigrate other relationships. Those who would redefine marriage as a person’s most intense or deepest or most important relationship devalue friendship by implying that it’s simply less: less meaningful, less fulfilling. The greatest of Justice Kennedy’s errors may be his assertion that without same-sex marriage some people are “condemned to live in loneliness.” His philosophy of marriage is anemic. And as our society has lost its understanding of marriage, it has suffered a corresponding diminution, even cheapening, of friendship.

We all need community, and those who for whatever reason never marry will know certain hardships that the married are spared. We should bring those left dry by isolation into other forms of community—as friends, fellow worshippers, neighbors, comrades in a cause, de facto members of our families, big siblings to our children, and regular guests in our homes.

The church’s third task is to defend religious liberty and to help conscientious Christians understand how to bear witness to the truth when a radical sexual agenda has become a nonnegotiable public policy. What should bakers and florists and photographers do? What should directors of local Catholic charities or Evangelical schoolteachers do?

There is no one single answer for every circumstance. Each person’s situation will require a unique response, based on his vocation and the challenges he faces. The answers for schools and charities and professionals may vary with a thousand particulars, but the church will need to teach Christians the moral principles to apply to their own circumstances.

The church also has to help the rest of society understand the importance of freedom, particularly religious freedom. The national conversation on this important civil liberty hasn’t been going well, and Indiana revealed how extreme a position the corporate and media establishments have staked out. They have the money and the megaphones. We have the truth. Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom helps make the case for a vast future of freedom.

The fourth task of the church is the most important and the most challenging. We need to live out the truth about marriage and human sexuality. Husbands and wives must be faithful to one another for better and for worse till death do them part. Mothers and fathers must take their obligations to their children seriously. The unmarried must prepare now for their future marital lives so they can be faithful to the vows they will make. And they need the encouragement of pastors who are not afraid to preach unfashionable truths.

Pope Benedict was right when he said the lives of the saints are the best evangelists. The same thing is true when it comes to marriage. The beauty and splendor of a happy family is our most eloquent testimony.