By / Feb 27

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 26, 2024—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention announced a new resource to serve as a guide for answering questions about gender confusion, produced by the ERLC research team.

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” was assembled by the ERLC research team through consultation with pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to practical situations on the ground. 

In the forward of the resource, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said his hope is that the guide will serve churches who are ministering to people broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

“It is our hope that this theological framework and the practical scenarios will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel. There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin, a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the One who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.” 

Alex Ward, ERLC research associate and project manager for the ERLC’s research initiatives, commented on the launch of the guide.

“Churches are grappling with contemporary gender challenges, navigating questions and scenarios inconceivable just years ago. ‘God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion’ is a resource for addressing these issues, offering a theological framework for fidelity to scripture on sexuality, masculinity and femininity. Developed with input from theologians, ethicists, policy experts and ministry leaders, it provides guidance to practical scenarios derived from real church experiences. While not exhaustive, it serves as a guide for churches navigating their unique contexts amid cultural shifts. The theological framework created by these experts also can help orient ministries as they create policies and procedures for how to respond in the future. In a time of many perspectives that err away from God’s desires, the ERLC aims to provide a hopeful message that adhering to God’s design for our bodies and sexuality is ultimately for our good.”

The guide can be downloaded for free online.

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 13.6 million members and a network of over 47,000 cooperating churches and congregations. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

To request an interview contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected]

By / Feb 27

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has released a practical resource to help churches navigate difficult questions and scenarios surrounding the topic of gender confusion.

The resource, released Monday (Feb. 26), is titled “God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion.”

The guide contains a theological framework addressing the topic of gender from a biblical worldview and offers answers to practical scenarios that churches or pastors may face or have faced regarding the topic. The guide also contains links to additional resources on the topic of gender confusion from a variety of Christian sources.

In the guide’s foreword, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood spoke about the need to address the topic in the church today.

“The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate,” Leatherwood wrote.

“Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum. It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.”

Alex Ward, ERLC research associate and project manager for the ERLC’s research initiatives, said the guide is meant to point to God’s good design for gender and sexuality.

“Churches are grappling with contemporary gender challenges, navigating questions and scenarios inconceivable just years ago,” Ward said.

“‘God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion’ is a resource for addressing these issues, offering a theological framework for fidelity to scripture on sexuality, masculinity and femininity. Developed with input from theologians, ethicists, policy experts and ministry leaders, it provides guidance to practical scenarios derived from real church experiences. While not exhaustive, it serves as a guide for churches navigating their unique contexts amid cultural shifts.

“The theological framework created by these experts also can help orient ministries as they create policies and procedures for how to respond in the future. In a time of many perspectives that err away from God’s desires, the ERLC aims to provide a hopeful message that adhering to God’s design for our bodies and sexuality is ultimately for our good.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Feb 26

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” is a resource for pastors and church leaders that includes a theological framework and practical scenarios that will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

Send me the guide

Gender confusion among the next generation

The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate. Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum.

It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.

Theological framework and practical scenarios to address gender confusion

That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

We know that this is not just a thought experiment, so the ERLC also gathered pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to situations on the ground.

  • Most of us will not face a question about our theological anthropology and how it defines our understanding of the categories of male and female.
  • But, we may meet an individual who has adopted a new identity and has preferred pronouns.
  • So these pastors, ministry leaders, and subject-matter experts considered what to do in a number of scenarios drawn directly from questions posed to actual churches and pastors.

There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the one who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.

Send me the guide

By / Dec 28

On this last episode in our gender and sexuality series in The ERLC Podcast, we’re going to focus more on how pastors can address gender and sexuality. We discuss how they can shepherd their people to better understand the biblical sexual ethic and how to apply that to their daily lives. 

On The ERLC Podcast, our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues. Throughout this series, we’ve been seeking biblical answers and practical wisdom to apply to questions of gender and sexuality swirling around in our culture, our churches, and in our hearts. It’s been a joy to explore these issues with you and spur one another on to hold fast to Christ and love our neighbors.

Joining us on today’s podcast to share how pastors can address gender and sexuality is Dr. Bart Barber and Matt McCullough.

Bart is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Bart has a B.A. from Baylor University in their University Scholars program, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a Ph.D. in Church History, also from Southwestern. 

You’ll also hear from Matt McCullough, pastor of Edgefield Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Before joining Edgefield, Matt helped to plant Trinity Church near Vanderbilt University and served as pastor there for 10 years. He completed a Ph.D. in American religious history. Matt and his wife are the parents of three boys.

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. 

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 / 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 / Nov 2

So far in this podcast series, we’ve learned what the Bible teaches about gender and sexuality, how the fall affects our perception of ourselves and God, and what role the sexual revolution played in where we are today as a culture. 

On today’s episode we are going to talk about how gender ideology deeply affects our personal lives. We will hear an incredible testimony from a man who has learned to honor God with his sexuality. We’re also going to hear how we can respond when someone we love struggles with sexual sin and gender confusion. Joining us on the podcast today for the first time is Christopher Yuan. You’ll also hear again from our friend Katie McCoy, the director of women’s ministry at Texas Baptists.   

Dr. Christopher Yuan is a writer, speaker, and the creator of The Holy Sexuality Project, a first-of-its-kind video series designed to help parents and grandparents empower their teens to understand, embrace, and celebrate biblical sexuality. Christopher graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005, received a master’s in biblical exegesis in 2007 and a doctorate of ministry in 2014. He has taught the Bible at Moody for over a decade.

We would love to hear from you about how you’re processing this conversation and what questions you’re facing related to issues of gender and sexuality. You can e-mail us at [email protected]

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 15

Abortion and gender ideology have once again become a topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, this time in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024. 

The NDAA is an annual piece of federal legislation that authorizes the budget and expenditures for the Department of Defense (DOD) and other affiliated agencies. The NDAA serves as the principal mechanism through which Congress exercises its constitutional authority to “raise and support Armies” and “provide and maintain a Navy,” as stipulated in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Some of the key components of the legislation in which abortion and gender ideology play a factor are the budget authorization, policy guidelines, and personnel matters. The NDAA specifies how much money can be spent in various categories. Beyond budgetary matters, the NDAA often includes policy provisions that guide the military’s conduct and regulations. The act also frequently addresses issues related to military personnel, such as payment or reimbursement for specific medical procedures.

National Defense Authorization Act Amendments related to abortion and gender ideology

In July, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included amendments related to abortion and transgender surgeries. The amendments include the following:

  • Prohibits the secretary of Defense from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services.
  • Undoes the Pentagon’s policy of allowing service members to have access to abortion services.
  • Bans the Pentagon from paying for or reimbursing service members for abortion-related expenses.
  • Additional restrictions on abortion. 
  • Prohibits TRICARE from covering and the DOD from furnishing sex-reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments for transgender individuals.
  • Prohibits provision of gender-transition procedures, including surgery or medication, through the Exceptional Family Member Program.
  • Recinds the Pentagon’s policy of allowing service members to have access to gender-transition procedures. 

The Senate also passed a version of the bill in July that avoided making any changes to current abortion and gender-identity funding or policies. The two versions of the bill await a formal conference in the fall to reconcile these differences. The amendments on abortion and gender identity aren’t expected to survive the reconciliation process. No Democrat in the Senate supports those amendments, which means they cannot pass in the Senate. Even if they made it into the final bill, though, President Biden would likely veto the bill.

Other cultural issues addressed by House amendments are: 

  • a prohibition on drag shows and drag queen story hour, 
  • a prohibition on the display of unapproved flags (such as the LGBTQ+ Pride flag), 
  • and a requirement that DOD Education Activity schools are prohibited from purchasing and having pornographic and radical gender ideology books in their libraries.

Congress will begin negotiations this month and must complete the final version of the NDAA before the end of the year. In the meantime, the ERLC will continue advocating on behalf of Southern Baptists at every opportunity. 

We invite our fellow Southern Baptists to join us in praying for godly wisdom to permeate these negotiations, for lives to be saved through maintaining the current restrictions on abortion, and for opportunities to clearly articulate God’s design for gender and sexuality.

By / Sep 14

Each year, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate must pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which funds and directs the functions of the United States Armed Forces and overall national defense. This bill typically includes issues such as the operations of military bases, the procurement of weapons, vessels, and aircraft, and revised training requirements for the members of military branches.

Due to the politically divided nature of Congress, the two versions of the NDAA, one led by Republicans in the House and the other by Democrats in the Senate, vary on how federal funding can be used. As a result, Congress will need to meet, or “conference,” to negotiate the final form of the NDAA to be enacted next year. 

Congressional conference provides a unique opportunity for advocacy groups, such as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to voice concerns or support for provisions included in the NDAA as they begin the negotiating process.

Why is the NDAA important?

Through the NDAA, Congress allocates approximately $886 billion in taxpayer funds. In addition, the NDAA helps set what Congress views as legitimate uses of federal funding. Without proper language included in the NDAA, taxpayer dollars could be used to fund activities Southern Baptists fundamentally oppose.

One example of such an issue is federally funded abortion. The Department of Defense has announced plans to use federal funding provided in the NDAA to transport women who serve in the armed forces from military bases located within states that limit or ban abortion for the sole purpose of obtaining an abortion. This is justified as a “national security” issue to ensure women who become pregnant are not required to take a leave of absence during their pregnancy and while giving birth. However, this policy is really part of an overarching plan from the White House to prevent state abortion restrictions from taking effect whenever possible following the Dobbs decision.

Another example is the use of federal funding to cover gender transition procedures and other medication, such as puberty blockers. The Department of Defense spends roughly $136 billion annually on healthcare for employees and military personnel, and under the current leadership, the Department is extending such coverage to include surgical procedures and medication prescribed for gender transitioning. This is part of a federal policy designed to facilitate gender transitions under the guise of supporting the armed forces.

Language prohibiting the usage of federal funds for abortion-related travel and for gender transition procedures is included in one version of the NDAA, but not both. This means when the congressional conference begins, these prohibitions may be removed during the negotiating process.

How does this affect Southern Baptists?

As stated in the Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptists believe that God has ordained government for the purpose of executing justice, praising that which is good, and punishing those who do evil. Any federal funding of abortion or gender-transition services cultivates injustice by violating our consciences as taxpayers and by causing irreversible bodily harm to our neighbors.

Southern Baptists have historically supported these measures through the passage of our annual resolutions such as the:

What happens next?

On Sept. 14, the ERLC sent a letter to congressional representatives urging them to include language prohibiting the use of federal funding for:

  • Abortion, including abortion-related travel, and
  • Gender-transition resources, including both surgeries and medication.

Congress will likely begin negotiations in September and must complete the final version of the NDAA before the end of the year. In the meantime, the ERLC will continue advocating on behalf of Southern Baptists at every opportunity. 

We invite our fellow Southern Baptists to join us in praying for godly wisdom to permeate these negotiations, for lives to be saved through maintaining the current restrictions on abortion, and for opportunities to clearly articulate God’s design for gender and sexuality.