By / Dec 5

On Dec. 5, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in 303 Creative v. Elenis, an important case for free speech and religious liberty. Since 2016, Lorie Smith, founder of the web design firm 303 Creative, has been in the process of challenging a Colorado law that violates her First Amendment rights. It is the same law that was used to target Jack Phillips and which led to the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. In that case, the court ruled favorably for Jack Phillips on narrow grounds but failed to address the underlying conflict between anti-discrimination laws and free speech rights.

A decision in this landmark case involving 303 Creative is expected in May or June of 2023.

What is this case about?

Like Phillips, and like Barronelle Stutzman of the Arlene’s Flowers Inc. v. Washington case, Lorie Smith is a creative professional who serves anyone through her business. She has created all kinds of custom websites for all types of people, but she refuses to use her “design skills and creativity to express messages that violate her deeply held religious convictions.” 

The state of Colorado views Smith’s work as a public accommodation, and thus, it is subject to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination, including refusal of service, against any protected class, including sexual orientation or gender identity. This puts Smith’s desire to run her business according to her beliefs in direct conflict with Colorado’s law. 

Though the results of this case certainly impact religious liberty, the primary issue of this case is one of free speech. The central question before the court is “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”

What arguments were made?

Kristen Waggoner, CEO, president, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, argued on Smith and 303 Creative’s behalf. Her central argument was that the enforcement of Colorado’s Anti-Distcrimination Act against Smith violates her first amendment free speech rights by forcing her to create speech inconsistent with her religious beliefs. The argument went to great lengths to demonstrate that Smith’s decisions in what projects she will take on are not based on who is requesting her services but rather what message the work will convey.

As Supreme Court analyst Amy Howe explains, “This means . . . that she would ‘happily’ design graphics for an LGBTQ customer who runs an animal shelter. But she will not take on commissions that would be inconsistent with her Christian beliefs—including, she says, by promoting same-sex marriage—because a custom wedding website would ‘express approval of the couple’s marriage.’”

Furthering this idea that the message rather than the individual is central to the decision, in the argument, Waggoner concluded that Smith would not create a website for a hypothetical heterosexual couple who wanted to share their love story and include details of their relationship beginning with an affair and progressing after divorces because she believes that divorce and extramarital sex are wrong.

Both the Colorado solicitor general and the U.S. deputy attorney general argued that the Colorado law “merely regulates sales, rather than the products or services being sold, and therefore does not require or bar any speech.” The state argued that Smith is not being forced to create anything, but that whatever she decides to create must be available to be purchased by anyone. The arguments also focused on how a potential ruling could impact similarly suited circumstances where the individual does not want to serve those entering into an interracial marriage or a marriage between people with disabilities. 

Why does this case matter?

This case has significant implications for the free speech of all people. If the court were to rule against Smith, it would establish a precedent that cuts to the core of our nation’s fabric. The First Amendment protects free speech—even when that speech is unpopular. 

Beyond that, for us, as Christians, our beliefs on matters of marriage and gender are core to our convictions, pointing to God’s design and the living picture of Christ and his Church. Throughout the argument, it was apparent that the justices were operating from vastly different worldviews and perspectives, with several justices seemingly unaware of the centrality of this belief to the Christian faith.

As ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said today:

Christians have, for 2,000 years, said that marriage is a picture of the gospel. It was clear from today’s oral arguments that several justices have never encountered this notion on a prior occasion. This is unfortunate as it is central to understanding why a Christian creative professional would object to being compelled by the state to say something contrary to this deeply held belief. That is why Justice Gorsuch was exactly right when he seemed to suggest this case is not about who is being served, ‘but about what’ the state of Colorado is forcing upon the speech creator. Today’s proceedings reveal why the Court should rule in favor of 303 Creative because to do otherwise would be tantamount to giving the government keys to a paver to roll right over private business-owning Christians who disagree with whatever the prevailing cultural notions about marriage and family happen to be fashionable at a given moment.

It is essential that people of faith not only have the ability to believe these fundamental truths but also to live them out in the public square. No one should be forced to sacrifice their most deeply held beliefs to participate in the marketplace and contribute to our society. The ERLC is urging the court to rule in favor of 303 Creative and will be preparing Christians and churches to respond to this important decision next year.

By / Aug 16

Last week, in the case of Starkey v. Roncalli High School and Archdiocese of Indianapolis, a federal court in Indiana ruled in favor of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, upholding its right to “provide students and families with an authentic Catholic education.” Along with other recent positive rulings, this latest decision is yet another win reaffirming the rights of individuals and institutions seeking to exercise fidelity to their religious beliefs without government infringing on their constitutional rights. This decision is good news for religious schools, the faculty, and families who send their children to those schools.

What was the case about?

In August 2018, Lynn Starkey, a former co-director of guidance at Roncalli High School, informed school leadership that “she was in, and intended to remain in, a same-sex marriage in violation of her contract and of Catholic teaching.” Upon learning of Starkey’s same-sex marriage, Roncalli administration “declined to renew her employment contract on the grounds that her marriage violated Catholic teachings.” Alleging discrimination, along with a list of other infractions, Starkey then sued Roncalli and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

What led to the favorable ruling?

Ultimately, the court made its decision based on an important legal doctrine –– one favorable to the Archidiocese. Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, stated that it’s a matter of “common sense: religious groups have a right to hire people who agree with their religious beliefs and practices.” The long-standing consensus of the Supreme Court (and lower courts) has been and, with this ruling, clearly remains that “the Constitution forbids secular courts from interfering in important personnel decisions of churches and religious schools.

As outlined in a case detail produced by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, “As Co-Director of Guidance at Roncalli High School, Lynn Starkey was responsible for communicating the Catholic faith to students and families, and advising students both practically and spiritually as they discerned their vocational path at and after Roncalli,” a fact that necessarily invoked the principle of the ministerial exception.

The ministerial exception was one of the most significant factors at play in this case for several reasons: Roncalli High School is a private religious school; Starkey had a consequential role in advising students according to Catholic orthodoxy; and “Every administrator, teacher, and guidance counselor at Roncalli High School signs an agreement to uphold the teaching of the Catholic Church in both their professional and private lives.”

What is the ministerial exception?

The ministerial exception is a constitutional protection that bars the government from applying employment discrimination laws to religious organizations. To allow the government to control the hiring practices of religious organizations would infringe on the Free Exercise rights of religious organizations to operate independent of government involvement. Though the ministerial exception is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it is grounded in both religious clauses of the First Amendment.

In its June 2020 decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morissey Beru (in which the ERLC filed an amicus brief cited in the court’s ruling), the Supreme Court held that there is no rigid formula to determine if the ministerial exception applies. Rather, the court looks at a variety of factors surrounding the individual’s employment including, but not limited to: official title, religious training, religious credentials, a source of religious instruction, and whether the duties played a role in teaching the religious organization’s message and conveying its mission.

In contrast to the recent ruling in DeWeese-Boyd v. Gordon College, in which it was decided that the ministerial exception did not apply, the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana concluded, “Starkey qualified as a minister, and that the ministerial exception bars all of Starkey’s claims.”

What’s next?

The ministerial exception has been central to a slate of recent court decisions, a precedent, at this point, that shows no signs of abating. In fact, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty currently has pending a second, similar case defending Roncalli High School, the same Catholic high school involved in the lawsuit described above. 

The ERLC applauds the Indiana court’s decision to reaffirm the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ constitutional rights and its prerogative to operate according to its deeply held religious beliefs, and the bearing that has on all other religious persons and institutions. Based on the number of recent favorable decisions, we are encouraged by the overwhelming number of rulings that continue to side with the cause of religious liberty.

As always, the ERLC remains committed to promoting and defending the religious liberty and conscience rights of all people and religious organizations.

By / Aug 14

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Taliban taking over major portions of Afghanistan, the CDC’s new data about vaccines and pregnant women. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content. And the gang celebrates Josh’s final episode as he wraps his time serving on staff at the ERLC.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment
  2. Taliban take over Afghanistan
  3. Pregnant women and the COVID vaccines

Lunchroom

  • A final Q&A with Josh

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

By / Aug 11

Sandra grew up in a Christian home. She was a good girl in church — read the Bible, prayed, did her quiet time. She was homeschooled by solid parents. She never snuck out or did anything crazy. She’d never even been to a high school prom. On the outside, it looked like Sandra had a sheltered and safe Christian childhood, but on the inside, there was a lot more going on.

During her freshman year of college, Sandra met June, a girl who quickly became her best friend. They spent hours each day together, and, over time, their worlds began to revolve around each other. Their emotional closeness became codependent and inappropriately physical. One day it happened, and they freaked out. They cried and prayed and asked God to help nothing like that happen again. But it did. And Sandra and June never told anyone. They even promised one another they’d never tell their future husbands.

A kid like Sandra should feel safe confessing her sins to Christian parents and her church community. But there’s understandable shame for a kid confessing same-sex attraction or transgender feelings, especially if that child has grown up around coarse gay jokes or politically charged opinions about the LGBTQ movement. It’s understandable for a kid who grows up in that context to fear losing friendships if they allow their struggles to become public knowledge.

What can a parent or a church leader do in the face of such shame? What does it look like to show love and compassion for a child who experiences the discord of gender confusion or same-sex attraction?

First, cultivate empathy. If we’re honest, we know kids’ fears about confessing disordered desires are not unfounded. Many parents don’t react well. Some parents’ first instincts are to run from the situation and ignore it. Some become overwhelmed emotionally and get angry, whether with God or with their child: “How can this be happening? You were raised better than this!” These kinds of responses only create more distance between parents and their children. Like the Pharisees, many Christian communities sometimes teach true doctrine all the while judging and marginalizing those who publicly confess sin that makes us particularly uncomfortable or is socially unacceptable (Luke 18:9–14). We must remember that those who experience gender confusion or same-sex attraction are not unique in battling brokenness or sinful desires. Cooper Pinson asks:

Can you relate to a student who wants to follow Christ, but finds strong, competing, sinful tendencies within himself that moves him in destructive directions?1Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.

If so, you’re more like your child than you may have originally thought. When we acknowledge what we have in common and move toward kids who struggle rather than away from them, we reflect the kind of love with which Jesus loved us (1 John 4:19).

Second, acknowledge the courage it took to be honest.2Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9. Even if your child’s confession is hard to hear, thank them for being honest enough to tell you the truth. Acknowledge how hard it must have been for your child to speak this secret and get it out in the open. Thank them for trusting you, reaffirm your love for them, and assure them that your relationship will not end because of this confession. Affirming your love for your child and expressing gratitude for their truthfulness will help you cultivate an ongoing relationship that is built on authenticity.

Third, listen before you speak or act. If your child begins the conversation, respect their initiative by allowing the dialogue to be about what you can learn from them and not what you feel they need to hear from you. When seeking to understand, the most important thing is to ask comfortable open-ended questions.3Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/. If your child says, “I’m gay,” “lesbian,” or “I want to transition,” for instance, it’s important to understand what they mean by that. Ask your child how they came to this understanding, how long they have been considering this, how certain they feel it is true, and why. Ask whether or not your child is content with this expressed identity, or if this is something they don’t want. Don’t assume your child or their friends understand these terms in the same way you do. 

It may be that your child is confessing a sinful experiment with a new gender identity or same-sex sexual intimacy in the same way a cheating husband who wants to turn away from unfaithfulness confesses, “I’m an adulterer.” When a Christian owns his or her identity as a sinner in this way, it should never be discouraged (1 Tim. 1:15). Your child is most likely describing an ongoing battle in which they feel oppressed and helpless. As Tim Geiger observes, “He might really be saying, ‘I’ve been struggling with these feelings for years, and the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that I must be gay.’”4Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.

Fourth, acknowledge your child’s suffering. Kids who struggle with gender confusion or same-sex attraction may have heard many times from the church that homosexuality is wrong. But rarely have we acknowledged their unique form of suffering and intense temptations. Students who experience same-sex attraction “often contend with intense loneliness, confusion, fear, and even despair as they wrestle with something that seems as if it’s an essential part of who they are.”5Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14. The same is true for kids who experience gender dysphoria.

Having disordered desires, whether these desires consist in same-sex sexual lust or gender confusion, is not the same thing as giving in to these sinful desires, that is, dwelling on those desires and acting upon them. Both are sinful, but the kind of repentance required and the kind of change we can expect is different. We must turn from all sinful behavior. But where we can repent and refrain from sinful actions related to sexual temptation, disordered desires — while they should be resisted, confessed, and put to death — may nevertheless remain throughout our lives. Sharing your own struggles — how you may not always feel at home or comfortable in your own body, or, as appropriate, your own ongoing battles with lust and temptation — will demonstrate that brokenness and sexual sin is not unique to your child.

Fifth, pray for your child. We can educate our children as much as we want, have conversations, and teach them the biblical point of view. But in the end, their hearts must be in submission to God or these words will fall on deaf ears. A child’s repentance ultimately depends on the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart and not on a parent’s actions. Some things only come out by prayer (Mark 9:29). So, as parents, we must appeal to God to act on behalf of our children. 

The parents of Sandra or June may be in for a long journey. Sometimes it seems that we do and say all the right things, but our hearts break because our children continue to choose the wrong path. In these times, one of the best ways to care for our children is to advocate for them while on our knees.

Finally, gently communicate what it looks like to follow Jesus. By adopting an empathetic posture and listening carefully, you set the stage for speaking redemptive truth. If your child is determined to pursue an intimate same-gender, sexual relationship or transition their gender, there may be no way of avoiding defensiveness on their part. Remember that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Your child needs kindness too. It’s doubtful that arguments will convince your child their perspective is wrong. But if they are open to dialogue, share sensitively a biblical and compassionate perspective on suffering with sexual brokenness. We can encourage a child who experiences besetting and persistent trials with the truth that all Christians are called to suffer. As Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).

Following Christ while enduring gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction will involve taking up crosses. It will mean rejecting impulses that run counter to God’s created design. It may mean that your child remains single and celibate into adulthood or resists temptation while their psychological distress increases. You should never gloss over or minimize these hard realities, but you can remind your children that they have a high priest who can sympathize with them in their weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). As Andrew Walker observes, “No one ever experienced greater dysphoria than the perfect Son of God being treated as a sinner.”6Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).

As you encourage your child to persevere, keep in mind that this most likely will be a long journey. Change is slow. A girl like Sandra, whose story I told above, may gain confidence to confess her sins and grow both to live a life in obedience to the Bible’s commands and even to disciple others who experience same-sex attraction. But that same girl may still struggle to discern whether or not missing one of her girlfriends who is out of town is just a normal part of friendship or evidence that she’s still battling a sinful pull toward codependence. As Chris Torchia writes:

We all appreciate the success stories of someone coming to Christ and experiencing complete freedom from ingrained sin patterns, but God doesn’t always work that way. A more accurate picture of repentance is a gradual process of turning away from sin and turning to God more and more, usually with many bumps along the way.Chris Torchia, “Coming Out as Gay or Transgender: Five things parents must do—part 4,” The Student Outreach, (Sept. 21, 2017), accessed online at http://thestudentoutreach.org/2017/09/21/coming-gay-transgender-five-things-parents-must-part-4/.

Parents, you should find the kind of support network that will stick with you through the long haul. Don’t hide your weakness from your Christian friends. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your pastors and biblical counselors like those at Harvest USA (www.harvestusa.org).

We can be confident that Christ is ready, willing, and waiting to meet us even where brokenness seems profound and irreparable. We can persevere with faith, knowing that we share in Christ’s sufferings so we may also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17). For those who do not shrink back, God has prepared a great reward. We do not belong to those who shrink back to destruction but to those who persevere and are saved (Heb. 10:36-39).

This article was adapted from A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: Helping Kids Navigate a Confusing Culture.

  • 1
    Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.
  • 2
    Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9.
  • 3
    Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/.
  • 4
    Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.
  • 5
    Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14.
  • 6
    Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89.
By / Jun 11

A recent Gallup poll finds that support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high. Currently, 70% of Americans say marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. The shift is primarily due to support by the younger generations: 84% of young adults, 72% of middle-aged adults, and 60% of older adults say they favor same-sex marriage. 

A majority of Republicans (55%) and more than two-thirds of Democrats (83%) support the legal change. Surprisingly, despite same-sex marriage being one of the most radically progressive political changes in human history, almost half of self-identified conservatives (48%) now endorse this redefinition of marriage.

The poll doesn’t list the breakdown by religion, but it’s clear that many Christians now believe they too should support same-sex marriage. Here are four reasons why we should uphold a traditional understanding of marriage. 

1. Marriage matters to God

“Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman?” said Jesus, “It says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together” (Matt. 19:4-6). 

Marriage was invented by God, not by man. We have neither the authority nor the ability to change what marriage is. The most that an individual or a government can do is misapply the term to relationships that are not actually marriages. Marriage requires the specific form of a union of man and woman (Gen. 2:24). Applying the term to same-sex unions, therefore, alters the very concept of what a marriage is for and what functions it takes.

Many people, including many Christians, think that objecting to same-sex marriage is imposing our moral beliefs on non-believers. In fact, the opposite is the case. It was advocates of same-sex marriage who imposed their view of sexuality on others by using the power of the state to enforce a criteria for marriage that is not rooted in the nature of marriage. In this way, they are similar to those who supported laws against interracial marriage. “Anti-miscegenation laws. . . were attempts to eradicate the legal status of real marriages by injecting a condition—sameness of race—that had no precedent in common law,” says philosopher Francis Beckwith. “For in the common law, a necessary condition for a legitimate marriage was male-female complementarity, a condition on which race has no bearing.” 

Christians should oppose any attempt to add conditions to marriage that change God’s standards.

2. Reality matters to God

When we say that a man can be married to a man or that a woman can be married to a woman, we are twisting the word “married” to mean what it cannot mean. If we use words in this way, we are making a claim about reality that we know is not true — and cannot be made true. In other words, we are endorsing a lie.

The Bible makes it clear that God detest lying or speaking untruths (Prov. 12:12). As Leviticus 19:11 says, “‘Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” For us to use language that we know is deceitful and untrue about an institution created by God is harmful to our neighbors. Words matter to God, so they must matter to us.

3. Scripture matters to God 

As Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). From this and other passages, we derive the biblical doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, that Scripture is sufficient in that it is the only inspired, inerrant, and therefore final authority for Christians for faith and godliness, with all other authorities being subservient to Scripture.

The Baptist theologian Matthew Barrett says that sufficiency has real and serious implications for the church today. “First, although Christians claim they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, they often live like they don’t, prizing their experience instead of Scripture’s instruction,” adds Barrett. “In faith and practice, too many Christians nod at what the Bible says, but politely set it aside to live their life how they think or feel is best.” 

Unfortunately, this is all too common when it comes to political and policy views. For many Christians in America, their secular political views — especially a left-libertarian view of sexuality and individual “rights” — informs their policy positions more than does the Bible. But Scripture matters to God and so it should matter to us.

4. People matter to God

As Christians, we are called to love our gay and lesbian neighbors (John 14:34), which is why we must not and cannot support same-sex marriage. 

Christians believe that marriage is a lifelong institution designed by God for our good and the good of our society. We also believe that homosexual sexual activity is sinful. How then could we support two people entering into a lifelong commitment that encourages them to engage in sin (1 Cor. 6:9)?

For a Chrisitan to endorse same-sex marriage is the opposite of loving — it is truly hateful. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath and oppose God’s good design for humanity (Psa. 5:4–5; Rom. 1:18). You cannot love your neighbor and encourage them to engage in activity that will lead them to hell.

While we may be required to accept the presence of ungodly behavior in our society, the moment we begin to endorse it we too become suppressors of the truth. We cannot love our neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (1 Cor. 6:9).

By / Sep 21

Some issues in the Christian life matter more than others. The apostle Paul made a distinction between matters that were primary to the gospel, and issues that were not. In 1 Corinthians 15:3 he writes, “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance.” This is not to say that other issues are of no importance, just that they are not of first importance.

In Romans 14:1 he instructs his readers not to pass judgment on “disputable matters.” On such issues Christians need to know their own mind and receive in fellowship those who differ. We might consider as examples of present day "disputable matters" issues like infant baptism, or our understanding of the end times. On such matters Christians are free to differ. But on matters of first importance we must remain in agreement if we are to be faithful to the gospel.

There are five reasons why we must regard the issue of homosexuality as being of first importance.

1. The witness of the church

For virtually all of church history the people of God have held that homosexual behaviour is sinful. This is still the case for the vast majority of Christians around the world today. Those in the church who demand that we affirm homosexual behaviour are proposing something that virtually every member of the universal church would be bewildered by. And the one place where this is being pushed is in the Western church at the precise moment our culture is making this a defining issue. This should give us enormous pause.

2. The authority of Scripture

What you have to do with the Bible to make it supportive of gay relationships is profoundly un-evangelical, un-Anglican and un-Christian. There are six passages that directly mention homosexual behaviour, and all of them do so negatively. For those of us with same-sex attraction these are not easy passages to read. But they are clear in what they say and we must receive them as good words to live by.

The only way to make such passages supportive of gay relationships is by employing the most torturous methods of interpretation to discount them. These methods include: ignoring the contexts such verses come in; and determining the meaning of key word and terms not by how the biblical author uses them but by how later secular culture uses them.

These passages are studied in detail in an excellent book by John Stott—in a freshly edited edition. John Stott remains a compelling and urgent voice in today's discussions about human sexuality, and so it is wonderful to have his work refreshed and available to the church in this format, alongside stories that underline how God's timeless word continues to bring goodness and flourishing.

3. The purpose of marriage

One of the purposes of the union of a man and woman in marriage is to display the mystery of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Marriage is the visual aid of how our saviour relates to his people. When we alter the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, we radically alter the gospel message which marriage is meant to visualise. The Bible’s teaching on marriage alone is enough to settle the issue of homosexuality. Even if the six passages directly mentioning homosexuality were not in the Bible, we would still be clear that homosexual practise is ungodly. Christians believe what we believe about homosexuality because we believe what we believe about marriage.

4. The fate of homosexual people

Paul is very clear that the “unrighteous” will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Among the very various examples of unrighteous behaviour he lists is homosexual practise. Paul is delivering a profound warning: those who do not repent of such behaviour will not enter heaven. Eternity is at stake. To say the issue does not matter is to say that the eternal destiny of people does not matter. This is not the case with secondary issues like infant baptism or women’s ordination.

5. The censure of Christ

In Revelation 2 Jesus rebukes the church in Thyatira for tolerating someone whose teaching leads people into sexual sin (Revelation 2:20). We do not know if this is a lone voice or one of many (most likely “Jezebel” is not the teacher’s name). What is more significant, however, is how Jesus responds to this situation: he is not just against those who are doing the teaching; he is against those who tolerate such teaching in their midst. Not all tolerance is godly, and it is Christ-like to be intolerant of certain things.

Not taking a side on this issue is to take a side. To decide it is a matter of indifference is to risk having Jesus against you. Read the description of him in Revelation 1 and consider if you would ever want to risk that Jesus being against you.

This is a gospel issue. When so-called evangelical leaders argue for affirmation of gay relationships in the church, I’m not saying they’re not my kind of evangelical, I’m saying they are no kind of evangelical. This is not an easy position to hold, for I have friends who hold to different views on this subject. But it is the right position to hold. For the five reasons given above, we must never allow ourselves to think of this as just another issue Christians are free to differ over.

This will inevitably bring faithful Christians into conflict with our culture. When John Stott first published Issues Facing Christians Today, he said:

"I have sought with integrity to submit to the revelation of yesterday within the realities of today. It is not easy to combine loyalty to the past with sensitivity to the present. Yet this is our Christian calling: to live under the Word in the world."

His foundational, and authoritative take on this question, recently published by The Good Book Company as Same Sex Relationships, is a clear and compassionate statement on this issue that has stood the test of time. I think that John Stott’s writing on this subject is still the best brief exposition of the biblical texts and arguments surrounding the issue of same-sex relationships.

Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, said of it, “I believe that the wisdom and insight the Lord gave John Stott will, through this republished work, help us to fulfil our calling in these days. I pray it will be widely read.”

This article originally appeared here.

By / Apr 24

NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 24, 2018—Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed deep concern toward a California bill that would make it illegal to sell or advertise resources that offer treatment or ministry to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion.

“This proposed legislation goes to the very foundations of free speech and religious liberty and is both reckless and harmful,” Moore said. “This bill essentially outlaws views of sexual ethics held by most Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and many others, all over the world and throughout history. If passed, it would have a chilling effect on religious institutions teaching their own beliefs, and would be a harm to all citizens, religious or not, by eroding basic First Amendment protections. My hope is the California Senate would demonstrate a commitment to the Bill of Rights and refuse to pass this deeply destructive bill.”

Moore also wrote a letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) expressing deep concern over California Assembly Bill 2943 and asking him to veto the bill should it pass in the California Senate.

“You and I would no doubt disagree on many matters of moral definitions, and I do not seek, in this letter, to debate those issues with you,” Moore wrote in the letter. “I would hope though that we could agree on our constitutional heritage of freedom of speech and of religion.

“You have spoken in the past of your deep commitment to the First Amendment, and to freedom of speech, even for those views with which you disagree. You demonstrated that conviction last year when you vetoed AB 569, a bill that likewise targeted free speech and religious liberty. I was, and am, grateful for your constitutional consistency on that matter.”

The ERLC published an explainer that further explains the implications of this bill.

By / Mar 11

Imagine you attended a church where your life struggle was never mentioned as an area to receive care, and, if it was mentioned, your struggle was the adversarial portion of a culture war commentary. How would your week-to-week experience of church be different? This is the experience of many people in our churches.

If you want the answer to the question that titles this blog to be “yes,” then step one is to realize that we already have church members who experience same sex attraction (SSA). Just like those who are dealing with any other struggle, we should thank God for bringing them to our churches, and ask God to help us serve them well.

This is an important starting point because it ensures we are not thinking about “those people” who are “out there.” This first assumption moves the rest of this post from a hypothetical to a necessity; it is no longer something that “would be nice if we could get to it” but becomes a pressing need because we realize we already have friends, classmates, or colleagues who don’t feel comfortable talking to us (evidenced by the fact that they haven’t).

Think about this way: what does it communicate when, by our silence, we assume no one in our church experiences SSA? The clear (hopefully unintended) message is: you don’t belong here and we don’t have anything for you.

Loneliness is already one of the most difficult experiences for individuals who struggle with SSA. When the church’s silence seemingly confirms the belief that their struggle has to be a secret we only magnify this loneliness.

So, what would change if we assumed some of our members or guests experienced SSA? I believe one of the first things that would change is that our motivation to learn about homosexuality would change from polemical and political to pastoral and personal. We would want to be able to get to know a person more effectively rather than make a point more persuasively.

That is why I wrote Do Ask, Do Tell, Let's Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends. I want it to be a resource for churches – more specifically, individual Christians – who realize being an ambassador of Christ to every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9) is not just a mandate to proclaim the gospel to every geo-ethnic group on the planet, but to be ready to embody the gospel well to the various life experiences of every person we meet (1 Pet. 3:15).

Undoubtedly, this raises many questions:

  • Can an evangelical Christian develop these friendships without compromising the teaching of Scripture?
  • How can I have a good conversation that doesn’t devolve into something that feels like a debate?
  • How do I handle some of the personal discomforts that may arise?
  • What if I accidentally say something offensive because I’ve not had many friendship conversations like this?
  • How do I start a friendship if someone has not already entrusted me with information regarding their struggle with SSA?
  • Can someone experience SSA and be a Christian? How much does becoming a Christian change one’s sense of attraction?
  • Is there a difference between same sex attraction and embracing a gay identity? If so, how might the nature of our friendship change?
  • How do I develop a friendship with someone who experiences SSA and the subject of homosexuality not dominate our conversations?
  • How do we navigate some of the difficult conversations that will undoubtedly arise?

A blog post is too brief of a forum to address all of these questions, but I would encourage you to read my book Do Ask, Do Tell, Let's Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark Yarhouse, or The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield for guidance on these questions and the many other questions that have popped into your mind as you read this post.

But in the remainder of this post, I will offer a few suggestions for pastors and church members who want their churches to be safe places to discuss a struggle with SSA.

  • Avoid crude humor about homosexuality. In general, Christians should abstain from humor on any topic that is rooted in shaming or mocking others. This falls short of God’s command, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 7:12).
  • Avoid utilizing stereotypes about the gay community. Utilizing stereotypes demonstrates laziness in our professed willingness to get to know people for who they really are. In the eyes of someone who experiences SSA, such laziness is very likely to disqualify you as a safe person to talk to.
  • In our sermons and lessons, we should include SSA in the list of things someone might be struggling with—just like lust, pride, loneliness, anger, or any other common sin. Just as importantly, our tone of voice when speaking of SSA should not communicate disgust, condescension, or perplexity.
  • Be careful how you characterize political positions. How you present the position you are against is at least as important as how you present the position you are for. To be trustworthy, you must represent fairly those you disagree with, neither vilifying them nor suggesting they are unworthy of compassion and understanding.
  • Don’t “out” someone. It is unwise to put someone on the spot with a question like, “Are you gay?” Even if you think you know, respect this person’s right to disclose the information on their timetable. Nobody wants to live with a secret. If you prove yourself to be a safe person, they will want to talk sooner rather than later.
  • Speak sympathetically to the struggle of SSA. Humble statements can go a long way. “I can only imagine how hard it would be to experience unwanted same-sex attraction and feel caught in so many cultural debates. Trying to figure out who to talk to might be as hard as anything else. That would be incredibly lonely.” A statement like this in social contexts where homosexuality is being discussed raises a flag of peace to be seen by those looking for a safe friend.
  • Study one of the books listed in this post with your small group. It may work best to first equip existing friends within your church. A small group that has learned to be a safe place for SSA conversations is an excellent beginning for a church, and an ideal place to invite someone who may experience SSA. It can give your friend a chance to see that your church may actually offer real community.

Most importantly, when you have the opportunity to become friends with someone who experiences SSA, invest in that friendship in at least three ways.

First, have fun together. Mutual enjoyment is a good indicator that a friendship is not devolving into a project relationship. Mutual enjoyment builds memories and stories. Mutual enjoyment strengthens the relationship. And the stronger the relationship is, the less likely either of you will be to give offense or take offense. What the fun looks like will vary in every friendship, but try to see the fun for what it is—the mortar between the bricks, rather than merely the icing on the cake.

Second, go broad, not narrow. If SSA is the majority topic of conversation, your relationship will become more therapeutic or polemical than friendly. So spend the majority of your time talking about subjects other than SSA. This is how you make the friendship about life and shared interests, not about SSA as such. For example, if the two of you have this kind of discipleship relationship, study a book of the Bible together or a mutually relevant Christian book. Seek what God says about all of life together, not just SSA.

Third, allow your friend to speak into your life as well. The most effective way to gain the right to be heard is to listen. Particularly if your friend is a Christian, they have something to offer you. Even if they’re not, they have a life experience that is different from yours and can offer a fresh perspective. Much can be learned about how someone thinks by asking, “How do you see my situation? What would you do and why?” Asking these kinds of questions will likely bless you and advance the friendship you want to build.

By / Aug 3

ERLC Equip Austin – Jackie Hill Perry

By / Jul 20

We are women who are 26 and 27 years old. In many ways, our generation will be the last one to grow up in a United States knowing marriage legally as only a man/woman union. What will we tell our children about marriage as we knew it?  

Here are five things we’ll have to tell our future children about the 2015 marriage decision.

1. Every generation has a battle to fight.

Our generation found itself in the middle of a dispute over the definition of the millennia-old institution of marriage. Arguments were heard on both sides. Debates were held on college campuses and media positioned opponents on panels to discuss the issue. But as the debate continued, those who didn’t like the time-tested view of marriage began their efforts to cut the conversation short.

Before we knew it, a fire chief and a 70-year-old grandmother were being threatened because of their faith convictions. They and others lost their jobs and their businesses. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court forced all 50 states to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, undermining the marriage policies affirmed by over 50 million voters in 31 states. We knew from history that when people of faith were forced to deny their deeply held beliefs, this was not progress, it was coercion. So we realized we were going to have to fight for the freedom to democratically address one of the most pressing social issues of our time.

2. Defend truth when it’s unpopular.   

The hecklers reminded us how unpopular it was for us single, young Christian women to stand in front of the Supreme Court to defend and protect marriage.

When the Supreme Court mandated more than 40 years ago that every state legalize the killing of unborn children, pro-life advocates did not abandon the debate. The opposite happened. They refocused and passionately lobbied congressional offices, informed the masses, and counseled expectant mothers on abortion clinic sidewalks–all this after pro-lifers supposedly “lost.” Now, America’s youth are reportedly more pro-life than ever before, and abortion rates have dropped in every state.

3. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

We knew that when the grown-ups finished redefining marriage in our laws, children like ours would be the ones to ultimately lose out—because they would be growing up in a society that no longer affirms the right of every child to know and be raised by both their mother and father.

Future children like ours deserve someone to say that all the love in the world can’t turn a mom into a dad or a dad into a mom. Marriage ensures the well-being of children by encouraging men and women to commit to each other and any children they create.

4. Show love even if you receive hate in return.

We stood in the face of hostility, because we loved that much. We truly loved those struggling with same-sex attraction enough to take the harassment and verbal assaults that came with speaking up. Our future children may face similar assaults but are still to show love in the face of hate.

5. Small groups of people can change history.

History teaches us that a small numbers can ignite change for good because of their willingness to confront the trends of popular culture. Every generation needs their Esthers, Susan B. Anthonys, Sojourner Truths, Rosa Parks, and Nellie Grays who will speak the truth in love no matter the consequences and no matter how “outnumbered” they may appear.

So when the day comes, Lord willing, and our children ask us, “What did you do when that big marriage case happened?,” with all sincerity we will reply, “We did what we could. We spoke the truth in love. The battle may have been lost, but the war is not over.”