By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
October 31, 2014
NASHVILLE, TN. – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored a conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage” October 27-29 in Nashville, TN. Concerns about recent court rulings on same-sex marriage, attacks on religious liberty, and a degenerating moral climate contributed to a large attendance. A registration of more than 1,300 caused the event to be moved from a previously scheduled venue that would hold 700 to the Opryland Retreat and Conference Center.
A recurring theme in the conference was the state of marriage in America, and not only the issue of same-sex marriage, but the state of heterosexual marriage among believers and the manner in which the church should promote biblical marriage and family.
David Platt, recently elected President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, gave a stirring message on biblical foundations for marriage and the implications for the gospel. He and other speakers emphasized the husband and wife relationship reflecting the relationship of Christ the bridegroom and the church as His bride. He pointed out that the temptation in the garden set the pattern for the questioning of God’s commands that we see today: the assumption that what God says is subject to human judgment leads us to doubt His word, distrust His character, and spurn His authority.
Dennis Rainey, president of Family Life, exhorted the church to be a place of family reformation. The family should be a place where “God can show up and show off.” He said that the church should not be a “wedding factory,” but should create a “culture of marriage” and preach the noble purpose of family. He encouraged couples to be missional and make their families “great commission training centers.”
A panel discussion on religious liberty discussed concerns among institutions of Christian higher education. Some areas of concern in dealing with a school’s biblical stands on homosexuality are accreditation issues, federal student aid, licensure for counselors, and tax exempt status.
Speaking on the conflict between sexual freedom and religious liberty, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation said secular society does not understand why religious liberty matters and why Christians believe what they believe about marriage.
Similarly, Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, said that the secular mind does not understand religious conviction. They think there must be some other motive to the belief. Moore also said that the apostle Paul utilized on his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar, yet he always addressed officials with respect.
Moore said that in addressing the issue of homosexuality, we must use “convictional kindness.” Glen Stanton of Focus on the Family asked, “Can we be friends and still hang on to our different convictions? Absolutely. And we must, especially as Christians. Christ’s greatest commandment to us besides the one to love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul is to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Representatives from Alliance Defending Freedom urged attendees to be proactive and take steps to legally protect their church, school, or ministry, yet continue to preach the truth. (Find this information at https://alliancedefendingfreedom.org/issues/church.)
There was a moving video and testimony from Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who is being sued, both personally and professionally for not agreeing to do flowers for a same-sex wedding. She said, “It’s me today, it will be you tomorrow. You can’t sit this one out.” (See video at https://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/home/detail/8982#ArleneStory)
The conference struck a good balance between truth and grace. As Glen Stanton said, “Truth by itself is abusive; grace by itself is mushy sentimentalism.” But, judging from some of the tweets by gay activists about the conference, some will never see a conviction that homosexuality is sin as nothing more than hatred. The challenge for those who hold to a biblical view of marriage and family is to continue to speak the truth in love and to contend for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. And most importantly, to be sure that biblical marriage is modeled in our own homes and churches.
Videos from the ERLC conference can be viewed online at http://erlc.com/conference/liveblog/