Georgia Baptist pastors contacted by The Index following the historic June 26 Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage expressed disappointment at the nation’s direction but saw it as an opportunity for the Church to reach out in a love that can overcome the powers of darkness.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is the beginning of a spiritual and cultural avalanche that undeniably impacts Christ-followers individually and together as the church,” opined Pastor Andy Childs of Toccoa’s Ebenezer Church.
“The opinion of a few judges creates an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to intentionally live and share the beautiful freedom of biblical faith. As our culture’s celebration of ‘normalized’ sin becomes frustration, may those without Christ see our unwavering hope.”
Shane Roberson, pastor of Maysville Church, said the Court’s decision “is disappointing, sad, and makes my heart heavy for it contradicts the biblical definition of marriage. As Justice Kennedy pointed out in his arguments, the long-standing belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is ‘millennia, plus time.’”
Roberson then added that government didn’t create marriage, and therefore shouldn’t change the definition of marriage, nor penalize those who hold to traditional biblical values “by forcing acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. The Supreme Court has no right to redefine an institution they did not define in the first place.”
‘We must be Jesus to the world’
Roberson stated that as believers look to the days ahead spiritually “we must be Jesus to the world. When persecution comes disciples are made.
- “We must continue to preach the whole counsel of God by expounding the Scriptures (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
- “We must continue to follow the biblical teachings from the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:3:1-17).
- “We must not cow down, nor change the message (1 Peter 5:8-11).”
He concluded that while our purpose has not changed, believers are still commissioned to make disciples.
“Regardless of the moral landscape of America we are called for such a time as this. We must pray.”
Chris Holdorf, pastor of Oak Hill Church in Williamson, called the Supreme Court ruling a defining moment not only for our nation but for the Body of Christ in America. He noted that throughout America’s history, Christians have largely been insulated from the type of persecution and injustice that others around the world experience as a result of their faith in Christ.
“However,” he said, “with this decision we have crossed a threshold that will demand every believer, church, and Christ-entered organization to declare an allegiance to the biblical definition of marriage and to the preeminence of the Scriptures as the basis of our faith and worldview.”
‘Lonely and trying times’
For those who hold to the witness of the Bible concerning marriage and sexuality, these will be lonely and trying times – but he then asked, “Who is our neighbor?”
His reply, based on the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the Good Samaritan, is that “Jesus made it clear that our neighbor includes those who have not yet heard or do not understand the truths of God’s word. But it also includes those who revile Christ and his followers.
“As such, now is the time for the Church to engage our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and the community at large in a sincere and genuine way.”
In suburban Atlanta’s Stone Mountain community Paul Ballard of Mountain Park First Baptist Church said the decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states “clearly shows that the cultural winds are blowing more strongly than ever before against Christianity.”
A Christian response
The senior pastor then asked what the Christian response should be and offered four suggestions drawn from his Sunday sermon:
- First, the anemic modern-day church must look within and repent.
- Second, we must have a joyful confidence. God is still on the throne and Jesus is coming back!
- Third, a Christian view of marriage must be articulated. Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman, period.
- Finally, the Christian response must be in grace and truth.
Ballard then suggested that believers “engage and love the gay community. As we show the same grace to gay people that our Father showed to us, may we plainly proclaim the soul-satisfying, heart-transforming, life-changing Gospel to them.”
Stephen Anthony, pastor of Peavine Church in Rock Springs, attributed the gay marriage issue to the continuation of the cultural war that Christians have been engaged in since the sexual revolution of the sixties.
He then cited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent to the 5-4 ruling, a dissent which he described as a “rather harsh but realistic response” to the majority ruling and the current philosophical orientation of the justices.
- All nine of the judges have been educated at Harvard or Yale.
- Eight of the nine grew up on America’s coasts.
- Not one of the current sitting Supreme Court Justices claim to be evangelical Christians or “a Protestant of any denomination.”
“Justice Scalia,” Anthony told The Index, “went on to state his opinion that America’s moral and cultural norms have now been indelibly changed by the ruling of a Supreme Court not representative of demographics of America.”
The power of one individual
But then Anthony focused on the power of one individual, one church, to impact the world for good. In citing Norma McCorvey – the “Jane Roe” whose 1973 Supreme Court case that led to legalization of abortion – he explained how her employment with women’s groups pressing for pro-choice advancements was suddenly derailed by the most unlikely circumstance.
“Impressed by the love and witness of a church, [she] decided to turn her life over to Christ. Suddenly, Norma’s views and moral compass changed. One church, in fact one person in a church, can make a drastic change in this cultural war.
“Last Friday’s news was devastating for a country jumping off the moral precipice. However, if each and every church, pastor, and Christian in our churches become determined to make a difference, the lives of those frantically fighting for their ‘legal rights’ can and will eventually change.
“Like Norma McCorvey, the poster child in a landmark court decision that changed the moral landscape of American history, we can see millions of lives impacted when they discover a brand new life and love in a relationship with Christ.”
In far southeast Georgia, First Statesboro pastor and former GBC President John Waters took to the Internet to share his comments on Facebook and his church blog. The Facebook post alone garnered more than 25,000 news feeds within hours of its presence. It can be read in its entirety here (http://www.fbc-statesboro.org/pastors-statement/)
‘A feckless ruling’
In that posting he called the high court’s decision “a feckless ruling, driven by partisan politics and an appetite for political correctness, and has altered a definition of marriage that stood for millennia across every continent and culture.”
The former GBC president said the nation is “marching forward into dangerous and uncharted territory” and that Christians “must not be parsimonious in our grace, but rather free-flowing conduits of God’s love, kindness, pardon, and peace. The world has lost its way, so we must not.”
Continuing that thought, he added that “unlike politicians who evolve in their positions due to the shifting sands of popular opinion, let us stand upon unchanging truth, even when it is neither popular nor supported by the culture around us. The bedrock truth upon which we stand is that marriage was birthed and ordained by God as a picture of the union between Christ and His church.”
Waters maintained that any form of marriage, other than one man and one woman for life, distorts this biblical image and creates a deleterious impact on families, children, and the nation.
Demonstrating God’s design for marriage
He then called on believers to be committed to “displaying the beauty of God’s union with His church, as demonstrated uniquely in the marriage of one man and one woman for life. After all, if we don’t demonstrate God’s design for marriage, then who else will?
“In a world that has lost its way, we must demonstrate the sacred and special nature of marriage as God intended. When Christian marriages are filled with brokenness, unfaithfulness, and ungodliness; when divorce runs around like a loose rabbit within the church; and when God’s people are involved in sexually immoral behavior before marriage, outside of marriage, and after marriage – it is no wonder that the world neither accepts nor understands the true nature of godly, biblical marriage.”
Waters then concluded by saying, “Let us be Gospel-centered, reminding people of the hope and truth found in the person of Jesus Christ. Rejecting the acerbic and hateful speech that has become all too commonplace on both sides of this issue, let us be irenic believers whose lives echo the joy and peace that we find in Jesus.”