The world is changing. Last week’s Supreme Court decision proved that. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. How are we to respond?
John Piper said in his blog post that our initial response to the Supreme Court decision should be lament, calling the decision a “massive institutionalization of sin.” This is a time, said Piper, to “feel the sorrow of these days.”
“My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law,” Psalm 119:136.
Some level of lament is appropriate. However, this is not a time to panic, sulk, or fear. Christians have been here before – in Canada, Brazil, and other places—and are still on mission. In fact, the Church of Jesus Christ has faced many cultural and legal changes over these past 2000 years. Generations of Christians have figured out how to live faithfully and proclaim Jesus accurately in changing times.
What will we do? We will keep doing what the Church of Jesus Christ has always done.
- We will love all people, including those with whom we disagree. All persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity, respect, and love.
- We will proclaim the gospel of grace and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus died so that sinners might be saved. There is no sin too great for God’s grace.
- We will teach the Bible as the authoritative and only reliable guide to life. This includes biblical teaching on God’s intent for marriage and sexuality.
- We will serve the poor, the marginalized, and the broken. This reflects the heart of our Lord Jesus.
We need to continue to be the people of Jesus in our time and place. As forgiven sinners, we need to point people beyond our culture wars to the cross of Christ, as we say, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Now, let me address some other questions I have been asked in recent days.
What does our church believe about marriage and sex?
As first described in Genesis (Genesis 2:21-25) and later affirmed by Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6), marriage is a God-ordained covenant relationship between one man and one woman. Sexual expression is reserved for the context of a marriage relationship.
What does our church believe about the Supreme Court Decision?
Ward Church endorses the EPC Statement on the Supreme Court marriage ruling.
Are Christian ministers now required to conduct same-sex weddings?
No. Ministers and churches have freedom to believe and practice according to their religion. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court majority, said
It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.
Will this religious freedom be challenged?
We can assume so. The Supreme Court ruling raises many questions (and likely many future court cases) about the balance of gay rights and religious rights. Our Session has secured legal counsel to review our bylaws and documents, in order to add clarity and protection for the future.
Will Ward Church be conducting same-sex weddings?
Is the LGBTQ community welcome to worship at Ward?
As Christians we want to reflect Jesus Christ, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. If we are honest, we rarely get the grace-and-truth balance right. Warren Wiersbe is quoted as saying, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” We need to confess that at times we have been brutal, and at times we have been hypocrites. Lord, help us to be people full of grace and truth. Help us to be Your church.