Blog Home » Page 11

Are Marriage and Life Central to the Gospel?

Posted on July 25th, 2013 Bible | No Comments »

Article by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

I continue to be amazed at the number of people who tell me their pastor never talks about abortion or marriage from the pulpit as if the topics were not biblical moral issues deeply entrenched in the Gospel. The excuses often given for this refusal to engage these critical issues is even more disturbing.

One pastor said “abortion isn’t essential to salvation and the Gospel” and therefore he didn’t address it. Excuse me? I believe the Bible warns us on the consequences of taking a life. That seems very Gospel-centric to me.

If Christians truly believe abortion is murder then we have roughly 55 million “legal” murderers among us today. These post-abortive women are in critical need of the Gospel message in the same way we all are in need—to repent and accept the grace of Jesus Christ. I simply cannot fathom how a pastor finds this to be an issue unrelated to the Gospel.

Perhaps an article by Anna Higgins at FRC commenting on a blog by R.C. Sproul Jr. can add clarity to the discussion:

Recently, theologian R.C. Sproul Jr. published a blog post in which he explored reasons why pastors do not preach on abortion. He mentions that pastors often think abortion is a political issue, that discussing it will upset the congregation or that it is not in the Bible, and thus, should not be brought up in a sermon. Sproul carefully dismantles each argument and discusses the fact that pastors are often wrestling with their own guilt on the issue or just have no idea how to preach on the subject. He then notes, ‘Abortion is THE great evil of our day. The preaching of the Word is the great power of any day.’”

I couldn’t agree more with Higgins’ take on Dr. Sproul. Abortion is no doubt at the root of nearly every issue America is facing today. When the sanctity of human life is not respected and protected for the most vulnerable among us, it is hard to cultivate respect for other aspects of society. Consequently we have seen a breakdown in respect for marriage, family, fidelity, and personal integrity.

On the issue of marriage, Dr. Russell Moore recently led a discussion with prominent pastors during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual event in which he addressed the need for the church to be prepared to confront the marriage issue. Moore specifically addressed the need for the church to engage the issue of homosexuality from a biblical, Gospel-centric position. He said:

“[W]hat we have to say is, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me, which means that you have to acknowledge part of what it means to repent of sin is to acknowledge what God as Creator has created me to be, which this is not it,’ This is not the picture of the Gospel, which means that we have to separate and we have to start living out a life under the discipleship and accountability of the local congregation and to acknowledge that this is going to be difficult.”

To deny that marriage and the sanctity of life are biblical moral issues rooted in the Gospel is a denial of the clear teaching of Scripture. Marriage is a picture of Christ and His church, respect for human life is a foundational principle of Scripture. The bottom line is that the church should not be shrinking from these discussions. The church has the truth of God’s Word and should be charging into these discussion armed with that truth. If we refuse to speak God’s truth on these topics all that’s left are those without God’s truth speaking for us.

Author

European Faith Made Private: Privatization of the Work Place

Posted on July 25th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

Written by Paul Coleman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria.

Religious Liberty is in peril worldwide. This blog post, the third in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe. The remaining commentaries will be published over the course of the next few weeks.

Christianity is being kept out of the workplace. Four high-profile cases from the United Kingdom are currently making their way through the European Court of Human Rights.

Two of the claimants, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele, were fired for refusing to condone same-sex relationships. Ladele was a registrar of births, deaths, and marriages. When same-sex civil partnerships were introduced by the government in 2005, she saw that registering such relationships would clash with her faith. There were many registrars in the registry service and the same-sex ceremonies constituted a fraction of her duties, making the accommodation of her beliefs on marriage easy to achieve.

She was bullied and harassed by her colleagues, who accused her of “homophobia,” and her supervisor disclosed details of her case to other employees. The service ignored her concerns and the mistreatment she endured. In court, her supervisor summarized the employer’s position, stating, “I don’t believe that we should be accommodating people’s religious beliefs in the Registry Service.” Ultimately she was forced out of her job.

McFarlane worked as a relationship counselor for a charitable organization. He had previously raised concerns over providing counseling services to homosexual couples, as he thought it might imply endorsement of relationships he conscientiously believed to be wrong. However, after discussing the issue with his supervisor he decided that simply counseling such couples did not involve endorsement.

He did, however, raise objections to counseling homosexual couples suffering only from sexual dysfunction. In October 2007, he “confirmed he had difficulty in dealing with same-sex sexual practices and fulfilling his duty to follow the teaching of the Bible.”

Although he never turned away clients, merely raising the question with his supervisor ultimately led to his dismissal for gross misconduct. Suggestions of ways to accommodate him, such as an internal referral system, were dismissed by the court, which stated that his employer was “entitled to treat the issue as one of principle, in which compromise is inappropriate.”

The other two claimants, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, were seeking the right to continue wearing a small visible cross in the workplace, something they had both done for years. In Eweida’s case, British Airways introduced a new uniform policy that only permitted employers to wear non-uniform items for “mandatory religious reasons.” After a public backlash against the airline, it amended the policy but refused to reimburse Eweida for the wages she lost for the time she was sent home without pay for refusing to hide her cross.

Chaplin’s employer, a state hospital, changed the nurses’ uniform by introducing a V-neck tunic, making the wearing of a cross more overt. The employer cited “health and safety” reasons as justification for insisting that she remove the cross, but never provided evidence to suggest what exactly the health and safety issues were.

In January, the European Court found in favor of Eweida, holding that the airline did not have a good reason to limit her right to freedom of religion. However, the court dismissed the cases of the other three claimants, accepting that “health and safety” in the case of Chaplin and “providing a service without discrimination” in the cases of Ladele and McFarlane were legitimate reasons for limiting their freedom of religion. Their cases are now being appealed to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

Similar battles between religious believers and their employers are being fought all over Europe. Doctors in Norway face pressure to participate in abortion procedures against their consciences. As Norwegian health minister Robin Kåss recently explained, “If you deny a patient contraception or a referral for an abortion, you can’t be a general physician. Doctors have to be ready to do their duty.”

The same is true in Sweden, where the Swedish parliament voted 271 to 20 to condemn a resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that supported the right of conscientious objection for physicians. It noted that the resolution “implies that health care workers should have the possibility to choose not to perform abortions” and stated that the standing committee rejected the resolution and instructed the Swedish delegation to work to change it. The situation is so bad in Sweden that a collective complaint has been launched against Sweden with the European Committee of Social Rights.

In Scotland, two Catholic midwives have taken their hospital employers to court after their manager insisted that they supervise abortion procedures against their will. The court held that the statutory conscience clause for health care providers in the Abortion Act 1967 does not apply to midwives. Their case is now on appeal.

The increasing marginalization of the Church throughout the world should be concerning to all Christians. We must stand firm against the subtle, and not so subtle, attacks on our faith. If you, or your church, experience censorship, punishment, or unlawful regulation for speaking, acting, or ministering in accordance with Biblical principles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom. Perhaps we can provide the legal assistance you need to live out your faith and keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner on Feb. 15, 2013

Author

European Faith Made Private: Privatization of Private Conversations

Posted on July 19th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

Written by Paul Coleman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria.

Religious Liberty is in peril worldwide. This blog post, the second in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe. The remaining commentaries will be published over the course of the next few weeks.

Private conversations between citizens can become the grounds of a criminal complaint in many European countries. A couple of years ago, British hoteliers Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who are Christians, were charged with the criminal offense of using “insulting words” after a Muslim guest complained about their breakfast conversation on the merits of their respective faiths. The guest complained to the police, and after a yearlong investigation that brought the family-run business to its knees, the case eventually reached the courtroom.

One senior prosecutor and two high-ranking police officers appeared to testify against the Vogelenzangs. Behind them sat a team of six officers from the specialist “hate crime unit” who had been assigned to the case. The Vogelenzangs were supported by a Christian charity that covered all of their legal fees.

Although the hotel owners were eventually acquitted, the investigation and trial ultimately destroyed their business, as one of its main customers, a local hospital that used the guesthouse for patients, withdrew its business and never returned. Sharon Vogelenzang explained that “many people thought that when we won in court, everything would be OK. In reality, it has brought us to the brink of destruction, so it has not been a victory at all.”

The increasing marginalization of the Church throughout the world should be concerning to all Christians. We must stand firm against the subtle, and not so subtle, attacks on our faith. If you, or your church, experience censorship, punishment, or unlawful regulation for speaking, acting, or ministering in accordance with Biblical principles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom. Perhaps we can provide the legal assistance you need to live out your faith and keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner on Feb. 15, 2013

Author

Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2013: Speaking Truth to the Culture

Posted on July 9th, 2013 Marriage | No Comments »

Recently, almost 1,100 churches from all 50 states took part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  On June 9, pastors in these churches preached sermons about the importance of traditional marriage.  Prior to the Supreme Court’s decisions on marriage, these pastors took the opportunity on Pulpit Freedom Sunday to set forth what God says about marriage.

This was the sixth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  It began in 2008 as a direct challenge to the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 addition to the tax code that prohibits pastors from preaching freely on the issue of candidates and elections.  Every year pastors participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday preached sermons that evaluated the candidates running for office in light of Scripture and made recommendations to their congregation as to how they ought to exercise their right to vote.  The pastors recorded their sermons and sent them to the IRS in hopes of sparking a legal challenge to the Johnson Amendment.  To date, not one of the over 2,000 pastors who have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday has been investigated by the IRS or punished for their sermons.

Because of the lack of national elections this year, pastors were encouraged to preach about the importance of marriage.  That issue was front and center in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions on marriage in June.  Put simply, before the Supreme Court had its say about marriage, the Church had its say about how God designed marriage and intended for it to function.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided the marriage cases, it is clear the battle over same-sex “marriage” will continue and the voice of America’s pastors is even more necessary.  If you are a pastor and did not get the opportunity to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, now would be a great time to sign up.  We are leaving registration open for the remainder of the summer to allow pastors an opportunity to discuss the issue of marriage from the pulpit.  If you need resources on how to prepare a sermon on the issue, please visit our website.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions, it is clear that the Church has a lot of work to do.  Taking part in a Pulpit Freedom Sunday this summer is a perfect opportunity to educate your congregation about marriage and why it should be protected as God intended.

Author

What do the Supreme Court marriage decisions mean for churches?

Posted on July 9th, 2013 Marriage | 1 Comment »

Shortly before leaving for its summer break, the United States Supreme Court issued two decisions affecting the status of the future of marriage in America.  In United States v. Windsor, the Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage, for federal purposes, as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”  In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court held that the proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which recognized only marriage between a man and a woman, did not have standing to defend the law.

In the wake of these decisions, it may be easy to be confused about their effect on marriage and religious freedom.  Some pastors have expressed concerns over the potential impact of the decisions on their churches.  Here are some short key points regarding the impact of the decisions:

1.  Same-sex “marriage” is not the law of the land.  The Supreme Court decisions did not mandate same-sex “marriage” on the country.  The marriage decisions did have an impact on the future status of same-sex “marriage” to be sure. But it is important not to overstate the impact of the Court’s decisions.  It did not establish same-sex “marriage” as a rule for the entire country.

2.  The Federal DOMA remains largely intact.  The Court only struck down Section 3 of DOMA, which is commonly referred to as the definitional section.  Striking this section down now allows for same-sex couples who are considered “married” in their home states to receive federal benefits previously reserved for married couples.  Section 2 of DOMA remains intact and enforceable.  That section allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex “marriages” performed under the laws of other states.  This means that North Carolina, for example, does not have to recognize the same-sex “marriage” of a Rhode Island couple. For now, each state continues to retain authority to define marriage.

3.  The same-sex “marriage” battle will continue.  The Court’s decisions left open some important questions.  Perhaps most importantly, the question of the constitutionality of state DOMAs was left unanswered by the Court’s decisions.  That issue is currently pending in some court cases in states like Hawaii and Nevada.  These battles will continue, and it is likely the Supreme Court will confront that issue in the future.

4.  Same-sex “marriage” remains a real threat to religious freedom, as my colleague Kellie Fiedorek points out in a recent blog:

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion, said, “The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states.” In other words, Justice Kennedy suggests in his opinion that the only reason Congress and President Clinton had for protecting marriage when they passed DOMA in 1996 was a bias towards couples in same-sex relationships. That is a chilling statement that poses an immediate threat for future lawsuits against anyone who believes marriage exists only between one man and one woman. It wrongly implies that those of us who recognize marriage to be the unique union of a husband and wife – something recognized by diverse cultures and faiths throughout history – are motivated by dislike rather than a desire to affirm the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father.  Simply astounding. Justice Scalia said it best when he called this, ‘jaw-dropping.’”

Same-sex “marriage” poses a threat to religious freedom.  If you doubt this, ask the owners of Elane photography, or Arlene’s Flowers.  These are just two of the recent cases where Christians have been accused of “discrimination” simply for abiding by their religious beliefs concerning sexual behavior.  More cases like this may occur in the future in the wake of the Supreme Court’s opinion striking down DOMA.

This is why it is important for churches to act now to protect themselves from the possibility of such claims.  Visit our website for some important resources, such as our document Seven Things all Churches Should have in Their Bylaws, or our Sample Facilities Usage Policy that ensures churches may maintain use of their facilities in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court’s decisions did impact marriage and religious freedom.  The battle will continue and the threat to religious freedom has intensified.  That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom is here.  We stand ready to protect the Church from attacks that threaten its freedom and independence to share the Gospel.  Please visit our website or contact us if you need help or legal counsel on these important issues.

Author

Search the Blog

Stay Connected to Speak Up.

View Posts by Author

Authors

ADF

© 2014 Alliance Defending Freedom. All Rights Reserved.