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A Roadmap for Pastors: Three Steps to Defend Biblical Truths

Posted on July 29th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

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

I’ve spent a lot of time with pastors encouraging them to get involved and be proactive in defending religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Some are standing tall and speaking boldly. Some are sitting on the sidelines. And many others simply aren’t so sure how to engage a culture that is moving steadily away from biblical truth.

One pastor recently asked me a simple question, “Where do I start?” He was feeling overwhelmed and just needed to know what the first step was in joining the conversation about the critical issues of the day. He also wanted guidance on how best to get his congregation informed and involved.  That got me thinking about how many other pastors nationwide might be feeling the same.

Here is short list of steps every pastor can take to get started.

Step 1:  Knowledge is Power:
Stay informed on the critical issues.

As a pastor, your congregation needs to know they can come to you with questions and concerns about pressing social issues. They want you to engage in intelligent conversation and provide them with the biblical firepower to combat the half-truths and misconceptions perpetuated throughout society. Nothing is more frustrating or discouraging to a church member than to ask their pastor important questions on fundamental religious issues, only to receive vapid responses such as, “I don’t pay attention to trivial things in society,” or “Don’t waste your time reading the news, just read the Bible.”

But there is nothing trivial about the issues of religious liberty, life, and marriage and family. For many church attendees, the issues of life and marriage are central to their everyday lives and they need to know their pastor can handle their questions. Nothing screams “irrelevant” like not having a clue about what is going on in society.

Tip: Use a good news aggregator to stay informed. I use Feedly. This way, instead of having to go to a dozen websites for news, the news will come to you. I recommend following the Engage Family Minute, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Alliance Alert and Speak Up Church Blog, Family Research Council’s FRC Blog, World Net daily, and Life News. If you follow these, you will be well-informed.

Step 2: Spread the Knowledge:
Share information with your congregation.

As a pastor, your congregation looks to you for guidance. A pastor can harness his influence to teach his flock a practical theology—a lived faith that stands tall against liberal trends that mock God’s ways. If a pastor stays informed and shares this Godly information with his congregation, they will increasingly see him as someone they can trust and count on.

When major news happens, talk about it in church. If a pastor ignores crucial events like the Sandy Hook shooting or the Supreme Court rulings on marriage, he will be missing prime teaching opportunities that can bring biblical truths to light. There is more than just a social context to these events; there is an opportunity to share deep biblical truth about God’s design for human dignity, life and marriage. And once your congregation is equipped in this Gospel knowledge, they will be able to share it with all who cross their path.

Tip: Use social media to teach even when you’re not preaching. By using social media, you can have tremendous influence on your congregation even when they are not in church. Don’t be afraid to share articles or comment on events happening in the community and around the country.

Step 3: Faith in Action:
Encourage the flock to be informed and active.

A lot of pastor’s want to steer clear of being “too political” in church. But even if this is the case that doesn’t mean a pastor can’t encourage his congregation to stay informed and be active. Just because your church may not hold a pro-life rally, that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage others to participate in one elsewhere. Many worthwhile national events like the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, National Day of Prayer, and Call 2 Fall provide an excellent opportunity to unite your congregation in a lived faith that sets an example for the community. You can’t simply say you are pro-life or pro-marriage without getting involved. Faith demands action.

By staying informed on local and national events, you can encourage your congregation to be an active light in the community and stand for biblical truth. This can only lead to infinite opportunities to spread the Gospel.

Tip: Set an example for your congregation by personally getting involved. You can do this by letting your church know you are voting and encouraging them to do the same. You can also support a local, state, or national organization as a church and work as a community to bring about lasting change. Organizations like Care Pregnancy Centers can never have enough support. Take action and encourage others to do the same.

These are just three small steps that a pastor can take to advance the Gospel and lead others in standing for God’s truth. If a pastor does not care about biblical issues being assaulted in society, why should their congregation?

It is only once a pastor is armed with knowledge and the will to share and act on it that others will follow. And maybe once this happens, Christians across America will be able to help prevent and overturn bad court decisions such as Roe v. Wade or the striking down of one of the crucial articles of DOMA defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

There are no short-cuts. Our nation’s spiritual leaders must rise to the occasion so that others may follow to preserve religious liberty, life, and marriage and family.

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Protecting Religious Freedom in the Wake of the Supreme Court’s Marriage Rulings

What do I need to do to protect my church?

We receive many questions about what proactive steps churches can take to protect their religious liberty. And with the recent Supreme Court decisions, this issue has taken center stage. Therefore, we have assembled a couple of resources all churches can use to best position themselves for the future.

First, read our resource Seven Things all Churches Should have in their Bylaws. We also have some suggested bylaw language on marriage and human sexuality that will help churches in this regard.

Second, we advise every church to adopt a facilities usage policy that governs use of church facilities for wedding ceremonies. We have created a sample policy for you to use to ensure your church is protected.

Even in those states that adopted same-sex “marriage” or some equivalent, such as civil unions, churches do not have to allow use of their facilities for wedding ceremonies that are inconsistent with their faith. But there is an effort underway in some areas — such as Hawaii and Hutchinson, Kansas — to force churches to allow use of their facilities for same-sex “weddings” if they open their facilities for use by non-members for weddings at all. Passing a facilities usage policy provides a good defense. Put simply, no government official has the right to force a church to allow its facilities to be used for events that violate its religious beliefs.

Never forget that Alliance Defending Freedom is “watching the legal horizon.” We will continue to keep you updated and provide the best ways you as a pastor can respond to protect your church from legal threats.

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European Faith Made Private: Privatization of the Marketplaces

Posted on July 29th, 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 last in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe.

In recent blog posts, European privatization in regards to the pulpits, private conversations, and work places was discussed. Privatization can be described as the division between religious belief and religious practice. In Europe, people are told that they are able to believe whatever they want, but cannot act on those beliefs in public.

In addition to being privatized in personal relations and in the workplace, Christianity is being privatized in the marketplace. Although this is a relatively new development, several European countries have now passed laws making it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of goods or services.

In the Netherlands, following amendments to the Equal Treatment Act, a company was sued for refusing to make bath towels that advertised an organization which promoted homosexual behavior. The company had made it clear on its website that it would not do any work that it considered blasphemous or offensive to the morals of the company. Although the company eventually won its case, business owners in the United Kingdom have been less successful.

Following the introduction of various pieces of anti-discrimination legislation—which, among other things, prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation—guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull were successfully sued by a same-sex couple for refusing to provide a double-bedded room. Since 1986 the Bulls have had a policy that “as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples—Thank you.”

The British courts found this policy discriminatory, and their small guesthouse, operated from within their own home, now faces closure. Other guesthouses have also been successfully sued for taking a similar position.

While the privatization of faith in the marketplace is still developing, a draft piece of European Union law known as the Equal Treatment Directive will, if passed, drastically increase pressure on business owners, forcing them to provide goods or services that contravene their consciences on threat of being hauled before the courts if they don’t.

Some of the provisions are highly controversial, even for Europe. For example, the proposed directive prohibits “harassment” in the provision of goods and services, which has the vague definition of “unwanted conduct . . . with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.”

The directive also mandates that the nations create “bodies for the promotion of equal treatment” to bring about this “equality.” In the United Kingdom, which has voluntarily adopted many of the provisions of the directive, it was an equality body that launched the litigation against the Christian guesthouse owners mentioned above.

Although the proposal has been stalled for nearly five years, it could be resurrected at any moment. Future litigation is therefore very much a possibility.

So difficult is the situation becoming that the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have now recognized the trend and have held workshops on the subject of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. It may not be too long before persecution is the word being used to describe the phenomenon.

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.

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

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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.

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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

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