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Marriage. When you read that one simple word, what do you think of?  Perhaps you think of your own marriage and its joys and struggles. Maybe you think about the failed marriages you have seen among your friends or family. But today, you can’t say the word marriage without conjuring images of same-sex wedding ceremonies, court battles, and television pundits opining on the future of that one word. Alliance Defending Freedom is fighting every day to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

There is no question that America is in an intense debate over how culture, society, and law will treat marriage in the years to come. Is it, as it always has been, a life-long relationship between one man and one woman? Or will it be reduced to merely a transient relationship between two individuals with some added tax benefits?

At times like this in American history, the Church has spoken clearly and decisively, helping to frame the debate in moral and Biblical terms. Now, the Church’s influence is needed more than ever. America needs to know why God created marriage as the lifelong exclusive union between one man and one woman. America needs to understand that when God said that what he joined together, no man should separate, that He meant it, and that He meant it for our good and the betterment of society. And the Church has the answer to these pressing issues.

This month as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, why not use this opportunity, when the country is focused on love, to remind them about God’s design for marriage? Can you as a pastor take the opportunity to do some things to restore or promote a culture of marriage in your church? Here are a few ideas:

  • Show this video to your congregation that explains the big picture view of why the battle for marriage matters.

  • Preach a sermon on marriage and why it should remain the union of one man and one woman. Visit our website for resources to help prepare.

  • Launch a marriage ministry in your church to combat rampant divorce and its harmful effects on the family.

  • Sign up to participate in National Marriage Week in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day.

These are just some ideas for ways to celebrate marriage and to work to strengthen it in your church.  The Church must lead the way in protecting and strengthening marriage if society will ever once again value marriage. Let’s take this opportunity this month, as the world focuses on love, to hold up marriage as God’s ideal and, as the Church, lead the way toward a restored and renewed culture of marriage.

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AP Photo/Seth Perlman

This week, Illinois became the 16th state to redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to “marry.”  These types of actions should never go without a response by the Church.  Throughout American history, pastors have stood in their pulpits and proclaimed truth to politics and the culture.  Pastors have not hesitated to call out unrighteousness and to clearly expound God’s truth.  But this type of prophetic proclamation requires pastors to know what is going on in their communities, states, and country.

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, the Catholic Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, was not asleep at the wheel when Illinois’ Governor signed a law redefining marriage.  In response to the new law Bishop Paprocki preached a homily entitled “Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage.”  Even if you are not Catholic or disagree with Catholic theology, the homily is worth reading in its entirety.  You can read it on the Diocese website.

In the homily, Bishop Paprocki clearly and forcefully proclaimed biblical truth on the issue confronting Illinois.  He said:

Same-sex marriage is contrary to the plan of God, as described in the Bible. . . Since the legal redefinition of marriage is contrary to God’s plan, those who contract civil same-sex marriage are culpable of serious sin. Politicians responsible for enacting civil same-sex marriage legislation are morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin. We must pray for forgiveness of these sins and deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our Church.

Pastors are encountering a day when the clear proclamation of biblical truth is a necessity.  As American culture becomes increasingly secular, it is incumbent upon pastors to speak to that culture with uncompromising clarity.  Such preaching is not “political.”  Simply because a biblical issue has been swept into the realm of politics does not mean that it ceases to become a biblical issue.  No, biblical issues remain biblical.  And speaking biblical truth from the pulpit remains the particular province and calling of pastors.

Pastor, are you aware and engaged enough to know what is happening in your community, your state, or your nation?  Once informed, are you speaking truth to your people, thus equipping them with a biblical worldview that doesn’t shift when a Governor signs an immoral law?  If your answer to either of these questions is “no”, let me give you two practical resources to get you started.

First, an excellent resource to stay informed and aware of the issues of life, marriage, and religious freedom is the Alliance Alert, a daily digest of news stories from around the country, and the world, on these issues.  You can subscribe to the Alliance Alert to have it delivered to your email daily.

Second, Alliance Defending Freedom is at the forefront of the battle to protect marriage.  Our website on this issue provides resources you as a pastor can use to become informed and to edcuate your congregation.  Watch the video on our website to get the big picture about the redefinition of marriage and its impact on our society and then show it to your people so they too can grasp what is at stake in this battle.

Bishop Paprocki stands as an example to other pastors to be aware, engaged, informed, and to speak out when the time demands it.  Pastor, are you willing?

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

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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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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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.

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