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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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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.

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