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ERLC institute opposes ‘gay marriage,’ urges caring ministry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Christians should strongly resist the campaign to legitimize “same-sex marriage” while also ministering compassionately to homosexuals, a group of Southern Baptist ethics and theology leaders have urged in a new document.

The Research Institute of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission released the “Nashville Declaration on ‘Same-sex Marriage’” March 9 in response to ongoing efforts to legalize “homosexual marriage.” Every statewide vote on the issue has resulted in a victory for the biblical and traditional definition of marriage, but courts still threaten to grant rights to people of the same sex to marry. The ERLC and other pro-family organizations have endorsed a federal amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect marriage.

The statement’s signers, all fellows of the ERLC Research Institute, said they reject all efforts to legitimize “same-sex marriage” based on the “clear biblical teachings about homosexuality and marriage, and the serious social consequences that homosexuality and ‘same-sex marriage’ pose for our nation.”

“The multiple efforts to legitimize ‘same-sex marriage’ are misplaced and unwise attempts to redefine the historical, social and moral foundation of human culture,” they said.

The document calls for:

— Stronger bonds within families so “children have a better chance to develop God-honoring, healthy, appropriate sexual orientation.”

— More training by church leaders and understanding among Christians about the biblical view of homosexuality and marriage.

— Greater outreach to people “trapped in homosexuality to provide them the relationships that will help them abandon homosexual behavior.”

— New ministries to homosexuals “that affirm their worth before God and that help them escape homosexuality.”

— Efforts to influence Congress toward immediate passage of a federal amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

ERLC President Richard Land was joined by four Southern Baptist seminary presidents and 14 other Research Institute fellows in endorsing the statement. The seminary presidents signing on were Daniel Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; Paige Patterson of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and Phil Roberts of Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

The declaration “is forceful in its presentation of the truth about homosexuality, but it is not heartless or arrogant,” said Barrett Duke, director of the institute and the ERLC’s vice president of public policy and research. “We do not condemn homosexuals in this document; we reject the lie that homosexuality is God-given. Because homosexuality is not part of God’s design for humanity, we also express our confidence that God can –- and in fact does – deliver homosexuals from this destructive life.

“[We] recognize that we must minister to homosexuals in a loving, compassionate way,” he said, “and we commit ourselves, and call on all Christians, to befriend and minister to homosexuals.”

The 2½-page statement is intended to help equip Americans to respond to the efforts of judicial and homosexual activists to gain acceptance of homosexuality, Duke said.

“Most Americans know instinctively that same-sex ‘marriage’ is inappropriate and just plain wrong, but they are often unable to quote chapter and verse or to explain the severe social implications of this counterfeit relationship,” Duke said. “What we have provided with this declaration is a brief listing of biblical and social reasons why people should be opposed to ‘same-sex marriage.’”

The signers endorsed four central points in the document:

— Marriage is a “lifetime union of one man and one woman,” according to the Bible, and may not be redefined.

— Marriage has “essential defining personal and social characteristics” that prohibit a same-sex relationship from being its equivalent.

— Homosexual behavior “is sinful and contrary to God’s design,” according to Scripture, and homosexuality should not be considered an “acceptable or unchangeable alternative lifestyle.”

— Every person, while made in the image of and of equal value before God, is sinful and needs God’s forgiveness. Therefore, Christians should have “compassion for those trapped in homosexuality.”

“We deny that God hates people who practice homosexual behavior,” the declaration says.

Others signing the declaration were: Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost at Southwestern Seminary; Douglas Blount, assistant dean for ethics and philosophical studies at Southwestern Seminary; Don Buckley, a Pensacola, Fla., physician; L. Russ Bush, academic vice president at Southeastern Seminary; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Daniel Heimbach, ethics professor at Southeastern Seminary; Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College in Dallas; Steve Lemke, provost and ethics professor at New Orleans Seminary; C. Ben Mitchell, associate bioethics professor at Trinity International University in suburban Chicago; Randy Singer, president of FamilyNet Television; Jerry Sutton, senior pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville; Greg Thornbury, assistant professor of Christian studies at Union University; and Malcolm Yarnell, assistant dean for theological studies at Southwestern Seminary.

The declaration may be accessed at the ERLC’s Internet site, www.faithandfamily.com.

Congressional efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman fell far short last year. Sen. Wayne Allard, R.-Colo., has introduced the Marriage Protection Amendment, S.J.RES. 1, already in this session, but the House version has yet to be offered. Ratification of a federal amendment requires two-thirds majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as passage by three-fourths of the states.

Voters in 16 states have approved amendments banning “same-sex marriage” in their state constitutions. Last year, 13 states passed such amendments, with the majority vote averaging 70.8 percent. A 17th state, Hawaii, has passed an amendment that gives the state legislature the power to prohibit “homosexual marriage.”

Though the amendments tie the hands of state courts, they are vulnerable in federal court, prompting the campaign for a federal amendment.
Michael Foust contributed to this article.

For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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