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ERLC to examine marriage, homosexuality

NASHVILLE (BP) — Registration opened June 1 for “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” a national conference Oct. 27-29 sponsored by the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Russell D. Moore, as the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist, said the conference reflects “my primary mission [for] preparing the next generation of evangelical leaders to live in the culture as faithful Christians who are holding to the ancient truths of Christianity, including a bold presentation of the Christian sexual ethic.”

That sexual ethic found in the Bible and taught by the church of Christ for nearly 2,000 years now stands increasingly in disfavor. Americans are more supportive of homosexual rights than ever. Same-sex marriage is making rapid gains in federal courts and state legislatures as well as in public opinion. The movement for transgender rights continues to advance.

The conference, to be held in Nashville, will bring together “leading thinkers and pastors on these issues to help equip a new generation to stand for marriage in tough times, to prepare us to be faithful people of the gospel — with a message of both truth and grace,” Moore said.

According to the ERLC, the conference will address such questions as:

— How can the church minister effectively to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?

— How does a Christian with same-sex attraction live in sexual faithfulness?

— Why did God design marriage for the common good?

— How should a pastor counsel a same-sex couple who want to join his church?

— How has the divorce culture affected marriage in churches and communities?

The national conference will follow an ERLC-sponsored, leadership summit in April on the Gospel and human sexuality.

In addition to Moore, speakers at the ERLC conference in October will include Rosaria Butterfield, author of “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,” which describes her journey from a lesbian lifestyle to Christ; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Sherif Girgis, co-author of “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense”; J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife; Sam Allberry, British pastor and author of “Is God Anti-Gay?”; Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation; and poet Jackie Hill.

Registration for the conference opened on the heels of more judicial victories for same-sex marriage.

Federal judges legalized gay marriage in Oregon and Pennsylvania May 19 and 20, respectively. Both judges refused to block enforcement of their rulings.

With the decisions, Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states with legalized same-sex marriage in effect. Judges have invalidated gay marriage bans in another eight states – Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia – in the last year, but those rulings in the states have been stayed while under appeal, according to The Washington Post. Federal judges also have ruled same-sex marriages performed in other states should be recognized in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, The Post reported.

The decisions in Pennsylvania and Oregon mean all the states in the Northeast and on the West Coast have legalized same-sex marriage.

Public opinion surveys in March showed the dramatic shift in favor of gay marriage in recent years:

— 59 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 34 percent oppose it, according to a poll by The Post and ABC News. The result was nearly the exact opposite of the same poll in March 2004, when only 38 percent favored legalizing gay marriage and 59 percent opposed it.

— 69 percent of adults under age 30 support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center. Among those 18 to 29 years of age who identify themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, 61 percent agree with legalizing gay marriage. The same survey shows overall 54 percent of Americans and 39 percent of Republicans, or those who lean toward the GOP, support same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, 15 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that provide explicit protections for transgender people. Last August, California became the first state to enact a law to enable students to use the restrooms and play on the athletic teams of the gender they identify with, regardless of their biological sex.

Registration for the national conference, which will be held at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, is available online at erlc.com/conference/registration/.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. . Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).