The US Supreme Court transformed the legal definition of marriage in its June 26 Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
In a 5–4 decision, the Court ruled that states must recognize marriages between people of the same sex, providing a new definition throughout the country to an institution created by God as a covenant between a man and a woman.
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for a deeply divided court, saying, “[T]he right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
Southern Baptist leaders expressed dismay at the opinion while urging churches to respond with courage and faithfulness.
“I deeply believe in biblical and traditional marriage. The court has determined otherwise,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd said. “This decision shows one thing: our desperate need for the next Great Awakening and the hope of the Gospel given to all persons. We must rise up like never before with great urgency, to forward the message of Jesus Christ to every person in America and across the world.”
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, lamented, “Our hearts are saddened to hear of the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore the desire of the American people, to ignore legislative processes, and most of all to ignore God’s clear and unambiguous word.
“If there was ever a time when we need believers to be salt and light it is now,” Page said. “God help us all, but especially our children and grandchildren.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote, “I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling handed down by the Court today, believing, along with millions of others, that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman and that it is improper for the Court to redefine an institution it did not invent in the first place.
“Despite this ruling, the church of Jesus Christ will stand fast. We will not capitulate on this issue because we cannot,” Moore said.
In response to Obergefell v. Hodges, ERLC has produced resources to help Christians minister in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.
1. In collaboration with Alliance Defending Freedom, the ERLC has published Protecting Your Ministry, a manual to provide Southern Baptists and other evangelicals help in regard to potential sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits.
The booklet includes checklists to assist churches and Christian institutions on maximizing their religious liberty protections under the law and maintaining their freedom to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. It provides sample documents—such as a membership agreement and facility use policy—to assist churches and other ministries. The guide may be accessed without cost at ERLC.com/store.
2. The first issue of ERLC’s revived Light magazine focuses on ministering in a culture in which same-sex marriage is legal. The issue, released in June, includes articles by Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, which describes her journey from a lesbian lifestyle to Christ; Mike Goeke, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in San Francisco; J. D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Moore. A subscription to the biannual publication, available at ERLC.com/light, is $10.
3. Video of a panel discussion on same-sex marriage hosted by SBC President Ronnie Floyd at the Convention’s annual meeting June 16–17 in Columbus, Ohio, can be accessed at SBCannualmeeting.net. Panelists were Ryan Blackwell, pastor of First Baptist Church, San Francisco; Butterfield; Matt Carter, lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church; Mohler; and Moore.
4. In partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), ERLC will conduct Equip Austin on July 29 at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. ERLC President Moore and other speakers will convey help for those in attendance and those watching via live stream to engage a “post-marriage society” with Gospel faithfulness.
Other speakers for “The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage: Equipping the Church for a Post-Marriage Culture,” will include Butterfield; Carter; Matt Chandler, lead pastor for teaching of the Village Church in the Dallas metropolitan area; Goeke; Jackie Hill Perry, a poet who came to Christ out of a lesbian lifestyle; and Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC.
5. Equip—at ERLC.com/equip—is a joint initiative with SBTC to provide guidance in ministering to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The online content features videos on same-sex attraction from Sam Allberry, a British pastor and author of Is God anti-gay? It also includes video from other pastors and leaders as well as articles and book recommendations. More videos, articles, and other resources are available at ERLC.com/scotus.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington, DC, bureau chief and is senior pastor of Covenant Community Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This article is adapted from two news stories by Strode published in Baptist Press.