By Dave Arden
“Your church will be impacted by same sex marriage,” declared Dr. Jeff Iorg at the Leadership Conference prior to the annual meeting of Arizona Southern Baptist Convention in Yuma Nov. 13.
Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, prepared leaders for the inevitable realities of the changing American cultural landscape. “Same sex marriage is wrong, but now what?” he asked.
Iorg provided real life examples.
–A little boy accepts Christ at a Vacation Bible School and invites his same-sex fathers to parent night.
–A loving grandfather is invited to his lesbian granddaughter’s wedding. He loves her deeply but does not know whether he should attend the wedding.
–A church hosts a marriage retreat and a same-sex marriage couple wants to attend.
The examples go on and on.
“We have to be patient with each other,” said Iorg, reminding listeners that complicated relationships mean complicated responses.
Highlighting principles from Ministry in the New Marriage Culture, a book he compiled on the subject, his foundational ideas started with:
* Prepare for messy situations that do not have easy answers.
* Be patient with other believers who share your core conviction but make different application decisions.
Speaking generally, Iorg pointed to three ways that Christians will responsd to the same-sex marriage question.
–Some believers will completely reject same-sex marriage.
–Some believers will completely accept same-sex marriage.
–Some believers will try to justify same sex-marriage using the Bible.
Quoting from 2 Peter 3:15-17, Iorg warned against the real danger in falling into the third category of twisting the Bible.
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness… 2 Peter 3:17
In addition, Iorg strongly encouraged church leaders to: “adopt a written doctrinal statement of your church’s conviction about marriage. ”
Attorneys and courts do not want to get entangled in religious discussions and doctrinal matters, he said. Rather, the strongest position that a church can take is to adopt a doctrinal statement like the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 or to write their own statement of faith. The writing of bylaws and constitution are secondary to the statement of faith, he said, and practices with regard to marriage (even heterosexual) need to be consistently applied.
Iorg also implored listeners to: “focus on the gospel” and “disciple-making. ”
Life transformation is brought about by knowing Jesus and the power of the gospel. And discipleship is about making people more Christ-like — not making heterosexuals, Iorg said. He encouraged church leaders to regularly teach and place emphasis on building healthy family relationships in the home.
The silver lining in this debate has been the importance of affirming church membership in defining who the church really is. “Implement a sound church membership policy — all are welcome to attend, members must meet and submit to standards, ” said Iorg.
For many years the American believer’s attitude about church membership has been really relaxed, but times are changing. “Church membership is foundation to accountability,” Iorg reflected.
His presentation continued: “focus on behavior — not orientation. ”
“The Bible has another name for orientation, and that’s temptation,” Iorg said. Just because somebody thinks they are gay doesn’t necessarily mean they must identify themselves as such.
Finally, church leaders were encouraged to “make adjustments to church ministry practices to recognize new challenges. ” This includes matters such as re-thinking how we bunk our youth at youth camp outings and how we promote marriage retreats.
Finally, no matter what we do, Iorg stated, “Prepare to be ridiculed, threatened and abused. ” Believers are not to be surprised when the picketers show up.
Those listening walked away with much to think and consider. While this issue is not going away Jesus demonstrates His faithful pattern to love unconditionally and yet challenge self-gratification. “And these three remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.