The Summit Church and the Marriage Amendment

Posted by Pastor J.D. on May 3, 2012

**Resources for more indepth analysis of the legal issues surrounding the amendment added below**

A very important amendment is being considered this week by people in our state. At our church, we try to avoid politics for the simple reason that godly people often disagree about which policies are the most helpful in society.

At the same time, there is a time, when out of love for our neighbor, civic action is appropriate and ought to be commended by the church. The church should have been vocal during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s and women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century.

I believe this is another one of those times.

Marriage is a wonderfully sacred institution, given by God as a blessing to–and the building block of–all societies. Government did not define or establish marriage; God did. Governments merely recognize that which has been established by the Creator.

Our country’s Declaration of Independence acknowledges that the foundation of human flourishing is God and His designs. “We are endowed by our Creator,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “with certain inalienable rights.” Our most fundamental rights flow from the design of the Creator.

One of the Creator’s most important designs was marriage, which He established as between a man and a woman. The Creator’s pattern has been perceived throughout history by nearly every religion in the world and Christian tradition has stood nearly unbroken on this, until about 40 years ago.

I think it is crucial for us to speak up–again, as an act of love for our neighbors–for the preservation of this institution in our society. The loss of something so fundamental to human flourishing would yield devastating consequences: how we perceive God’s image; how we understand God-like love; how kids understand their own gender identity; the building block of society and statistically-proven healthiest environment for the rearing of children—all this would be affected by the loss of God’s design in marriage.

Now, some of you won’t hear this as love. You might even hear it as bigotry. I hope you’ll understand our heart more than that, and, if you can, give us the benefit of the doubt. Nobody is arguing that homosexuals are lesser people or ought to be ostracized in our society, or that they ought not to enjoy the same freedoms or protections that the rest of us enjoy. The point is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s designs based on contemporary cultural mores. Again, marriage was not invented by government; it was merely recognized by the government. God is the designer, and God established it as the union of a man and woman in an exclusive, life-long covenant.

So, I encourage you go out and vote in support of this amendment this Tuesday. I want you to do so as an act of service and love for our community.

I also want Summit members to know that our elder team believes there is room for disagreement on this. Whether or not homosexuality is sinful is not up for debate at our church, but sincere Christians might disagree on whether this particular amendment is helpful. Our unity at this church is built around the gospel and the things the Bible is clear about, and while the Bible is clear on the sinfulness of homosexuality, it does not tell us what government actions are appropriate. After having studied the issues surrounding the amendment, I am comfortable with supporting it and encourage you to, but I’ll leave that ultimately to you and your conscience.

I want you to know that we believe that God loves the homosexual, not hates him or her. After all, you don’t die for someone you hate. We also don’t think that homosexuals are a fundamentally different type of person than us. Many of our members, including some of our leaders, struggle with same-sex attraction. The gospel teaches that here is one class of person in the world: sinner; and one hope for all sinners: Jesus. Or, as the cliché goes, the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Honestly, there is a tension we feel regarding this issue. We are here for the long haul. Long after this amendment question is settled, we’ll still be here, regardless of the outcome. We do not want our ministry to be defined by this issue. We want to be defined by the gospel and our love for the city and our willingness to lay down our lives for those who fundamentally disagree with what we stand for, just like Christ did. I have turned down a number of opportunities to debate this issue in the public square for just that reason—I don’t want this issue to define us as a church.

On the other hand, we know that it is our duty to think Christianly about contemporary issues, and to be salt and light to our community. Thus, we decided it was appropriate to bring this to your attention and to encourage you to pray and vote your conscience.

We love our community, gay members and all. We want to be good neighbors to them, not ostracize them. Jesus washed our feet; we should wash theirs. He died in our place; we should lay down our lives for theirs. My prayer is that in all things, God will help us shine the light and grace of the gospel more clearly in our community.

For those interested in what we believe about homosexuality and why, this series of posts may help. If you have questions about the legalities and benefits of the amendment, or the role of the church during such a time, these resources and articles may help.

Pastor J.D.

Posts

J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

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