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Editorial: Arousing the sleeping giant

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The following was originally published in the June 25, 2015 issue of The Christian Index.

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is always filled with glorious inspiration, pertinent business, encouraging reports and celestial fellowship. This year’s meeting in Columbus was no different except for the incredible blessed emphasis on spiritual awakening.

Dr. Gerald Harris J. Gerald Harris

The Wednesday morning press conference with SBC President Ronnie Floyd and sixteen former Convention presidents was also an event worthy of note.

The press conference was for the purpose of introducing a bold and courageous statement signed by all living SBC presidents since 1980 – seventeen presidents in all. The statement addressed the anticipated announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage and the former presidents’ intention of standing with unequivocal resolve to uphold the Biblical, definition of marriage.

Here is the statement released by the former presidents, six of whom (Bailey E. Smith, Charles F. Stanley, Jerry Vines, James Merritt, Johnny Hunt and Bryant Wright) live in Georgia today.

“As Southern Baptist Christians, we are committed to Biblical faith and ethics. As a result, this body of Believers stands on the authority of Scripture and God’s Truth as central to our lives.

“What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging. We affirm biblical, traditional, natural marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The Scriptures’ teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

“Consequently, we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex “marriages”, our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.

“While we affirm our love for all people, including those struggling with same-sex attraction, we cannot and will not affirm the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior or any behavior that deviates from God’s design for marriage. We also believe religious freedom is at stake within this critical issue – that our first duty is to love and obey God, not man.

“What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging.”

“Therefore, we strongly encourage all Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, educators, and churches to openly reject any mandated legal definition of marriage and to use their influence to affirm God’s design for life and relationships. As the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination with over 16 million members, we stake our very lives and future on the Truth of God’s Word.

“We also join together to support those who stand for natural marriage in the corporate world, the marketplace, education, entertainment, media and elsewhere with our prayers and influence, and resources.”

President Floyd stated, “We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman for a lifetime. That is God’s will and that is God’s intention. We feel wonderful about the statement.

“Jack Graham (pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church) and I had the privilege of being a part of the National Day of Prayer. My role was to represent the Southern Baptist Convention. Jack was the National Day of Prayer Coordinator. As we stood there in Washington we were overwhelmed with the burden we were facing as a nation. He has taken the major role in formulating this statement and leading out in the conference call we had with our former presidents to get us to where we are this morning.”

With that introduction Graham responded, “We come with both a spirit of brokenness and burden and also with boldness to make this statement. It is really born out of the National Day of Prayer when President Floyd and I were there in Washington. This is a personal and pastoral statement. We are not making it in behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are making this statement to Southern Baptists and to evangelicals and to the nation.

“So this statement comes from all of us (former presidents and current president) together. We think it is important, because no one needs to wonder where we stand as Christians in these days.

Our voices will speak the truth in love. We will be compassionate toward the people we are trying to reach, but as Bible believing Christians we look to the future for our children and grandchildren. We are concerned about religious freedom and issues at stake in the corporate world and all of culture itself.  We are responding to what many believe is the most critical issue of our times, that is religious freedom and even marriage itself.

James Merritt, SBC President in 2001-2002 and pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, explained, “We love this nation. We want what is best for this nation. We love families; and want what is best for the family. We love children; and we want what is best for our children.

“We firmly believe that not only is this the Biblical standard, but we believe it has proven to be over the millennia in every culture the best standard. Study after study has proven that children function best when they grow up in the home of a biological father and a biological mother. No vote of any court will ever change that fact. So as Martin Luther said, “Here we stand. We can do no other. God help us.”

Merritt continued, “The issue at stake is not, ‘Who can get married?’, but the issue is, ‘What is marriage?’ We are attempting to do something that has never been attempted in the history of this world, and that is to redefine marriage.”

Graham then exclaimed, “No one wants to be disobedient to just laws, but we must obey God rather than man.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution broadcast the news from the Southern Baptist Convention with the headlines: “‘Spiritual warfare’ on gay marriage declared.”

I don’t think Southern Baptists have declared war on anyone. We are certainly not the aggressors. We are not discriminating against anyone. We are simply embracing the eternal truths of Holy Scripture; and we do not want to be discriminated against.

However, when this culture begins to attack the very foundations of our civilization, when this secular society begins to put the future of our children and grandchildren in jeopardy, when they call standing on the absolute truth of God’s Word bigotry and intolerance, they should expect nothing less than an awakened church.

“… our first duty is to love and obey God, not man”

Today the church may look impressive and pompous, but void of genuine spiritual life and fervor. It has been intimated that the only sound coming from this pompous entity is a very comfortable snoring sound.

It takes a lot of prodding to get such a giant moving so that it can make a significant difference in the world, but if the Supreme Court decides to favor same-sex marriage, the church – at least Southern Baptist churches – will become desperate enough to awake out of their slumber and begin to earnestly pray for another Great Awakening similar to the First Great Awakening in 1731-1755 and the Second Great Awakening in 1794-1840.

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