Fox News recently ran a story on Feb. 1 about First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla. and its decision to require members to sign a statement on Biblical sexuality. Members must sign the statement by March 19 or lose their membership.
I have a lot of thoughts on this topic that I want to share, but first a disclaimer. It is my belief that “Biblical sexuality” is very clearly defined in Scripture. My bias is clear in that I believe that God’s Word is infallible and inerrant, and what God says on any particular topic is the authority. Government’s opinion, your personal opinion and even my opinion are irrelevant; God’s opinion is all that counts.
My knee jerk reaction was to agree with the church’s decision to stand up for and publicly declare what its beliefs are. The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to the conclusion that if I were asked to sign this statement and my membership depended on it, I would probably start looking for another church.
The church’s leadership has clearly forgotten that Baptists generally won’t sign any kind of document committing to a specific stance on an issue.
Why does the church need members to sign a statement? Are members of First Baptist Jacksonville not already in agreement on what Biblical sexuality is? Are more people going to come to a saving faith in Jesus from signing this document, or is it a publicity stunt seeking to gain attention?
Answering these questions would take longer than I can hold your attention. The bottom line is that if the church was already teaching what the Bible says, the church’s position on the issue would have already been crystal clear. If members disagree with the statement in its current form, why would they want to stay and be a member of the church anyway? Forcing signatures add no value.
If the church’s message was not clear enough on the issue of sexuality, then in what other topics is their teaching deficient? If tithing drops, will they make members sign a statement that they agree to tithe or they lose their membership? If attendance drops, will they make members sign a pledge to attend a certain number of Sundays a year or lose their membership.
It is truly sad that these types of discussions have to be engaged in by a modern, educated society. It just proves that education is not always accompanied by wisdom.
As someone who was a Baptist nine months before they were born, I can attest that signing oaths doesn’t feel right. It is something I have never seen done in Baptist ecclesiology, and hopefully it is not a trend that will continue for the sake of the denomination.
Below is a copy of that statement.
Anyone who believes that Scripture is the inherent infallible Word of God would agree with the statement. It is the correct parsing of Holy Writ on the subject, and as such I am in 100% agreement. But I still wouldn’t sign a document to stay a member.
The church should not have been surprised when the media began to bash them as being non-inclusive or divisive. It’s a controversy I am sure they expected and maybe they even wanted.
Jesus said that he came to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) But He also taught that the Gospel is divisive.
In Luke 12:49-53 Jesus says
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
If local church pastors would just preach the unadulterated Gospel instead of trying to be relevant or appeal to the world, people would not question where they stand. Unfortunately, people are used to having their ears tickled by some speaker trying to make them feel good about themselves rather than point out their sinfulness.
I long for the days when you could hear sermons about the Holiness of God, or how propitiation was required for sin, or how the wages of sin are death. How about a sermon on Hell or Satan. Where have those pastors gone? People need to be told Jesus wasn’t sent here to be your buddy, but rather he was sent here to divide.
Lastly, one of the Fox News comments stated, “The decision to have your members sign any form of contract to attend turns your church into an organization, a club,” she added. “This church is no longer a religious place of worship welcome to all. These sexuality oaths are drawing a clear line in the sand, showing us who you truly welcome, which is by no means all.”
The “oath,” as this person called it, does not prohibit people from attending the church. It was a requirement to maintain membership. You don’t show your membership card when you enter church. The statement would restrict membership. This would mean that only those who were members and signed the agreement could serve in an official capacity as a deacon, nursery worker or Sunday school teacher. It would not affect the ability to attend and worship.
The decision to require a signed statement to remain a member was ill-advised at best. Hopefully, though the controversy someone will question what they believe, seek truth and find Jesus.
Signing a ‘document’ could be a way for a Church, any denomination, to single out a particular person for scrutiny. Churches should preach God’s word, not man’s words. As a Methodist, our Church and the United Methodist Church, is currently embroiled in a major controversy over same sex weddings, LGBTQ Clergy, etc, with many (Hundreds) of Churches trying to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. The Book of Jude verse 4: “I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago. For they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (NLT) Thank you Joe Edge for printing this article. You are on correct. I remember seeing this message on a Church Marquee. “God Said It. I believe It. That Settles It.”
Joe Edge, you just pleasantly surprised me, well said!
Interesting commentary. Thanks for sharing.
Matt 5: “33“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. “
Excellent commentary. Thanks for standing up for what you believe.
Well said, Mr. Edge. Thanks for this on-point editorial.
As a faithful follower of Christ, I have no quarrel with the First Baptist statement on biblical sexuality. However, doesn’t the Pharisaical attitude demonstrated by requiring members to sign this statement defeat the very purpose of the church? As I study the New Testament, I am encouraged by all the time Christ spent with sinners and how little time he spent with the religious leaders of the day.
The church would be much more effective in bringing people to Christ by demonstrating Christ-like love and compassion to all, especially those who need it the most, rather than grandstanding. Yes, Christ’s message will divide people and yes, we do need to stand for truth. But the goal is not us-against-them tribalism. That attitude was alive and well during the time of Christ, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
Would we not be better to invite all to come into our churches, and there invite all to come unto Christ? As we choose to follow Him, and accept Him into our hearts, He will guide us through the Holy Spirt to truth and that will cause a desire for change in our hearts. Grandstanding leads people toward sin, “but the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
I want to be part of a church that invites all to “come and see” rather than one that picks and chooses who is worthy to even have a chance to hear the saving words of Christ. I am grateful that my particular sins don’t get me kicked out of Sunday services, where each week I have a chance to be with other followers of Christ whose fellowship lifts me and encourages me to constantly work to be a better Christian and example to the world.
Repentance (turning away from sin) is a part of that equation. Inviting? Yes. Tolerant? To a point. Endorsing or celebrating? No.
Church IS supposed to be a place for sinners…. which we ALL are.
It is indeed, but you might want to take a look at the verses addressing continuing to commit the same sin. It is not biblical for a person to sin habitually and continually as a lifestyle and be a believer (1 John 3:8-9).
I think the issue here is not the Church acceptance of all sinners. It is the acceptance of LGBTQ clergy behind the pulpit that is causing the most discussion. All sinners are welcome, just not behind the pulpit as an Ordained Minister.
Very well stated Mr. Edge.
The only requirement for membership should is that a Person be a believer in Jesus Christ the son of the lining God!
Yes yes yes!!! 100% with you Joe! (Abilene still has the type preacher you referenced. Bro Bill left us in good hands.)
Churches are institutions built by men, run by men, for men and no matter how positive their intentions, subject to the frailties men. From Pope John Paul XII to Jim Jones and James Baker, history is replete with men who illustrate the point. Anyone who proclaims to know God’s opinion and position on anything has probably overstated his insights. In the end, it is that one on one relationship with God that will matter. Perhaps the writings of St Thomas Aquinas most adequately address the nature of the relationship between the individual and God and how that might be revealed.
It has always interested me that churches generally have a great deal to say about sex, but not so much about the pursuit of wealth, on which subject Jesus and Paul made very absolutist statements.
Jesus was very absolutist about marriage, family, children gender roles, and sex also. Greed and making wealth gain your goal is clearly unbiblical but God never wiped out an entire people group or city because of trying to gain wealth.
He just banished them from heaven.