Bowling Green—With Kentucky voters’ support of traditional marriage facing a possible U.S. Supreme Court test, Kentucky Baptist leaders are expressing hope the court will rule in their favor.
Lawyers for Gov. Steve Beshear recently joined six gay and lesbian couples in asking the court to clarify a dispute over the state’s traditional marriage statute.
The move came after a federal appeals court upheld Kentucky’s 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as one man and one woman. The measure passed by a 3-1 margin.
Since the governor swore he would uphold the commonwealth’s constitution, Beshear was obligated to take this stand, said Tom James, the newly-elected president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“Given this promise to those who elected him, I think he had an obligation to appeal the (lower court) ruling that (struck) down Kentucky’s constitutional definition of marriage,” said James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green.
With a majority of states now issuing licenses to same-sex couples, James said only time will tell whether traditional marriage supporters are swimming against an inevitable tide.
However, James believes we serve a great God, referring to a statement by founding father Benjamin Franklin about God governing the affairs of men.
“As a minister of the gospel my calling is to speak the truth in love, truth founded on the principles of the word of God, but only God can turn a heart toward Himself,” said the KBC leader.
Still, asking the Supreme Court to settle this issue subtly implies the court even has the right to define marriage, commented Rick Hardison, pastor of Great Crossing Baptist Church in Georgetown.
Although the high court plays a vital role in clarifying the legitimacy of statewide gay marriage bans, it has no more right to redefine marriage than it has the right to redefine a turkey, Hardison said.
“Marriage is between a man and woman, regardless what any court says,” said Hardison, chair of the state convention’s public affairs committee. “The effort to legalize gay marriage in our land is marching full-speed ahead, but I would not say that it is inevitable.”
However, that prospect is still likely, Hardison acknowledged. He said he wants to prepare his children and congregation to live in a nation that accepts the legality of a man having a husband and a woman having a wife.
At the same time, the pastor fears an increasing number of Christians who are personally opposed to gay marriage are “politically okay” with it.
“This position is attractive to many, so proponents of traditional marriage should make no assumptions about the person sitting next to them in the pew,” Hardison said.
“Kentucky Baptists can support traditional marriage by talking about this issue with other church members,” Hardison said. “Youth retreats, college groups, Sunday School classes, deacons meetings—these are all places where we should discuss a theology of and political position on marriage.”
KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said the trajectory of American culture on sexual mores is not in keeping with biblical teaching.
Yet, as people of faith we can always be optimistic about what God can do in calling a nation back to Himself, he added.
“Thus, we will continue to speak the truth in love and trust God with the outcome,” Chitwood said.
Disagreement over gay marriage surfaced at November’s state convention when KBC messengers voted to withdraw fellowship from Crescent Hill Baptist Church.
The vote followed the Louisville church’s decision to ordain homosexuals and perform same-sex marriages.
James said he hopes not many other Kentucky Baptist churches follow Crescent Hill, saying that those who decide to “go along” with society do so in spite of biblical standards.
“When the word of God is removed as the standard for our faith, then we are simply left with the opinion of man,” James said. “I think the vast majority of preachers and churches seek to honor God by walking in obedience to His word and His will.”
The convention president suggested that all Christians pray for godly wisdom for judges, speak the truth in love to judges and legislators, and elect leaders who promise to defend Kentucky’s constitution.
Chitwood called for prayer for spiritual awakening across the nation. Not so much against gay marriage, the executive director said, but to stem the tide of sinners (gay and straight) who are headed to a Christ-less eternity in hell.
“Practically, we can best support traditional marriage by keeping our marriage vows,” Chitwood said. “We can also speak out on this issue, and love and share the gospel with those who are enslaved by sin.” (WR)