The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission posted the fact sheet on its website June 26 to help provide guidance to congregations after the Supreme Court issued opinions the same day in two cases regarding gay marriage.
In one landmark ruling, the justices struck down part of a law that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman. The opinion means same-sex couples will have access to Social Security, tax and other benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples.
The ERLC fact sheet, which can be downloaded in bulletin insert form for distribution to those attending worship services, explains the Supreme Court's decisions and some ways churches should respond.
"Our goal is to equip churches with a biblical perspective of current events, and these bulletin inserts are one way to accomplish that task," said Russell D. Moore, the ERLC's president. "We've heard from churches of all sizes -- from mega-churches to county seat First Baptists to rural churches -- that are using this resource."
Pastors whose churches already have distributed the bulletin insert or soon will expressed gratitude in written statements for its availability:
-- Ronnie Floyd, pastor, Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas:
"Informative, clear, and convicting. Our church will share this helpful and simple piece, but more importantly embrace its challenges. Every church in America needs to share this insert with their people and act upon its truth."
-- Grant Gaines, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.:
"We will be distributing to our congregation this Sunday as a way to give them a succinct summary of the decisions that were made as well as a Christ-centered response to them. As a busy pastor, having easy access to timely resources like this is an extremely helpful way to equip my church."
-- Mat Alexander, pastor, First Baptist Church, Gadsden, Ala.:
"As a pastor, I know that my congregation is already processing the rapid changes happening in our society. However, I want to make sure I am helping them to process these things from a Biblical perspective.... I used to help walk with my people through understanding the recent SCOTUS decision, and they were very grateful for it.... God's people are greatly aided in understanding troubling times through helpful documents like this one that call us away from a laissez faire approach as well as shrill alarmism."
-- Steve Gaines, pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.:
"We need to continue to love everyone around us and honor everyone as being a person created in the image of God. Even if you disagree with someone, you honor them by respecting them. We are grateful for the ERLC being on top of this issue and helping churches get the facts and also suggesting the appropriate Christian response."
The ERLC fact sheet includes the following among ways a church should respond to the court's rulings: Avoid outrage and despair; love gays and lesbians; repent of the ways it has diminished marriage; and clarify in its confession of faith what it believes about marriage.
In the most significant of its two marriage opinions June 26, the Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions that struck down only Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That portion defines marriage as a heterosexual union for purposes of such matters as federal benefits and bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
The high court's other ruling did not determine the constitutionality of a California amendment known as Proposition 8, which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. Instead, the justices ruled Prop 8's supporters -- who appealed a lower court ruling after the governor and attorney general refused to do so -- did not have standing, or the legal right, to make such an appeal. Their action left in effect a federal judge's opinion striking down Prop 8.
In their decisions, however, the Supreme Court declined to legalize gay marriage throughout the country or to say states cannot limit marriage to heterosexual couples.
The ERLC signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs defending the biblical definition of marriage in both cases.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.
With reporting by Elizabeth Bristow, a freelance writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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