Why the EFCA Should Reject the Biblical Sexuality and the Covenant of Marriage Resolution at the 2017 EFCA One Conference in Austin, Texas

At EFCA One in Austin, Texas the EFCA is going to vote on a resolution on Biblical sexuality. The resolution is a reaction to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges. This post is why the EFCA should reject this resolution. Is the EFCA going to be known for practicing faith or for living in fear? 

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

Bertrand Russell 

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”

Gandhi 

in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:11 NIV 

 

 

This is the first of two posts dealing with proposed changes that the EFCA is going to be voting on at the EFCA One Conference in Austin, Texas. EFCA One I believe is an biennial conference where the EFCA gets together and conducts business. The most significant item of business of EFCA One in 2015 is the election of Kevin Kompelien. The first one deals with the amendment to change Article 9 of the EFCA Statement on Faith. You can read that here.  Then there is the proposed change to Trinity International University’s bylaws which you can read here. If all goes well I hope to write about those two issues before the conference happens in Austin on June 20. One of the resolutions that is to be voted on deals with the EFCA response to the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage that recently occurred. You can read that proposed resolution in “EFCA Conference Resolution: Biblical Sexuality and the Covenant of Marriage” The resolution on gay marriage I believe is going to deeply hurt the EFCA if it passes. Let me explain why in the post below. At the end I am going to challenge the EFCA to do the right thing. 

 

Driven By Irrational Fear? 

One of the many concerns I have about this resolution is that it is driven by irrational fear. A fear that is not grounded in reality, and a fear that is not legitimate. People and organizations can make a lot of foolish mistakes that come back to haunt a person or an organization in time. The history books are littered with examples of people taking action based out of fear. For example here at The Wondering Eagle I once wrote about a Japanese-American man I knew who was interned in World War II in California out of fear. The fear was irrational and linked to his Japanese ancestry. You can read about that inWhat a College Kid Learned from a Japanese-American who was Interned During World War II; Are Evangelical Christians Going to Take Responsibility for the Current Refugee Crisis?”   In this case many evangelicals have an irrational fear about gay marriage that is not legitimate. 

This fear that many evangelicals posses about gay marriage shows that many struggle with their faith. It also reveals that for many faith is skin deep and can’t deal with issues of change in society. Faith should be anchored in the Lord and not what the Supreme Court had done or will do. The church should be known for its love and grace. It should not be known for its fear and anxiety. The messages that are being communicated by such a resolution are not helpful for the evangelical discussion on how to engage the gay community. And yes, I will say this as well….you can be a conservative evangelical Christian and have a high view of sexual ethics and Scripture and choose another path that is not grounded in fear. No one wins when fear wins, the EFCA and the church and people looking for the Gospel all lose when fear wins.  I want to challenge the EFCA denomination to stop, think hard and rise to the level of being a denomination that can lead a way in love. But reading this resolution raises another question that I must ask the EFCA

 

Does the EFCA Understand the Difference Between Religious and State/Civil Marriage? 

Here is the other question that I would like to pose to the EFCA. Does the EFCA denomination understand the difference between religious and church marriages and civil/state marriages? Does the EFCA understand we are talking about two separate situations? Let me use Bill Kynes Cornerstone here in the Northern Virginia area to make my point. If 2 gay men walked off the street and came to Cornerstone and said to Bill that they wanted to get married in Cornerstone then I could say that the resolution before the EFCA would be justified. But that is not what is happening. What is occurring is that you have gay men and women going the secular route and getting married by the state in the cities and communities they are living in. Gays aren’t coming to EFCA churches and saying “Marry us.” Gay men and women are avoiding the evangelical scene altogether. Its why I ask the question…does the EFCA understand the difference between spiritual/religious marriage and secular/civil marriage? As a reminder you also have atheists who marry in a civil/secular marriage ceremony. Spiritual and church marriage is the uniting of two couples into one in a church setting. I know what the Bible says on marriage. For some scriptural verses on marriage you can read Proverbs 18:22, Genesis 2:22-24,  Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9. But those verses applies to those in the church. They do not apply to society or secular government at large. Secular or civil marriage is marriage that happens outside the church. It happens in the context of courts and the secular government system. Secular marriage doesn’t threaten the church. Individuals who get married in the secular system do so for benefits that helps them in society. They do so for tax reasons and other purposes. 

 

Make it Harder to Preach the Gospel? And a Badly Worded Resolution 

The resolution to be voted on at the EFCA meeting in Austin will be bad policy for another reason. This resolution is badly worded. Stop and consider the following sentence in the resolution. 

Although these issues are not the gospel, they are connected to the gospel, and they are critical issues to address as the EFCA stands on the inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Scriptures.

So think about what that sentence says. The EFCA is saying that gay marriage is not linked to the Gospel. But believes that they are critical issue, thus they need to vote on it regardless. Whoever drafted this resolution should speak to a doctor about schizophrenia as this sentence is in so much conflict. First they are saying its not tied to the Gospel, and then they tie it to the Gospel. Its one of the sentences that left me scratching my head in many ways. By taking this action the EFCA is making it harder to teach and preach the Gospel. Plus this also illustrates that the EFCA has no clue what the Supreme Court actually did. This sentence indicates further as to how this resolution is based in fear as I wrote above. No one is going to force an EFCA church to perform a gay marriage against their will. 

This resolution is going to make it harder for many EFCA churches and pastors to perform their jobs. Now they are placing an additional burdens and walls that create further obstacles. Jesus once said “Come to me all who are weary…” Now the EFCA is going to say “Get away from the church all ye that struggle…” In this statement its not just aimed at those who are gay, but its also aimed at those who have family members, loved ones or friends who are gay. This statement puts them in a difficult bind as it forces them to make an unnecessary choice. How sad is it that some will be forced away because of this, and yes that includes people who have no interest in gay marriage but because of extenuating circumstances are affected by this issue. So for people like Bill Kynes this creates an additional problem for him. Now he is going to have to shout over the wall that is being built. Its bad enough that the term Christian carries so much baggage and connotation. It makes it much harder for him to teach or preach. Now this resolution and new policy will force Bill Kynes to have to diffuse a bomb every time someone new comes to the church. 

This is why I openly wonder if the EFCA will be able to survive as an entity in the course of time. If it can’t deal with changing culture how will it survive? I would like to ask the question how would the EFCA survive in the days of Rome or Greece? What if we had a Nero in charge? What if we had Temple Prostitutes in places like Memphis, Chicago, Minneapolis and more? What if pedophilia was more openly embraced like it was in the Greek culture? Again how would the EFCA be able to survive and deal with it? Or would it survive? 

 

Illustrates Why the EFCA is Not as Autonomous as It Claims? 

The EFCA likes to claim its autonomous but sometimes I wonder if that is truly the case. If any “autonomous” EFCA church performed a gay marriage or installed a senior pastor who was a woman I would bet my 401K that the denomination would move quickly to address that particular church. That is one of the reasons why I am not so certain that I buy into the belief that the EFCA is fully autonomous. I wonder if the goal of this resolution is to put many EFCA churches on notice about this subject. Does the EFCA fear that a church, one in the 1,500 in the denomination will perform a gay marriage one day? Is that part of the issue that is playing out in this situation? Will the passage of this resolution allow the EFCA to come down on that church? Will Greg Strand yank a pastor’s credentials? Or will the EFCA remove that church from the denomination? Is that the real goal behind all this? These are questions that I have going through my mind as I read this proposal that is to be voted on. 

 

This Needs to be Voted Down 

This resolution that will be before the EFCA at Austin One is a seriously fraught with deep and pervasive issues. It is my sincere hope that sanity and clarity will come to the EFCA before this resolution is voted on. These are the reasons why this needs to be rejected. 

  1. Its being driven by fear and not by faith. That fear is unfounded and a source of desperation. 
  2. Its not well thought out, after all as I pointed out this proposal has contradictions in it. Whoever sat down and composed this needs to resume taking their Haloperidol
  3. It makes teaching and preaching harder. Bill Kynes job in Cornerstone will become much more difficult. So will Andrew Smith and Jeff Loven of The Bridge Fresno. This will also I believe adversely create problems for Dr. Fred Lybrand and Mike Kaylani at Austin Oaks Church which is hosting EFCA One. 
  4. It sends a message that is unnecessary. You can be conservative and hold a high view of scripture and not go down this path. What does the EFCA want to be remembered and known for in the world? Its love of God or its love of the culture wars? 
  5. This resolution indicates that it can’t deal with changing issues as society changes. Now please hear me I am not saying that it means that the EFCA need embrace gay marriage. What I am saying is that it reveals a church movement that is reactionary that struggles to put its thoughts and mind together as it deals with differing situations. 

But as I close this post out my biggest hope is that the EFCA will reject this and in return shows that it has faith in the Lord and scripture. Faith to do the right thing so that a millstone won’t be laid upon the denomination in 2025, 2030, 2040 and beyond. If the EFCA is to have faith it needs to show it through love. Faith rewards and builds up the organization. Faith can help it unite and bring people together. Faith is the way forward. For the health of the EFCA I sincerely hope that this will be rejected. That’s it for today guys, I will hopefully get the other post up dealing with the other resolutiosn shortly. 

22 thoughts on “Why the EFCA Should Reject the Biblical Sexuality and the Covenant of Marriage Resolution at the 2017 EFCA One Conference in Austin, Texas

  1. I’d just like to point out that churches have ALWAYS had the right to say, “No, I will not marry you” and point people to the courthouse. I can’t march down to the Mesa Mormon Temple or St. Timothy’s Catholic Church and order them to marry me. They have requirements and I don’t meet them. They can legitimately tell me NO. This was the case before Obergefell and is still the case after Obergefell, nearly two years later.

    Where it gets legitimately sticky is if someone is running a marriage venue open to the public and wants to restrict marriages only to heterosexuals. We’ve been through this before with the Civil Rights movement. Just as Heart of Atlanta Motel wasn’t allowed to discriminate against African-Americans in 1964 (under the Civil Rights Act of 1964), so too will Generic Happy Name Wedding Venue not be allowed to discriminate against a lesbian couple in 2017. And it goes double for people who are trying to limit their services (cakes, flowers) to heterosexual couples.

    I am actually glad that these churches are making it clear who they are. They are telling me which churches to stay away from. I know that if they’re hostile (and let’s be clear, it’s hostility, it’s not love) to LGBT people, they’re also going to be hostile to middle-aged, heterosexual, non-gender conforming women like me. Best to just stay away.

    But this resolution is unnecessary as no state government or city is going to force a pastor to marry whoever they don’t want. To say otherwise is fearmongering.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David, a male friend of mine was explaining the concept of “skin in the game.” It’s pretty easy for an outsider, like yourself, to tell the E.V. what they should do but the fact is you have no “skin in the game.” You certainly do not appear to be an a member nor giver to a local EV Church. So, you actually have nothing to lose if your prognostication [ don’t worry, nothing bad will happen ] is wrong.

    I’m under the impression, but correct me if I’m wrong, that your heart is with the atheists, not the Evangelicals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So I can’t comment? I can’t state my concerns? Despite the fact that I have history in the EFCA that means I am supposed to be quiet? You are right about one thing…I am not a member of where I go to church, nor will I ever be. Its too unstable with the way the Neo-Calvinists are hijacking churches. Why become a member only to then face church discipline because I reject the “doctrines of grace” or TULIP? And I sympathize with atheists because I understand where they are coming from. But no I am not an atheist. I am looking at a problem set in a different light.

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  3. Eagle,

    You should take a good look at what happened with the U.C.C. before making assumptions. The U.C.C. is one of the most liberal Christian denominations, but gives great leeway to the local churches, far more than any other denomination I know of, and the local churches truly run the gamut from conservative to extreme left-wing. I grew up in a U.C.C. church, and have a number of friends in it. It’s also the denomination that President Obama attended for many years.

    The denomination was hijacked at its highest levels in the synod by the those who had an interest in the gay agenda. As a result, some local churches had schisms over it, and some very good pastors were hurt directly & greatly due to the hijacking, as they were forced into taking a “stand” one way or the other, rather than given freedom of conscience. I know a wonderful pastor whose career pretty much essentially, and needlessly, ended over this matter.

    You asserted: “If 2 gay men walked off the street and came to Cornerstone and said to Bill that they wanted to get married in Cornerstone then I could say that the resolution before the EFCA would be justified. But that is not what is happening.”

    It has happened.
    Maybe not EFCA specifically.
    But I’d bet my 401k that it will. 😉
    It happened in the U.C.C.
    Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if this resolution would essentially invite scrutiny & *cause* a gay couple to do just that to make a point… which might be the best reason not to make such a resolution, actually.

    You wrote: “By taking this action the EFCA is making it harder to teach and preach the Gospel.”

    No, what it does is give pastors the freedom to say “no”, if their conscience compels them to.
    This has no bearing whatsoever on the ability of a gay couple to marry in another denomination, or in a courthouse, nor does it have any bearing on the preaching of the gospel, as far as I can tell.

    “Driven By Irrational Fear?”

    i don’t think so.
    I don’t perceive any “fear” in their missive.
    They’re merely being very clear in what they perceive to be a biblical stance.
    Their statement is matter-of-fact, simple, direct, and concise:

    “The Evangelical Free Church of America affirms that God created human beings uniquely in His image as male and female, and He has designed marriage to be a covenantal (sic) relationship between one man and one woman.”

    (Aside: Of course, they ignore all the biblical verses in the Old Testament where a man seems perfectly free to take on multiple wives, but let’s put that aside.) 😉

    “The EFCA likes to claim its autonomous but sometimes I wonder if that is truly the case. If any “autonomous” EFCA church performed a gay marriage or installed a senior pastor who was a woman I would bet my 401K that the denomination would move quickly to address that particular church. That is one of the reasons why I am not so certain that I buy into the belief that the EFCA is fully autonomous.”

    This is an excellent point about autonomy. Nevertheless, is any church that enters into an association such as the EFCA (or any other) truly 100% iron-clad “autonomous”? I mean, really, there has to be *some* kind of “guideline” or “glue” that holds an association together, or don’t be associated.

    Methinks you’re knocking down a straw man here by requiring “full autonomy”.
    “Full autonomy” would mean an EFCA church could be free to do satan-worship, no?
    And as we’ve seen in Elverson, full autonomy isn’t always a good thing.
    Some accountability needs to be there too.

    Eagle, I understand & appreciate your stance. And I know you’re driven primarily by *love* & *grace*.
    However, I believe this has much more to do with religious freedom, than what you purport. Society has been pushing on this issue for some time. IMO, the EFCA isn’t really pushing anything, as much as it’s merely standing its ground,

    Is it *necessary*?

    That’s debatable, but given what I’ve already seen happen to good people in the U.C.C. … I’d say it’s at least advisable, and it at least puts the EFCA stance overtly on the table honestly. I’m sure if there are local denominations opposed to this, they will make their feelings known, and the ensuing conversations & debates will be interesting. I’m sure we’ll find out about “autonomy” then, eh? 😉

    FYI, the other proposal regarding Article 9 will probably pass near-unanimously, as that one word “pre-millennial” caused by far the most controversy when it was adopted by the EFCA about (I think?) a decade or so ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ejj I love you bro but we will have to disagree on this one. I will have to look into the history of the UCC sometime because now you have me curious. But I do think that what is driving this is fear. You know when I was writing about Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania one of the things that came up is that some people believed that if Steve Estes had conducted a gay marriage that the EFCA would get involved and resolve the situation quickly. That was one of the interesting discussions that took place. But from some of the people who I know who are gay they have avoided denominations like the EFCA and have no desire nor interest to get involved. That’s why I think fear is a driving aspect.

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      • Eagle,

        Can you please explain what exactly the EFCA is afraid of? What specific “fear” do you believe is driving this? Thanks.

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  4. So, I will preface my statement by saying that I am a long-time member of an EFCA church. Besides situations like the ones previously mentioned, a clear statement on marriage will also protect from a “hostile takeover” by people who may think otherwise.

    A few years ago a church in my hometown (some flavor of Presbyterian) had their pastor ousted because he did not believe in gay marriage.This particular branch of Presbyterian denomination had not yet decided what they believed because of tension between churches. The pastor had been in the church al long time, and the church was known for being both evangelical and community oriented. When the pastor said he could not marry a gay couple, one member of the church rose up against him, gathered a few more, forced a vote, and forced the pastor out. However the vote was very close, and about half the congregation walked away, too. The church is a shell of its former, vibrant self.

    Whether or not you subscribe to gay marriage, a clear stand lets everyone know what you believe. I don’t think it’s any different than a church that is gay friendly, with a rainbow flag displayed on the sign. They have taken their stand as well.

    Eagle, you seem to be very obsessed with predicting the demise of the EFCA, which seems to be doing quite well at the moment. I find them fairly balanced, and not afraid to shy away from many social issues. They are one of the denominations that offers a free orientation program for church members who want to help members with immigration issues, for example, and the number of ethnic/bilingual congregations is growing. At the same time, they hold to the Word and historic Christian doctrine. Maybe you could put another denomination under your microscope and see what you come up with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linn do you understand the difference between secular/civil marriage and religious marriage? Do you understand that we are speaking of 2 different topics? If they are wed in your mind (no pun intended btw…) that is part of the problem playing out here. And no I am not wishing for the demise of the EFCA. I have written a number of positive stories about it. I write it as I see it.

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      • Hi, Eagle,
        I do understand the nature of secular/civil. It’s why I don’t carry a sign at the school where I teach criticizing gay marriage. It’s a secular school. I am free to express my personal beliefs, but not to campaign on them. If I had gay relatives who happened to be married, and there was a medical emergency, I would need to recognize that the gay spouse would have first call on any emergency or life-prolonging treatment. Community property rights, discrimination issues at church, etc. I am not a dummy where the law is concerned.

        Our society has been moving quickly to where sacred and secular are very mixed up. Some folks just seem to assume that churches, even very biblical and traditional ones, should take the same stand that the public does. For example, there has been a recent social media/news outcry on the high school senior who wasn’t allowed to walk at her graduation because she is pregnant. It’s not fair. However, she knew the rules and she didn’t get pregnant by accident. The school is well within its rights to take the course of action they deem best and they don’t have to listen to social media, CNN or anyone else.

        I am from an area that has had gay activism going back to the 60s. Churches have been attacked by gay activists for being “unkind” for not condoning the lifestyle and the right to marry. I recognize that churches have also been cruel (example, the indifference during the AIDS crisis). However, that does not change the fact that they are under no obligation to condone gay marriage, and to stand up and say that they believe it is contrary to God’s Word.

        I don’t remember so much controversy over the Roman Catholic church not recognizing marriages outside their sphere of influence. I’m sure that if I walked into a Metropolitan Community Church and started a discussion against gay marriage that I would be shown quickly to the door. The EFCA is only doing what many other churches have historically done-take a stand on an issue that they feel is important to clarify in a public way.

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      • Linn I think the Metropolitan Community Church has a lot of other problems. I don’t think they believe in hell, and have a large amount of issues that would create concerns. I see that you do recognize certain aspects of the civil/state and religious but I would be interested to know more about those incidents that you are referring to. Not to cast doubt but sometimes when one hears the entire story things and churches can embellish some of these issues. I know we’re going to disagree and that is fine. The important thing is that we keep talking about these and other issues.

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      • Eagle,

        What Linn describes is not unlike what happened in the U.C.C. It’s a serious issue that can & has happened. The EFCA is playing prevent defense, IMO against such nonsense, where good people are needlessly hurt, and careers of good pastors are affected. Schisms in churches can also ensue. You’re purporting that it hasn’t happened & won’t happen. Linn & I are purporting that it *has* happened.

        @Linn, Eagle has clearly demonstrated that despite his calling out many of its problems, at heart he loves the EFCA, and is very concerned about it, especially its hijacking by neo-calvinists. If he didn’t love it, he wouldn’t waste his time writing about it. It seems clear to me that he writes out of concern, and wants it to get back on track and thrive. 🙂

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  5. Y’know, Eagle, I’d have to agree with the commenters who view the vote as a matter of standing ground on what the EFCA tends to believe in this area. I don’t think that’s a matter of fear, so much as clarity.

    Do a lot of American Christians — particularly conservative “fundevangelical” types — live with a persecution complex? Sometimes I wonder. I do agree, Bro, that we have it way better than Christians who have endured persecution in earlier times. And I would have to admit that I would have had a tough time with gay marriage becoming legal when it first came out, except that my family was attending an independent house church at the time — a group with no name, no denominational affiliation and no building, other than someone’s private home. A group a bit more difficult to target and get in trouble.

    But Eagle, sometimes some LGBT folks will approach some anti-LGBT churches or Christians and work to try to force them to give up on their anti-LGBT religious convictions. I believe in allowing people, within reason, to live life without being forced to violate their consciences. Will our lawmakers and courts always provide that sort of consideration toward people? I’m not so sure.

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    • @ Lynda Gruen:
      I have confidence in our court system. And in my opinion, they have demonstrated admirably that there is a vast gulf of difference between a place open for business to the general public and a place of worship.

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  6. Pingback: Proposed Changes at EFCA One in Austin, Texas: Changing the Statement of Faith on Premilllennialism, and is Academic Freedom Being Threatened at Trinity International University? | Wondering Eagle

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  8. Pingback: An Open Letter to Graham A Cole (Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Regarding D.A. Carson Attacking a Rape Victim in The Gospel Coalition Statement out of His Loyalty to the Embattled C.J. Mahaney) | Wondering Eagle

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