By Matthew Everhard.
Martin Luther once wrote that if we are not defending the gospel at the very point that it is being attacked in our own generation, we are not defending it at all. It is for this reason that our 380-member church in the small, rural town of Brooksville, Florida decided to act.
While we are immensely proud of a recent chicken-sandwich chain whose founder boldly stated his convictions regarding traditional marriage, the elders of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church feel that it is primarily the church’s calling to defend biblical orthodoxy. Our elders and I could not stand idly by while an attack on marriage—a thinly veiled attack on the creation order and the Creator—rages before our very eyes.
The Brooksville Statement on Marriage is a 600-word declaration of conscience that attempts to do three things. (1) First, we hope to clearly define marriage in a generation in which the word “marriage” itself has lost all semblance of meaning. (2) Second, we hoped to positively state our convictions regarding the delineations of human sexuality, rather than make a polemical attack on those lifestyles with which we ardently disagree. (3) Third, we hoped to speak a timely word of compassion and grace in a world of “bumper sticker” one-liners and alleged hate-speech.
Our hope is that this small town church declaration would inspire like-minded evangelical churches across the globe to adopt this (or a similar) statement, in order to provide a desperately needed prophetic voice in veritable wilderness of confusion.
The Brooksville Statement on Marriage
Marriage is beautiful because God is glorious. God, in His infinite Trinitarian wisdom, created and ordained marriage to display the mysterious union of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-25). As the creator and author of marriage, God alone has the authority to define it. This He did in the second chapter of Genesis where God, having created both groom and bride, brought them together personally (2:22) and a benediction was pronounced over the couple; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (2:24, ESV). For this reason, Christian believers do now hold—and have always held—that marriage is between one man and one woman; that it is sealed by the exchange of covenant vows; and that it is intended for the whole of natural life, until death.
On the Interpretation of Scripture
We Christian believers regard the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired, inerrant, and infallible authority under which we live. We regard the clarity of Scripture to be sufficient for us to interpret the Bible accurately on matters of both faith and practice, using straightforward grammatical and historical principles. For this reason, we reject all attempts to obscure or “reread” Biblical passages which abundantly state the parameters of human sexuality. Sexual relations are to be enjoyed as a gift, and exclusively, between a married man and his own wife alone (Exodus 20:14; Hebrews 13:4). Any alternate readings of Scripture that intentionally or unintentionally obscure this foundational Biblical presupposition are to be rejected.
On Sin and Grace
While it is true that Christians are called to hate transgression and iniquity, we find the sin within our own hearts—and not the sin of our neighbors—to be the most egregious of all. We lament and repent of our own sin first; be it in thought, word, or deed. We welcome those of all races, genders, ethnicities, and sexual inclinations to repent and believe in Jesus Christ and to worship in our churches. We sympathize with all who struggle in temptation, and exhort them to pursue “the obedience of faith” and embrace the new life given to the Redeemed by the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, we continue to reject any and every sin that degrades God’s glorious creation of marriage, including: adultery, fornication, rape, incest, homosexuality, polygamy, lust, pornography, coercive abstinence while in the state of marriage, and all forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Christians are called to love—and not hate—our enemies and those who persecute us (Matt 5:44). Thus, we utterly disregard any attempt to mischaracterize our convictions on the above matters as “hate speech,” for to tell the truth on these matters is indeed a most loving and gracious act.
On Human Laws and Ordinances
Moreover, mankind can pass no law that redefines marriage any more than mortal man can pass a law that declares the light of the sun to be dark, or the gravity of the earth to be ceased. Though various laws may be passed by the agency of human pen and ink; or judgments rendered from human courts (higher or lower); yet human beings have not the prerogative, now or ever, to alter, change, or redefine marriage.
On Civil Disobedience
Finally, then, we the undersigned stand firm in our convictions on these matters and refuse to take any such actions as would compel us to violate either Scripture or conscience--even if so compelled by civil law--for “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Amen.
Teaching Elders: Rev. Matthew Everhard. Rev. David Franklin. Ruling Elders: David Peeler. David Field, Scott Knight, Doug Dempsey, Gwynn Blair, and Dr. George Boring (clerk).