June 26, 2015
By Jeff Huett and Aaron Weaver
Decatur, Ga. — In a 5-4 decision announced today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.
While the ruling supports same-sex couples’ right to marry, it does not change protections in the First Amendment. Churches and clergy may refuse to perform marriage ceremonies that do not conform to their own religious beliefs.
In the majority opinion, the Supreme Court justices emphasized that “religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”
Undoubtedly, as Chief Justice John Roberts mentioned in his dissent, conflict will arise in courts and legislatures between those exercising their civil right to marry and those expressing opposition on religious freedom grounds.
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said that while religious liberty questions were not before the court in this case, the ruling includes discussion of religious freedom and highlights our nation’s religious diversity.
“People of faith woven into our nation’s vibrant religious tapestry fall along many points on the spectrum on the subject of same-sex marriage,” Paynter said. “In the High Court’s ruling today, that is borne out in both the majority opinion and in dissenting opinions referencing religious groups.”
In a changing culture, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship seeks to model unity.
Jesus called a motley crew of disciples to form a beloved community to walk with him. They did not always get along. And while the question of who was the greatest among them would come up from time to time creating dissention, in his ministry, Jesus went out of his way to model the way of unity.
Unity within the larger family of faith is the foundation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It is our cornerstone commitment. In John 17:23, Jesus calls for unity, saying “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” CBF seeks to live into God’s beautiful gift of unity while taking seriously the biblical mandate to preserve and protect this unity.
For nearly 25 years, Cooperative Baptists have found it unifying to celebrate our autonomy in Christ while inviting collaboration. We cling tightly to and defend historic Baptist principles of soul freedom, Bible freedom, church freedom and religious freedom — our core values.
CBF is a place where tension is recognized and spoken in honest dialogue, remaining in fellowship despite differences and disagreements. Put simply, our core purpose is to partner with one another in renewing God’s world.
During this time of cultural change, we continue to celebrate our shared commitment to Baptist freedom. We seek to more fully live into our commitment to unity, cooperating and forming together as a Fellowship of churches and individuals.
Jason Coker, a CBF leader and pastor at First Baptist Church of Wilton, Conn., recently noted the importance of Paul’s reminder in his Letter to the Ephesians of Jesus’ abolishment of the law in order to “create in himself one new humanity.” This “one new humanity,” was the primary identity of early believers. Their identities as Jews and Gentiles did not disappear. Rather, Christ’s “one new humanity” provided a common ground for Jews and Gentiles to worship and work together for God’s common good.
Pastors of two CBF partner congregations held a dialogue that expressed unity despite differing pastoral responses to same-sex relationships and marriage during a workshop June 18 at the CBF General Assembly in Dallas. Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., disagree on the church’s response to homosexuality but have not allowed that disagreement to break their fellowship. The conversation, including Pastoral Care Manager Rebecca Adrian of Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, is available at https://vimeo.com/131570533.
May we, too, as Cooperative Baptists, continue to worship and work together for God’s common good. May we also seek to model the way of Jesus and his example of unity.
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support.The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.