One of the most difficult challenges facing Christian parents as they send their kids back to school this fall is how to best prepare them to engage with a culture that is becoming increasingly inhospitable, if not blatantly hostile, towards those who hold to an orthodox, biblical worldview. Nowhere is this more evident than in the dramatic changes we are currently experiencing in the ways that our society is aggressively promoting an immoral and/or amoral approach to human sexuality.
On one hand, it should be no surprise that our fallen world continues to be held captive to the empty, pagan values of this dark new age in which we live. The more troubling reality, however, is that so many of those who profess faith in Christ would also appear to be under the very same spell. The ancient church had a very specific word for this type of blatant infidelity, and that word is “apostasy” (Gk, apostasis; disaffiliation from, abandonment of, or renunciation of one’s religious beliefs).
According to a recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), over 1/2 of all self-identifying Christians now approve of same sex marriage, including well over 1/3 of all Evangelical Protestants. A subsequent study conducted by Paul A. Djupe, an affiliated scholar with PRRI, found that in 2007, nearly 2/3of Evangelicals perceived their house of worship to forbid homosexual behaviors. By 2020, that figure had dropped in half to just over 1/3. Rather than stemming from formal policy shifts, Djupe argues that people’s assumption that their church has become more accepting of homosexual activity is likely related to faith leaders’ growing hesitancy to discuss the topic. “Because (gay marriage) has become such a hot-button topic and public opinion about it has changed so much,” Djupe states, “conflict-averse clergy are probably leaving some of their opinions about it unspoken.”
With this distinct possibility in mind, allow me to take this opportunity to offer a timely reminder that our current EFC-MAYM Faith and Practice is thoroughly unambiguous in this regard:
“Authoritatively, the Word of God declares that homosexuality is not God’s will for His children” (p. 19).
Our updated EFC-MAYM Faith and Practice, which was presented for prayerful consideration at our 2021 Ministry Conference in Wichita and will be proposed for formal approval at our 2022 Ministry Conference in Lawrence, includes what I would consider to be a new and improved statement describing our unwavering passion for upholding a biblical approach to the sanctity of marriage and human sexuality that seeks to be full of both grace and truth:
“Friends uphold a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. As such, Friends believe that homosexuality goes against our God-given sexual nature. This stance does not limit the ability or calling on Friends to love each person as one in whom that of God dwells. We willingly stand in the gap and hold this tension as part of our mission to love our neighbors as ourselves” (p. 18).
This reaffirmation of our EFC-MAYM testimony on marriage and sexuality also draws heavily upon the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) Statement of Faith, a biblical and Christocentric covenant that is enthusiastically supported by all five of our respective regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America), representing a collective body of more than 180,000 Friends from at least 36 nations on earth. As such, it is a binding agreement for every yearly meeting, church, leader and member that is formally attached to our extended family of Evangelical Friends around the globe:
“God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a biologically born male and a biologically born female. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage – marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy – displays the relationship between God and his people” (p. 14).
As a friend of mine once told me in reflecting upon his transformational journey from sexual brokenness to sexual wholeness through the liberating grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, “If you really want to know how things are supposed to be, don’t look at them in their fallen, broken state; look at them in their ideal, unbroken state, as they were originally designed by our good and beautiful God.” Just in case we are ever tempted to forget, the Scriptures speak with one voice, from beginning to end, regarding our Creator’s perfect plan for marriage and sexuality (cf. Gen 1:1; 1:27; 2:24; cf. Mt 19:4-6; Eph 5:31-33).
While there are those among us who may suggest that the most loving way to support those who struggle with same sex attraction is to simply encourage them to follow their heart’s desire, regardless of how it may or may not align with the good, pleasing and perfect will of God, as revealed through the inspired, infallible and authoritative word of God, I would argue that it cannot be truly loving to encourage anyone we genuinely care about to purse anything less than God’s very best and most beautiful plan for their life. When any of us find that our thoughts, feelings or actions, no matter how “natural” or “normal” they may seem at the time, are at odds with the clear and consistent teaching of Holy Scripture, the appropriate response should not be vain rationalization but humble repentance (cf. Rev 3:19-20).
The same goes, by the way, for any of us who may have sensed a sudden surge of self-righteous, religious pride swelling up in our hearts as we read the previous paragraphs. The ground is level at the foot of the cross, and the way of repentance is the only reliable route to restoration for prostitutes and Pharisees alike. We are all, each and every last one of us, frail and fallen creatures who are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone: sola gratia, sola fide, sola deo gloria!
Not long ago, Decision Magazine published an article written by its late founder, Billy Graham, entitled “Today’s Apostasy.” In this article, the author cites some of the most prominent expressions of neo-apostasy that plague the American Church today. He then concludes with the following exhortation:
“As we see all this taking place in the church, our hearts become grieved and sick. We know that the enemy is at work – denying, dividing and destroying people of God and causing them to fall away from the Gospel in various ways. Some of them keep their intellectual faith but fall away into immorality or pharisaism. Others deny the faith, and this, too, eventually leads to despair and depression. May God help us to turn to Him. May we have a great revival that will melt our hearts together, burn our consciences and drive us back to the altar with tears of repentance. A revival among Christians could change the whole process of history and reverse the immoral tide.”
Let it begin with us, O Lord, by your grace and for your glory.
David O. Williams, Lead Superintendent