COLUMBUS, Ohio (Christian Examiner) -- Just nine days prior to the Supreme Court's Friday (June 26) decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, more than a dozen former Southern Baptist Convention presidents representing three decades of leadership at the helm of America's largest non-Catholic denomination, released a statement on biblical marriage, declaring "The Scriptures' teaching on marriage is non negotiable."
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, a former SBC president, joined Ronnie Floyd, current SBC president and six of the others at a press conference to declare their solidarity.
The statement was not issued on behalf of the SBC, but was a message to Southern Baptists, to evangelicals, and to the nation, said Graham, who served as chairman of the 2015 National Day of Prayer which was the impetus for the statement.
Citing concerns over the impact of an impending ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage on churches and religous institutions, Graham and the others anticipated important financial concerns, and questions of religious liberty that could have almost immediate impact.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said schools and institutions should be especially clear as to what is "acceptable" and what is not.
"We are urging every college, university and seminary to be crystal clear in their bylaws and in their operational manuals about what is and is not acceptable," Patterson said. "We never saw this day coming but we are urging all to be very, very clear."
James Merritt, pastor of Cross Point Church in Duluth, Georgia, said pastors should be prepared to be challenged about who they will marry.
Until now, every pastor has had the right to refuse to perform some marriages -- like those of the believer to an unbeliever. "No vote of any court will ever change that fact," he said.
Floyd said: "The Southern Baptist Convention has not moved. The culture has moved. We stand on the Word of God that abides forever. And that's who we are to the glory of God."
The full statement follows:
As Southern Baptist Christians, we are committed to Biblical faith and ethics. As a result, this body of Believers stands on the authority of Scripture and God's Truth as central to our lives.
What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging. We affirm biblical, traditional, natural marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The Scriptures' teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Consequently, we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex "marriages", our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.
While we affirm our love for all people, including those struggling with same-sex attraction, we cannot and will not affirm the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior or any behavior that deviates from God's design for marriage. We also believe religious freedom is at stake within this critical issue – that our first duty is to love and obey God, not man.
Therefore, we strongly encourage all Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, educators, and churches to openly reject any mandated legal definition of marriage and to use their influence to affirm God's design for life and relationships. As the nation's largest non-Catholic denomination with over 16 million members, we stake our very lives and future on the Truth of God's Word.
We also join together to support those who stand for natural marriage in the corporate world, the marketplace, education, entertainment, media and elsewhere with our prayers and influence, and resources.
The document was signed by Bailey E. Smith, 1981, 1982; Morris H. Chapman, 1991, 1992; James T. Draper, Jr., 1983, 1984; Charles F. Stanley, 1985, 1986; Jerry Vines, 1989, 1990; H. Edwin Young, 1993, 1994; James B. Henry, 1995, 1996; Tom Elliff, 1997, 1998; Paige Patterson, 1999, 2000; James Merritt, 2001, 2002; Jack Graham, 2003, 2004; Bobby Welch, 2005, 2006; Frank S. Page, 2007, 2008; Johnny M. Hunt, 2009, 2010; Bryant Wright, 2011, 2012; Fred Luter, 2013, 2014; and Ronnie Floyd, 2015, 2016.