A Florida church is demanding its members sign an oath expressing opposition to transgender identity and same-sex marriage.
The First Baptist Church in Jacksonville has given its members a deadline of March 19, at which time they must have signed a “Biblical Sexuality Agreement” oath or must immediately resign their membership in the church.
The oath, which cites Biblical teachings from the Book of Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and first Epistle to the Corinthians, states, “As a member of First Baptist Church, I believe that God creates people in his image as either male or female, and that this creation is a fixed matter of human biology, not individual choice. I believe marriage is instituted by God, not government, is between one man and one woman, and is the only context for sexual desire and expression.”
Senior Pastor Heath Lambert, an outspoken proponent of “traditional” family values, has defended the oath, saying that “real Christians” should not have a problem with signing the oath.
In a video message posted to the church’s website and YouTube channel, Lambert denounced the “secular warriors of the sexual revolution,” who he claims pose a threat to his church and are “seeking to eradicate any opposition to their extremist agenda” by silencing those who disagree with its goals.
He argues that Christians have a responsibility to stand against a “deeply confused culture” that promotes values in direct opposition to church teaching.
Posting on the church’s website, Lambert argues that the statement does not single out any specific sin, but simply “summarizes God’s design for gender, marriage, and sexuality.”
“This positive statement equally forbids the range of human sinful sexual expression, including fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, transgenderism, and others,” Lambert writes.
“Since our congregation voted to approve and require this statement, we have received a windfall of support from our own congregation as well as religious leaders around the country. There is great enthusiasm for this clear stand, and leaders in the religious and legal world have asked permission to use the statement in their own context.
“I want to persuade Christians that there are at least three reasons why Christians need a statement like this, including unity, clarity, and love,” he adds. “In the confused culture in which we are all living, we cannot take for granted that even professing Christians have a consistent view regarding the crucial matters of gender, marriage, and sexuality. The time has passed when Christians could take for granted that we were united on these matters.”
Lambert claims that forcing congregants to sign the oath achieves unity and clarity, arguing that there is no room for debate over God’s plan for human sexuality, and that Christians who hold such views cannot afford to be silent about their beliefs — and, by extension, their opposition to homosexuality and LGBTQ identity.
“For anyone who wants to honor God, it is simply not sufficient to know truth that you refuse to share. This is particularly the case when God’s people know truth that corrects a central cultural confusion,” Lambert writes. “If our culture is deeply confused on the issues of gender, marriage, and sexuality, then basic conviction requires us to confront that confusion even — especially — when such a confrontation is controversial.”
The First Baptist Church has a history of opposing LGBTQ rights going back at least a decade.
When the city of Jacksonville first debated a city human rights ordinance that sought to prevent instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the church sent shuttle buses filled with members to speak out against the ordinance.
The ordinance failed to pass in August 2012, and council members who voted against it were honored during a service at the First Baptist Church, reports First Coast News.
The proposed human rights ordinance, which prohibits housing and employment discrimination against LGBTQ individuals eventually passed five years later. But as First Coast News has reported, even though those nondiscrimination protections have been adopted into law, there are no provisions in the ordinance that prevent First Baptist Church from expelling any members who refuse to sign the “Biblical sexuality” oath.
In a public forum hosted at the church on Sunday night, Lambert said the statement isn’t designed to be discriminatory, and that no one will be barred from attending services — even though those who don’t sign won’t be recognized as members by the church.
“Anybody is welcome to come into this room, into our worship, receive our love and our care,” he said. “We don’t ask them to prove anything, we just want them here.”
Some of those in support of the sexuality oath have argued, as has Lambert, that Christians have a responsibility to speak out about their beliefs and tell others, including the LGBTQ community, of God’s plan for their lives, even if they do not wish to hear such messages.
But other community members feel the church’s actions are effectively stifling dissent and seeking to silence or chase away Christians who are more LGBTQ-friendly.
“It’s okay for us to disagree, but to say there’s a gay agenda to try to come in and tell them what they can’t do is not so,” Mason Manion, the Northeast Florida Development Officer for LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida, said in a statement.
“It’s them who are trying to tell us what we can’t do. We can’t get married. Can’t have equal housing. Can’t have equal opportunity. That’s the problem.”
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