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.
Rev. Matthew Everhard. Rev. David Franklin. Ruling elders: David Peeler, David Field, Gwynn Blair, Scott Knight, Doug Dempsey, and Dr. George Boring (clerk).
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The Biblical rationale for church planting is so plentiful that it cannot be adequately summarized in this brief space. Nevertheless, the precedence for such an endeavor can adequately be seen in the book of Acts, where Paul and Barnabas are first set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work by the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1-3).
Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel in Cyprus (13:4-21), and continue on to Pisidian Antioch where “the word of God spread through the whole region” (13:49). Despite severe persecution and nearly being stoned to death, Paul and his band continue on to Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe where the Gospel is received with varying success. Nevertheless, before returning to their home church (a more direct geographic route) Paul and his companions retrace their steps in order to “strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith” (14:22). Here a crucial decision is made as Paul “appointed elders for them in each church, and with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord” (14:23). In these actions, we clearly see church planting as a God-ordained, and carefully measured apostolic activity.
These bold and courageous tactics are replicated on Paul’s second and third missionary journeys as well (Acts 15:39-18:22 and 18:23-21:17 respectively). We note Paul’s desire to reach unbelievers with the Gospel (Acts 17:16ff) by taking extraordinary measures to ensure that the pagan (unbelieving) audience of his day heard the saving truth of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of his journeys, Paul becomes the founding pastor of a number of churches, his letters to which would eventually become a major portion of the New Testament corpus. Thus the books of 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1-2 Thessalonians can rightly be considered the by-product of the church planting work.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is not, however, the product of his own church planting efforts. This church was likely formed by Jewish and Gentile Christians of the Diaspora, perhaps as early as 49 BC. However, in this letter, Paul clearly reveals his church planting ambitions stating, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20).
Paul’s church planting zeal is carried over in his pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus) wherein he urges the latter young pastor to “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). By this, Paul meant that the work of evangelism is not completed until the local church is fully organized. He is also careful to make sure the young pastors have a carefully organized leadership team of elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3), and that various programs are developed to care for the needy (1 Timothy 5).
Paul’s letters indicate that the three marks of a True Church are to be present in all Christian churches: 1) The Word is preached with authority (2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5), 2) the sacraments are rightly administered (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), and 3) church discipline is in affect (1 Corinthians 5).
All of the above events, of course, are founded upon Jesus’ Great Commission (variously articulated in Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47-48, and Acts 1:8). Thus, church planting is an endeavor sanctioned and ordained by the Lord Himself.