“I am far less afraid of being on the wrong side of history, than being on the wrong side of a holy God,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, as she participated in a panel discussion at the recent Ethics, Religion and Liberty Council (ERLC) National Conference – the Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. (#ERLC2014)
Other participants in the panel discussion of the state of marriage in American churches included Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, Dennis Rainey, president and CEO of FamilyLife, and Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and as assistant professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College.
LaBerge was responding to a comment from the panel’s Moderator Daniel Darling, who was questioning a statement that has been repeated over and over when debating the issues – that the church is on the wrong side of history in the marriage debate.
LaBerge gave a brief description of the PLC which started in 1965, “acknowledging that if you don’t take the Bible seriously, and if you don’t receive it as the Word of God, you will begin to erode the foundation of a denomination.”
She encouraged those in the audience to be “more concerned with the audience of One,” instead of worrying about “which way the wind is blowing today, public opinion, and frankly, what young people think … do not let your institutional life as the people of God be governed by what adolescents currently think about sex.”
When asked about why she continues to speak to the culture on the marriage issue, LaBerge made it plain that the other side of this debate will not be silent. They are “not going to stop talking because this is their issue and they are going to continue to press it.”
She explained that those advocating on the other side of the issue would “very much like us to exchange faithfulness to the first commandment for some kind of version of their kind of faithfulness of the second commandment,” and that, she said, is going to be a temptation for everyone.
LaBerge was clear that the Church cannot stop fighting for the restoration of the nobility of marriage.
“It is the Church’s responsibility to clearly articulate to the culture what marriage is; what God’s design is for human sexuality in the context of a lifelong marital relationship between a man and a woman.”
The church has presented a broken vision of that, she continued. “We have to acknowledge that we need to talk about divorce and remarriage. We need to talk about singleness and what it looks like for people to live in purity in singleness.”
“So we can’t stop talking about these things, because the folks on the other side of these agendas are not going to stop talking and they win the debate with our kids because we’re not participating in the debate at all,” she said.
LeBerge’s final words during the discussion was an encouragement to pastors, that they would “genuinely take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you. He gave up — He released the glory that He could have simply retained at the right hand of the Father but instead He let go of that and He condescended to our reality.”
“In order to lay claim to anyone of us, Christ really did have to let go of His former glory,” she said, “So there may be some necessity to give up what you may have perceived as being some of the glory of being a pastor … it’s going to be increasingly difficult in this culture.”
The ERLC conference was held Oct. 27-29 in Nashville, Tenn. For conference highlights, visit http://erlc.com/conference/liveblog/.