By Christiana Holcomb, The Gospel Coalition.
More than 35 states now issue same-sex marriage licenses. An increasing number of scholars and judges insist that the First Amendment only protects the freedom to believe—not the freedom to live out those beliefs. At least one state now compels employers to provide insurance coverage for elective abortions. Many cities nationwide ban religious employers from hiring and firing based on their religious convictions. Gender fluidity is gaining legal and political legitimacy.
Churches cannot afford to ignore the fallout of the sexual revolution. Churches that desire to maintain a faithful gospel witness increasingly feel the effects of these cultural changes.
Pastors are being asked to perform same-sex ceremonies and admit same-sex couples to marriage enrichment retreats. Churches face litigation for holding their employees—including pastors or music directors—to a biblical sexual ethic. Church administrators receive requests to use church sanctuaries for same-sex ceremonies. Pastors who teach the sanctity of human life and the creation institution of marriage are frequently labeled “political” and threatened with the loss of their church’s tax-exempt status.
These new political, cultural, and legal realities directly affect the church’s freedom to live out its faith. While most church decisions about internal governance or doctrine currently enjoy constitutional protection, churches cannot assume that these protections will stand indefinitely. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today’s culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church’s freedom to continue peacefully teach and live out its faith.
Here are five ways churches can protect their freedom to maintain fidelity to the faith.