August 13, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, August 13, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
State of Kentucky ejects chaplains from juvenile center for believing homosexuality is sin
The massive moral revolution taking place around us specifically on the issue of human sexuality will leave no aspect of this culture untouched and unchallenged. That’s made clear in a recent story emerging from Warren County, Kentucky. On July 7 of this year, several religious services volunteers that had worked with the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center received a letter from Gene Wade, identified as superintendent of that facility. He wrote,
“Please be advised that your participation as one of our Religious Services volunteers must conclude. We sincerely appreciate your years of service and dedication to the youth served by this facility. However, due to your decision, based on your religious convictions, that you cannot comply with the requirements outlined in DJJ Policy 912, Section IV, Paragraph H, regarding the treatment of LGBTQI youth, I must terminate your involvement as a religious volunteer serving the youth in this facility per DJJ Policy 112, Section IV, Paragraph H, (8). All volunteers must agree to comply with the policies and procedures of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center in order to become volunteers per DJJ Policy 112, Section IV, Paragraph E, (2).”Show Full Transcript
That bureaucratic language coming on the letterhead of the Commonwealth of Kentucky sent a very clear message. The message is this – these individuals who could not by conviction sign a pledge according to the policy here stipulated are no longer going to be able to serve as religious services volunteers in the juvenile detention facility. In a story published yesterday, David Roach of Baptist Press summarized the situation in these words,
“David Wells, a 13-year volunteer prison minister from McQuady, Ky., was informed in July by the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice that he would no longer be permitted to serve at the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Bowling Green because he refused to sign a document, per state policy, promising not to “imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
According to a report from FOX News, Wells said that every other volunteer from Pleasant View Baptist Church had received a similar notification. On July 27, John Cheves, reporter for the Lexington Kentucky Herald-Leader, had indicated that a legal group was threatening to sue the state of Kentucky over a policy, now claimed to be a year old that,
“That prohibits anti-gay comments to youths at the state’s juvenile detention centers.”
I was able to obtain a set of the original documents related to this case, including a letter sent to Bob Hayter, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice from Attorney Richard Mast Junior of Liberty Counsel. He wrote very clearly that he was representing ordained Christian minister David Wells,
“Who has provided voluntary spiritual counseling and mentorship to juvenile inmates under the control of the Department of Juvenile Justice.”
That letter includes this paragraph,
“I understand the following facts to be true: Under the supervision and control of Pleasant View Baptist Church, in McQuady, KY, Mr. Wells is a minister with a longstanding practice of visiting, serving and mentoring youth detainees being held by the Kentucky DJJ. Recently, Warrant County RJDC Superintendent Gene Wade informed Mr. Wells that on the basis of DJJ Policy 912 IV(H), he would be required to sign a form promising to refrain from telling any juvenile inmates that homosexuality was “sinful.”
The word ‘sinful’ was put in quotation marks. I have a copy of that policy from the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice. It is DJJ 912 that includes this paragraph,
“DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors, in the course of their work, shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In the letter from Attorney Richard Mast, he points out that Mr. Wells along with other religious services volunteers have children ask on numerous occasions about different aspects of sin and they also ask about the moral status of certain sexual behaviors. These volunteers were recently presented with an ultimatum, they either signed a form agreeing to abide by that policy or they can no longer serve as religious services volunteers. From a Christian worldview perspective, the most important thing for us to recognize here is that the state of Kentucky by means of this policy is declaring a theological position on the sinfulness of homosexuality. It is stating that the only religious message that is allowable by religious services volunteers in the state will be a message that is that homosexuality, homosexual relationships, homosexual behaviors are not sinful, and remember, this is expanded to the entire category of persons identified as LGBTQI. The attorney’s letter also includes this paragraph,
“Superintendent Wade has told Mr. Wells, on the basis of Policy 912, that if a child now asks questions of him on issues involving sexual activity, he may not discuss the same with them: “You can give a scripture reference to the kids, and let them look it up, but you can’t read it in their hearing. You can’t say “sinful;” you can’t discuss sexual orientation – heterosexual or homosexual – period.” Superintendent Wade expressed some regret about this, stating “I’m just doing what the state is telling me to do.”
From a Christian worldview perspective, the most important thing for us to recognize here is how a moral revolution like this actually works. At this point this policy adopted according to reports in April 2014 by the state of Kentucky, officially puts the state of Kentucky in the position of making an official moral and theological judgment concerning sexual morality and homosexual issues in particular. As the attorney said in his letter, the policy,
“Violates the First Amendment by prescribing an official state religious “orthodoxy:” now, only a religious belief that homosexuality is not “sinful” may be expressed in DJJ facilities.”
So even as we are repeatedly told that there are no legitimate threats to religious liberty in the wake of the LGBT revolution, something we know to be patently false, here we see evidence in terms of the coercive power of the state in which the state has told certain religious volunteers that their services are no longer welcome, they will no longer be allowed to counsel youth because they violate by their convictions the religious orthodoxy of the state. Now the state makes that clear actually, by using the word ‘sin’ or specifically the word ‘sinful’ in its policy. The state is establishing an official orthodoxy here, an orthodoxy that even extends to the application of the doctrine of sin and the very notion of sinfulness. This same issue is becoming very clear in terms of the military chaplaincy in many contexts where military chaplains are also being told that the Department of Defense at the federal level is now taking an official position that homosexual acts and homosexual relationships, again, the entire spectrum covered by the LGBT revolution, that these acts and relationships are not sinful, and that is now becoming a government orthodoxy.
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader report, the Commonwealth of Kentucky intends to stand by this policy. Clearly this is not the end of the story. But abundantly clear is the fact that this represents how a moral revolution works in terms of eventually reaching every aspect of the culture. Nothing will remain unchallenged and here we see the coercive power of the state brought in terms of defining the very notion of sin, even though the United States Constitution prohibits any establishment of a religious position on behalf of the state certainly in terms of deciding what is and is not sin. Here you have the Commonwealth of Kentucky declaring that certain volunteers based upon their Christian conviction are according to the state, heretics according to the state’s official theology, who will no longer be permitted to minister to juveniles in the juvenile justice system. This story begins in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but you can count on this it will not be limited to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Here is the new orthodoxy of the moral revolution with the state using its own legal and coercive power stipulating, documenting and now demanding a new orthodoxy.
Union University leaves Christian college organization over schools approving gay marriage
Next, J.C. Derrick of World Magazine broke an important story yesterday when he reported,
“Union University has informed the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that it will withdraw from the coalition in the wake of two member schools changing their hiring policies to include same-sex couples.”
Derrick went on to report,
“CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra and board chairman Charles Pollard, who also serves as president of John Brown University, received a letter from Union president Dub Oliver on Monday, almost four weeks after Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College announced they would begin hiring non-celibate homosexual staff and faculty.”
Oliver’s letter to the CCCU said,
“It grieves us to make this decision as we have been members of the CCCU since 1991.”
He went on to say,
“Our faithfulness to the authority of Scripture takes precedence … marriage is at the heart of the Gospel.”
When the two schools made their announcement several weeks ago World reports,
“Union had asked the Board to call a special member meeting to vote on the issue, but Hoogstra sent a letter to member Presidents saying a more deliberative process would allow the council to honor one of its founding members (EMU),”
That is Eastern Mennonite University.
Another source quoted in the article is Union University’s VP Bob Agee, a former president of Oklahoma Baptist University, who had himself served on the board of the CCCU in the 1990s and in the first decade of the century. He said,
“I was frankly heartbroken. The CCCU board has simply chosen not to deal with it, not to take a stand on a moral issue, and it weakens our position.”
I’ll return to that statement in just a moment. The important thing here to realize is that this becomes a portrait of an increasing challenge that every evangelical institution is going to face. Back on July 20, Christianity Today had run a story on the two colleges, that is Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University saying that,
“Two words may get a pair of Christian colleges in hot water.”
As the report says,
“Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University have added “sexual orientation” [those are the two words] to their nondiscrimination policies, opening the door for the schools to hire staff and faculty who are in same-sex marriages.”
As CT noted, that language puts them at odds with their denomination and with other members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which has advocated for the rights of Christian schools to only hire those who support their beliefs including traditional Christian teaching on marriage. The CT story notes that two other Christian schools, Hope College and Belmont University, they are not CCU members, had also announced in recent months that they would offer benefits to staff in same-sex marriages. It’s really interesting to look at the two schools, that is Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University, who made these announcements in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that came at the end of June.
Eastern Mennonite noted in a statement that it says,
“As a confessional (not creedal) church, Mennonite Church USA has never had, nor demanded, complete agreement on every article in the Confession of Faith.”
Inside Higher Education, ran an article on the two schools published on July 21 an article by Scott Jaschik in which he said,
“The announcement comes just weeks after the Mennonite Church USA rejected a proposal to authorize same-sex marriages, but went on to adopt what is being called the “forbearance resolution,” which calls for tolerance on these issues.”
The Mennonite Church effectively said that it would not bless same-sex unions, but it wouldn’t take any action against individuals or congregations or institutions that differed from the policy. The Inside Higher Education article included this paragraph,
“Loren Swartzendruber, president at Eastern Mennonite, noted in an interview this morning that his institution has been engaged in a two-year “listening process” on university policy on same-sex faculty members. During that time, he said, it became clear that those on campus — students and faculty members — strongly backed a change to hire gay and straight faculty members with the same rules and without discrimination. He said that off-campus constituencies — including alumni and church leaders — were far more mixed in their views of change.”
Once again, we see how a moral revolution works. Here you have the president of Eastern Mennonite University, stating that his University had been in a listening process for two years. He also said to Inside Higher Education that the issue of same-sex marriage was a front burner question when he started his presidency about 12 years ago. And according to Inside Higher Education,
“It remains one at a time when he recently announced retirement plans. “A lot has changed. There’s no question that the change has been toward inclusion in society in general” and at Eastern Mennonite.”
Here you see the rather inevitable result that comes about when a denomination or church says we’re not going to bless same-sex unions but we’re not going to take any action against a congregation, a member of the ministry, or an institution of the church that would decide to bless same-sex unions and in the case of these two colleges to add sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policy. We also see what happens when an institution like this announces publicly, both internally and externally, that is going to engage in a listening process in order to reevaluate its position on the issue. As this president made clear, this is a question that had been live on his campus for 12 years and yet even as he is coming to his retirement, after the Supreme Court decision the University decided this was the time to move forward. It’s also very interesting to note that he stated that students and faculty on his campus were overwhelmingly in favor of this move, whereas constituencies in terms of the church were decidedly more mixed.
What’s the great observation drawn from that fact? Well, it’s this – if you have a church or denomination that takes some kind of equivocating position on an issue of this importance, you can count on the fact that its institutions will march leftward right off the map as these two institutions have now done. The Inside Higher Education article also gets right to the Council Christian Colleges and Universities.
“Both presidents said they kept CCCU leaders aware of their colleges’ processes for moving on this issue, and they hoped their institutions would remain active members of the organization. They noted that CCCU requires members to be “Christ-centered” and employ Christian faculty members, and that they have and continue to do so.”
Going back to the statement made by Bob Agee, again a veteran of Christian higher education, a former president of Oklahoma Baptist University currently serving as vice president at Union, he spoke of being heartbroken and then he said,
“The CCCU board has simply chosen not to deal with it, not to take a stand on a moral issue and it weakens our position.”
Those final words are absolutely important, it weakens our position. Those are crucially important words, especially in today’s cultural and legal environment. The CCCU had spoken up in defense of its member institutions discriminating on the basis of Christian conviction on hiring and admission, and housing and other student services in terms of their operation, being faithful to Scripture. As Dr. Agee made clear in his comment, continuing to identify with the CCCU when it took no action against schools that violated that very conviction weakened the position of Union University by continuing in the organization in terms of its own consistency of policy and the defense of its Christian conviction. That’s a very cogent point. World Magazine reported yesterday that several CCCU member presidents told the magazine that the Council is headed toward the decision to move Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen from what’s now a full membership status to what’s defined as affiliate status. World then raised the issue whether that would be enough for schools that are firmly committed to defining human sexuality and marriage in terms of the historic Christian understanding.
Thomas White, President of Cedarville University, said to World,
“In my understanding, the affiliate status is for schools moving toward membership. What I see in these schools is a movement away from the clear biblical teaching on marriage.”
Dr. White also said,
“The CCCU is at a crossroads,” White said. “It has to decide if it wants to affiliate with the schools that stand firm on the biblical view of marriage or the schools that are changing. … Any action that compromises [a biblical marriage] position would leave us with little option than to seek to affiliate with like-minded institutions.”
That’s a very key insight. It’s absolutely crucial. Indeed it’s not only the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities that stands at a crossroads, virtually every organization of evangelicals any organization that claims to represent evangelicals, evangelical schools, denominations, congregations, theologians, any organization that claims a theological identity is going to have to become increasingly clear on this basic theological challenge, because the issue of marriage isn’t just a moral challenge, it isn’t just a cultural challenge, it’s certainly not just a legal challenge, it is profoundly a theological challenge and there is no way around a Christian school, a Christian leader, a Christian pastor congregation or denomination from taking a public position on these issues. As I have written and stated over and over again. There is no place to hide. In very short order, in very short order, we’re going to know where everyone stands on these crucial issues.
Pres. Jimmy Carter cancer diagnosis reminder of Christian duty to pray for him
Finally, a news story came yesterday, very sadly, it appeared last night, indicating the former President Jimmy Carter has been diagnosed with cancer after recent surgery on his liver and the former president, now 90 years old also acknowledged that the cancer has spread elsewhere in his body. The Carter Presidential Center indicated that more information may come soon, perhaps as early as next week. But it was a very sad announcement that came that the former president is now suffering from cancer. The former president has been a former president now for 35 years, longer than any other previous incumbent of the White House. He was elected president in the year 1976 and went on to serve a four-year term. He had previously served as Governor of the state of Georgia.
The former President is a very complex figure, as will be his place in history. President Carter and I have differed on many issues, including theological and moral issues, even the issues discussed today on The Briefing. But an acknowledgment like this coming from the Carter Presidential Center, this news coming from President Carter himself, reminds us of our responsibility to pray for President Carter, for his wife Rosalynn and for their entire family. President Carter has noted in the past that his father, mother, brother and two sisters all had pancreatic cancer. The very fact that he has lived to 90 is something of a great exception in his family, not to mention in terms of American history and our former presidents. Mr. Carter had been on a national book tour for his latest book entitled, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.
Mr. President, we will be praying for you.