By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
One of the major stories in Baptist Press last week dealt with an Oregon judge who ruled that two Christian bakers discriminated against a lesbian couple because they would not bake their “wedding” cake.
In this issue (page 3) we have a story which deals with churches establishing policies as they relate to same-sex ceremonies and funeral services for homosexuals.
Some people will contend that baking a cake for a homosexual couple is no different than performing their “marriage” ceremony or conducting a funeral service.
It’s not that cut and dried.
The issue about the wedding cake is not new. Others have been sued for the same thing as have florists, printers, and others who have products or services that are needed by everyone at one time or another, regardless of sexual orientation.
As I have thought about this I am leaning toward the theory that there is a difference in a product and a “non-essential service.”
A product, such as a wedding cake, is simply that — a wedding cake. You may not agree where that cake will be served, but once the product leaves your business it’s no longer yours.
On the other hand, if you are a baker or are in food service and you are asked to cater a lesbian wedding, that’s a different matter.
Yes, you are still providing a product but you are also providing a service and are expected to be present at the event. The same holds true for a photographer. That’s where there is a fine line.
A Christian who believes strongly that marriage should be only between one man and one woman should not be “forced” to attend an event where the opposite takes place.
By the same token, a minister should not be “required” to perform the union of a same-sex couple because that lifestyle conflicts with his Christian values and beliefs.
However, a funeral is a different matter. The lifestyle of a person does not have to be affirmed at that funeral. Let’s face reality. People die every day who will be facing eternity in hell. Why? It’s not so much of what they did while they were alive. It’s because of what they didn’t do — confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Churches need to take the initiative as Ben Mitchell of Union University suggests in the story on page 3 and be prepared for whatever happens down the road.
Baptists in the south tend to bury their heads in the sand and think, “That cannot happen here.”
As homosexuality becomes more and more open in society, issues such as what happened at the Colorado church will occur in Tennessee. It’s just a matter of when.
Mitchell noted that ultimately the decision is not whether your church will allow a same-sex union or a homosexual funeral.
“The issue is to decide what you would do and apply it to everyone,” he said.
Chris Turner, TBC communications director, has a great deal of expertise in dealing with crisis communications.
I would encourage everyone, especially if you are a church leader, to read his column below and begin to formulate what your church would do in any crisis situation, not just one that deals with homosexuality.
As he put it, there are basically two kinds of churches — the ones that have already faced crises and the ones that will.
As Christians, we have to be ready for anything.
The culture we live in today is not conducive for Christianity.
Christians in America are facing ridicule and persecution in a way we have not seen in our country before.
We need to be prepared to stand up for our faith and defend what we believe and why we believe it, based on God’s Holy Word. If we do that, we win no matter what happens while we are still on this planet.
Our reward will occur in eternity.