Resolutions 2017

The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

Prepared by the FGBC Social Concerns Committee

 

Essential Civility

Genuine civility moves past simple politeness or pragmatic concerns and sees those with whom we disagree as full equals before God.  It does not allow the end to justify the means.  Civility enables us to hold the respectful dialogues without which democratic decision-making is impossible.  Civil people approach their government institutions with awe and gratitude.  Civility is the negative duty not to do harm and the affirmative duty to do good.

Civility cares for one’s own identity, needs and beliefs without degrading others in the process.  It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and asking others to do the same.  Civility is the hard work of stopping to listen even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements.

We call on our political leaders at all levels, from the White House to Congress to elected and appointed officials at all federal, state and local levels, to commit themselves to the practice of civility in what they say to others and how they treat others.  We look with alarm at the deterioration of communication, especially good face-to-face communication, in today’s political climate. 

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person…”  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:4-5b, 6a, 9-10 New International Version)

We call on political leaders, all of whom live under the capabilities of God’s Common Grace, to be honest and respectful in their political rhetoric, and to duly honor other political leaders in spite of political differences and flaws.  We urge communication that truthfully focuses on issues and avoids harmful ad hominem characterizations of people.

We condemn all acts of incivility, including outright violence and destruction, and denying others their constitutional right to free speech and freedom of association and assembly.

We call on our Fellowship to manifest the peace and love that has historically marked our German Baptist heritage, so we may be a witness to our world as we let our light shine.  This heritage is honored in the National Park Service’s description of the Dunker Church at the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam: “The Battle of Antietam, fought September 17, 1862, was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of this nation. Yet, one of the most noted landmarks on this great field of combat is a house of worship associated with peace and love. Indeed, the Dunker Church ranks as perhaps one of the most famous churches in American military history.”

Sources: Civility by Stephen L. Carter (Harper Perennial, 1998); Institute for Civility in Government

 

Religious Freedom

We express grave concern over the erosion of genuine religious liberty around the world and even in the United States.

Religious freedom includes the right of religion-based institutions (churches, schools, hospitals, charities and others) to operate free of government coercion in practicing their beliefs. 

This includes the right of religion-based institutions to set doctrinal and moral expectations for their employees (not just for their ministers).  We therefore strongly oppose the measure now before California’s legislature (AB 569) that would prevent religiously affiliated institutions from setting any “code of conduct” or practicing any form of discipline on an employee with regard to procuring an abortion (euphemistically called “reproductive health care decisions”).  The bill requires these institutions to put wording in their employment policies on an employee’s rights and remedies in this matter.

Religious institutions that oppose abortion on biblical and moral grounds will therefore be speaking against it on the one hand while assisting it on the other.

We urge our churches in California to vigorously oppose AB 569, and our other churches to oppose similar legislation elsewhere.

We further urge that churches and other religion-based institutions REFUSE TO COMPLY with the unrighteous, unjust requirements of measures like AB 569, should they become law.  The biblical basis for this civil disobedience is found in Daniel 3 (especially verses 16-18 and 28), Daniel 6:6-10; Acts 4:19; Acts 16:35-40.

Religious liberty must extend beyond the walls of the church (“freedom of worship”) to include the freedom of all religious people (not just clergy) to live out their beliefs in their personal, public and vocational lives.

Through our prayers, education and activism, we commit ourselves to protecting religious liberty throughout the world in accord with Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

 

Protection of Human Life

Human life is sacred before God and receives his explicit protections in Scripture.  Human life is precious and deserving of protection from conception through death.  Abortion and legalized “mercy killing” are contrary to the Bible’s pro-life ethic.  While those who are terminally ill deserve appropriate medical care, including palliative care and pain management, medically assisted suicide is not a moral option.

 

Definition of Marriage

When Jesus taught on marriage (Mark 10:6-9) he said (1) “God made them male and female” (Genesis 1:27) and (2) “the two will become one flesh“ (Genesis 2:24).  Thereby, a new bond is formed intended for a lifetime (Mark 10:8-9).  Without the two realities of heterosexuality and covenant union, no true marriage bond has been created.  Jesus spoke to oppose the easy divorce culture of his time.  His words continue to be relevant to that and as a critique of new definitions of marriage.

We affirm, based on Jesus’ teaching and the broad teaching of Scripture, that marriage is intended by God as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.

 

Gender Identity Issues

 “Gender Identity” is a phrase describing those whose sexual identities cross over, move between, or challenge the sexual identity borders which activists claim are simply social constructions.

We recognize that the Fall of Humanity (Genesis 3: Romans 8:20-22) brings many forms of dysfunction into our human experience—physical, psychological, relational, and more.  This includes dysfunctions that touch human sexuality.  The arms of the church should extend in love and understanding to all who experience the effects of human dysfunction.  The church must minister to others in light of our human dysfunctions, to bring a measure of restoration and wholeness this side of Jesus’ return, when he will make all things new (Romans 8:18-25).

In the face of recent cultural understandings of human sexuality, we nonetheless believe that God made mankind male and female.  This is a foundational statement on human identity.  Gender is an essence of who we are, not a social construct open to ideological revision.  We must not as a culture adopt a new version of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, wherein there is a disconnect between the human body and the true self, and whereby human sexuality, including gender, is seen as fluid and flexible rather than a gift of God.

We further recognize a cultural shift that makes today’s gender identity issues more than simply the right of individuals to chart their own course.  A belief in a divinely-designed transcendental purpose for humanity is being replaced by the belief that marriage and sexuality and other features of our human existence lack a transcendent origin and are ours to define and live out as we choose.  As in the first temptation, we wish to become wise and morally autonomous, so we can define good and evil apart from the will of our Creator.

Gender identity issues today extend beyond personal decisions and move toward government policies and coercion at all levels.  We disapprove of government regulations and policies that encourage accommodation on gender identity issues and strongly oppose any efforts to dictate policies and practices to religious organizations.  We support the expectation of boys and girls (and their parents) that they will feel safe and secure and will have their right to privacy protected.

 

Immigration Reform

Recognizing that:

a.       All people are made in the Image of God,

b.       Respect for the rule of law, including its fair and just enforcement, is essential in a civil society,

c.       Secure borders are the right and need of every nation,

d.       Israel was frequently reminded by God that she should show mercy to the immigrant because she, too, was once an oppressed and exploited people,

e.       The prophets in Scripture demanded special compassion to the exploited and vulnerable, including the “alien in the land”,

f.        Our nation is populated by people from a multitude of cultures and lands, and

g.       The presence of undocumented immigrants in this country (and in our churches) is a fact and a complex issue not easily resolved,

(1) We call on our churches to give prayer, thought, discussion and action toward addressing the problem of the undocumented immigrant in a God-honoring way.

(2) We recognize the divisive and controversial nature of this debate and we encourage dialogue in the churches that is respectful, open-minded and solution-focused.

(3) We further call on our churches to be the “reconciling presence of Christ” in the midst of a broken system that creates rancor, resentment, racism, selfishness, fear, exploitation, danger and disregard for law.

(4) We call on our society and elected leaders to rise above political posturing and rancor to work toward a solution on immigration that is compassionate, realistic and just.

We recognize that meaningful solutions to this problem are not easily reached. We also recognize the solutions must come through a determined will to reach them.  We deplore the present situation when our Federal Government is unable to resolve key immigration issues year after year.

 

The Social Concerns Committee

Donald Shoemaker, Chairman

Mark Abel

Mark Combs

Scott Henry

Mike Jentes

Kathryn MacMillan

Jesus Muños

Richard Schnieders

John Teevan

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