Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
As the EFCA denominational office, we will often educate and inform about cultural matters, but we will not often make recommendations about what course of action to take in such matters. It is not because we believe the Scriptures do not address a certain issue, or that that biblical truth does not inform and guide us in a right course to take or a response to make. However, on such issues, we believe one of the ways we can serve our pastors, leaders and churches is to curate resources and describe issues, with appropriate biblical grounding and faithful pastoral guidance. That means we are careful to describe and explain and not prescribe.
As you have likely heard, the Equality Act (H.R. 5) is before us again. This is one of those issues about which many of our pastors and leaders and churches not only need help to understand, they are actively seeking it. Equality certainly sounds good. In fact, when one hears about equality, it is easy to conclude that is a good thing. Of course we support matters of equality. But if you read the actual bill, it grants rights to some at the expense of others. The most adversely affected is Christians and Christian ministries and institutions.
For some recent history, the Equality Act (H.R. 5) was introduced in the House on March 13, 2019, and affirmed on May 17, 2019 by a vote of 236 – 173. It was then subsequently received by the Senate on May 20, 2019, read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary with no vote.
This bill was, once again, brought to the House on February 18, 2021. Prior to the vote, The House Rules Committee determined no amendments could be considered on the House floor. It was passed on February 25 in a 224-206 vote. The Equality Act now goes to the Senate, which require 60 votes in order to become law, not a simple majority because of the filibuster rule. There is some discussion about doing away with the filibuster rule, but that has not yet happened. With the filibuster rule still in place, it is not likely to garner sufficient votes to be passed by the Senate, but with the ever-changing sexual mores in our culture today, it will likely be a matter of time.
One certainly affirms the nondiscrimination law in seeking to protect LGBT Americans from “invidious discrimination” (cf. EFCA SOF, Article 8, “justice for the oppressed”). As Christians, we affirm the dignity of all human beings, as all are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27-28; cf. EFCA SOF Article 3, “We believe God created Adam and Eve in His image”), and we therefore love and care for others (Gal. 6:9-10) – all others without exception (cf. Lk. 10:29-37; cf. EFCA SOF Article 8, “God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially”). Remember, an implication and manifestation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are not only enabled to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-39), but we are also enabled to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). That life exudes an aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
But the Equality Act goes way beyond the legitimate focus of nondiscrimination (cf. EFCA SOF, Article 3, “We believe God created Adam and Eve in His image,” i.e., biologically sexed male and biologically sexed female). Andrew Walker writes, “Aiming to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to cover gender identity and sexual orientation, it is the game-set-match of the Sexual Revolution’s conquest. . . . in my view, is a symbol for the de-conversion of the West.” Al Mohler concludes, “This bill would represent the greatest threat to religious liberty in imaginable decades in American public life. This would be the single greatest threat. It will be very, very difficult for any Christian college university to operate in Christian conviction. It would be very, very difficult for any Christian ministry that's not defined as a local church to actually uphold any historic Christian doctrine.” David French points out two flaws: “First, it renders virtually all biological sex distinctions unlawful, regardless of context. And second, it explicitly attempts to diminish religious liberty protections for religious individuals and institutions by stating that the Religious Freedom Restoration ACT (RFRA) ‘cannot provide a basis’ for challenging the ‘application or enforcement’ of the act.”
Here are some of the specific, far-reaching implications:
First, let me encourage you to begin by reading the actual document: H.R.5 - Equality Act: “To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”
Second, read a few of the essays explaining what the Equality Act is and some of its implications. Here are a few of those.
Third, because this social experiment on human sexuality most significantly impacts the young, and because it is being considered to be made law, a few ministries have joined to make A Promise to America’s Children. Those affirming this statement are committed to “protecting children’s minds,” to “protecting children’s bodies,” and to “protecting children’s relationships with their parents.”
Fourth, we live and minister in a day I refer to as a cultural and moral tsunami. Although these matters may not surprise us, they do sadden us. However, we do not run from the culture or these moral issues contrary to the Scriptures. Instead, dear friends, we remain “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). We also recommit ourselves to task God has called us, to stand on the Word of God, to preach and teach it remembering the inerrant Scriptures are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We reaffirm that “we believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments through the written words of human authors” (EFCA SOF, Article 2). This will form and shape our catechizing of the people of God in this day. We have too long allowed the culture to catechize Christians. It is critical that at this time, in this place, on these issues we take this task seriously once again, the task of “mak[ing] disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed” (EFCA SOF, Article 8). For the people of God, this cannot be outsourced.
Finally, let’s live and affirm the Lord and lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3), both of individual believer’s lives and the corporate life of the church. Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of the Father. He is the Messiah-King (cf. EFCA SOF, Article 4, “Jesus [is] Israel’s promised Messiah”). He rules over all, and we are promised “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12). As we live between the now and the not-yet of his kingdom, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We are reminded God’s work is not accomplished by human strength, power, creativity, ingenuity, etc. It is a work of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – accomplished by and fulfilled through the means God has ordained. There is no building of Babel here. There is no trusting in horses or chariots (Ps. 10:7), or politics or politicians, but in the name of the Lord our God. Furthermore, we trust in and rest upon the assured promise Jesus “will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18), taking great comfort in the reality that Jesus intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25) and his prayers are effective (cf. Lk. 22:31-32). With this assured promise, we eagerly and hopefully engage in “godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission” (EFCA SOF, Article 9).
In the midst of living with the gladness and groan of life in this world, with the reality that kings and kingdoms come and go, and with the ebb and flow of the laws of the land reflecting the cultural winds, let’s remember God's wise sovereignty and good providence and together express our faith and hope in the Lord by reading Psalm 46 and singing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, a bulwark never failing . . .