WASHINGTON (BP)—Christian photographers, florists and bakers are not hypocrites to refuse their services for same-sex weddings, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore has written in response to the charge from other evangelical Christians.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, posted a response Sunday (Feb. 23) to a column by Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt published the same day at The Daily Beast, a popular news and commentary website. Powers, a Daily Beast columnist and Fox News analyst, and Merritt, a senior columnist for Religion News Service, said Moore and other Christians are selectively invoking the Bible when they refuse to serve for same-sex weddings while not declining for other "unbiblical" ceremonies.
As an example of an unbiblical wedding, Powers and Merritt cited a ceremony between a Christian and a non-Christian or involving a divorced person who does not have a biblical basis for divorce.
"If you refuse to photograph one unbiblical wedding, you should refuse to photograph them all," Powers and Merritt wrote. "If not, you'll be seen as a hypocrite and as a known Christian, heap shame on the Gospel."
There is a distinction, Moore responded, between a same-sex ceremony and a heterosexual wedding, even if a man and woman do not have biblical grounds for marriage.
"In the case of a same-sex marriage, the marriage is obviously wrong, in every case," Moore wrote at his blog. "There are no circumstances in which a man and a man or a woman and a woman can be morally involved in a sexual union."
Moore's blog response followed more extensive comments on the distinction in a "Question and Ethics" podcast posted Feb. 20 at The Gospel Coalition blog.
A same-sex ceremony is different from "other problematic marriages," Moore told a Christian photographer who asked about shooting a same-sex wedding.
"[W]hile a biblical view of marriage would see that such people (fornicators, believers to unbelievers, unlawfully divorced, etc.) should not get married, and that the church has no authority to marry them, we also would affirm that such people, when married, actually are married," Moore said. "A pastor who joins a believer to an unbeliever bears an awful responsibility for doing something wrong, but the end result is an actual marriage.
"The same-sex marriage differs not in terms of morality, but in terms of reality. It is not that homosexuality is some sort of wholly different or unforgivable sexual sin. It's that the historic Christian view of marriage means that without sexual complementarity there is no marriage at all."
Moore applied the apostle Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 8 regarding meat sacrificed to idols to the situation. When they are served meat, Paul writes, Christians in Corinth can "eat it to the glory of God," but they are to abstain "for the sake of the consciences around you" if it "is advertised as sacrificed to idols," Moore wrote in his Feb. 23 post.
In the Feb. 20 response to the photographer, Moore said, "You need not investigate as a wedding photographer whether the wedding you are photographing is Christ-honoring. But when there is an obvious deviation from the biblical reality, sacrifice the business for conscience, your own and those of the ones in your orbit who would be confused."
Powers, formerly part of the Clinton administration, and Merritt, a master of divinity graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said of Moore's counsel, "Apparently, ignorance is bliss. This makes sure to put just one kind of 'unbiblical' marriage in a special category."
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