In addressing some of the most challenging questions about homosexuality and marriage, British minister Sam Allberry emphasized that biblical marriage between one man and one woman is a core issue in Christianity, and urged Southern Baptist pastors, teachers and leaders gathered that the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's 2014 National Conference to boldly preach about it.
"We believe what we believe about homosexuality because we believe what we believe about marriage" said Allberry.
He explained: "One of the purposes of marriage in the Bible is that this union between a man and a woman shows the mystery of Christ and the church. Human marriage is the icon of the relationship Jesus has with His people. But if we now construe marriage as being between a man and a man or a woman and a woman, that picture is disfigured. We're left instead with Christ and Christ or the church and the church. In other words, when you begin to change the biblical definition of marriage, you end up changing something that should be reflecting the Gospel."
The associate minister of St. Mary's church in Berkshire urged leaders who are silent on this issue, or are teaching something contrary to one man and one woman, to stand on the side of Jesus.
"We do very well to remember that if we are on the right side of (the Jesus of Revelations 1), we will not be on the wrong side of history because He is the beginning and the end, the first and the last," said Allberry.
Allberry's Tuesday night talk entitled "Is God Anti-Gay?" took on questions frequently posed to Christians, such as: Did Jesus ever talk about homosexuality?; Why can't the church overlook this issue?; and Is it OK to be in a same-sex relationship if it is faithful and committed?
He also addressed church leaders who answer these questions in various ways, ranging from forcefully against same-sex marriage to acceptance.
Allberry admonished leaders who have strayed from traditional biblical teachings to affirm same-sex relationships, saying their stance puts souls at risk. He warned: "Eternity is at stake. If we approve of something that God Himself forbids. My friends, we are sending people to hell."
The British minister also took issue with leaders who speak too forcefully on the issue of the homosexual lifestyle. Allberry urged teachers and preachers not to tolerate teaching that leads to sexual sin, but cautioned "not tolerating those things is no excuse for rudeness or brashness or arrogance or cockiness."
Allberry also made clear that church leaders cannot remain silent about homosexuality or choose neutrality. Jesus, he explained, was not neutral about homosexuality.
In answering the question does Jesus mention homosexuality, Allberry explained, "Jesus does not mention homosexuality. Secondly, in what Jesus does mention He does address it. "
He concluded, "Not taking a side on this issue is taking a side. It is tolerating and (Revelations 2:20) shows us if you do that, you risk having Jesus against you."
Silence, he said, is on par with false teaching. "If the folks in your church are not being taught by you on this issue, they will only be taught by the secular world around them."
Pastors, he said, can share God's plan for marriage confidently to both heterosexuals and homosexuals because God has a good word for those with same-sex attractions.
He shared that homosexuals and heterosexuals are equally called to deny themselves for the sake of the Gospel. In that sense, Allberry said, "none of us are straight. All of us are skewed in our sexual desires."
Additionally, Allberry, who identified himself as having same-sex attractions, said homosexuals do not get a raw deal when they come to Christ. "There is no one for whom the Gospel is not hugely costly, and there is no one for whom that same Gospel is not utterly worth it."
He said the Bible says those who leave things behind, namely relationships, to follow Christ are promised rewards both in this life and beyond — including new friends and family in the church.
Allberry's talk was one of several discussions about the gospel, homosexuality and the future of marriage hosted by the ERLC National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Oct. 27 - Oct. 29.
"The costs are great, the rewards are greater," he summed.