Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, says churches should not abandon the debate on gay marriage and overall sexual ethics.
Speaking at an event in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Moore asserted that "to capitulate on those issues" on sexual ethics "is not an option for a Gospel people."
"There are some people in our context right now who because these issues of sexuality and the sexual revolution are so controversial and so often confused, where people will often say to those who hold to even the most basic definition of a Christian sexual ethic 'you're a bigot,' the proper response is to simply be silent," said Moore.
By avoiding sexual ethics debates the Church is "not just avoiding a social issue or a moral issue, we are avoiding a Gospel issue," he emphasized.
Moore also told those gathered that Christians are called to be both a people of "conviction and kindness" when arguing in defense of traditional Christian sexual ethics.
"We … tend to think of kindness and we tend to think of gentleness as being weakness or being passivity or being politeness, a politeness that does not address or does not engage controversy," said Moore.
"The Church now has the opportunity to articulate a distinctively Christian witness to marriage and sexuality. For a long time in the 20th century, local churches could count on the culture to do pre-evangelism."
Moore's comments came as part of the ERLC's event Equip Austin and was available for viewing both in person and via simulcast.
In addition to Moore, featured speakers included former English professor Rosaria Butterfield, The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler, and Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Equip Austin comes a month after the SBC passed a resolution at their annual convention in Columbus, Ohio, upholding the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
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Known as Resolution 5 or "On the Call to Public Witness on Marriage," the measure was passed days before the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down state level bans on gay marriage.
"Southern Baptists recognize that no governing institution has the authority to negate or usurp God's definition of marriage," read Resolution 5, in part.
"No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage …"