Leading Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore is encouraging pastors not to perform wedding ceremonies for couples who are not Christians and those who are living in sin simply because members of their families belong to their church or their congregation is pressuring them to do so.
Moore, who is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, spoke at a conference on "The Church and Sexuality" that was held at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, by the state's Baptist and Southern Baptist leaders on Monday.
Alabama.com reports that Moore told the crowd of about 500 people that pastors cannot hold non believers and those already living in sin accountable to their wedding vows if they are already not living their lives by God's design.
"You cannot marry anyone except believers and people under the authority of Jesus Christ," Moore explained. "Unbelievers, you cannot hold accountable to their vows."
Moore added that pastors need to be able to resist congregational pressures to perform wedding ceremonies that they know they shouldn't conduct.
"It takes courage not to do weddings, to say, 'I'm not going to do that,'" Moore said.
Moore expanded by providing a hypothetical scenario in which a deacon wants the pastor of his church to marry his daughter, who the pastor knows to be living in sin outside of marriage.
The pastor still has the obligation to refuse conducting such a ceremony even though it might put he or she at odds with the deacon, Moore said.
"You've got a crisis," Moore added. "Think about what's at stake. You have to have courage to do that [take a stand]."
During his keynote address, Moore touched on the "Christian sexual ethic" by implying that if a Christian chooses to overlook the sexual morality laid out in the Bible, it is tantamount to discarding Christianity.
"If we are a Gospel people, that means our interpretation of a Christian sexual ethic is not a matter of our choosing," Moore said. "It's a mandate that He has given to us. If we are able to discard a Christian sexual ethic, then that means we invented it, which means we should not only discard the sexual ethic, we should discard the Christianity."
"The texts of the Christian Scripture are very clear," Moore said. "Marriage is designed to be a Gospel tract. It is designed to point beyond itself to the union of God and His Church."
Moore added that God purposefully designed marriage to be a lifelong and faithful union between one man and woman.
"Adulterous unions preach a different Gospel, that Christ is not faithful to his bride. That male-female, lifelong permanent union in marriage, all these relationships are intended to point to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,"
Moore continued. "They are to train us to recognize the Gospel when we see it."
"God's good design is resilient. There are going to be a lot of refugees from the sexual revolution, because the sexual revolution cannot keep its promises."
Moore acknowledged that a number of people struggle with sexual temptations and added that churches should not shun and judge those people who have crumbled to the pressure.
"There is no sinner, no matter how respectable, that is not deserving of the full measure of the judgment of God," Moore said. "There is no sin that cannot be atoned for at the foot of the cross. Our response to sinners should not be one of disgust or condemnation. Jesus came not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved."