An Open Letter to Washington Pastors
May 5, 2006
Dear Fellow Pastors:
I'm writing you today on a matter for which I feel great urgency. I would humbly ask you, my fellow pastor, to read this letter in a thoughtful and prayerful manner. I send it to you as a brother who highly esteems you and your ministry and also feels a growing sense of accountability to God about this matter I bring to you.
We all know that Jesus Christ is the only lasting and sufficient answer to the moral, spiritual and social challenges facing our state and nation today. Perhaps like me, you sense that we have been placed here for this special window of opportunity. It is a window that I believe is rapidly closing and to which we will not likely return in our lifetime. I'm speaking about the opportunity we as pastors have to call our people and this state to uphold God's clear will and design for marriage.
Why do I believe this window is unique? First, years ago we gave our culture over to a "no-fault divorce" legal system that has decimated marriage and families for the past four decades. We all minister to the effects of that sad reality every day. Secondly, our state is currently the front line of a national movement to legalize same-sex marriage. Washington is one of three battleground states right now for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender (GLBT) movement. Our State Supreme Court has postponed release of a decision on the state Defense of Marriage Act for many months now.
The most likely scenario unfolding currently is the following:
- The Washington State Supreme Court will wait until after the November election to release their decision as three Justices are up for re-election.
- Success or failure of the Referendum 65 ballot measure drive to repeal the newly protected class status of "sexual orientation" in state law will send a clear signal to the Governor and Legislature either way.
- That combined with both the Governor's and the Legislature's current support of gay rights will most likely lead to a rapid series of events that will
a.) strike down Washington's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and
b.) call for gay marriage as the law of Washington State through either court mandate or legislative action.
Such decisions of the court or the legislature could only be repealed by an amendment to the State Constitution, a very difficult process that would first have to pass both houses of the legislature by a two-thirds majority and then a popular vote by a majority of Washingtonians.
Simply put, failure to get this Initiative on the ballot in the next month will shift momentum decidedly to the gay marriage movement in our state. It will also provide the national gay marriage movement with one of the first clear citizen-based victories in the nation. It will be just the first of what they hope will be a nation-wide shift in state-by-state battles for gay marriage.
However, if we are successful in gathering just 114,440 valid signatures in the next month, the momentum will most likely remain on the side of the majority of Washingtonians who favor protecting marriage, family and the children of our State by keeping marriage between one man and one woman.
Stay with me just a little longer, please! What follows is the main reason I'm writing.
I know that, even as pastors who agree that God's stated and clear will for marriage is that it be between one man and one women, there is still a difference of opinion among us over whether or not we should publicly call our people to engage in the legislative process to protect authentic marriage. In no way do I question the sincerity or motives of those who think we should not. But I do seriously question the wisdom of such a practice.
The most frequent reasons I hear from pastors for not encouraging congregations publicly on this issue are the following:
- To challenge our people about this Referendum risks offending and alienating potential seekers, family members of gays and lesbians and those in the congregation who do not believe gay marriage is wrong. It is more important to keep the focus on the Gospel and not to alienate someone who might otherwise come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
- It is not the role of the church to involve itself in political matters, this Referendum and issue being one such political issue.
- It is our job to keep the Gospel and the Word of God central and not get sidetracked on social hot-button issues of our day.
With utmost respect for those who hold to these perspectives, I would challenge this thinking on the following grounds:
- It is not the loving or kind thing to model and encourage silence on a matter of such fundamental biblical proportions as marriage, particularly at this critical time in the battle, all for the stated intent of some possible short-term gain of not offending some. Jesus spoke very directly, clearly and lovingly to people's particular sins when calling them to faith and discipleship in him.
- God's word is clear in Romans 1 that failure to stop people's sinful drift into growing sexual immorality will and must lead to further judgment by God. It is our own parishioners, our own children, grandchildren and friends who will find themselves swallowed up in a Sodom-like culture where they themselves eventually succumb, as did Lot and his family, to immorality and destruction. The truly loving and caring thing to do is to be salt in a corrupt society as long as we have voice. Short-term potential gains are not sufficient reason to sidestep long-term church and national health.
- This is not an "either-or" issue (either we keep the Gospel central or engage in social issues). We are called to both preach the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ and be the prophetic voice of loving truth to God's people and our culture. If we will not speak out boldly to our people on this issue that is at the heart of the image of God in mankind, the first divinely ordained human institution (marriage) and God's declared judgment upon any progressively rebellious people (Romans 1), we must honestly ask ourselves what publicly sanctioned evil we will take a public stand against in our churches?
- As participants in a democratic republic, we the people are the ones given by God the responsibility to determine our laws and choose our leaders. How can we ask God to move and shape the hearts and minds of those who govern us when we, the self-governed, do little or nothing to call God's own people to exercise moral and spiritual responsibility in a matter of such great importance to all?
As pastors we cannot escape the responsibility to be "watchmen on the wall", to speak to our fellow countrymen and congregations when we see the judgment of God descending upon this state and nation (Ezekiel 33).
I encourage you to do the following:
- Take 15 minutes today and listen to the DVD sent out by Sound the Alarm this past week. It's excellent and well worth your time.
- Call God's people under your care to passionate prayer for the homosexual community among us and for laws that lead to righteousness.
- Personally encourage your people to sign the petition for Referendum 65 in the next three weeks.
- Do whatever else God calls you to do to make a difference for marriage in our state.
Thank you for your gracious consideration of this critical matter for all of us.
Respectfully in Jesus Christ,
John S. Repsold
Fourth Memorial Church