First Baptist Church faces backlash on 'biblical sexuality' pledge for congregants
The Florida church came under fire for a statement confirming beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman
The First Baptist Church of Jacksonville was spotlighted on Sunday after local media reports caught wind on the church’s "biblical sexuality" statement set to take effect in March.
The "First Baptist Statement on Biblical Sexuality" detailing the church’s support for binary gender roles as well as the belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman was originally approved in October.
"As a member of First Baptist Church, I believe that God creates people in his image as either male or female, and that this creation is a fixed matter of human biology, not individual choice. I believe marriage is instituted by God, not government, is between one man and one woman, and is the only context for sexual desire and expression," the statement read.
According to the church, all members of the congregation are required to sign the statement and return it by March 19 in order to maintain their membership.
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Backlash grew against the statement in the previous week, leading up to an open mic event at the church to listen to and discuss concerns from audience members. One included a queer woman named Katie who opposed the statement and condemned the church for supporting it.
"Yesterday, an acquaintance messaged me and told me about this forum. Their family has made the decision to stop attending this church considering recent events, which is something I encourage all existing congregants to follow," Katie said.
"The decision to have your members sign any form of contract to attend turns your church into an organization, a club," she added. "This church is no longer a religious place of worship welcome to all. These sexuality oaths are drawing a clear line in the sand, showing us who you truly welcome, which is by no means all."
Senior Pastor Heath Lambert defended the statement against these allegations, emphasizing that the statement does not solely condemn homosexuality but all sins regarding sexuality.
"It is not that we are any less sinful than anybody out there in Jacksonville. It’s not that we are any better than anybody who thinks our statement is a joke," Lambert said. "It’s that we have come to confess our sin instead of looking at the Bible and railing against what the Bible has to say about sexual sin. We’ve said, 'God, you’re right, and I’m wrong, will you please forgive me and [then] you wash me in the blood of Jesus.’ By faith, we are not better, but by faith, we are saved."
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Lambert previously offered a lengthy defense of the statement on the church’s website back when it was first approved. In the defense, he specifically targeted LGBTQ critics who vehemently opposed the statement.
"We want to welcome you as we were welcomed. If you need help, we would love to serve you. If you would like to come and worship with us, you are always welcome to be part of what we are doing. Of course, when you come, we will ask you to respect our beliefs just as you want us to respect yours. But if you do come, we will welcome you, pray with you, serve you, and love you. We will also probably say some things that will challenge you. That’s ok. Real love can handle disagreement," he wrote.
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Lambert closed, "If you ever give us the chance, we will be happy to welcome you. We will do that, not because we agree about sexuality, but because we believe everything the Bible says about loving your neighbor, and we really think it’s possible to disagree without being hateful."
The full open mic forum is available for viewing on the church's Facebook account.