Iorg hears heartbreak over same-sex marriage

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- "I'm a deacon," the man told Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. "I've followed Jesus all my life, and so have my children. Now my granddaughter has come home and announced she is a lesbian and is going to marry another woman. What do I do?"

The church deacon is among the many brokenhearted individuals Iorg has encountered at state and associational meetings across the nation in speaking about the book "Ministry in the New Marriage Culture."

The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, for example, provided a copy of the book to every pastor in the convention and then asked Iorg to speak at their annual meeting.

"I've heard pastors say, 'Our church is not going to do same-sex marriages,'" Iorg said, "but that doesn't mean church members won't be impacted."

Ministry in the New Marriage Culture, edited by Iorg and written by veteran professors and pastors, is among the first of its kind to give Christians a framework for leading their churches effectively and ministering to non-believers amid new and complex cultural situations stemming from same-sex marriage.

"As I'm out speaking, people come afterward to ask for help," Iorg said. "The interest is broader than many people might have anticipated. It's uncanny to me how many people in churches are being impacted by same-sex marriage. There's been a high level of interest in discovering how to minister in this new milieu."

Iorg said another man told him the company where he works expects managers to build camaraderie with their teams through social encounters outside the workplace.

The man reported "one of the women on my team has married another woman. I'm not sure how to be comfortable going out socially with them. In a secular work environment, how do I do team-build with people who contradict my core values?"

Iorg said the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage last year is having a broad impact on extended family relationships as well as work relationships. Ministry leaders, too, have been forced to reconsider the ways they have handled routine matters in the past.

"Youth pastors are having to rethink issues like how to organize travel groups," Iorg said. "For example, all the guys generally sleep together in the same room and share bathrooms. But if your ministry includes young men struggling with same-sex attraction, the practice may need to be changed."

Another example is when children of same-sex couples want to be enrolled in church programs or become church members. "How do we respond to a child whose parents do not share the church's values?" Iorg asked. "These are thorny questions, especially when it involves helping a child understand the difference between what they are learning at church and in their home environment."

Ministry in the New Marriage Culture, which was released last fall, does not focus on the reasons that same-sex marriage is wrong or the biblical foundation for traditional marriage, but rather addresses the next steps of ministering within society's new marriage culture.

"The book answers the question, 'Same-sex marriage is wrong -- now what?'" Iorg said. "The reality is the church has to have answers to that question never conceived by previous generations of ministry leaders."

Kathie Chute is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
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