SWBTS profs address World Congress of Families

by Alex Sibley & Art Toalston, posted Thursday, June 09, 2016 (one year ago)

“[T]itanic global contest over the nature of society and the fate of children … has now come to a head.”-World Congress of Family’s “Tbilisi Declaration”
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Evan Lenow and Candi Finch from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s faculty were among 50-plus speakers at the 10th World Congress of Families in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.

In a “Tbilisi Declaration,” the congress warned that “a titanic contest over the nature of society and the fate of children … has now come to a head.”

“On the one side are gathered the forces combining revolution with retrogression, novelty with depravity, and cries of liberation with a new slavery,” the declaration pointed out. “This movement elevates sexual desire and atomistic individualism to the highest of human values. It denies any natural order to human life. And it degrades children into nuisances or tools to serve adult ends.

“On the other side are those who defend the natural family. We affirm the wisdom embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, entitled to protection by society and the state.’ We hold that human beings are by nature social, conjugal, and procreative.”

Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern, said the World Congress of Families is important “because it brings together pro-family and pro-marriage leaders from all over the world.”

The mid-May WCF X provided an opportunity “to remove our American-centered perspective,” Lenow said, “and recognize how we can work together to support the proponents of traditional marriage around the world.”

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage is the new president of the World Congress of Families.
 
“Many of the struggles we face in the United States are not unique to us,” Lenow noted. “In addition, many countries suffer when policies change here. As a result, this meeting encourages us to redouble our efforts to promote a biblical understanding of marriage and family.”

WCF X was the first congress to take place in an Orthodox Christian country and in the Eurasian and Caucasus region. Last year’s congress was held in Salt Lake City and the 1997 initial congress was held in Prague. Other congresses have convened in Mexico City, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Geneva, Madrid and Sydney. Each congress has adopted its own declaration, posted at the WCF’s www.worldcongress.org website.

The location of this year’s congress in Tbilisi was significant, Finch said, because advocates for the family in the Republic of Georgia “are having success in fighting the forces that threaten the family.”

“It was inspiring to see how believers in Georgia are able to combat legislation that would advocate for homosexuality or even transgender curriculum in the schools,” said Finch, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern.

“The family is the single most important unit in the social order,” Southwestern President Paige Patterson, a longtime congress supporter, said in comments relayed to Baptist Press.

“It is well-known that where the family collapses, the entire society is usually not far behind,” said Patterson, who delivered a video greeting to the gathering. “And so the family is God’s special, chosen unit to bring order to the social environment.

“If you have a traditional family with a mother and a father,” he said, “the children learn from Mom and Dad how to relate to one another and to the larger public. They learn genuine love. They learn forgiveness. They learn how to respond to the needs of others and then meet those needs.

“I am so deeply committed to the family in every culture that I would support the World Congress of Families under just about any circumstance,” Patterson noted.

The theme for the four-day Tbilisi congress was “Civilization at The Crossroads: The Natural Family as the Bulwark of Freedom and Human Values.”

In a written welcome to the WCF opening ceremony with 2,200 people in attendance, former President George W. Bush said, “Around the world, families provide that beacon of freedom and the source of help, hope and stability for individuals and nations. As one of the pillars of civilization and the bulwark of liberty, families must remain strong and we must defend them. … I commend your efforts to recognize the importance of families in building nations. Your work improves many lives and makes the world better.”

Numerous leaders and scholars spoke at the meeting, including Brian Brown, president and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage -- who was elected as president of the congress -- and Allan C. Carlson, president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Ill., and professor of history at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich.

“Few, if any of us, will lose our lives over our stand to defend, life, family, and true freedom,” Brown said in his address. “And yet some are afraid to be called names, to be put on some fake 'hate’ list, to be ostracized on Facebook. … Let us ‘be not afraid’ and joyfully move forward together in our labors.”

Lenow presented a paper on deconstructing arguments for abortion while Finch presented a paper on addressing the sexual revolution and cultural Marxism as well as specific ways these movements are impacting young women today.

“Anytime you gather people from more than 50 countries all united on maintaining God’s plan for the family, you can’t help but leave feeling renewed and encouraged,” Finch said of the May 15-18 sessions. “Especially since we have lost key battles in America recently, I left the conference knowing that even a small number of people can effect change.”

In the Tbilisi Declaration, five propositions were set forth, including a call for governments and transnational entities to “end efforts that redefine marriage, returning to the conventional and natural understanding of one man in a voluntary union with one woman for life.” Governments also should “cease all propaganda in favor of ‘gender theory’ and ‘sexual orientation’ which has no basis in biological reality.”

In an education-focused proposition, the congress urged governments to “acknowledge and respect the role of parents in determining their children’s education, guarding childhood innocence, and raising the next generation with the ability to differentiate between vice and virtue and to follow the path of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.” The full text of the Tbilisi Declaration follows this article.

Among organizations listed as partners with the World Congress of Families, in addition to the National Organization for Marriage, are the Alliance Defending Freedom, Home School Legal Defense Association, Movieguide/Christian Film & Television Association, Christian Broadcasting Network and Heartbeat International.

Brown, in comments issued after the congress, noted, “In recent years, secular leaders around the world have become obsessed with advancing so-called ‘alternative’ family structures. But there is no family structure more valuable and important to children and civilization as a whole than that of a married father and mother raising the children born of their union in an intact and loving family.

“The natural family produces the best outcomes for society -- promoting child health and well-being, encouraging marital happiness, enhancing economic prosperity, reducing delinquency and criminality, enhancing educational attainment, promoting spiritual growth, and securing liberty and human dignity,” Brown said. “I look forward to contributing to WCF’s work to develop and advance pro-family policies around the world.”


The full text of the Tbilisi Declaration of the World Congress of Families follows:

We delegates to the World Congress of Families X, have gathered in the ancient and honorable land of Georgia, in the venerable and beautiful city of Tbilisi, at a time of great historic import. During the last several decades, a titanic global contest over the nature of society and the fate of children has been taking form. It has now come to a head.

On the one side are gathered the forces combining revolution with retrogression, novelty with depravity, and cries of liberation with a new slavery. This movement elevates sexual desire and atomistic individualism to the highest of human values. It denies any natural order to human life. And it degrades children into nuisances or tools to serve adult ends.

On the other side are those who defend the natural family. We affirm the wisdom embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, entitled to protection by society and the state.” We hold that human beings are by nature social, conjugal, and procreative.

We see in the Creation a divine moral order that seeks to protect and nurture children.

In this context, it is distressing to find many Western nations, transnational bodies such as the European Union, and large corporations joining the cause of the sexual revolution.Yet it is hopeful to see the younger nations of Africa and Asia and many of the lands recently freed from the yoke of Communism rallying behind the natural family.

Today, the Republic of Georgia is a pivot point in the great contest over the human future. Accordingly, we delegates to this Congress affirm the following truths:

Human sexuality exists to bind men and women together in love and cooperation in the begetting and rearing of children.

Marriage is a social institution ordained of God, designed to protect the procreative couple and their children. Wise public policy seeks to maximize the number of children born into stable, married–couple homes.

Men and women are equal in dignity and rights, yet complementary within marriage and childrearing, a distinction that government must respect.

The home is the first polity, the primary source of sovereignty, and also the first economy, where private property serves to protect liberty.

Relative to events in the year 2016, such truths point to specific propositions:

Governments and transnational entities should end efforts that redefine marriage, returning to the conventional and natural understanding of one man in a voluntary union with one woman for life.

Governments and transnational entities should cease all propaganda in favor of “gender theory” and “sexual orientation” which has no basis in biological reality.

To counter the perils of sub–replacement fertility, tax and other public policies should favor the married couple, child–rich home.

Governments should acknowledge and respect the role of parents in determining their children’s education, guarding childhood innocence, and raising the next generation with the ability to differentiate between vice and virtue and to follow the path of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.

Governments and international bodies should abolish the practice of surrogacy, which reduces a woman’s biological function to a business transaction and treats children as commercial products, subject to quality control.

Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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