Evangelicals, Pentecostalists, and even Mormons took part in a recent Vatican conference on marriage, which was hosted by Pope Francis. Southern Baptist social ministries spokesman Russell Moore was an invited speaker. So was megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who was said to have turned the Roman Catholic meeting into a “revivalist meeting.” (Does anyone know if any Lutherans participated?) The Catholics gave the evangelicals a standing ovation.
Do you think this was a good thing–religious people of various stripes rallying in defense of marriage–or a problematic and potentially dangerous bit of unionism?
From Michelle Boorstein, Vatican opens conference on traditional marriage – The Washington Post:
Pope Francis Monday opened an unusual high-level interfaith conference to support traditional marriage, saying “children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.”
The three-day “Complementarity of Man and Woman” conference includes global faith leaders including prominent U.S. evangelical pastors Rick Warren and Russell Moore, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Jonathan Sacks and Anglican, Muslim, Pentecostal and Hindu leaders. For the first time, a top Mormon leader – Henry Eyring – is in official attendence at a Vatican conference.
The conference in Rome comes a few weeks after Francis convened another event that garnered major attention for a very different reason: opening greater room to discuss the role of families with divorced and same-sex parents. That event made clear there is a great deal of debate even at the top of the Catholic Church about how to support traditional marriage while also considering ways to accept and embrace gays and lesbians.
This week the focus is on what participants call a “crisis” in traditional marriage.
“We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable,” Francis said in opening the conference. “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
The participants at this week’s conference come primarily from the conservative side of the spectrum, people who are often outspoken critics of gay equality.Among them is Moore, perhaps the most visible public leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, who wrote earlier this month in explaining why a Baptist is going to talk with a Pope: “As one who has been charitably (I hope) critical of Pope Francis on more than one occasion.. I can hardly criticize from across the Tiber and then refuse to talk, when invited, about these matters,” he wrote. “Here’s what I hope comes out of the meeting. I hope that this gathering of religious leaders can stand in solidarity on the common grace, creational mandate of marriage and family as necessary for human flourishing and social good.”
Also attending are Dr. Eugene Rivers, a prominent Pentecostal minister from Boston and his wife, Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers, who leads a research center on the black church.
From Christianity Today:
“There is always a danger in being the 28th speaker in a conference,” said Rick Warren during his speech today at Pope Francis’s marriage conference. “What’s left to say?”
Apparently plenty, as Warren’s speech—which he said he wrote from scratch the night before after yesterday’s speakers covered his previously prepared main points—was “probably the first time ever the synod hall resembled a revivalist meeting,” tweeted David Quinn, an Irish Catholic columnist. The Saddleback Church senior pastor reportedly received a standing ovation following his remarks defending marriage between a man and a woman.
“As Christians we seem to be known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. I want to change that,” said Warren. According to his prepared remarks obtained by CT, he explored why Hebrews 13:4 commands that “marriage is to be honored by everyone” and laid out an “action plan” for conference attendees. In true evangelical form, his eight steps are in mostly alphabetical order:
Affirm the authority of God’s word
Believe what Jesus taught about marriage
Celebrate healthy marriages
Develop small group courses to support marriage
Engage every media to promote marriage
Face attackers with joy and winsomeness
Give people confidence
Teach the purposes of marriage
“It is a myth that we must give up biblical truth on sexuality and marriage in order to evangelize,” said Warren in his conclusion, which noted how Saddleback recently baptized its 40,000th adult convert. “In the end we must be merciful to the fallen, show grace to struggling, and be patient with the doubting. But when God’s Word is clear we must not—and we cannot—back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide from the truth.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, also addressed the conference, acknowledging that the gathered audience came from different—and potentially warring—countries and represented a variety of faiths.
“But all of us in this room share at least one thing in common,” said Moore. “We recognize that marriage and family is a matter of public importance, not just of our various theological and ecclesial distinctive communities, since marriage is embedded in the creation order and is the means of human flourishing, not just the arena of individual human desires and appetites.”