by Aaron Earls
To Jeff Iorg, same-sex marriage is nothing new.
Living and ministering in San Francisco, he’s seen it for years—and he knows firsthand the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage changes nothing about the mission of the church.
“Our mission is not making heterosexuals—it’s making Christians,” says Iorg, editor of Ministering in the New Marriage Culture.
As the president of Golden Gate Seminary since 2004, Iorg saw same-sex marriage spread from the Bay Area across the nation. “We’ve been working with this issue since the first same-sex marriage was legalized in 2004,” he says.
Because of this experience, he believes Christians ministering in San Francisco have some insights for others. The church should continue to stand firm on marriage, he says, but must refocus on the gospel and presenting a positive view of biblical marriage.
“The church has to overcome its aversion to these particular kinds of sinful behaviors and recognize that our responsibility—no matter the person’s behavior—is still to present the gospel, lead that person to conversion, and help them become a disciple of Jesus Christ,” Iorg says.
Instead of focusing so much attention on “trying to deconstruct and oppose everything they find in culture about marriage,” Iorg says churches “must focus on creating and cultivating a Christian worldview on marriage.”
As part of a shift in the approach, churches must recognize the responsibility they have to the gay community. “There is no biblical exception given to the church for any segment of our communities,” he says. “No matter their behavior, we are to love, serve, and evangelize them.”
Working at an evangelical seminary in San Francisco, he has seen firsthand the balance between upholding a biblical definition of marriage while continuing to love those who disagree. Once, he had the opportunity to do so at his own home.
A gay coworker of a seminary student died suddenly at a young age. The company wanted to organize a small memorial service for coworkers to remember their friend and grieve his loss.
The Golden Gate student was the only one in the entire company who was religious, so they asked him to organize the service. They were comfortable with him speaking, but unsure about gathering in a religious place.
That’s when Iorg stepped in. He offered his home for the service. “We had the service on our patio overlooking the bay and made our home open for the event,” he says.
During the service, Iorg says “the gospel was communicated and the love of Christ was clearly shown. And as a result of that, our student has had two consistent dialogues and relationships with two people who are considering becoming Christians.”
Moving forward, Iorg maintains “churches are going to have to get past their anger and fear of dealing with the LGBT community.” While he understands the need to defend biblical marriage, he says, “churches will have to reach these families.”
Through this, “churches are most likely to see the kind of life change and culture change we hope for,” he says. “The church’s posture has to change from anger-focused opposition to outreach-focused opposition.”
If churches had not recognized it previously, Iorg says, the Supreme Court ruling solidified the fact that they are in a minority position and one contrary to the law. “This is not a new position for the church, even in America,” he says. “We’ve been doing this on abortion for a couple of generations now.”
His experience in San Francisco has prepared him for this outcome and how to strike the needed balance. “Being in the minority changes the perspective with which you approach people,” he says. “We’ve learned to be irenic and loving in relating to people who disagree with us.”
For more practical advice with solid theological grounding, preorder Iorg’s Ministry in the New Marriage Culture.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.