The statement presented to that congregation last week simply says: "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."
While most evangelicals might view the statement as fairly basic and certainly orthodox, Senior Pastor Heath Lambert contends the church needed to be clear.
"Everybody knows that marriage and sexuality are highly debated right now," he explains to AFN. "As a church, it's our job to be salt and light – to be clear about what the Bible says about these things."
The church, he continues, voted unanimously on the statement; and again unanimously that every member of the congregation agreed. But when word of the statement got out, some in the surrounding neighborhoods got upset and demanded a voice in what the church that they didn't attend should say about marriage.
The church graciously opened up its microphones for a community forum. A woman named "Katie" took the opportunity to urge members to forsake the gospel and leave the church:
Katie: "If God loves me, why did she make me this way? Why is the pastor of my church, my Sunday School teacher, and even my own family telling me I'm going to hell for my choices?
Katie and others called the church "abhorrently homophobic" and "hateful" for signing a statement affirming God's definition of marriage and sexuality. But as Pastor Lambert explains, Katie's choices can, indeed, send her to hell – and the church has to warn her.
"There is certainly nothing in our intention that means to communicate hatefulness," he assures. "It's just that when you've got a world that likes doing whatever they want to do when they hear restriction, they think it's mean."
As The Washington Stand's Joshua Arnold points out in his column about the church's open mic event in Jacksonville, Jesus warned His disciples how the world would respond to God's truth:
"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19)