The church, which has long opposed LGBTQ rights in Jacksonville, is now requiring members to sign an anti-gay pledge to remain in the church.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Calling the “sexual revolution” a “threat to our church,” First Baptist Church in Jacksonville will now require congregants to sign a statement affirming their opposition to LGBTQ+ freedoms if they want to remain members.
In a video message posted on the church website, Senior Pastor Heath Lambert said members will be required to sign a document affirming that people are “either male or female and that this creation is a fixed matter of human biology, not individual choice.” They must also affirm that “marriage…is between one man and one woman, and is the only context for sexual desire and expression.”
Lambert said he church was attempting to share God’s love “with a deeply confused culture.”
“Marriage between one man and one woman [is] the only outlet for sexual expression,” he said. “These are basic facts of life, and they are wonderful.”
Lambert also explained in the video that “many” members of the congregation had “struggled” with gender and sexuality issues.
“It’s right that every member agree to such a statement before they join us to receive our care.”
Lambert told First Coast News the church is publicly expressing what Christians have believed for a couple thousand years.
“It means to rule out all sorts of sexual sins,” Lambert said. “It means to rule out pornography and polygamy and fornication and adultery and homosexuality.”
He said this is not controversial to Christians.
“Everybody in our culture is fighting about sex,” Lambert said, “and we want our congregation to be happy and kind, and so we don’t want to fight about it, and so it’s just very helpful to say, ‘Here’s what we think about it, and if you want to be a part of our congregation. If you don’t, that’s fine too.’”
It’s a view Riverside Avenue Christian Church’s Rev. Erin Dickey said overlooks a lot of other biblical views.
“If we were looking at a biblical family, we would probably be talking about multiple spouses and other makeups that aren’t what we think of as the nuclear family,” Dickey said.
Dickey said her church welcomes everyone, regardless of gender, race and sexuality.
“The mission of the church is to love one another and to care for our neighbor to build a just and generous community,” Dickey said. “Not to say who’s in or who’s out or to sign something to say yes this is what you have to believe here.”
Members have until March 19 to sign the document to avoid any “interruption” of their membership, according to a statement on the church’s website.
First Baptist Church has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, including strenuous opposition of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance. The HRO, which prohibited people from being fired or evicted simply because of their sexual identity, did eventually pass after several years. But after an early failed vote in August 2012, councilmembers who voted against it were honored at a First Baptist Church church service.
The church also sent shuttlebuses full of church members to speak against the HRO at meetings.
Click here to watch his video.
Read the full statement sent to members below:
First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida is a Church gathered under the authority of Jesus Christ and his Word, the Bible. Our church requires all members to agree with the following statement expressing a view of biblical sexuality that is basic to the Christian Scriptures. Requiring agreement with this statement for all members is an exercise in faithfulness to Jesus Christ whom we trust and serve. It is an exercise in clarity so that our members might understand our most fundamental commitments in a sexually confused world. It is also an exercise in love toward a lost world that desperately needs to know God’s standard for human sexuality.
Your signature and updated contact information on this document is required by March 19, 2023, and will ensure your membership at First Baptist Church continues without any interruption.