The issues sound like they belong on the therapist’s couch:
The couple who haven’t had sex eight months into their marriage.
The parents who can’t deal with their son’s homosexuality.
The male teen who wants to be called by a girl’s name.
But they’re also the kinds of topics that frequently crowd the inbox of Russell Moore, who recently marked his first anniversary as the Southern Baptist Convention’s top public policy expert.
Though he often grapples with contentious political issues — the Hobby Lobby case, religious persecution and, most recently, the immigrant border crisis — Moore has spent much of his first year at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission writing blog posts on Christian sexual ethics.
"Probably day to day I’m dealing with more church issues of how do we deal with these tough ethical issues," he said recently.
Moore, 42, cited a query from a minister on how to deal with a transgender congregant as a reason for his commission’s upcoming conference on "The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage." He hopes to help church leaders tackle modern-day questions as they hold onto age-old Scriptures. More than 1,000 are expected for the fall national leadership summit.
"That pastor is asking a question that nobody at the 1970 Southern Baptist Convention was asking," he said of the minister who hesitated to address a 15-year-old boy in his congregation as a girl.
But these quandaries aren’t new for Moore.
As a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary years ago, he asked students on a final exam how they would guide a "Joan" who was born "John" but is seeking a pastor’s direction to do what’s right.
"Most of the students in the room thought that I was throwing them an ethical curveball but every congregation is having to address that issue," Moore said in an interview. "I think we have to equip people to be able to deal with that."
In the real-life example from the pastor, Moore said there are no easy answers.
"He has to see this person as a person," he said, "not as just a set of issues."
In June, delegates to the SBC annual meeting passed a resolution affirming that God created "two distinct and complementary sexes" and opposing "efforts to alter one’s bodily identity," a statement criticized by the LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD.
"Russell Moore will always continue to see transgender people as others," said Ross Murray, a GLAAD staffer with expertise in working with LGBT religious issues. "I think his advice to people comes more out of making sure that he can keep and understand a world order that he understands."
More traditional issues keep him busy, too.
Amid recent tweets on the current border crisis and the nominee for U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, he linked to his most recent column on marital life: "Does he need to confess adultery to his wife?"
In a word, yes.
"I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her," Moore wrote in his latest "Questions and Ethics" commentary on The Gospel Coalition’s website.
He also advised the questioner: "Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her."Next Page >
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