There is a growing movement among pastors in South Carolina, as well as around the nation in what is becoming known as “The Stand”.
The movement comes in response to several recent events regarding social issues and religious liberty; including the lesbian mayor of Houston Texas issuing subpoenas to several local pastors requiring that they turn over copies of their sermons after various conservatives in Houston had opposed a city ordnance which requires all public bathrooms to become gender neutral.
Kevin Baird is Pastor of Legacy Church in Charleston and Director of the South Carolina Pastors Alliance (SCPA.) Baird cites as the major catalysts behind The Stand Movement: What happened with the Houston Mayor. The recent non-ruling by the Supreme Court on several state laws which ban gay “marriage” (a non-ruling which effectively opened the door for gay marriage in all states). As well as many other instances across the nation such as ministers and others facing fines and or jail time for refusing to perform marriage ceremonies for homosexuals. One such instance is in the state of New York where Cynthia and Robert Gifford, private owners of a farm, that in addition to renting out for events such as weddings, the couple uses as their private residence. The Giffords recently turned away a lesbian couple who wanted to rent their farm for their wedding. In response to complaints by the lesbian couple, local officials have ordered the Giffords to pay fines of $13,000 dollars, including $1,500 to each member of the lesbian couple for causing them “mental anguish.”
Baird, who is close friends with one of the Houston pastors effected by the Subpoenas, said that after witnessing those things happening over and over, he and other pastors began to discuss what they feel is an increasing threat to their religious liberty and ability to speak Biblical truth as they see it. He says that the consensus was to write a concise declaration outlining three major issues – religious liberty, life beginning at conception, and marriage being only between one man and one woman. By signing the “Declaration of Our Stand”, pastors pledge to take a strong and uncompromising stand on those key social/moral issues. *The full text of the declaration can be read at the bottom of this article.
On Saturday afternoon, “The Stand” rally was held at the SC statehouse. Baird, along with the SC Pastors Alliance organized the event. Around 60 pastors attended the event and stood on the steps of the statehouse. The pastors were joined by a crowd of around 300 attendees. The 60 pastors are said to be representing some 519 total pastors, who as of Saturday had signed the declaration.
Notably, among the pastors were quite a few black pastors, as well as female and other minority pastors. There were many black and other minority attendees as well. Organizers said that most Evangelical denominations were represented, as well as Catholic and Messianic Jews. One speaker, referring to the many denominations and theological viewpoints which were taking part in “The Stand” said that, “We are Calvinists and Armenians. We are the ‘happy clappys’ and the ‘frozen chosen’,“ to which the crowd chuckled.
Regardless of their theological or denominational variances, it was very clear that concerning the matters addressed in their declaration – religious liberty, life, and marriage, that there was a universal agreement among the pastors that a “line in the sand” must be drawn.
During his speech, Baird stated that “Pastors are here to say, we will not be silent! We will not be forced into some corner or closet. But we have been awakened from our slumber, and our talking is just getting started!” He continued, “It’s a new day because the pastors of this state, unequivocally and non-negotiably intend and purpose to engage our civil government.” He added, “We are purposed to declare our values, Biblical values, in our churches AND in the public arena. We intend to cheer and help those civil leaders who carry and press forward those values, and we intend to confront and expose those who do not. Our silence is over. This is not a political mandate. This is a Kingdom cause.”
Bob Woodard, Upstate Director for the SC Pastors Alliance, and key organizer for the event said in an interview with us that, “I feel like we are way overdue for this. The pulpit in our country has grown soft. It is time for God’s mouthpiece to engage in the serious issues that face the moral fiber of our state and our country. What better place to engage in that process than the pulpit? It’s time to take a stand for God’s agenda, and also time for the church to return as an influence in our policy decisions that it has not been in for quite some time.”
Mike Gonzalez, Pastor of Columbia World Outreach – a multicultural interdenominational church, read the pastors declaration at the rally. Before reading it he said, “What I find ironic about this particular day is that we’ve actually arrived here primarily because of silence. We’ve been silent in our pulpits, rather than confront sin and give instruction and direction in all manner of life according to the Word of God.” He continued, “Our Silence has resulted in the continual erosion of the moral fabric of America. Years of silence have taken their toll. We pastors do not give up our rights as citizens because we stand in the pulpit. We have a command from our Savior to be the salt of our culture and the light of our nation. And if we do not speak the truth, then who will?…”
Nathan Dixon of Columbia, who is a member of Columbia World Outreach, said the thing that he was most impressed with after attending the Stand Rally is the alliance itself and the support from other pastors. “It’s hard to stand for anything when you don’t have support behind you. This is like-minds, coming together for a cause greater than themselves.”
A mother of three children, ages 1, 4 and 7, Cherie Bates traveled with her family from their home in Charleston to attend the event. Cherie said that her husband, Brad, is a music minister and that they became involved in The Stand movement from the beginning because, as parents, they seek to uphold certain cultural standards for their children’s sake. “I’m raising my kids to love God, to serve Him unconditionally. And I believe that serving Him requires that it touches every area of our lives, whether that’s political, whether that’s private home, it touches everything. I’m here today to show my kids the importance of being involved in trying to affect our culture.”
Ted DuRant, Public Policy Director for the SC Pastor’s Alliance outlined during his speech that the SPCA has a plan in place to begin vetting and publishing reports on all candidates for public office. He said the SPCA plans to recruit at least one pastor from each county in the state to take a leadership roll for local candidates. DuRant also said that they hope to build a network of pastors and Christian activist across the state and eventually the nation so that in any case of someone’s religious liberty being infringed, that their network can quickly be activated, spreading word to local pastors and others to take appropriate action and to offer support as needed.
According to Baird and other organizers, The Stand Movement is already spreading well past South Carolina, and they say that groups of pastors are organizing across the nation. They say that they hope that this event in SC will serve as a springboard for the movement, and that their state will continue to lead the way in the national movement. A Stand Event is planned for November 22 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Baird says that, “This rally is only the beginning. It’s the beginning of a national movement”, and added that pastors are continuing to sign their declaration every day. “If people want to get involved, I encourage them to visit the South Carolina Pastors Alliance website as well as our facebook page” Baird said.
By: Javan Browder
*The full text of The Stand Declaration reads as follows:
In light of recent events, both nationally and within our state, involving some of the most crucial cultural issues of our day, we, the undersigned Pastors, wish to declare our stand. We believe it is our duty as God’s servants and mouthpieces to use our influence for righteous purposes in maintaining and restoring our civilization’s foundation for our children, grandchildren, and future generations. These foundations include several things of which Life, Traditional Marriage, and Religious Liberty are currently our greatest concerns. Our declaration is short and to the point.
We declare that life begins at conception. It is time our laws reflected that the wholesale convenience murder of the powerless, voiceless, and most defenseless amongst us must stop.
We declare that marriage exists between one man and one woman. Though people may choose to live with partners of the same sex, these unions do not constitute marriage as it has been defined for millennia and as it was understood by our founding fathers.
We declare that religious liberty and freedom to apply religious principles in our life, our pulpits, and careers is a non-negotiable conviction. As Pastors, we do not give up our citizenship as we preach and our people do not leave their faith in the sanctuary as they depart. We apply the Scriptures in all we do according to our conscience.
The purpose of this declaration is simple: it is our stand. This is not meant to be an apologetic, as the arguments for and against these issues have been clearly articulated in recent years for all to hear and evaluate. While we will continue to make a defense for those foundational principles which are timeless, the time has come to simply stand. As Pastors, we will use our influence to find and support political leaders who will value and prioritize our concerns in all they are elected to do. Whether it be the writing of legislation, the appointment of judges, or the character of their life, our commitment is to be that watchful eye. We will affirm those who share our concerns and labor for their efforts. We will exhort, admonish and even rebuke those who do not.
It is our genuine hope that our communities, state, and nation can again say without hypocrisy but with full integrity, “God Bless America”.