By JOHN FORTMEYER
LAKE OSWEGO —The threats to religious freedom today are so numerous and so wide-spread across America that ministries and churches absolutely must respond with renewed dedication, prayer and action.
That was the overall message given by several experts on the legal battles facing religious institutions as they addressed pastors and ministry leaders last month in special Protect Your Ministry meetings throughout Oregon.
Sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC), the meetings were prompted in part by concern over this summer’s U.S. Su-preme Court ruling authorizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, but also by other ongoing challenges to religious liberty.
Five meetings total were held in Lake Oswego, Springfield and Grants Pass. Featured were Randy Wilson, national field director for FRC; Tyler Smith, Canby attorney; and Denny Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel Grants Pass and Oregon representative to FRC.
“To stop a fire, we must start a fire,” said Wlson, as he likened the current situation to firefighters who light new blazes to halt a conflagration. He said Christians need to act in a wide range of ways to preserve their faith in America. These include learning the basics of U.S. history, teaching it to families and in churches, engaging the culture by standing up for the faith, having pastors preach on current issues from a biblical perspective, and emphasizing intercessory prayer.
“We’ve lost our place in the world, and I dare say it’s because we’ve lost our place on our knees before God,” Wilson said.
He pointed toward resources available through his agency, including a special web site, www.culturalimpact.org, where churches can learn how to map out a strategy for positive effect on their communities.
Smith said the marriage ruling and similar challenges to religious liberty are quickly threatening churches and ministries. “These issues are closer than you might think,” he said.
Smith also contended that groups opposed to religious freedom are working in concert at the state level.
“Make no mistake, in Oregon this is not happening by accident,” said Smith, who is part of the legal team representing Gresham bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein in their much-publicized “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” case.
Stahl agreed: “We’re playing catch-up with a group of people that are brilliant, well educated, well financed and organized.”
Smith said the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal services organization, has developed checklists for churches, ministries and schools to ensure that they are on firm legal ground in today’s society.
Among the items they should look at, he said, are statements of faith; and policies regarding facilities use, membership and admission; employment, and marriage ceremonies.
“Now is the time to act and take back these liberties,” Smith said.
In a question-and-answer session afterward, Ogie Shaw, representing a Portland non-profit, said it was “scary” how passive many Christians are, often because of apparent anxiety felt as freedoms are lost.
“Churches are going to have to get closer to our power source, which is Jesus Christ,” he said.
“These seem to be dark days and getting darker, but it is a great opportunity to share our faith and encourage others,” responded Wilson.
Stahl said later that all five meetings went well.
“We are happy to report that each one of our events was well attended and produced the results we were looking for as pastors, school administrators, leaders and business owners were equipped and encouraged in the battle for religious freedom,” he said.
By JOHN FORTMEYER