A megachurch in the US state of Florida has urged its members to sign a statement affirming marriage is only understood to be between one man and one woman.
It’s understood whoever does not sign the statement will no longer be allowed to be part of the membership of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.
The statement reads: “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."
During a special meeting on Sunday, the church’s lead pastor, Dr Heath Lambert, said the decision to put the statement in place was a congregational decision.
“This is a statement that is from our membership,” Pastor Heath said.
“It was approved by all of our pastors. It was approved by all of our lay leadership and it was approved by a vote by the entire congregation. So this is not an upfront for anybody at Baptist Church. It comes from First Baptist Church as an expression of our entire congregation”.
The declaration has garnered controversy, with many accusing the church of excluding LGBT Christians.
The pastor of the nearby church, Riverside Avenue Christian Church, told First Coast News the First Baptist’s decision is overlooking other Christian values.
“The mission of the Church is to care for one another, to love one another, to care for our neighbour, to build a just and generous community, not to say who’s in and who’s out or to sign something to say ‘yes this what you have to believe to be here,” Pastor Erin Dickey told the local news outlet.
However, Pastor Heath argued the statement is not meant to leave anyone out of the church.
He said: “This is a statement that is for our congregation. The First Baptist Church has no power to enforce any of our wishes on anybody else. If you want to come to this church, you are welcome. If you want to go to another church or no church, you are welcome to do that as well…
“If you disagree with us, you are welcome here. Not everybody can be a member here, but you are welcome here.”
Members have until 19th March to sign the document.