Florida Megachurch Requires Oath from Members Disavowing LGBTQ

It’s right that every member agree to such a statement before they join us to receive our care.”

The Pledge:

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.

In information accompanying the pledge, the church warns: “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.”

The megachurch’s effort to oust LGBTQ members is the latest manifestation of a reactionary zeitgeist now gripping Florida, one that Governor Ron DeSantis insists is making the Sunshine State the place where “woke goes to die.” The state government recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” legislation effectively outlawing LGBTQ education in public schools; it has also targeted racial minorities by banning the instruction of “critical race theory” and even blocking enrollment in a Black Studies Advanced Placement course. Despite centering the culture war in his church, Senior Pastor Heath Lambert insists: “I’m not a politician. I am a Christian.” 

Why has First Baptist made “biblical sexuality” a litmus test? Lambert has described it, in part, as a legal strategy — to lay down a marker that “our biblical beliefs about gender are a core conviction” and thereby “protect against those who would take us to court to require us to change our policies.” 

He added: “To anyone watching this who disagrees with the biblical message on sexuality, I want you to know that we love you and God does too. It’s that love which drives us to share truth that may be hard for you to hear in confusing and dark times.”

Lambert listed three reasons why it is “necessary to require all of our members to express their agreement with the statement.” First is a “prophetic reason” to “shine a bright light of clarity in these dark and confusing times.” Second is a “legal” reason because “our church has a responsibility to protect against those who would take us to court to require us to change our policies.” Third is a “pastoral” reason because “we’ve had many precious people in our church who have struggled with these issues of gender and sexuality or whose family has struggled.”

He explained: “It’s right that every member agree to such a statement before they join us to receive our care.”

Baptist News

Lambert tells Rolling Stone he views a 2017 Jacksonville city “bathroom ordinance” as a threat. That law gives trans individuals the right to use the bathroom of their choice — though it presently exempts churches. “We wanted to be on record,” Lambert says. “We want to be able to say, ‘Hey, everybody in our church believes that male is a biological reality; female is a biological reality.’ And that has to do with decisions we make about who uses the bathrooms, and who gets fired, and who can serve as a pastor,” he adds. “We want to function as an authentically Christian organization.”

Lambert reacts to the backlash he’s seen regarding the signing of a statement: “A corrupt and confused culture will be blind to the compassion that flows from such faithful and loving churches the way an alcoholic is blind to the love of a family intervention. That blindness can never lead such churches to stop being faithful and loving. Instead, it urges us to increased prayer and increased care.” FBCJax.com

Rolling Stone