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'Declare war on divorce,' Rainey challenges SBC
--By Norman Miller
     ATLANTA, June 16--America is in trouble in large measure because its families are in "trouble -- serious trouble," said the man who spearheaded a full-page ad in USA Today last year of 131 evangelical leaders commending the Southern Baptist Convention's statement on the family. Dennis Rainey, executive director and co-founder of the FamilyLife ministry division of Campus Crusade for Christ, said in a message during the final session of the Southern Baptist Convention's June 15-16 meeting in Atlanta, it is time for the Christian community "to come to grips with what we believe about the family."
     Rainey cited a book, "Family and Civilization," by Carl Zimmerman, who spent decades studying the rise and fall of the major empires of history while also tracking what happened to the family units in the civilizations.Zimmerman discovered the family went through three distinct phases, Rainey recounted, with the third phase before the societies' disintegration being marked by 13 characteristics.Rainey related six of Zimmerman's 13 characteristics that mark a declining society:

-- marriage loses its sacredness, often ends in divorce;
-- feminist movements abound;
-- public disrespect for parents and authority increases;
-- juvenile delinquency, promiscuity and rebellion increases;
-- increasing desire for and acceptance of adultery;
-- tolerance for and spread of sexual perversions of all kinds, especially     homosexuality and including rape, incest and bestiality.

     "Do you find his findings from history frightening?" Rainey asked the crowd. "Would it frighten you more if I told you his book ... was written in 1947?" Rainey, referencing SBC President Paige Patterson's challenge to Southern Baptists to reach America's major cities, said, "If you reach the cities, then you must target families." Rainey also declared "marriages and families represent the largest opportunity for evangelism in the Western world."
"Families are dying without hope for Jesus Christ. ... The family is God's smallest battle formation for the soul of a nation," Rainey contended.
     "The Mormons have been using the family for decades to evangelize. Isn't it about time we, in the Christian church, went after the family?" Rainey asked amid swelling applause. "That's why I am here today -- to encourage you -- not only what you have done right but also to issue a challenge to you in the Southern Baptist Convention to change the course of our nation's moral and spiritual slide in families." Rainey joked with the crowd that "every year you guys take on somebody. Well, I've got something for you to take on that is one thousand times larger than Disney -- one thousand times more impactful than any media: it's divorce. I want you to declare war on divorce.
     "My challenge to you is to courageously call Christians to keep their marriage covenants."
Outlining four ways to bolster marriage covenants, Rainey said the first involves signing a marriage covenant. He cited a poll among Christians that revealed only one in every 300 Christians had ever seen a marriage covenant while one in four had seen prenuptial agreements.
"What's wrong with this picture?" he asked.
     It is easier to get out of a marriage than it is to get out of a contract to buy a car, Rainey said. "What does that say about a nation that values cars more than marriage?" Marriage covenants need to be "exalted," Rainey said, as he lifted a framed copy of one in the air. He told the crowd that he had flown in 10,000 copies of the document to be given free to married couples attending the convention. "God hates divorce," Rainey declared. "But what has been the Christian community's response to divorce? It's been a deafening silence."
     Rainey introduced the second way to declare war on divorce by citing researcher George Barna's findings that the divorce rate in the church now exceeds that of the secular culture.
"It's time for pastors to refuse to marry people who sign a prenuptial agreement," Rainey said. "It's time for Christians who are struggling in their marriage to not give up. It's time for us to put the fear of God back in vows. "And it's time for the church to dust off church discipline for those who refuse to honor their marriage covenant," Rainey said amid another outburst of applause. "He who does not punish sin commands it to be done," Rainey said. So the church must recognize its role of watchcare over marriages and its responsibility to prevent divorce through love and discipline.
     The third way to declare war on divorce entails the establishment of "Marriage Covenant Sunday," Rainey said. In such a service, lifetime marriages would be honored, couples would publicly renew their vows and sign a covenant, and the pastor would preach fervently on the sacredness of marriage, he said. Rainey said he is praying that 1,000 churches would establish this year a Marriage Covenant Sunday. "I want to challenge you to fulfill your marriage vows where they matter most -- in your marriage and in your family. ... Keeping your vows means you must cherish one another, you must care for one another," Rainey said, introducing his fourth way to declare war on divorce.
     Rainey used an audio tape and projected pictures of Robertson McQuilken, 22-year president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary, who left his job to care for his Alzheimer's-stricken wife. As pictures of the loving couple flashed across a screen in the Georgia Dome, McQuilken's voice told of the love, dedication and devotion he and his wife, Muriel, shared for 40 years. Such was the impetus for leaving an educational career and caring for his ailing mate. Reflecting on his marriage vows, McQuilken said, "I am a man of my word."
"She sacrificed for me for 40 years to make my life possible. So, if I cared for her for 40 years, I'd still be in debt," McQuilken said. "It's a great honor to care for such a wonderful person."
Said Rainey, "The time has come to make a generational commitment to rebuild the family -- one home at a time.
     "I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, when suddenly I realized I had better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape -- and it's a great relief."
Rainer said his hope is that the SBC will do the same thing.

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