The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville. AP photo
(WBIR) - Some Southern Baptist Convention leaders are now encouraging church members to get married at a younger age.
Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon said "What we've communicated to our young people is finances are more important than sexual sin, and the Bible seems to say the exact opposite of that."
Those comments have reached East Tennesseans.
Toby Everett is the pastor at Alice Bell Baptist Church in North Knoxville. Alice Bell is one of more than 150 Southern Baptist churches in Knox County.
Pastor Everett said those comments are just the views of a few and do not change how pastors run their churches.
"We're autonomous. We think for ourselves. So Nashville doesn't dictate for us how we preach or what to do," Pastor Everett said. "I don't think it's a Southern Baptist thing. More so, a church has come forth and I don't disagree with his thinking because of the sexual promiscuity in our world today."
Pastor Everett said he married at the age of 20, when his wife was 17 years old. Despite performing a majority of marriages for those in their early twenties, he said age is less important than maturity.
"From my perspective, a young marriage works but I don't know if in reality, in today's world, it's always true," he said.
Family Pastor Chris Harding at First Baptist Church Lenoir City said marriage continues to be a hot topic within the church.
"As a denomination, no one's saying you have to marry at a younger age. We want people to marry when they're ready," Pastor Harding said. "There's just as many problems waiting to get married as there are with the problems people may think they're avoiding by not marrying at a younger age."
Both Pastor Everett and Pastor Harding said they require premarital counseling.
According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, the average age people are marrying is 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women. That number is higher now than ever before.