05 May 2015

Brain trust: how to prepare local churches for the coming Gaystapo

by Dan Phillips

The "Gaystapo" is on the march. We're where we are thanks to years of rampant relativism, the gospel of "follow your heart," postmodernism, and Christianoid defection and/or timidity. Any day we may find it knocking at the door of our church, no matter where we are. That this is just one tentacle on an octopus of rebellion against God is beside our point, which (as is my wont here) is very focused.

I mean to pose to you the question I find surprisingly absent from the blogs I'd expect to take lead on it:
what language do we need to put 
in our church Constitutions 
to proof us (to any degree) against lawsuits?


I don't ask in the interest of evading all persecution. I think that's coming, and Christians shouldn't be surprised. But I would sure like to spare churches the waste of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours each frivolous lawsuit, even the "successful" ones, always mean.

So here's what I want from you:
  1. Not just "I think" and "we probably oughta" and "gee I don't know."
  2. But either (A) link us to an online Constitution that actually has included such language, or (B) refer us to an online article giving useful and specific direction, or (C) transcribe for us what your church's constitution has included.
We're being told we'd better prepare, we'd better put in in our Constitutions. Probably so. Using what words?

This topic is vital to faithful churches across the land. So let's see what we can do, to serve local churches of Christ.

Contribute if you have it to give, or get out the word.

UPDATE: m'man Denny Burk, who has been doing some first-rate, very helpful writing in these areas, has responded with pointers to very helpful resources. If Denny's blog isn't a regular stop for you, I commend you make it so.

Dan Phillips's signature


40 comments:

Michael Coughlin said...

Not sure if this is along the lines of what you're looking for but pulpit and pen published this statement from p&p

I can't find the exact wording, but my local church has a policy of only allowing members to use our building and services...that allows us to simply reject anyone because "you are not a member."

I guess its designed to allow us to portray that we aren't discriminating against the world's "pet sin of the day."

DJP said...

A court case would focus, I think, on what your controlling documentation says. Is that policy in writing? If so, I'd really appreciate it if you could get it and copy it for us.

Sheldon Clowdus said...

We added this section to our constitution and bylaws a couple of years ago:

Definition of Marriage:
The Word “Marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
This church does not recognize any other form of marriage other than the one stated above.

DJP said...

Thanks, Sheldon. What size and brand of church?

James Sizemore said...

10 years ago, when we planted the church I pastor, I made a conscious decision not to pursue 501(c)3 not for profit status specifically for issues such as this. It is not necessary nor needed to maintain tax exempt status under current IRS statutes related to houses of worship.

However, those churches that have chosen to pursue this unnecessary angle are bound by non-discrimination policies that can be and will probably include sexual orientation in the future in order to maintain such a status.

The same can be said of those churches that accept federal funding in any shape or form.

Mirkay presents a very disheartening argument in his paper (http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/04/mirkay-the-nond.html) that begs the question of whether organizations who are 501(c)3 can actually be considered charitable if they discriminate on the level of same sex orientation and marriage, and further argues for the establishment of a total nondiscrimination clause for all 501(c)3 organizations.

I would argue that it's time for churches to divest themselves of the 501(c)3 designation now before they find themselves involved in the culture war on a level that they never expected. Furthermore the church as a whole needs to divest its dependence upon tax exemptions as a motivating factor for giving.

I don't believe that having organizational documents that state certain beliefs is going to cut it in the future. I do believe that if the church wants to remain a prophetic voice in our culture that we must be willing to part ways with our dependence on government recognition which is the very antithesis of the ministry of Christ.

A couple of interesting reads:

http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1034&context=wmborj

http://www.regent.edu/acad/schlaw/student_life/studentorgs/lawreview/docs/issues/v24n2/06Castervol.24.2.pdf

swimthedeepend said...

2.Church Bylaw Amendments
a.Proposed amendment to Article 6 / Meetings

SECTION 6.04 - Weddings or Marriage Ceremonies

The Church has long stood on the conviction that, according to the Bible, the institution of marriage is not a cultural phenomenon, nor is it an arrangement of legal convenience. It has been from the beginning of God’s creation a God-ordained institution whereby one man and one woman are joined together in a covenant relationship. Based on the authority of the Bible and in keeping with the freedom of religion clauses of the U.S. and ______________ State Constitution, _________________ Baptist Church has always practiced, and continues to practice, a view of marriage in keeping with the beliefs stated in Article 2, Section 2.01 - Statement of Faith, (P) Human Sexuality, of these Bylaws. Therefore, the Church’s facilities have never been, nor are they to be henceforth, open to the general public for the purpose of conducting weddings. Any person seeking to use the Church’s facilities for a wedding or any type of marriage ceremony may be refused at the sole discretion of the Pastor, except that, in a wedding or marriage ceremony held or performed at the Church, such a wedding or marriage ceremony, of necessity, and according to our long-held beliefs on the definition of marriage, and regardless of any future court rulings or legislation, the parties to be wed may not be of the same gender, nor in any way classified as “transgendered.” The Church shall consider the allowance of weddings or marriage ceremonies only when the marriage is to be between one man who was born as a male, regardless of the classification on his current birth certificate, and one woman who was born as a female, regardless of the classification on her current birth certificate.

Pastor Ben said...

From the constitution of Windsor Baptist Church in Downingtown, PA:

SECTION 7

MORALITY:
This church shall hold to a moral standard defined by the Bible. This church rejects any morality which contradicts the Bible. This church recognizes the Bible to be the 66 books of the historical Christian Canon, in this document referred to as the Bible, Scripture, and Holy Scripture. These biblical standards of morality shall include, but not be limited to, such issues as abortion and marriage: we oppose the practice of abortion; we only recognize marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.
This moral standard shall pertain to all ministries and members of this church, including our school ministries and every other ministry of this church.
The elders of this church shall officially represent and communicate this church morality.

Mark Hanson said...

In the PCA:

The PCA in both its doctrinal standards (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 24 “Of Marriage and Divorce”) and church polity (Book of Church Order, Chapter 59, “The Solemnization of Marriage”) affirms biblical marriage as being between one man and one woman. Neither the General Assembly nor any of the Presbyteries nor any Session (board of elders) of any congregation that is presently a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has redefined marriage. Nor does the PCA intend to do so.

DJP said...

EXCELLENT start, y'all. Thanks, helpful.

Mark Hanson said...

Note: in the PCA, both the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Order make up our "Constitution".

Kerry James Allen said...

Hate to play devil's advocate here, but when the government came knocking on the door of Bob Jones University about their stated position against enrolling black students as well as their later position against inter-racial dating it didn't matter what their documents said.

They lost their tax exempt status in 1976 and lost again when the case went to the Supreme Court in 1982. I'm not sure how any statement is going to protect us from a Federal government override.

At the very least you will lose your tax exempt status and your property tax exemption if your state gives it (ours, Illinois, does).

I'm all for having the proper documents but having the church's financial house in order might be prudent also as we lose parsonage allowances, tax exempt status for purchases, lose property tax exemptions, and eventually tax deductions for tithes.

Man I'm glad I'm pre-mill! Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

;-)

Kent McDonald said...

James Sizemore has a point. If churches were not worried about losing tax exempt status, they would no longer be forced to choose between Biblical admonitions and governmental policies. Political advocacy in favor of Biblical truths would be unleashed. The First Amendment prohibits interference by the government with the free exercise of religion. By signing up to become a 501(c)3 charity one is voluntarily giving up free expression rights in order to receive government benefits. Why would the church want to do that?

Scott Schuyler said...

We just adopted this statement into our Constitution & By-laws at Mt. Carmel Baptist in Mt. Airy, NC. We hired a local lawyer to write it up. Hope it helps...
Section 5. MARRIAGE AND SEXUALITY: Based on the teachings of the Scriptures, marriage is an
institution ordained by God from the foundation of the world and intended as a lifelong union of one
man and one woman. The Bible condemns all forms of sexual immorality. In order to maintain a
consistent Christian witness, the church cannot sanction, approve or promote in any way sexual
activities outside of marriage, including but not limited to adultery, fornication, pornography,
pedophilia, polygamy, bestiality or homosexual unions. Though striving to live peaceably with all people
and to obey legitimate government authority, we must ultimately obey God rather than man if the two
come into conflict (Acts 4:18-22). As a result, it is our policy that the facilities of this church may not be
used for any ceremony that in any way approves of, solemnizes, supports or allows any union which is
inconsistent with these beliefs.

Therefore, no pastor or member of the church shall officiate, or allow others to officiate, at any
ceremony designed to approve of, solemnize, support or allow any union which is inconsistent with
these beliefs. Nor may any member of the church enter into such a union without being subject to
church discipline.

Robert said...

Forget tax exempt status. There is already a precedent in Europe for churches being forced to perform the ceremonies:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/denmark/9317447/Gay-Danish-couples-win-right-to-marry-in-church.html

And here in America, if you refuse to comply and go the route of being a private company, you'll just get fined. Ask the bakers, photographers, and florists who are already being faced with fines.

I think it is good to have a firm doctrinal stand written and in place, but just know that within a generation that won't offer any protection.

Robert said...

Just a brief follow-up...I think churches should have statements like these regarding same-sex attraction, abortion, fornication, and divorce. The church should offer up-front protection for the pastor to say they affirm positions on these issues so that he isn't left out on an island to deal with this stuff when it comes up. That doesn't mean we leave out the Gospel and mercy/forgiveness, but repentance means we have to define the sins and turn from them to God. And the Church needs to have a clearly defined position on the sins that are most pervasive in our day and age.

Mark Hanson said...

By the way, one argument that needs to be made is that, under the current U.S. Constitution, churches are not tax-exempt, they are tax-immune. A riff on the "free" exercise clause.

savedbygrace said...

don't know if this would be helpful..http://www.ncll.org/resources/free/?utm_source=April+2015+ROTM+-+Sample+Church+Bylaws&utm_campaign=April+ROTM--+St.+of+Faith+Bylaws+Sample&utm_medium=email

Jay C. said...

From my home church - email me for details, if you want them.

Marriage

"We believe that the Bible teaches that God established marriage as only between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4,5), and that all sexual conduct outside the bonds of marriage is sin (1 Corinthians 6:9,10) with fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality and bestiality all being described
by God as abominations (Leviticus 18:6-30). We further believe that the physical condition in which a person is born, including their gender, is established by
God (Exodus 4:11; John 9:3), therefore claims of innate sexual confusion are false and transvestism and its related perversions including sex change
operations are abominations before God (Deuteronomy 22:5). We further believe that declaring God’s word and warning people of the temporal and eternal
consequences of their sins, including sexual perversions, is an act of loving concern. God’s word remains true and His prohibitions, including those on sexual perversions and immoralities, cannot be satisfied or amended by any human
government authority.

CIVIL GOVERNMENT:

We believe that civil government is of divine appointment for the
interests and good order of human society, and that magistrates are
to be prayed for, conscientiously honored, and obeyed, except in
those things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the coming King of Kings (Romans 13:1-7; Acts 23:5; Matthew 22:21; Acts 5:29; 4:19-20; Daniel 3:17-18)."

briand1 said...

Maybe contacting the Center for Law and Justice?

Lydia McGrew said...

You asked for it, you got it. See this useful booklet:

http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/content/campaign/2014/church/SOGI-Handbook.pdf

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Here is my two cents worth; http://notallowed2laff.blogspot.com/2014/10/same-sex-marriage-protecting-church-in.html

Todd said...

Not sure if someone has already touched on this but you will need to clearly define what constitutes a man and a woman. I don't have out constitution in front of me but it adds that a man means one who was male at birth and a woman who was a femail at birth... something like that.

Michael Coughlin said...

Todd - Sad fact.

Kerry - True, but I agree w DJP that being as prepared as possible is good wisdom, even if it won't prevent ultimate opposition.

Robert - as usual, excellent comments.

DJP - Great idea to do this.

I think of all the opportunities afforded to Paul to preach the gospel of grace as the result of imprisonment, false accusations and corrupt government.

I hope I complain no more than Paul did if given the same chance by our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that God sustains my faithfulness.

William Marks said...

Please pray about the outcome of this court case as it is likely to have far reaching consequences acoss the European Union. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/ashers-gay-cake-case-bakery-barrister-tells-court-there-was-no-discrimination-over-order-refusal-31098278.html

Randy Talley said...

Here's what we put into our church's doctrinal statement about 15 years ago since we knew that the current environment was inevitable: http://www.cmcroanoke.org/documents/CMC_Statement_of_Faith.pdf

Randy Talley said...

Clarification - See the section titled "Man (Mankind, Humanity)" on page 2.

Dave J said...

Here Is a link to an article at TGC,

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-actions-churches-should-take-in-a-changing-legal-culture

Sheldon Clowdus said...

Dan,

Sorry for the time lag in responding to your question.

We are a fairly small (under 100a) SBC church in Georgia.

Mike Riccardi said...

Jesse Johnson did a post for the Cripplegate on this issue:

http://thecripplegate.com/developing-a-church-statement-on-human-sexuality/

Jack said...

It is better to operate in a radically different direction:

Part 1:

In Judge Vaughn Walkers findings of "facts" he stated that marriage in the United States has always been a civil not a religious institution. See Hollingsworth vs. Perry. As a result, church's generally should refuse to civilly marry anyone...Read simply in a generic constitution...

The civil government has decided that marriage in the United States is a civil not a "religious" matter. As a result, the Pastor of this Church nor its building shall be used or a part of any "civil" weddings. Individuals of whom, at least one is a member of the church may have a commitment ceremony that carries no legal weight whatsoever. At the same time, the principles for who may participate in a commitment ceremony at X Baptist church must be Biblically eligible to be married. As far as church discipline is concerned, if one is married by the state, or been committed by the church or other local church, the parties will be considered to be married for Biblical Discipline Purposes.

Part 2:

As a church, generally the institution of marriage as civilly constructed, requires parties to mediate disputes to a civil judge in the event of a dissolution. This is a clear violation of I Corinthians 6; as a result, we see no moral need to be married by the state.

Michael said...

No Friday post? Hope all is well, Dan.

TP SockPuppet said...

Michael,

You may want to consider "friending" Dan on Facebook or following him on Twitter (or both). He announced "No SHST today" bright and early this morning.

Michael Coughlin said...

Good point. And don't be worried, I am evidence that Dan's great biblical discernment ends when selecting twitter or facebook buddies.

Michael said...

Actually, as soon as I hit send it occurred to me I should check the twitter feed as displayed on the pyro page. So I see Dan is well enuf to tweet today. So I'm good.

DJP said...

We know a finger works, so... clean bill of health!

(c;

louis said...

Our by-laws provide that only members of our church may get married there or rent or use church facilities. Obviously they can't be members if they are unrepentant homosexuals, so that should cover it.

Tad said...

We consulted with an experienced Christian attorney who suggested we add a statement on employment. He was of the opinion that inconsistent hiring practices will become a major issue for churches in certain non-pastoral positions. Here is what we added to our constitution.



Section 5 – Employment

The Church hires individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs, qualifications, and ability to perform the specific job description. Any and all positions at the church require that the employee be available to engage in ministerial duties including spiritual service and discipleship if requested. Unless otherwise provided in writing, employment with the Church entails a specific religious belief as a bona fide occupational qualification, and is considered to be at-will so that either party may terminate the relationship at any time and for any lawful reason. The Church, through its Human Resource Officer or a designated employee, will inform an employee terminated for-cause of the basis for his or her termination. For-cause termination includes, but is not limited to, a violation of The Church’s religious and/or moral belief system and/or moral code of behavior.

JHB said...

@Michael Coughlin

"I can't find the exact wording, but my local church has a policy of only allowing members to use our building and services...that allows us to simply reject anyone because "you are not a member.""

That simply will not work. Somebody can join your church, and then decide they are gay later. They then will force your church to do their marriage because they are a member.

Michael Coughlin said...

@JHB
Thanks for your help. I suspect that our policies are lacking the necessary legal verbiage which will truly be required to protect us. Pray that will change for my local church, please?

On your example though, we have other written rules/policies whereby a member who desired a gay wedding would certainly fall under discipline and be excommunicated.

Either way, I'm more on the same page as KJA in that I think bad stuff is coming and there won't be much we can do. But I agree with DJP that much wisdom can possibley protect our members, particularly maybe the weaker of faith.

Paul Adcock said...

I think that we should try civil disobedience too. I think that's biblical. Refuse to comply. It might bring trouble but the Devil brought it first.

I'm not a pastor but I'm wondering if my church knows this is coming.

I'm already working tirelessly on something to stop the federal overreach for good. There is a movement to rein in the federal government and it's already got 4 states passed (it might get Texas too) and it needs 34 .

It's called Convention of States Project. What we're gonna do is have an Amendments convention via Article V to have the states propose amendments to the Constitution. We could allow overrides of Supreme Court decisions and also limit the federal government's power. We don't need Congress for this, which is good as they are kinda corrupt right now.

If we fix the 14th Amendment by clarifying it, the Big Government can no longer use it to make up a right to abortion, illegal immigration, or same-sex "marriage".

Go to www.conventionofstates.com