Churches nationwide are taking steps to protect pastors and churches. By changing their bylaws, leaders hope to fend off any attempts to use church facilities for same-sex marriages. They also want to protect pastors from being forced to perform the ceremonies.
CitizenLink Marriage Analyst Jeff Johnston said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, as well as past actions of homosexual activists, will force churches to take a stand for marriage as a union between one woman and one man.
“Churches have already come under fire,” he said. “A court decided that a church-owned facility in New Jersey violated a non-discrimination ordinance for refusing to host a same-sex ceremony. The group also lost some of its tax-exempt status — for holding to biblical faith. ”
The high court struck down part of the federal marriage law last month. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. Without Section 3 of the law, the government will not be able to define marriage for its own policies and federal law; it must accept whatever states decide about same-sex marriage.
Faith-based leaders say it’s only a matter of time before activist groups file lawsuits against churches.
Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia decided to be proactive. It recently changed its bylaws to read:
These facilities may only be used for weddings that adhere to the Biblical definition of marriage and are solely reserved for use by members and their immediate family members. These facilities may not be used by any individual, group, or organization that advocate, endorse, or promote homosexuality as an alternative or acceptable lifestyle. This policy also applies to birthday parties, reunions, anniversaries, wedding or baby showers, etc.
“We needed to have a clear statement,” Senior Pastor Joe Carr told Fox News. “It’s to protect us from being forced to allow someone to use our facilities who does not believe what we believe the Bible teaches.”
Erik Stanley, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said hundreds of congregations are following Waynesville’s example.
“I think we’re in a day where every church needs to have a statement in its bylaws of its doctrinal beliefs on marriage and sexuality,” he told Baptist Press. “This is a proactive approach that churches can take to head off any claims of discrimination in the future, should they occur.”
ADF has drafted guidelines churches can follow to amend their documents.
“When the government creates a new ‘right,’ it puts all its resources into enforcing that ‘right,’” Johnston explained. “Pastors and churches should move now to state the important doctrine of male-female marriage.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read ADF’s “Suggested Language for Church Bylaws.”
Read ADF’s “Seven Things All Churches Should Have in Their Bylaws.”
Read “Calling and Witness, Holiness and Truth,” by Ryan T. Anderson.