Churches changing

Places of worship modify bylaws after gay marriage ruling
Associated Press
Aug 25, 2013

Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible allows only marriage between one man and one woman.

Although there have been lawsuits against wedding industry businesses that refuse to serve gay couples, attorneys promoting the bylaw changes say they don't know of any lawsuits against churches.

Critics say the changes are unnecessary, but some churches fear that it's only a matter of time before one of them is sued.

"I thought marriage was always between one man and one woman, but the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said no," said Gregory S. Erwin, an attorney for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, an association of Southern Baptist churches and one several groups advising churches to change their bylaws. "I think it's better to be prepared because the law is changing. America is changing."

In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. A second decision was more technical but essentially ushered in legal gay marriage in California.

Kevin Snider is an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues. His organization released a model marriage policy a few years ago in response to a statewide gay marriage fight in California. Snider said some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Dean Inserra, head pastor of the 1,000-member City Church Tallahassee, based in Florida, said he does not want to be alarmist, but his church is looking into how best to address the issue.

Inserra said he already has had to say no to gay friends who wanted him to perform a wedding ceremony.

"We have some gay couples that attend our church. What happens when they ask us to do their wedding?" Inserra said. "What happens when we say no? Is it going to be treated like a civil rights thing?"

Critics, including some gay Christian leaders, argue that the changes amount to a solution looking for a problem.

"They seem to be under the impression that there is this huge movement with the goal of forcing them to perform ceremonies that violate their freedom of religion," said Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network, a nonprofit that provides support for gay Christians and their friends and families and encourages churches to be more welcoming.

"If anyone tried to force a church to perform a ceremony against their will, I would be the first person to stand up in that church's defense."

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia now recognize gay marriage.

Some Christian denominations, such as the United Church of Christ, accept gay marriage. The Episcopal Church recently approved a blessing for same-sex couples, but each bishop must decide whether to allow the ceremony in his or her local diocese.

The majority of Christian denominations, however, view homosexual relationships as sinful. In more hierarchical denominations, like the Roman Catholic Church or the United Methodist Church, individual churches are bound by the policies of the larger denomination. But nondenominational churches and those loosely affiliated with more established groups often individually decide how to address social issues such as gay marriage.

Eric Rassbach is an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest legal group that defends the free expression rights of all faiths. He said it is unlikely the government would try to force a pastor to perform a same-sex marriage, but churches that rent out their facilities to the general public could face problems if they refuse to rent to gay couples.

Although his organization has not advocated it, he said it could strengthen a church's legal position to adopt a statement explaining its beliefs about marriage.

"A number of groups don't have a written doctrine," Rassbach said. "Say a group like the Primitive Baptists — they don't want a written-down credo, but the courts like written-down things."

Rassbach said it was important for churches to get their beliefs in writing before a dispute arises, otherwise it can look to a court as if something was done after the fact as an attempt to cover up hostility to gays.

Airline Baptist Church Senior Pastor Chad Mills said members of the public use their facilities in Bossier City, La., for many activities, including Zumba classes. In the past, anyone who could pay the fee was allowed to reserve the space. But recently, the church changed its rental policy to allow wedding-related events only for male-female couples.

Some denominations are less concerned about the Supreme Court rulings. The Assemblies of God, the group of churches comprising the world's largest Pentecostal denomination, sought legal advice after the rulings. An attorney for the group distributed a memo to ministers saying there was no reason to change their bylaws.

However, the memo also said that "doing so is not inappropriate, and may be warranted based on future rulings by the Supreme Court and other state and federal courts."

The bylaw changes are coming at a time when many churches are wrestling with gay marriage in general and are working hard to be more welcoming to gays and lesbians.

"It's probably one of the most difficult issues our churches are facing right now," said Doug Anderson, a national coordinator with the evangelical Vineyard Church. "It's almost an impossible situation to reconcile what's going on in our culture, and our whole theology of welcoming and loving people, versus what it says in the Bible."

 

Comments

OneLocalVoice

I am not trying to be mean or insensitive, but your comment "I don't know how to teach wrong from right anymore." should tell you something about the church you are attending. If you cannot teach right from wrong, then you must not know right from wrong. Since you attend a church, I suggest you pray and then read the Bible and ask God, not man or some church body, to show you what God has to say about the whole issue. If you are really seeking the truth from God, you will find it. Then if you will not accept what "God says in the Bible" about the whole issue, stop going to church because you are not really interested in what God has to say or in living by God's standards...and God would never change His standards. Logic tells me the very fact that He is God means that He is perfect. And since He is perfect He does not need to change, nor would He change, since any change would establish the fact that He didn't get it right the first time, therefore making Him less than perfect and proving Him not to be God. The problem with so many people who claim to believe in God is that they want to fashion God according to their standards and make Him abide by what they want to believe in order to accommodate how they want to live their lives. If there is a God, then He created man and He established the standard of truth...what is right and what is wrong. For those who truly believe in God they just cannot have it both God's way and their way, especially when their way which includes the standard of right and wrong conflicts with God's way. It's simply illogical. I hope this helps you sort it all out so that you will be at least consistent and true to what you say you believe as a church-goer. May your quest for the truth lead you forward.

ole45mag

Ok one local voice...what it boils down to with the original article here, is that the backbone of Christianity is sliding down like a snowball to hell. the fact is, I do know, according to the word of God, how to teach my kids right from wrong. the churches and people that are afraid to speak up are the exact opposite of the people portrayed in Ray Boltz's video, I pledge allegiance to the Lamb. In this video the man preached to his son, then took the death in order to not cave in. We all have to be like Daniel. To go to the headquarter web sites of the Lutheran and the UNITED church of Christ and study their beliefs is maddening. The Lutheran church states that if a preacher is gay and admits it, he has to treat his boyfriend as a man treats his wife, and nurture him till death parts them. The United church of Christ is totally everything not holy. I know people that go to both churches and state that their congregation does not believe what their church headquarters state. YET, they are required to tithe the headquarters and thus fund the ways that are promoted. When you don't believe what your boss says, you have to leave the place, tear down the sign, and denounce the head congregation. As for the people above that quote the do not judge verse, we are required to expose the deeds of darkness. But this is now becoming a hate crime. It's becoming a political opinion which makes churches loose their tax free status. However, where I am guilty here is in this...there are things that even the pagans do not speak of it's so bad. So trust me...we agree. But I am so tired of only half of the story being told. The lubby dubby stuff where everyone is so nice. Everyone knows a lot of the details about normal man and women sex. It's even in the book of Solomon. the only time man on man sex is mentioned in the bible, it ain't good. To leave the natural ways of man to woman sexual relations and go to the man to man is condemned in the bible, period, along with a lot of things. But we are now a nation of sissy's where some claim Jesus was gay. Won't be long until they say Patton, and Douglas Macarthur were gay.

OneLocalVoice

Let me begin by saying that I believe in God...the God who reveals Himself in the Bible (and not the Koran or any other so-called holy book) and who sent His Son Jesus to show us the Father and to die for our sins. My main goal was to say that if the church you are attending no longer stands for what God's Word says...namely that homosexuality is sinful, then it's time to move on to a church that does. God has given us His standard of what is truth and what is right and wrong and for any so-called church to establish standards that differ from God's nullifies itself as being the church of Jesus Christ. And though I take a stand against sin of which homosexuality is but one, I do not hate the sinner. The fact that I share with sinners the truth of God's Word and His offer of forgiveness is evidence that I love them even as Christ loves them. If Jesus stood among us today in person He would say to all of us who would seek to follow Him and to walk in truth, "Go and sin no more." I am a sinner that was saved by God's grace, born of God's Holy Spirit, given a new heart with new desires to serve God in obedience to His Word, and yet still in need daily of His forgiveness. Praise God!

coasterfan

RW&B: I would hope that you don't vote Republican, then, since the party has a huge problem staying out of the personal lives of anyone who isn't old/white/male. From Todd Akin to vaginal probes, it's an almost weekly occurrence where some ultra-conservative proposes something stunningly intrusive on women or stunningly discriminatory towards gays.

I'm part of neither group, but would never vote Republican simply because they constantly try to force their view of morality and/or religion on others.

OneLocalVoice

What a thoughtless comment. Conservatives, moderates, liberals, and every other so-called group out there is trying to force their views and opinions on others? Everybody has a philosophy about life and an agenda to promote whether they admit it or not.

The Big Dog's back

The difference is Repubs want to legislate their beliefs on us.

red white and blue

Ole u should direct Your
? To 44 they have all the anwsers for how why and where.as for me I can think of a million ot her things we should be teaching our kids as for your church u can bet I won't be going to services in monroeville anytime soon I don't know why with all that gods word that can teach and help us why you would spend anytime talking about anyone's Anus

2cents

If a bar can refuse to serve you, then a church can refuse to serve you. Just legal fluff, they need to cover their arse : )

John Harville

Then I guess Christ's ancestors - the kings - David and Solomon wouldn't be allowed in Christian churches? Of course not, silly boy, they are Jews.
I notice none of the out-of-context quotes were in the Gospels where Jesus actually spoke but were from that great reasons-to-exclude writer Paul.

themomx6

Ummmm.......did you miss this verse?

In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus is speaking: "He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?"

John Harville

themomx6.... didn't miss anything. But like most, you choose to pull out of context. Jesus ACTUALLY was preaching about divorce and changing Mosaic Law. Interestingly Mormons also use the passage you cited to defend their position that marriage continues into Heaven (or their own personal planet) after earthly death - totally ignoring Jesus' admonition to the apostles who ask about a woman who marries in turn each of her husband's six brothers after each one's death. they want to know who will be her husband in Heaven. Jesus tells them we will not be known as husband and wife, parent and child, etc.

thinkagain

I don't think Jesus specifically mentioned pedophilia, so according to your "logical" argument, you must think its OK to be a pedophile.

John Harville

Think again Think Again.... then check your Bible in Matthew 18...

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he was drowned in the depth of the sea.”

I think pedophilia is in the ranks of "to sin".

thinkagain

Correct me if I’m wrong. You appear to be saying the “little one” is sinning because an adult pedophile forced their intentions.

Sorry, I don’t believe God would fault the child.

arnmcrmn

Separation of church and state. Works in all ways....not just in schools..etc.
Church's shouldn't change the way they teach and preach because they fear a lawsuit. That is just asinine.

coasterfan

I agree. Public schools don't want religion driving their curriculum, and by the same token, discussions on evolution, science and sex are not encouraged during church services.

red white and blue

Coasterfan I don't vote republican or demacrat we are on the same side on yhat issue

sandtown born a...

RELIGION nothing more than a CULT. All you faithful followers keep putting your hard earned wages into the basket we need a nicer church or the pastor a new Cadillac. Go ahead you little sheep listen up to the word of some made up GOD. I am lost for words as to most of the ridiculous comments on this story. UNIMFORMED or IMPROPERLY INFORMED either way your REDICULOUS

Huron_1969

Flipped your rhetoric 180 degrees ....

Anti Religion is nothing more than an Extreme Alter CULT. All you faithful followers of "man rules the universe" keep putting your hard earned wages into the basket we need a nicer government or the polician a new Cadillac. Go ahead you little sheep listen up to the word of some made up human leader. I am never at a lost for words and relish in adding to the ridiculous comments on this story. I am UNIMFORMED or IMPROPERLY INFORMED about religion and am helping prove atheism is REDICULOUS

sandtown born a...

SHEEP follow I choose to be a leader The god fearing priests who molest little boys in so called gods temples sickening to say the least. I was raised in a religious family went to church regurlarly the racism and hate shown by the majority of these god fearing people is a portion of the reason I choose not to buy into the organized religion. I have my beliefs and that's for me to sort out with whomever my power to be may be. GOD HAS A MASTER PLAN FOR US that's just plain stupidity I controll my own future not some made up god.

arnmcrmn

Well who made you God?

sandtown born a...

GOD , I never claimed to be a god did I???? Try a reading comp class maybe it will help . I'm a god according to my wife lmao. seriously a god was a term the Indians used to explain thunder/nature. You thumpers go ahead throw some more godly comments my way very Christian of you.

arnmcrmn

Wow, sounds like you have some pent up frustration and anger issues to get on here and sling mud and name call. BTW, nobody cares what you say.

sandtown born a...

Can just one of you bible thumpers show me the scripture that says priests can have their way with little boys with no recourse. I didn't think so. The way I see it the bible is left to interpretation as different religions interperet it differently. To say its written in a book as to who you can love/ marry is stupidity at its greatest.

Bherrle

It does not say that anywhere in the bible. No recourse? I thought they got thrown in jail, and labeled a sex offender for the rest of thier life?

As far as the consequences suffered by ones church, I agree, that varies widely. It shouldn't, but it does.

I live here too's picture
I live here too

Tax the Churches! If they want to preach politics, then they can pay the entry fee like everyone else.

Pterocarya frax...

CAN WE GET AN AMEN??? Amen Brother!

Stop It

AMEN!!!

The Big Dog's back

AMEN!

red white and blue

amen........

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