Since the recent Supreme Court ruling, and the follow up pressure on companies, nonprofits, and churches, I’ve had a number of pastors ask me if they should put an official statement about the church’s view of marriage on their website. The thinking is that putting out a public statement will let people know upfront their position and save any confusion later. My friend Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Church in Dallas, supports that view, and we’ve actually discussed the wording of their statement. When we initially discussed it, my first inclination was “no.” After all, why highlight an issue before it’s an issue? Especially when it just involves roughly 4% of the population. But Jack got me thinking (as usual), so I asked a range of respected leaders their opinion. I’ve listed a handful below, starting with “No, don’t do it” to “Yes, do it.” Let me know what you think:
From Jonathan Bock, Founder of Grace Hill Media in Los Angeles:
When it comes to church policy with complicated cultural issues like this, I‘m in favor of something I like to call “the divorce rule.” Any intellectually honest reading of the Bible would conclude that most divorce is sinful – yet few churches would put out a blanket statement on their website stating divorce is a sin. Why is that? Well, plenty of reasons: we all have friends, relatives and neighbors who are divorced, our churches are full of divorced people, and the cultural stigma surrounding divorce has essentially gone the way of spats and straw hats. But mostly it’s because we understand that divorce is deeply personal and painful, and requires a loving, empathetic and nuanced response borne out of relationship. Now that doesn’t change the biblical truth of divorce, but over-simplifying it with a blanket statement on a website doesn’t help anybody.
My advice: churches should write their official statement on gay marriage, then replace the word “homosexuality” with “divorce” in the statement. Then ask your fellow church leaders if they would put that statement out there on their website. If not, then stick it in a drawer and handle the Biblical questions of same-sex marriage how they should be handled – in relationship and in love.
Sam Chand, founder of Sam Chand Consulting:
A lot of churches want to build a firewall of protection via amending their Constitution, Bylaws, Doctrinal Statements of Beliefs, Policies & Procedures and their social media including websites. My personal opinion is that if a church has a stated and publicized a Statement of Faith then amending that to include the church’s position on same-sex marriage is appropriate—the church is not calling out one issue. However, to put a statement just to address that one issue is not recommended—it uninvites the “whosoevers”.
Mark DeMoss, founder of DeMoss Public Relations:
Many ministries, particularly churches, have adopted a strategy and practice of not discussing these issues publicly—choosing instead to “have [private] conversations” with those personally affected when the opportunity arises. Given the sensitivities inherent in this subject, this is an understandable posture to assume. However, it presents some challenges in the public relations arena—most notably that you can never have a conversation with everyone who has questions about the subject, for all of them will not come forward requesting a meeting for a conversation. For this reason, I strongly recommend formalizing—and making known— your position (theology/statement of faith) and your practical policies as foundational components of your organization.
Russell Moore, President – Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
I believe a church should define marriage in Christian terms in the church’s confession of faith. In a time when basic concepts of marriage and sexuality are confused, the church should articulate what marriage is, just as the New Testament church did over and against pagan sexual ethics. The church’s confession should define sin in order to extend mercy.
It’s a range of recommendations. Church leaders, what are your opinions, and what will you choose to do?