BSC offers resources for wedding, facility policies
    September 8 2015 by Brian K. Davis, Guest Column

    In the Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 editions of the Biblical Recorder, I wrote about the power churches have to establish policies regarding weddings and the use of church facilities, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to validate same-sex marriage. Now, I want to address the content of these policies.
     
    Lynn Buzzard, retired professor of law from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University, developed for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) samples and templates for church policies regarding weddings and facility use. Those tools have been compiled into a single document and distributed widely.
     
    A review of the material reveals a common thread: policies should identify what the church supports regarding marriage, instead of what it opposes. Some church leaders strive to create policies that address every potential deviation from biblical marriage, including every issue of sexuality. The problem is, you’ll never identify all the issues, nor should you invest time trying. A good wedding policy simply needs to uphold the biblical expectations for marriage and sexuality.
     
    Think of it this way. Bank tellers are trained to identify counterfeit money by studying the real thing. Bank tellers do not invest time studying counterfeits, yet they can easily recognize fake bills.  Tellers know the real thing so well that counterfeits are easily identifiable. This is a proper approach for establishing wedding policies; focus on the real thing. Lift up the biblical model of marriage in policies so that any couple wanting to be married at the church can receive a clear presentation of God’s expectations as outlined in scripture.
     
    If someone desiring to be married in your facilities does not meet those expectations, then the most important conversation can begin: Why don’t you meet these expectations? May I share with you how you can meet these expectations? God created you and has a plan for your life. You may have things out of order at this point in your life, but God desires to help you get your relationships in order. God desires to bring you joy, peace and the fullness of love, which is known through Christ Jesus.
     
    This is a great opportunity to engage a couple in an intentional gospel conversation. Notice that I haven’t singled out same-sex couples in this conversation. It’s possible that numerous heterosexual couples will be convicted by clear biblical expectations in such wedding policies.
     
    This is a good time to ask an important question: Why is your church involved in weddings?  Couples can go to any number of places to be married – magistrates, wedding chapels and so on. What makes a church wedding different?
     
    It is my hope that each church conducts weddings as an expression of its vast ministry of disciple-making. A man and a woman, each having submitted their lives to Christ as Savior and Lord, come together professing that under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, they wish to make lifelong commitments to each other before Christ.
     
    But it doesn’t stop there. This man and woman realize they are also entering a disciple-making relationship. Each is to make efforts to help the other person grow as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to grow together as a couple in Christ.
     
    Additionally, if God so blesses, the couple will endeavor to raise their children in the training and admonition of the Lord – another disciple-making relationship. Finally, the couple is expected to live obediently and fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all people groups. A wedding policy may truly impact marriage if that policy focuses the church on a ministry of disciple-making.
     
    BSC encourages churches to address the “why” of its facility use policy. For example: Why does the congregation have the facility in the first place? If the purpose for the facility is to accommodate its members only, then the outside use of the facility is limited. However, if the facility is to be used to engage the community, then a different result will come about, and a different policy is in order.
     
    If the congregation possesses facilities for community outreach, then facility use policies should clearly state the intention. As a result, the policy should identify the expectation that any group using the facility will fulfill these stated purposes and expectations. Again, much like the wedding policy, a facility use policy should not seek to identify all of the prohibitions for using the facility; rather, it should clearly identify the purpose of the facility.
     
    A good facility use policy also provides a process for reviewing all requests and making final decisions. Churches need to establish a process that its leadership can, and will, consistently follow.
     
    Sadly, churches contact my office saying they adopted policies that are too strict; therefore, they simply decided to make exceptions. A policy will not provide legal protection to the church if it is not consistently applied.  
     
    If you have not received a free copy of “Samples and Templates for the Development of Position Statements on Marriage, Wedding Policies and Facility Use Policies,” please contact my office at bdavis@ncbaptist.org.
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian K. Davis is associate executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

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    9/8/2015 11:27:45 AM by Brian K. Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments
    Filed under: BSC, church policies, same-sex marriage




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