Make church policies clear, complementary, loving
    September 18 2015 by Brian K. Davis, BSC Associate Executive Director-Treasurer

    Following the June 26 action of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage, I developed a training seminar that I have conducted across the state with church and associational leaders. The framework for the conversation comes from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV).
     
    Working through this important verse of scripture, I have written multiple articles for the Biblical Recorder about the power the church has to establish its own policies for weddings and the use of facilities. This is the last article to address the matter of policies. I offer several cautions as congregations begin the process of reviewing, revising, and as necessary, drafting wedding and facility-use policies.
     
    First, policies should be clearly focused. Some churches are trying to address too many issues in a single policy, and as a result, the policy is difficult to understand and implement. For example, a wedding policy should focus on the wedding regardless of where it might take place in the church’s facilities. Some churches have weddings in the sanctuary, chapel, fellowship hall and even outside at other structures on the property.
     
    Keep the focus of the wedding policy on the wedding; don’t try to address all of the details regarding the facilities being used. A separate facility-use policy may be necessary. The wedding policy should refer to the facility-use policy, but not repeat it.
     
    In addition, some churches are placing statements in their wedding policies about employment matters. I’ve seen wedding policies that outline how ministers will be disciplined, even terminated, for participating in weddings in violation of the wedding policy. Matters regarding employment should be placed in the appropriate personnel policy, not elsewhere. Does the couple seeking marriage need to know how the church might discipline, even terminate a minister? Of course not, so make sure that policies are clear in their focus.
     
    Second, policies should be complementary, not contradictory. As noted above, a good wedding policy will focus on the wedding and refer couples to the facility-use policy to address questions related to how the church expects facilities to be utilized in the wedding.  In this way the two policies complement each other. But make sure that a facility-use policy doesn’t make it impossible to actually conduct the wedding.
     
    Some churches limit the use of the facilities to church members only, but also have a wedding policy that allows non-members to be married; contradictions between policies can create problems. This is a good time to review all policies, not only those concerning weddings and use of facilities, to determine if contradictions exist. Then take steps to address those contradictions before a problem arises.
     
    Third, as I stated in the first installment of this series on the power enjoyed by the church to establish policies, make sure that policies do not contradict bylaws. Remember, the policies are legally binding and sufficient for guiding and protecting the church. However, any disagreement between policies and bylaws will be decided by what’s stated in the bylaws; bylaws trump policies when disagreement is found in these governing documents.
     
    Fourth, do not make assumptions. Sometimes it seems obvious that everyone in the church knows a particular expectation exists for weddings or facility-use, but the hope is that the church continues to engage in ministry for many years. If that happens, people will come and go – including pastors and other church members. Make sure the language of policies, expectations and promises are clearly stated so those who come along in the years to come can understand the intention of the policy.
     
    Here, we must make an important transition in this conversation from the spirit of power given by God to the spirit of love given by God. Even the language of the church’s official policies should be seasoned with grace and motivated by love. It is possible that well-crafted policies, implemented with loving compassion, can open the doors for gospel conversations. The church is in great need to enter into such conversations with those in our communities that have chosen to enter into relationships outside of the bounds of scripture; this is true for all couples living outside of God’s expectations, not just same-sex couples.
     
    In the next article we’ll turn our attention more fully to the God-given spirit of love Paul proclaimed. We’ll discover how the actions of U.S. Supreme Court may be viewed as a great opportunity to engage in disciple-making in ways that we simply have not considered in the past.
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian K. Davis is associate executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

    Related Stories:
    Churches should not fear court action
    Facing legal action, churches have a ‘spirit of power’
    BSC offers resources for wedding, facility policies
    Proclaiming the fullness of God’s love
    How churches can avoid three ‘dangerous assumptions’

    9/18/2015 12:29:18 PM by Brian K. Davis, BSC Associate Executive Director-Treasurer | with 0 comments
    Filed under: church policies, same-sex marriage




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