Blog Home » Articles posted by SpeakUpChurch (Page 4)

by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Pastors, your church needs you to be engaged—fully engaged—in the issues people are facing every day. Maybe you are not personally facing these issues, but they might be. If congregants come to you for help and advice and all you say is, “Sorry to hear about this,” then you’ve failed them.

Elaine Hugenin, owner of Elane Photography, chose not to photograph a same-sex ceremony. Her religious convictions prevent her from using her talents to celebrate same-sex unions. When she declined to photograph the ceremony, the same-sex couple, ignoring Elaine’s right to freely exercise her faith, brought a case against Elane Photography and the New Mexico Supreme Court unjustly found her guilty of discrimination, even though the same-sex couple easily found and used another photographer to capture the ceremony.

I can’t help but wonder what counsel her pastor provided, if any?

In a similar situation, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State declined to offer her floral services for a homosexual couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony. The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the flower company. Barronelle Stutzman believes her Christian convictions prevent her from supporting the same-sex “marriage” and does not want to violate her convictions. She is still being sued, even though dozens of flower shops can provide flowers for their ceremony.

What insights did her pastor offer during this troubling time?

When the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop said he would rather close his business than violate his religious convictions by baking a cake for a same-sex ceremony, he was sued for discrimination. He is doing his best to stand firm and adhere to his faith but he is being attacked by locals within the community and the media. The same-sex couple, along with the ACLU, have filed a suit against Masterpiece Cakeshop, even though other bakeries could provide a cake for the ceremony.

What words of wisdom did his pastor offer during his hour of need?

Pastors often talk about controversial issues in a detached manner saying they are outside of the church and her scope. But these are real Christians—members of real churches—whose livelihoods, reputations, and lives are being attacked in a very public way. These issues are not outside the church, but within, and must be addressed so that these Christians can live their faith fully and carry their cross with the strength and support their church provides.

Pastors, congregants need you to be informed, engaged, and buttressed by your support and wisdom. If all you offer them during a difficult time is an obscure Bible verse, you might appear indifferent and uncaring. A shepherd needs to care for the needs of his flock, especially when their livelihood is at stake because of their Christian beliefs.

Pastors must be a solid rock for Christians during trying times when they are being assailed by our enemies.  They must be a counselor, friend, and inspirational resource. Make sure congregants know that they can come to you and count on your support. Here are two ways you can show your congregation your support during difficult times.

1.     Skip the rhetoric. Don’t recite sermons, prepared statements, or doxologies from books. Be a real friend, one who cries with them (Rom. 12:15), and is willing to walk by their side through this valley of darkness. I love sermons, Proverbs, Psalm and great quotes from men of God, but sometimes people just need a shoulder to cry on. Be that shoulder.

2.     Become a resource. (Ecc. 4:12) When a person’s character is being assaulted publicly and their livelihood is threatened, inspiring words only go so far. Become a resource for people in your congregation by making sure you are up-to-date on their situation, aware of laws and people and organizations that can help. Familiarize yourself with groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and your local state family policy council that can provide legal and public policy resources.

Difficult times are opportunities for pastors to minister to the needs of their congregants. You will only be able to minister effectively if you are prepared. As ministers of the Gospel, we should endeavor to be “instant in season and out” (2 Tim. 4:2). When people need us, let’s be ready with God’s Word and the necessary resources to stand with those God has entrusted to our care.

Author

One of the first questions we are usually asked by pastors whose states have redefined marriage and adopted same-sex “marriage” is whether they will be required to allow use of their church buildings for same-sex “wedding” ceremonies.  This is not an unreasonable question considering that at least one city has considered forcing churches to allow use of their buildings for same-sex “weddings.”  But the very simple answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.”  Churches do not have to allow use of their facilities in ways that are inconsistent with their biblical beliefs.

Church buildings are private property and are used primarily for the exercise of religion.  As such, the use of church buildings is cloaked with First Amendment protection both under the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause.  If the government attempts to force a church to use its private property in ways that are inconsistent with its religious beliefs, the government would violate the church’s First Amendment rights.

Put simply, a church has a right to only allow uses of its facilities that are consistent with its religious beliefs and to deny all other uses.  No church should ever feel compelled to open its buildings for use in a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.

The best way to protect your church is to adopt a facility usage policy that outlines the religious nature of the church buildings and restricts usage of the facility to uses that are consistent with the church’s biblical beliefs.  It is always best to adopt a policy governing the use of the facility because a policy is powerful evidence of the church’s beliefs and practice regarding use of its buildings. And if your church adopts a policy, it should follow that policy consistently.

Alliance Defending Freedom has prepared a sample facilities usage policy for churches. This policy is crafted to allow churches to make the decision as to what uses they will allow and to ensure that the church has the ability to approve uses consistent with its biblical beliefs and to deny all other requests to use the church buildings. Download the policy today and consider having your church adopt it.

And if your church is ever told that it must allow use of its facilities for something that is inconsistent with the church’s beliefs, contact our attorneys to review the facts. We want to ensure that the church remains free to minister through its church buildings in ways that are consistent with its religious faith.

Author

by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

I’ve spent a lot of time with pastors encouraging them to get involved and be proactive in defending religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Some are standing tall and speaking boldly. Some are sitting on the sidelines. And many others simply aren’t so sure how to engage a culture that is moving steadily away from biblical truth.

One pastor recently asked me a simple question, “Where do I start?” He was feeling overwhelmed and just needed to know what the first step was in joining the conversation about the critical issues of the day. He also wanted guidance on how best to get his congregation informed and involved.  That got me thinking about how many other pastors nationwide might be feeling the same.

Here is short list of steps every pastor can take to get started.

Step 1:  Knowledge is Power:
Stay informed on the critical issues.

As a pastor, your congregation needs to know they can come to you with questions and concerns about pressing social issues. They want you to engage in intelligent conversation and provide them with the biblical firepower to combat the half-truths and misconceptions perpetuated throughout society. Nothing is more frustrating or discouraging to a church member than to ask their pastor important questions on fundamental religious issues, only to receive vapid responses such as, “I don’t pay attention to trivial things in society,” or “Don’t waste your time reading the news, just read the Bible.”

But there is nothing trivial about the issues of religious liberty, life, and marriage and family. For many church attendees, the issues of life and marriage are central to their everyday lives and they need to know their pastor can handle their questions. Nothing screams “irrelevant” like not having a clue about what is going on in society.

Tip: Use a good news aggregator to stay informed. I use Feedly. This way, instead of having to go to a dozen websites for news, the news will come to you. I recommend following the Engage Family Minute, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Alliance Alert and Speak Up Church Blog, Family Research Council’s FRC Blog, World Net daily, and Life News. If you follow these, you will be well-informed.

Step 2: Spread the Knowledge:
Share information with your congregation.

As a pastor, your congregation looks to you for guidance. A pastor can harness his influence to teach his flock a practical theology—a lived faith that stands tall against liberal trends that mock God’s ways. If a pastor stays informed and shares this Godly information with his congregation, they will increasingly see him as someone they can trust and count on.

When major news happens, talk about it in church. If a pastor ignores crucial events like the Sandy Hook shooting or the Supreme Court rulings on marriage, he will be missing prime teaching opportunities that can bring biblical truths to light. There is more than just a social context to these events; there is an opportunity to share deep biblical truth about God’s design for human dignity, life and marriage. And once your congregation is equipped in this Gospel knowledge, they will be able to share it with all who cross their path.

Tip: Use social media to teach even when you’re not preaching. By using social media, you can have tremendous influence on your congregation even when they are not in church. Don’t be afraid to share articles or comment on events happening in the community and around the country.

Step 3: Faith in Action:
Encourage the flock to be informed and active.

A lot of pastor’s want to steer clear of being “too political” in church. But even if this is the case that doesn’t mean a pastor can’t encourage his congregation to stay informed and be active. Just because your church may not hold a pro-life rally, that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage others to participate in one elsewhere. Many worthwhile national events like the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, National Day of Prayer, and Call 2 Fall provide an excellent opportunity to unite your congregation in a lived faith that sets an example for the community. You can’t simply say you are pro-life or pro-marriage without getting involved. Faith demands action.

By staying informed on local and national events, you can encourage your congregation to be an active light in the community and stand for biblical truth. This can only lead to infinite opportunities to spread the Gospel.

Tip: Set an example for your congregation by personally getting involved. You can do this by letting your church know you are voting and encouraging them to do the same. You can also support a local, state, or national organization as a church and work as a community to bring about lasting change. Organizations like Care Pregnancy Centers can never have enough support. Take action and encourage others to do the same.

These are just three small steps that a pastor can take to advance the Gospel and lead others in standing for God’s truth. If a pastor does not care about biblical issues being assaulted in society, why should their congregation?

It is only once a pastor is armed with knowledge and the will to share and act on it that others will follow. And maybe once this happens, Christians across America will be able to help prevent and overturn bad court decisions such as Roe v. Wade or the striking down of one of the crucial articles of DOMA defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

There are no short-cuts. Our nation’s spiritual leaders must rise to the occasion so that others may follow to preserve religious liberty, life, and marriage and family.

Author

What do I need to do to protect my church?

We receive many questions about what proactive steps churches can take to protect their religious liberty. And with the recent Supreme Court decisions, this issue has taken center stage. Therefore, we have assembled a couple of resources all churches can use to best position themselves for the future.

First, read our resource Seven Things all Churches Should have in their Bylaws. We also have some suggested bylaw language on marriage and human sexuality that will help churches in this regard.

Second, we advise every church to adopt a facilities usage policy that governs use of church facilities for wedding ceremonies. We have created a sample policy for you to use to ensure your church is protected.

Even in those states that adopted same-sex “marriage” or some equivalent, such as civil unions, churches do not have to allow use of their facilities for wedding ceremonies that are inconsistent with their faith. But there is an effort underway in some areas — such as Hawaii and Hutchinson, Kansas — to force churches to allow use of their facilities for same-sex “weddings” if they open their facilities for use by non-members for weddings at all. Passing a facilities usage policy provides a good defense. Put simply, no government official has the right to force a church to allow its facilities to be used for events that violate its religious beliefs.

Never forget that Alliance Defending Freedom is “watching the legal horizon.” We will continue to keep you updated and provide the best ways you as a pastor can respond to protect your church from legal threats.

Author

Written by Paul Coleman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria.

Religious Liberty is in peril worldwide. This blog post, the last in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe.

In recent blog posts, European privatization in regards to the pulpits, private conversations, and work places was discussed. Privatization can be described as the division between religious belief and religious practice. In Europe, people are told that they are able to believe whatever they want, but cannot act on those beliefs in public.

In addition to being privatized in personal relations and in the workplace, Christianity is being privatized in the marketplace. Although this is a relatively new development, several European countries have now passed laws making it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of goods or services.

In the Netherlands, following amendments to the Equal Treatment Act, a company was sued for refusing to make bath towels that advertised an organization which promoted homosexual behavior. The company had made it clear on its website that it would not do any work that it considered blasphemous or offensive to the morals of the company. Although the company eventually won its case, business owners in the United Kingdom have been less successful.

Following the introduction of various pieces of anti-discrimination legislation—which, among other things, prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation—guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull were successfully sued by a same-sex couple for refusing to provide a double-bedded room. Since 1986 the Bulls have had a policy that “as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples—Thank you.”

The British courts found this policy discriminatory, and their small guesthouse, operated from within their own home, now faces closure. Other guesthouses have also been successfully sued for taking a similar position.

While the privatization of faith in the marketplace is still developing, a draft piece of European Union law known as the Equal Treatment Directive will, if passed, drastically increase pressure on business owners, forcing them to provide goods or services that contravene their consciences on threat of being hauled before the courts if they don’t.

Some of the provisions are highly controversial, even for Europe. For example, the proposed directive prohibits “harassment” in the provision of goods and services, which has the vague definition of “unwanted conduct . . . with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.”

The directive also mandates that the nations create “bodies for the promotion of equal treatment” to bring about this “equality.” In the United Kingdom, which has voluntarily adopted many of the provisions of the directive, it was an equality body that launched the litigation against the Christian guesthouse owners mentioned above.

Although the proposal has been stalled for nearly five years, it could be resurrected at any moment. Future litigation is therefore very much a possibility.

So difficult is the situation becoming that the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have now recognized the trend and have held workshops on the subject of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. It may not be too long before persecution is the word being used to describe the phenomenon.

The increasing marginalization of the Church throughout the world should be concerning to all Christians. We must stand firm against the subtle, and not so subtle, attacks on our faith. If you, or your church, experience censorship, punishment, or unlawful regulation for speaking, acting, or ministering in accordance with Biblical principles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom. Perhaps we can provide the legal assistance you need to live out your faith and keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.

________________________

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner on Feb. 15, 2013

Author

Search the Blog

Stay Connected to Speak Up.

View Posts by Author

Authors

ADF

© 2014 Alliance Defending Freedom. All Rights Reserved.