The June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage has sent the church world reeling. Questions like, “How can we protect ourselves as the church?” already have been coming to me. I’ve done a bit of reading on the matter and I share with you a free publication by the Alliance Defending Freedom that outlines what you can do in your bylaws and other policy documents to protect yourself if you choose not to perform same-sex marriages or from your facilities being used for the same purpose.
The booklet can be found at the following link.
The booklet gives the following as a checklist for churches to follow that necessitates the writing of a number of documents that then must become the official stance of the church. The checklist of documents needed is as follows:
- A Statement of Faith
- Religious Employment Criteria
- Facility Use Policy
- Formal Membership Policy
- Marriage Policy
My understanding (remember that I am not a lawyer) is that already there is some measure of protection for the local church and pastor given the resolutions previously passed by our national assembly. On June 26, 2014 the General Assembly of the Church of God passed the attached resolution that can be found here.
However, if your local church wants to have assurance that you are protected, you may want to consider creating the documents needed as listed above and in making the necessary amendments to your church bylaws.
Your state office may have some example documents for you to follow as templates but, as in all such matters, we encourage you to seek legal counsel on whatever you do.
As Christian believers we need to be aware that while the Supreme Court has redefined the meaning of marriage, Jesus is still Lord and God is still sovereign. Take heart in that.
Randy Spence is the Director of Ohio Ministries of the Church of God