How Churches Can Avoid the Nightmare of Lawsuits over Wedding Ceremonies

WEDDING

This is simple and perhaps even simplistic, I admit, but, I guarantee you it is at least one first step to avoid legal problems, that is, if you object to performing gay marriages.

(Disclaimer: I have voiced my opinion as to gay marriage plenty of times in different ways with the same main thrust, so, this is not an opinion on gay marriage but an advice to Churches that want to avoid the nightmare of lawsuits.)

Many Protestant churches reject the idea of marriages as a sacrament. Too bad that they perform and require that marriages be performed by their ministers as if it were a sacrament. However, many of these Churches use wedding ceremonies as a revenue generator for the Church and even rent their facilities for other ministers to perform marriages of people outside of the host Church membership. Well, that was fine and dandy up until now, but, unless Churches find a way not to “have it both ways” or, a quasi sacrament, whereas saying is not one, which they charge everyone to offer, and even offer it to people whose spiritual life they do not oversee, Churches will be open for all kinds of lawsuits because now we have a different, uncommon before, group of people who feel that, in spite of the fact that they never cared for that church facility in their neighborhood, and even when it is not in their neighborhood, they want to challenge that Church by wanting to have their gay marriage in that specific facility. In my not expert opinion, as it is plain to see, and as I consult friends of mine who are attorneys, it will be hard for that Church ministers to deny their facilities to perform a gay marriage on the basis of religion, since they only have an “expectancy” that the people whose weddings are performed in there are indeed religious people. My discussion here is not whether it is right to sue a Church for that or not, my discussion is that it will be hard for a Church to prove that they are not discriminating!

What then can be done?

Number one, from start, Churches should get out of the business of performing marriages. By that I mean, they should not charge for that which they believe to be a function of the Church. Otherwise they have to deny that such ceremonies are relevant and the function of the Church. They can’t have it both ways. They cannot charge; perhaps a nominal fee is fine for “maintenance” purposes, such as removal of flowers, or things of this nature, or cleaning the “social hall”, if the reception is also carried in its facilities, but charging a fee for the marriage itself, should be a “no, no”.

Then, not only should Churches not use weddings for a revenue generator by charging wedding fees, but also they should perform, or bless marriages of members of their congregations only, or the people whom the Ministers of that Church oversee spiritually. That means that they would not rent their facilities for marriages of people outside those who are under spiritual supervision of the ministers of that Church, whom they know, counsel, pray with, and to whom they offer communion regularly. I know that this will hurt churches financially, but it will hurt even more to have a lawyer in their payroll or to pay expensive legal fees to dispute lawsuits. All that is happening may be a Sovereign act of God in turning Churches more like the Body of Christ, and turn to their main purpose here on earth than to simply “server” the community as a venue for community indiscriminant celebrations.

In fact, Churches who want to avoid lawsuits, as long as it is legal to present issues (which is about to be legally debated in America) to your members, you should have a formal teaching plan where you teach your members about sin, sexuality, marriage, along with all your doctrinal foundations such as justification, the Trinity, etc. That alone will prevent anyone who disagrees with you from even the desire to be in your zip code, let alone get married in your Church!

Lastly, Churches should write all the above in their Constitution and By-Laws and ensure, assure and reassure that such is being followed to the letter!

How can this protect a Church?

Some may ask how these measures will help a Church avoid lawsuits; let me ask them that if you want to fly shirtless in an airplane there will always be a hard nose flight attendant, or steward, whatever they call it nowadays, to tell you that “it is not the company policy that people fly shirtless”. Churches need to know what their policy is. Whether they choose to perform gay marriage or not, they have to enact a policy that is understood by the community so as not to invite anyone even to consider attempting to violate such policy. That, added to the Constitutional provisions will aid a Church to be protected against most of the lawsuits and local ordinances that ultimately violate the Constitution right to assemble, which may be interpreted with “right to associate with likeminded folks”, freedom of speech, or religion and freedom to worship as one desires.

The advantages of a well established policy in their Statutes and By-Laws will be that Churches will get out of the “wedding business”, will be able to bless only the marriages of whom they oversee whereas being kindly and legally able to sustain a claim that any rejection of weddings of the general public within their walls is not discrimination.

The time has come, and again, I think by God’s Sovereign Act of disciplining the Body of Christ, that His Churches function more as the “assembly of those who worship God” and are under the supervision of a duly established Pastor or Bishop (the overseer) and not a community pleasing organization in the sense that, instead of “Christianizing the community, they are allowing the community to worldanize the church.”

Whatever has befallen to some Churches and Ministers in facing lawsuits from gay activists because of denial of facilities and ministerial blessing of a gay wedding (if such lawsuits are still in vogue…) is often the Churche’s fault for not safeguarding the mission that God commanded them to fulfill. Now a couple, from that church or not, can walk up to a minister, “rent” the church facilities for the wedding, either pay the minister of that Church for the wedding or bring their own minister and all is good. How is that not a fertile ground for all kinds of legal problems, including discrimination, if these same Churches deny the same facility and ministerial blessing to anyone? How is that not transforming a religious act, or a quasi sacrament for some, and a real sacrament for others, into a business? Want to keep your wedding revenues coming? If they do, save them because you will have to spend it all in lawyers and lawsuits and it will be your fault; you will lose! Sadly, the only way to avoid discrimination lawsuits is to discriminate by performing ONLY marriages of people within your Ministerial Oversight, or, the members of your congregation who agree to your definition of sin, marriage, sexuality, etc.

Christianity is a faith with no temple made by man’s hands; however this cannot be an excuse to consider a place of worship a “party hall” for the community and not even the “favorite wedding chapel” of the community. Without transforming church buildings in shrines, Churches must understand the difference between an exclusive worship place and the “community center”. This is old fashion but efficacious in swatting away lawsuit bugs. That can be achieved starting by ending the urge to generate revenues by providing a venue for non-member weddings.

Wait… Kentucky expects @AiGKenHam to break Federal Law? I’m shocked…

No, I am not a Young Earth Creationist – I take Scripture too seriously to be one. And I have been against this fiasco since the beginning, altogether thankful they didn’t bring it West Virginia.

But this is a hoot.

Tax incentives for the Noah’s Ark theme park in Northern Kentucky are in jeopardy over the state’s concern about possible religious discrimination in hiring, records obtained by The Courier-Journal show.

“The Commonwealth doesn’t believe that Ark Encounter, LLC will be complying with state and Federal law in its hiring practices,” Bob Stewart, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said in an Aug. 27 letter to an Ark Encounter attorney.

via Kentucky Ark Park possible discriminatory hiring jeopardizes tax incentives.

Christians do not behead

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder o...

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder of Liberty University (en), was a Christian pastor and televangelist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have seen the pictures and videos (or, preferably, read the headlines) about the horrible atrocities committed by ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist groups (plenty of Muslims oppose ISIS). They do so to appease their god and to keep the land/movement holy. They do so because the believe in the wrath of their malformed god.

Christians long ago gave up beheading for crimes. Indeed, the last major spate of beheadings occurred during the French Revolution. Many of us consider the death penalty wrong. Some do not. Many Christians in those two various camps, however, believe in caring for the poor, healing the sick, and extending a hand of mercy to the downtrodden.

However, there are some Christians who believe every great sign of misfortune is the Wrath of God. These are closeted Supralapsarianists; these are fatalists. For Pat Robertson, every time the wind destroys his combover, he is sure it is because of the LGBT community. For others, such as Jerry Falwell, diseases such as HIV/AIDS are sent by God to destroy this or that demographic and even those who support those demographics! Indeed, because of Falwell’s influence, the United States was slow and failed to help contain the AIDS epidemic that brought death to gays and straights. We are left to wonder how much of our foreign policy is set not by what is best for the country, but because some believe the end of the world is near.

Such is this plague theology; such is fatalism.

Christians still have to answer for it even while other Christians side with the likes of Westboro Baptist Church (albeit with a slightly less vengeful tone). The internet is littered with tombstones of statements and a graveyard of blog posts from these two camps — one begging for mercy, compassion, and a scientific understanding while the other demands vengeance, death, and laughs at the terrible plight of victims. Both claim Christ.

Today, the world watches in horror as the Ebola virus spreads, nearly past the point of containment, on the African continent. When we go to help, the Christian pundits are there to rain heaps of coal upon our head. Doctors Candida Moss and Joel Baden have tried to assuage this wave of hate, but the internet is once again becoming a dark place where Christians get to laugh while many die.

In Congress, however, the Republican Party is deciding right now (or has decided) to gut the President’s request for funding to fight and contain Ebola. Led by Hal Rogers, the committee will cut more than half of the funding request. He is known as the “Prince of Pork,” so why doesn’t he support this bill? We do know he is unfriendly to any paradigm shift in the American cultural landscape and supports religious exemptions to Obamacare.

I am not speaking of Christians who identify with the libertarian spectrum, as they have a philosophical stance against government involvement. Rather, I am speaking about those Christians who would rather support the military-industrial complex than help those they believe are under the judgment of God. Their goal, seemingly, is death.

While Christians do not behead our enemies — rather, we do not behead those we believe suffer under or cause God’s wrath — we have other ways to allow for their death. Christians get elected as Republicans, or Tea Party members, and move to block funding to prevent diseases in some way. Indeed, while Christians no longer behead, we have found a perfectly easy way to reach the same goal. We just let them die and call it God.

While these Christians are doing this, Churches like the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations are mustering their resources and specially trained teams to fight the crisis.

Donatism & Church Unity #DreamUMC #UMCSchism

: United Methodist Church

: United Methodist Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Joel is on vacation, I promised him I would contribute a few original posts this week on here. For the past year, Joel has given more of his energy to the United Methodist Church and the -ism Schism controversies within it. What are the reasons for schisms, and who are calling for them. There are some rather unwise persons out here in Christianity calling for schism over their pet issues, without even knowing what it means historically. Do they not understand that schismatics desire bloodshed? The history of Schisms in Church history is a rather gory one. The Protestant Reformation brought with it about a century of warfare between Catholics and Protestants. The Eastern/Western Schism in the 11th century was followed by the anti-Greek Orthodox Crusades in the 14th century and the invasion of Constantinople. In the late 15th century, Christopher Columbus declared Indians as non-persons, and pretty soon Africans replaced First Nations persons as the enslaved class, only to have thousands of “Christians” die in battle for the right to own other people during the U.S. American Civil War.

What I am trying to say is this: religious bloodshed does not happen in a vacuum. The context for each of these conflicts is church schism. The one primary example of church schism is the Donatist controversy. Blood was shed on both sides. The Donatists rejected men as bishops if they were suspected of turning over fellow Christians and the already rare copies of sacred writings. The Donatists believed their words and actions made them the one true Pure Church. The debate became about tribalism versus the Church Universal. I don’t think the Donatists were in error; they just needed to understand our righteousness comes from Christ, and not our own beliefs or commitments.

I do believe it is possible for progressives and conservatives to fellowship together. When yet another leader of the NeoCalvinist movement was selected to a high position within the Southern Baptist Convention, I said to myself this is problematic. I mean, I live across the street from Southern Baptists who identify as more Armininan. The Southern Baptist church I attend is labelled as “liberal” by Al Mohler because it ordains women deacons, and yesterday, we had the honor of having an ordained UMC elder provide the sermon for us yesterday. Her message was a testimony to the possibilities of church unity. Not only did she recognize the persecution of Christians around the world, but also the racial divisions that keep us separated here at home. She reminded us of Paul’s teaching of biblical solidarity, that Christians are all of one body. Schism is an attempt by one limb of the body in order to several all the others off. Schismatics are inherently prone to violence, and they will inevitably fail.

The UMC and Rights of Workers

NJ - Morristown: Morristown United Methodist C...

Image by wallyg via Flickr

4135.Rights of Workers

I. Biblical/Theological Background

Scripture teaches that human beings, created in the image of God, have an innate dignity (Genesis 1:27). God grants dignity to work by commanding human beings to be stewards of the land and to till and keep the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). Work is one way through which human beings exercise their God-given creativity.

Scripture also teaches that an economic system should be ordered so that employees receive justice at their place of work and that concern for right relationships among people and with all of creation should be the heart of any economic system. Society and its institutions are to be structured so that marginalized persons participate fully in the shaping of society and their own future. Both the Old and the New Testaments show God’s desire that wealth and prosperity of society be shared. God’s covenant with the Jewish people required them to respect the gifts that God gave them and share them with one another. God condemned the bondage and abusive conditions the Pharaoh imposed upon the Israelites. The Hebrew Prophets decried the growing disparities of wealth and poverty. The Book of Acts describes an early Christian community that shared its goods with one another and throughout both Testaments, God’s people are urged to give special concern for widows, orphans, and immigrants. The basic principles are clear: all workers should be treated with respect and dignity, disparities of wealth and poverty should be avoided, workers should earn wages that sustain themselves and their families, and employers have a particular responsibility to treat workers fairly and empower them to organize to improve conditions.

The concern of The United Methodist Church for the dignity of workers and the rights of employees to act collectively is stated in the Social Principles. Both employer and union are called to “bargain in good faith within the frame work of the public interest” (¶ 163B). In response to the increasing globalization of the economic system, the widening disparity between rich and poor, and attempts to deprive workers of their fundamental rights, the church reaffirms its position in support of workers and their right to organize.

And that’s not all. For the rest, click here.

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The ELCA Position on Worker’s Rights

20px Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, B...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know much about the polity of the ECLA, but this is a statement from them:

ELCA Churchwide Assembly Action CA91.06.35

Passed by the 1991 Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Florida.

Whereas
To approve the following recommendation of the Reference and Counsel Committee as amended:

Whereas, Our Lutheran traditions affirm the basic dignity of the individual, and we place a high value on the human person and consider human well-being an important criterion for determining moral and ethical commitments; and

Whereas, Our faith makes us particularly sensitive to those who are adversely affected by economic dislocation and powerlessness; and

Whereas, The collective-bargaining process is fundamental for the attainment of economic justice in American society; and

Whereas, In those instances where the two parties are unable to reach an agreement, employees have the right to engage in a legal work stoppage or strike; this right to withhold labor as a last resort is an integral part of the collective-bargaining process; and

Whereas, For many years, it was generally recognized that employees who engaged in a legal work stoppage as part of the collective-bargaining process would not be penalized by the permanent loss of their jobs; and in more recent time a growing number of employees have responded to these legal work stoppages by hiring persons to replace permanently the striking workers, and, unfortunately, this practice is allowed under existing labor laws, but until recent years was not widely used by employers; and

Whereas, This practice is a direct threat to the collective-bargaining process as it has developed in this country since the mid-1930s, causing hardship in families and entire communities where employees have, in effect, been fired from their jobs for engaging in collective-bargaining, and a weakened collective-bargaining process deprives American workers of their right to participate effectively in decisions that impact their lives and future; and

Whereas, Legislation to protect the rights of striking workers is being considered in U.S. Congress and various state legislatures; now, therefore, be it

Resolved
RESOLVED, that the 1991 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

  1. offer its support and prayers for labor and management who engage in collective-bargaining to reach acceptable agreements in their working relationship;
  2. urge employers, corporations, and workers to commit themselves to negotiated settlements;
  3. express concern for workers and their families who endure hardship and job insecurity due to the breakdown of the traditional collective-bargaining practices;
  4. call for and end to recriminations against workers who participate in strikes;
  5. call upon the appropriate churchwide units, synods, congregations, and members to support legislation that would strengthen the viability of negotiated settlements and prevent the permanent replacement of striking workers;
  6. call upon the Division for Church in Society to have available information to assist the members of this church to understand these issues; and
  7. commit itself to public policy advocacy and advocacy with corporations, businesses, congregations, this church, and church-related institutions to protect the rights of workers, support the collective-bargaining process, and protect the right to strike.
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Some thoughts on Ferguson

Let me begin by saying what this is not…this is not me taking a side in the issue nor is it me trying to give an opinion of blame toward anyone involved. This is not me trying to comment on race in America and whether or not it is a true issue or not. This is not really anything except my pain over the situation played out in type. Nothing more, nothing less.

What has happened is all together tragic. A young man lost his life and any loss of life is tragic. Another man took that life, and that is also tragic. Living with that is a terrible burden. Whether those two things were justifiable or not, the tragedy of both is what is left behind. In the ensuing rush to lay blame, two people also have had their reputations damage in ways that are terribly unfair to them, and to us who follow the story trying in vain to make an attempt at understanding what transpired. It seems that we have a need to find someone to blame. It is the fault of an officer of the law who took things to far, or perhaps he was a racist monster who saw an opportunity to act (incidentally, there is not evidence that this is the case), perhaps he was afraid for his safety as he had been assaulted before this occurred as is now being reported. We simply do not know as the details and evidence have been handled poorly in their release to the media, and then to us. Perhaps the young man was a criminal who needed apprehending, perhaps he was a young man walking in the street who became afraid of authority for whatever reason, perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again we simply do not know. What we do know is the aftermath…

People protested and police responded poorly, riots began and looting soon followed with more poor response by authorities. Those in charge of the situation seem to change daily, government officials make conflicting, insensitive and often nonsensical statements about what has and is to happen. Community leaders try to calm things while the community, and in some cases those from outside the community, continue to incite violence and disruption. So called leaders and authorities on race relations, fuel flames instead of trying to put them out. In some cases they attempt to raise money for their causes. Those who support police and their authority cite reports and claim that even more drastic measures are needed, that our police need to be better armed and equipped for these occurrences. Some call for taking away the military hardware from police as it makes them, however unintentionally, more aggressive. the drama continues and the tragedy plays itself out further.

We have lost hope it seems. We are quick to believe the worst and can not bring ourselves to believe the best. We think the officer a racist, or the young man a criminal. We see things falling apart, but never strive to put them together. We forget that the only hope is in Christ and Christ alone, and instead look to so called leaders for it. We seek soundbites of society but do not look toward the security of scripture. Those same scriptures say if you seek Me you will find Me…surely the opposite is also true…if we seek that what is not of God then we will surely find it as well. That is what is happening here. That is what is happening to all of us it seems.

I know this is a bit rambling and somewhat disconnected, but as I said, this is my pain played out. I want to end here with a quote from a displaced Christian currently in Baghdad Iraq. His name is unknown but he was quoted in a local news paper. This man has lost everything. His family, his home, his livelihood, and most of his village. This is what he had to say: “”Even if there is a bomb attack today, tomorrow we will go back to work,
because we are convinced that Jesus cares for us. He will restore His Kingdom one day, this is my hope.” MY prayer, and I hope the prayer of those reading as well, will be that we all learn to hold to this hope. This hope will see us through. This hope will give strength and endurance for the day. This hope will bring peace to a weary soul. I am not an authority in anything, but I do believe that the letter written to Titus has wisdom and instruction for us in these times that are so unsettled: “Tit 2:11 After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people.
Tit 2:12 It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world.
Tit 2:13 At the same time we can expect what we hope for-the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Tit 2:14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Tit 2:15 Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you. ”
With whatever authority I have, I encourage you to hope and correct the lack of hope. I encourage you to hope for the appearance of our shared savior. I encourage you to remember that we have been set free from sin. I use what little authority I have, and I will not let you ignore me so long as you continue to read anyway. Hope…The Blessed Hope…this is what we are to hold onto and never let go of. Thus endeth my rant.

Do we suffer from “cultural blindness?”

When the news first broke of ISIS’s beheading of children, some those of my political persuasion took to social media to question the stories, eye-witness testimonies, and pictures.

Perhaps this is because if the lies told by the previous administration in its lead up to invading Iraq. However, there is another side…

Since 9/11 we have encountered the “Islam is a religion of peace” argument so as to insure we do not look at all Muslims as fundamentalists. This is accurate and needed but some think we have gone too far… so far in fact that we cannot see the dangerous history of Islam and how it is practiced, or preached with a hope of practicing.

I am led to wonder if we are not caught by surprise at the danger of fundamentalism of any stripe because we want to think better about people, or rather, we do not want to thank bad about an entire people. I’m with that – I do not want Christianity judged by oneness holiness sects – but on the other hand, we have dangerous elements and tendencies to evil that cannot be ignored.

That’s where this story comes in at.

Academics who ignored the facts of what happens to minorities in ‘jihad zones’ allowed ‘cultural blindness and intellectual amnesia’ to distort policy making in Iraq leaving minorities exposed to terror, claims a jihad expert.

I don’t know if I agree or not… But it is an interesting read…

Remembering The Past may be good therapy!

I struggled to publish this here, but this is from the 90’s when I used to be a TV translator, lip-synchronizer  and dubber. The face is familiar, but ONLY THE VOICE is mine! It was viewed and heard by circa 100 million people around the world, 40 million in Brazil alone. Today is still viewed in Portuguese speaking countries still with my voice!

Of course, today, because I am a Calvinist (since the late 90’s) I decided this no longer to be appropriate to me for my own financial and professional loss. If you can stand it, wait until he starts weeping and see “how good” I really was at it!!!! Therapy for me, SICKNESS for you… perhaps!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ycih-BmuJ8

Listen to ISIS’s Story – the one where they behead children

A French post card showing Yezidi leaders meet...

A French post card showing Yezidi leaders meeting with a chaldean clergyman in Mesopotamia. Yezidis are part of the Gnostic cult of Angels. A mysterious religion that seems to have been influenced by Islam and Zoroasterism. Today they number 200,000 mostly living in Iraq and Syria. They are mostly Kurds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have thus far attempted to focus on local issues on this blog, but…

I am not a pacifist. I do not believe it is justifiable, either by Scripture or Tradition. I believe in Just War. I likewise believe in the preservation of human life.

The only thing ISIS wants us to hear is that they intend to destroy all opposition to the Caliphate, including women and children.

“Christianity in Mosul is dead, and a Christian holocaust is in our midst,” said Mark Arabo, a Californian businessman and Chaldean-American leader. In an interview with CNN’s Jonathan Mann, he called what’s happening in Iraq a “Christian genocide” and said “children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.”

via Leader: ISIS is ‘Systematically Beheading Children’ in ‘Christian Genocide’ | CNS News.

We know the Yazidi are being systematically destroyed. This is a genocide.

This is not about the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah. This is about the slaughter of men, women, and children — rape, brutal murder…

I voted for the President, in part, because he promised to keep us out of Iraq. I do not want to be in Iraq. In fact, I believe that the history of Western colonization of the Middle East has helped to lead us to to this point. But, regardless — we are here.

This is not Rwanda. This is Iraq.

ISIS has only one story to tell — death.

I believe our rejoinder should be just, merciful and quick. We have no need to listen to the narratives of these people. We need to shut them up without any hope of rebuttal.

If we do nothing, our story will be one of hell and may God give us the same fate we allow others to suffer.