A Legal Guide for Protecting Your Church & Ministry

Gavel.2I recently wrote a blog that detailed 4 steps that every church should take to safeguard the church and the pastor in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I’m sure I will be updating that blog many times as new information and resources come forward.

Two organizations that can be extremely helpful as you wrestle through issues related to this topic are the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. They recently teamed together to produce an extremely helpful document entitled, “Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits.” Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC stated:

Considering just how fast culture is shifting on its views of sexuality and religious liberty, I am thrilled that the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is partnering with our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom to produce a trusted resource sure to help equip Christians and churches. In it, you’ll find trusted resources on how churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries should navigate and prepare themselves for the changing culture and all the attendant legal challenges that come with it.

The document includes three key checklists–a checklist for churches, a checklist Christian schools, and a checklist for Christian Ministries. For example, the church checklist provides help in the following areas:

  • Statement of Faith
  • Religious Employment Criteria
  • Facility Use Policy
  • Formal Membership Policy
  • Marriage Policy

One of the most helpful features of this document is the Appendix which includes numerous sample documents. You can download this document for free on the ELRC website.

For more information and help, please check out our Kentucky Baptist Convention resource page. Also, feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] or at 502-489-3434.

4 Steps Churches & Pastors Should Take Now

Like me, you may be asking, “What steps should we take as a church and what steps should I take as a pastor in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing same-sex marriage?” Here are four steps every church should take to safeguard the church and the pastor.

  1. Update church wedding policy documents. It is very important for the church to develop a document that addresses the issues of marriage, human sexuality, & gender. Here is a Church Wedding Policy sample that you can use as a starting point.
  2. Update facility use policy. It is equally important for the church to develop a comprehensive policy that addresses the use of church facilities. It is not necessary for the church to eliminate all facility use by non-members, but it is important that a governing policy is in place. Even if the church eliminates facility use by non-members and only allows facility use by members, a policy is still needed. Some of the challenges in the area of facility use may come from those who are members or from family members of those who are members. Here’s a facility use sample.
  3. Update membership policies. It is important to have a document that clearly defines how a person becomes a church member; what the expectations are for a person to maintain church membership; and specific circumstances that lead to membership discipline and/or dismissal. Here’s a Church Membership Policy sample.
  4. Update Pastor’s Personal Wedding Policy. For added clarification and protection, it would be wise for every pastor to develop and adopt a personal pastoral wedding policy. In this policy the pastor should share his Biblical views on marriage giving Scriptural support, personal requirements for officiating a wedding, pre-marital counseling expectations, and a fee schedule. Here is a Pastor Wedding Policy sample.

For more information and help, please check out our Kentucky Baptist Convention resource page. Also, feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] or at 502-489-3434.