#ourCOG Applicants for Ministry – Same-Sex Marriage: Discussion on Church of God General Assembly
Historical and Biblical Position:
- The institution of marriage was established and ordained by God (Genesis 2:24).
- Therefore “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).
- Therefore, “marriage is honorable” (Hebrews 13:4).
- In spite of the progressive normalization of alternative lifestyles and the growing legal acceptance of same-sex unions, opposition is declared to to any deviation from traditional marriages of male and female.
- Notwithstanding the rulings of the court systems of the land and state legislatures or laity in support of same-sex unions, it is resolve resolutely firm to never allow the sanctioning of same-sex marriages by its clergy or laity nor recognize the legitimacy of such unions.
Adopted by the 75th International General Assembly (p. 158-159, S63) in GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR MINISTERS
II. Marriage and Same-Sex Relationships
A. The Church of God rejects the cultural, political, and theological pressures to change the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. We affirm this definition based on God’s Word and the truth that Christian marriage between a man and a woman reflects the theological truth of Christ’s love for His Church.
B. Church of God ministers, whether an ordained minister or ordained bishop, shall only perform or participate in marriage ceremonies or marriage blessings between one man and one woman, as marriage is defined in the Bible. This policy also is applicable to Church of God ministers who serve in capacities outside the scope of normal pastoring, such as military, hospital, and corporate chaplains.
C. Local Church of God churches and the local Church of God ministers who serve them shall only hold, provide facilities for, conduct or preside over weddings, wedding receptions, and anniversaries (and other gatherings related to weddings, receptions, and anniversaries) that celebrate a marriage or blessing between one man and one woman, as marriage is defined in the Bible.
D. Church of God ministers shall maintain a Christ-like attitude of love, mercy, and grace, when counseling or otherwise dealing with individuals in same-gender relationships. A Christ-like spirit will maintain the truth of God’s Word, the policies of the church, and avoid inappropriate remarks or attitudes that do not reflect the Holy Spirit.
E. Church of God ministers shall seek to find godly counselors to whom they can refer individuals in same-gender relationships for additional ministry and guidance.
F. Failure of Church of God ministers to adhere to these biblically based guidelines will result in forfeiture of ministerial credentials.
Statement of the Church of God Regarding Same-Sex Marriage Court Decision [dated June 26, 2015]
Steps to avoid a lawsuit after U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage [by Brotherhood Mutual]
1) Include a spiritual purpose provision in your governing documents/bylaws. Be sure your organizational governing documents clearly state your ministry’s spiritual purpose, your reliance on scripture, and the intent to advance the ministry in accordance with scripture. Where appropriate, quote scripture within the purpose statement.
2) Include a morals clause in your employee handbook. Be sure your employee handbook includes a policy telling your organization’s employees that the church expects them to support its spiritual purpose and behave in accordance with it. Including such a clause in your handbook, when applied consistently, can go a long way toward protecting the church from employment-related lawsuits.
3) Respond with sensitivity. Train your clergy, staff, and volunteers to approach individual needs and requests with empathy. Although you cannot meet every request or demand, the manner in which you convey your response is sometimes as important as what you have decided.
4) Consult with local counsel. When revising organizational documents and ministry policies and procedures, involve a local attorney. A wide variety of federal, state, and local laws apply to employment and facilities use, and consulting with a local attorney can provide guidance on any state-specific and local legal issues that you may encounter. You also should contact your attorney and your insurance agent any time you anticipate a claim against the church.
All ministries, whether supportive of same-sex unions or not, should recognize and understand the potential impact of this ruling. Following the steps listed above can help ministries continue to operate in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs and avoid claims of improper discrimination. Contact a local attorney for assistance with creating policies and procedures and for help in understanding how the law applies to your ministry.