Tuesday, July 28, 2015

COGIC Counsel Issues Guidance On Same Sex Marriage

{Neither Supt. Harvey Burnett nor The Dunamis Word are attorneys, do not offer legal advice nor are engaged in the practice of law. The information contained within this article and this blog in general is not and should not be construed as legal advice. The reader should seek such professionally trained and licensed individuals for such advice and information.}   

The Office Of The General Counsel (OGC) of the Church Of God In Christ issued guidance to all pastors and churches in light of the Supreme Court's recent ratification of gay marriage within the United States.
In a 5 page memorandum General Counsel, Elder Uleses C. Henderson Jr., outlines the issues that the Supreme Court's decision has placed upon member congregations of the Church Of God In Christ, and offers solutions which seem to be in line with an early style and operation of churches and church congregations within COGIC.

Membership Seems To Be The Key

Interestingly enough, the OGC guidance centers around church membership and steers both individuals and churches away from serving the general public or acting as commercially available entities. Here are a few things stated in the memorandum:

To the congregation:

"Local congregations should consider adopting a policy that not only limits weddings, but also funerals and baby dedications to members of the congregation in good standing with the faith and teachings of the Church Of God In Christ. 
“Members in good standing” should be carefully defined as members who offer evidence by their confession and conduct that they are living in accord with the faith, teachings and doctrine of the Church Of God In Christ."

To the minister:
"Consider limiting your official role in weddings to members of your local congregations in good standing with the faith and teachings of the Church Of God In Christ. This way, pastors should have some familiarity with the beliefs and/or lifestyle of the couples they are marrying. We understand that this may appear as a rather brash suggestion, however, until more clarity is provided on the issue, either by your local, state and/or federal legislators, caution should be taken in this area."
Use of the church facility:
"Church leaders should carefully consider the potential downside of entering the commercial marketplace in order to raise church funds. Thus, churches should avoid advertising their facilities for public use. Once a church begins to “look like” it is in the business of facilitating public weddings, it may become subject to non-discrimination commerce laws."
Prior to the commercialization of modern churches, these practices are exactly the practices of the church of old. Churches generally always served the needs of its members and the public generally did not seek out the church for certain celebrations and observances, especially if those observances were contrary to the church doctrines and policies.

Is The World Leading The Church?

The memorandum, which can be read and downloaded HERE and also accessed on
COGIC.org set forth some interesting strategies to safeguard the modern church and congregation from potential fallout of the homosexual lobby.

Fact is that the new law and redefinition of marriage, has been and is being used by gay advocacy groups to strip away the freedoms of non-homosexuals and subvert the church and many of its adherents and leaders are drawing lines in the sand. The Obama White House, which courted COGIC in both election campaigns, even wooing the COGIC Holy Convocation with video taped messages of "congratulations" has proven to be no friend of the church and the religious community in general. Under the Obama Presidency the proliferation of homosexuality and the gay lifestyle has hit historical highs of endorsement, running through the courts at a fever pitch, in spite of the President's supposed "honor" of the church, his "faith" and "respect" for the bible.

Because of these things, in a strange twist, the church, all churches, now feel a need to renew, refine and otherwise overhaul church bylaws and practices. In other words, the church is finding a way to distance itself from the fallout of homosexuality while simultaneously conforming to the law maintaining itself as a church.

It would seem that the church should have and could have easily set the line of demarcation long ago, but refused to define who was a part of the church and how that was to be lived out, because it was enamored with the benefits of its commercial appeal to the world and the attention that it was receiving.

It seems that the world is now helping the church define what it means to be a "member" and set forth clearly what it means to be saved within the Grand Ole Church.  

Critical Issues & A Very Big Problem Looms

There is certainly a glaring problem with all of this. As stated, the problem centers around the definition of membership and what the church and many congregations have allowed up until this point and how something, EVERYTHING, must change.

Please follow this scenario:

Hypothetically: there are people claiming to be members of the church who are homosexual and because of that, do not represent the values and lifestyle of the church. Those individuals have participated and been a part of church functions, and even assisted in proliferating the message of the church. Many individuals in the church know that these individuals are gay, and in most cases even the pastor has that knowledge as well.

Now, that same person wants to be married under the law...They "believe" that they are members of the church and are members "in good standing". They may be gay, but neither the pastor, nor the congregations has ever stopped them from performing. In fact in many cases they have been asked to represent either the church, choir or pastor.

Now, can the pastor deny him/her the opportunity to a same sex marriage? Moreover, can the church deny the use of the facility? 

It would seem that the definition of membership would be the determining factor? If membership is defined as one who participates, gives money and otherwise follows the vision of the church, the church and leader is hard pressed to deny such a one rights to marriage, and consequently the church membership is hard pressed to deny access and use of the facility.

However, if the definition of membership includes FIRST salvation, as it did in the old days, and specific teaching to the individual that they are not saved or in union with Christ or the church having adopted a homosexual lifestyle, then if the church is subject to an annual scrub of a bona-fide, printed and updated membership roll, then the person, no matter how they have participated in the church and church functions, would seem to be lawfully excluded, again, if it has been outlined that their lifestyle prohibits them from being a "member" of the church.

In other words..."YOU CAN NOT JOIN IN, YOU HAVE TO BE BORN IN."

Then,, the use of the church is another factor. Does the church simply lend itself out to individuals for dollars or the return of cash? If so, the building may be brought under subjection even if the pastor is not.

Interestingly, reverting back to COGIC founding principles of salvation, holiness, righteousness and truth, seems to clear up what a member is and what a person has rights to, and simultaneously PROTECTS the church from undue pressure and a potentially acrimonious result in dealing with both the world and church attendees. If only SAVED members can use and have access to the church, then that at least addresses the sincerely held belief section and the usage doctrines that the OGC points out or alludes to.

Conclusion:
In 140AD the heretic and gnostic, Marcion of Sinope, produced his canon or version of what he claimed were the inspired works. Marcion's bible excluded the Old Testament, because he said that the God of the OT was NOT God. He called the OT God a "demiurge".  Marcion mutilated much of the New Testament as well, stripping the words and writings of Paul from their context, throwing out certain books and in many cases presenting only certain parts of the epistles that he felt comfortable with.

The church and church leaders had to respond. They took the works that were already circulating among Christians such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the Epistles of Paul, & Peter and slowly began the process of ordering them together to form what we now know of as the Bible.

Interestingly enough, the Bible became the Bible, not because the church set out to create one, but because the world, through and by Marcion, a heretic who served a different Jesus than Paul, Peter, John, or the Gospels taught, set forth the a vision and wanted acceptance.

It would seem that the homosexual lobby, seeking and demanding acceptance, has inadvertently cause the church to revert itself back to biblical principles and definitions that would clearly, and without any obscurity, make it plain as to the relationship of those who practice homosexuality and the church.

At the same time, the pastor's hand is forced. No longer will the pastor or congregation feel safe or secure by being entertained by the "known" homosexual in the congregation without making it clear to them that their lifestyle is contrary to God's word and that they are therefore not saved, no matter how they may entertain or be entertained. To some this is cruel and unloving, but it seems that unless you are a pastor who doesn't mind performing homosexual weddings, or a church who doesn't mind hosting them, this is a distinction that must be made.

Why? Because if the homosexual is accepted by the church, not told that they are not members because of their lifestyle, they will at some point, demand marriage, which is a right of membership,  and further demand that the church both accept and facilitate their demand.

Like Marcion, the homosexual lobby has forced the church's hand. Pastor's can no longer live in silence on the issue, nor can they relegate their music departments and other functions of the church to individuals who have questionable lifestyles.

Plausible Deniability or Don't Ask Don't Tell?

No time to play DUMB now. I am of the persuasion that not asking will not be an excuse and looking the other way, won't hold up in court.

This is not about an attendee or someone coming to the church to participate in its functions. This is talking about those who will lead, and are committed to service in the church to the point where they interpret their service as a form of inclusive membership.

I wonder will the church really understand what has happened and what is really being said in this memorandum. In all I have tried to lay out a portion of it for your review and edification. This does not seem to be exclusive to COGIC although I really wonder who will take heed to establishing certain practices within the local church that will benefit the church and the community. Although this is about same-sex unions, it is far more reaching than just that. I hope we can understand that at the end of the day.

Blessed! 

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sons & Daughters Of The Church Damaged


Pastor Harvey Burnett, The Dunamis Word blog host and director of I Am My Brother's Keeper Christian Advocacy Council, was a recent guest of Dr. Katrina Sanders on her blogtalkradio program discussing sexual abuse and misconduct within the church and the Church Of God In Christ in particular. This is an interview that you don't want to miss. 
 

Check Out Religion Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Lady KatrinaM on BlogTalkRadio with Affected by Sight on BlogTalkRadio

Anyone wanting to review other works that I have done on this topic only need to click this link:
The Dunamis Word: Clergy Sexual Abuse


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