For the last few years, I’ve been meeting with the leaders of major denominations, asking this question, “Are you making preparations for the split in your denomination over the same-sex marriage issue?” (None of them are.)
Some think I’m being a bit pessimistic. But this is not pessimism it's common sense! Every denomination is going to make one of two decisions in the next 2-10 years. They will either re-affirm their commitment to biblical, opposite sex marriage, which will cause some churches to leave (divorce) their denomination. Or the denomination itself will change their mind and affirm same-sex marriages as biblical and acceptable to God, prompting other churches to leave the denomination. I have yet to read or hear of another option.
Then as denominations make these decisions, every church in that denomination will have to decide whether to leave or stay. The Great Divorce of the American Churches is only beginning to unfold. It is predictable but not preventable.
What is preventable is this; All church buildings and property in almost every denomination I know of is owned legally by the denomination, even if it was paid for by the members of each local church. That means without some planning, which ever churches plan to leave the denomination will either have to give up their building and property, or may feel it is necessary to file ugly lawsuits to settle this issue. And for sure some of this fighting will become public.
Here are my major concerns. Many young Christians who observe this ugliness will simply leave the church. And non-Christians watching these ugly divorces will have this thought, “I just remembered why I never wanted anything to do with a church!”
I have proposed to several denominations that they form teams to give guidance on how these inevitable splits might be accomplished with fairness and grace. Perhaps some denominations will have to give up their legal right to property if they are the ones who have changed and decided same-sex marriages are acceptable to God. But Christians suing each other is a violation of scripture.
“ I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” 1 Corinthians 6:5-7
I’ve also recommended teams in every state be trained to lead and arbitrate the discussions that will take place in every church as each church members make their decisions to leave or stay. Without some prayerful planning and spiritual guidance, I can only imagine the hateful, unkind and homophobic accusations that will fly at those meetings. “Be wise as serpents, but gentle as doves.” And the truth is we have both doves and serpents in every church on both sides of the same-sex issue.
What can you do? Send this blog to your pastor, or your elders, deacons and ask them to inquire to what plans your denomination has made to address this coming challenge. Then pray for wisdom for all of us.