Lawyer urges churches to consider marriage bylaw statements

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WACO—If same-sex marriages become legal in Texas, churches that object to performing the ceremonies should consider amending their bylaws, a Waxahachie attorney told ministers.

john litzler130John LitzlerJohn Litzler, who works under contract for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, spoke at the invitation of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission to a ministry guidance conference on the campus of Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. Baylor’s department of religion sponsored the event.

Churches that object to same-sex marriage should include language in their bylaws that make plain their stance on marriage and human sexuality, Litzler said.

Bylaw suggestions

Regarding marriage, he suggested a section stating: “Marriage is a biblical institution established by God as described by Scripture. We believe that biblical marriage can only occur between one man and one woman. This church recognizes that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. Accordingly, this church, its pastors, staff and members will not participate in same-sex unions or same-sex marriages, nor shall its property or resources be used for such purposes.”

On human sexuality, he suggested bylaws include: “The Bible teaches that legitimate sexual relations are exercised solely within marriage. Hence, this church opposes all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, extramarital behavior, homosexual behavior and pornography.”

“I’m not telling you that you have to use this language,” Litzler said. “I’m not telling you that you have to address homosexuality in your bylaws, though a lot of people have asked me about it. So, if your church is interested, I wanted you to have it.” 

Churches should add the statements to the section of their bylaws that includes a statement of religious beliefs.

The marriage statement also should be included in staff position descriptions and facility policies—especially if the church makes its facilities available for rental, Litzler added.

“If you don’t want this happening at your church, I’m suggesting you put it in your bylaws,” he said.

Consistency important

Litzler stressed the importance of adhering to policies consistently.

“The most important thing I’m going to say to you all day is when it goes in your bylaws, you must enforce it uniformly every time—no exceptions,” he said.

“This definition of marriage is important for a lot of reasons. It means you don’t have to do the weddings at your church. You don’t have to use your reception halls for that.”

He also raised a hypothetical situation in which a gay couple asked to participate in a church-sponsored marriage retreat. 

“They are saying they are married, and maybe one day soon in the eyes of the Texas and country, they will be legally married. How do you tell that person they cannot attend?” he asked. “Well, you’ve defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and it’s clear in your bylaws.”


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