Gay Marriage and Church Insurance
There has been much discussion in recent weeks about how the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing gay marriage might impact churches which continue to teach the historic, biblical view of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and which therefore refuse to perform gay wedding ceremonies. Some have expressed concern that such churches might even lose their tax exempt status. While I am not convinced that “traditional” churches like the OPC are in any imminent danger of losing their tax exempt status, legitimate concerns are arising that such churches may find it increasingly difficult to keep their church’s liability insurance. The reason for this is that apparently at least one insurance company, fearing potential litigation against traditional churches, are now refusing to cover churches which refuse to perform gay wedding ceremonies; and this could very well be a harbinger of policies which other insurance companies may likewise choose to adopt in the near future. David French recently wrote an article about this on the National Review website: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420928/churches-gay-marriage-insurance
Because we in the OPC confess marriage to be a God-ordained creation ordinance governed by natural law, and not a sacrament of the church governed by church law (as marriage is viewed, for example, by the Roman Catholic Church), I believe we are actually in a better position in terms of civil protections than are those traditional churches which hold to a sacramental view of marriage. As I seek to explain in a comment I wrote in response to Mr. French’s article:
“In my Protestant denomination marriage, a God-ordained institution which is defined in our confessional standards as being between a man and a woman, is viewed as a creation ordinance governed by natural law, not a sacrament of the church to be governed by church law. What this means is that we believe that a couple who is married by a justice of the peace is just as married in the eyes of God as a couple who is married by a member of the clergy. Furthermore, while our Book of Chuch Order permits ministers to preside at wedding ceremonies, it does not require them to do so as part of their calling as gospel ministers, nor does our church’s constitution define the performance of wedding ceremonies as part of the calling of a Minister of word and sacrament.
“What all of this means is that, while our ministers may choose to officiate at heterosexual wedding ceremonies if asked to do so, our “church” as such does not marry anyone. So, if our church’s insurance company were to ask us if our “church” performed gay weddings, we could honestly say that our church, as a church, performs no weddings whatsoever, for we do not view the performance of weddings as a function of Christ’s church or as essential to the ministry of word and sacrament.
“Perhaps this is one way that Protestant and other churches whose doctrine of marriage does not confess marriage as a sacrament of the church but as a creation ordinance can avoid losing their chuch’s insurance. Such churches may also need to adopt a “no weddings” policy for their church buildings. After all, church buildings are dedicated to God as places where the gospel is preached, sacraments administered, divine worship offered, and Christian instruction and catechesis takes place. No church congregation is required by Scripture or (at least as of yet) by civil law to use its church building for broader community functions like weddings.”
All of this is to say that, while I am disturbed by these potential threats to our religious liberties, at the same time I don’t believe we are in any immediate danger of losing either our tax exempt status or our church’s insurance policy. Let us not fret because of the schemings of the wicked or be intimidated by them. Instead, let us continue to faithfully bear testimony to the love of Christ with courage and compassion and trust God to continue to protect and provide for His church.