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In the face of rapid social change, indeed moral change, what are Christian organizations doing with their foundational documents, and how can they maintain their fidelity to the faith?

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #102 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

In my other earlier life as a Christian educator, I remember Christian organizations or ministries including churches, colleges, camps, missions, para-church organizations, etc. nearly always possessing and periodically citing key, foundational statements.

These foundational statements were and are carefully written expressions of: 

  • theological understanding = doctrinal or faith statements,
  • employee behavioral conduct = lifestyle statements,
  • ethical perspectives on contemporary issue = position statements.

Christian organizations, especially denominations, sometimes also issued:

  • declarations for statements about current issues, 
  • policy or social statements regarding broad issues, 
  • resolutions or social messagesaddressing specific issues, or
  • proclamationsfor significant announcements.

These statements helped individuals understand what the people in the organization affirmed, i.e., where they niched along a spectrum of Christian belief and practice. In their best application, such statements reinforced organizations' raison d'etre and, over time, helped maintain continuity.

On the other hand, sometimes such statements wre elevated to a kind of sacred status, maybe even equated with Scripture, and as such could become stodgy dogma, more about means than ends. In turn, these bureaucratized documents could be used to suppress independent thought and thus got in the way of perhaps needed change. Often this happened because individuals in the organization were vested in the current system and change meant a possible loss of status or power.

Today, the content and use of Christian organization statemens is changing rapidly.

Doctrinal statements have certainly changed over time, which may or may not be good in terms of biblical fidelity. 

For example, most Christian doctrinal statements used to reject all forms of divorce, but these stipulations have mostly been modified or removed. 

Some doctrinal statements prohibited use of alcoholic beverages, dancing, and smoking, but many of these injunctions have been removed.  

Premarital and extramarital sexual engagement were often referenced in older doctrinal statements and in many statements still are, but there is considerable pressure to remove these sexual prohibitions, or at least to ignore them.  

Many personal morality matters, along with use of alcoholic beverages, dancing, and smoking if these things are referenced at all, have been moved out of doctrinal statements into organization lifestyle statements. 

But lifestyle statements are changing too, or more often, I think, the statements in part or even entirety have joined a growing list of behavioral concerns that have been tossed overboard.  

Gambling, for example, not long ago in the 1960s was overwhelmingly considered morally unacceptable and was cited in many older lifestyle covenants, if not doctrinal statements. Now, it’s the reverse.  

The American public, and surveys suggest many Christians, no longer considers gambling a threat, or maybe not a sin either. And in 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States in a 6-3 ruling, struck down a 1992 federal law that required states to ban sports gambling. With this social acceptance of the most prevalent form of wagering, gambling has pretty much enjoyed open season since. No one much cares, and Christians can be found on Facebook celebrating their most recent trip to Las Vegas.

Christian organization policy statements have become commonplace, particularly those related to the safety of children placed in the care of church workers during church activities. Some policy, rooted in custody issues, pertain to how parents are identified and who is permitted to retrieve the child from church facilities. 

In addition, churches and other Christian organizations are now typically conducting background checks on childcare volunteers and requiring they participate in training. Churches maintain “two-person” rules, meaning an adult should never be alone with children, no photography stipulations, and much more.  

Ministries have also adopted policies regarding abuse, harassment, security, etc.  

Now, there’s even more extensive change in the wind. 

A growing number of “new” moral and social issues, which in the past didn’t create problems for Christian organizations, are now front and center.

An illustrative list includes: abortion, bullying, domestic abuse or sexual violence, climate change, green policies, medical ethics (stem cells, cloning, euthanasia) and healthcare, the rights of women, children, the disabled, human trafficking, immigration and refugees, pornography, racism, religious freedom, and the vaguely defined social justice.  

Same-sex marriage is a consideration for theologically conservative Christian organizations, but in June 2015, the Supreme Court of the US ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples possessed the same fundamental right as opposite sex couples to marry. In other words, same-sex marriage is now legal, so churches and Christian organizations wishing to position against it must approach the matter carefully.

In June 2020, Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court of the US held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). In other words, the Court read SOGI back into the meaning of “sex” as written in the 1964 laws and with that move, not only undermined the rule of law, put religious liberty on a legal collision course with SOGI.

This ruling is a landmark of the wrong kind, making SOGI – subjective and unverifiable socially constructed identities, not objective biological traits – what the law calls a “protected category.” This ruling will have seismic impact upon American culture, including, but far beyond, discussions about who uses women’s bathrooms, who participates in women’s sports, what pronouns corporations are forced to use or force their employees to use, etc. 

While this ruling will affect schools and universities, businesses, camps, youth organizations, daycare, and other workplace conditions or sex-specific facilities, it will also affect churches and Christian nonprofit organizations. 

The Heritage Foundation commented, “SOGI laws threaten the freedom of citizens, individually and in associations, to affirm their religious or moral convictions—convictions such as that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities to be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered. Under SOGI laws, acting on these beliefs in a commercial or educational context could be actionable discrimination.” 

“Currently, Title VII, a section of the Civil Rights Act, allows religious exemptions for faith-based organizations to hire with an eye to religious qualifications.  

Some have used this to argue that religious organizations can refuse to hire and/or fire employees who are LGBTQ if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. However, because LGBTQ persons are now included under the ‘sex’ category of Title VII, it is unclear whether these exemptions are still understood to permit religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of LGBTQ status.” 

In its analysis, the ECFA said, “religious groups with theological views that do not align with that interpretation will need to show that they are entitled to an exception under existing laws, such as the ministerial exception defense.

Christian organizations are for the most part not ready. What’s missing in nearly all church or Christian organization foundational statements is any reference to sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTQ+). This is because these issues have literally exploded in our culture in just the past 20 years. 

SOGI involves not just personal moral conscience but H.R. or human resources hiring practices. And if the US Congress passes the Equality Act these identifications will be brought under the legal protection of federal civil rights laws.  

If Christian organizations add paragraphs in their doctrinal or lifestyle statements referencing SOGI identification matters, these Christian organizations will potentially be subject to legal challenge. Or if not this, the organizations may be subject to the new online bullying tactic that declares something ipso facto non-inclusive, discriminatory, or racist, then attacks the organization for its “Christian supremacy.”

Another hugely influential and divisive issue is Critical Race Theory (CRT), an empowerment philosophy, based upon oppressor and victimhood, that argues racism is the defining explanation for all of America’s social problems. It takes identity politics to a new level of discord and intolerance.

Yet Christian organizations are being seduced by CRT. To what extent CRT is acknowledged or embraced or promoted is already contributing to division in Christian organizations like Cru

American Evangelicalism is indeed not without its race problems and the need for open discussion on how to address the issues and move forward biblically, but CRT is not about forgiveness or grace but about “being woke,” claiming America is systemically racist, whites are by definition supremacists, and, ironically and dangerously, promoting racism under the guise of antiracism

CRT is all but a new religion. It has literally taken American culture by storm, is long since deeply entrenched in American higher education, and is now making significant inroads into the Church. But it is incompatible with Christianity and churches are going to be forced to respond, to declare themselves, in one of the forms of statements mentioned in this piece. 

So, churches and Christian organizations are now editing doctrinal statements, revising lifestyle statements, and developing position statements on a wide range of social or moral issues. Whether these efforts will protect Christian organizations remains to be seen in how future politics develop vis-à-vis the First Amendment and religious freedom.

Certainly, putting well-reasoned, biblically grounded statements into print before legal challenges occur is better than an approach that is a day late and a dollar short. 

Christian organizations need to think carefully, perhaps seek legal guidance, and assure they have in print what they consider essential, foundational statements regarding the moral and social issues of the day. 

Procrastinating on this task will not make the challenges go away, because they are being used by the Satan, who masquerades as an angel of light, but is the master of deception, deceit, division, and darkness.


Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s  

And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2023     

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