Is Church Clarity the Church’s Decoder Ring?

Is Church Clarity the Church’s Decoder Ring?

November 8, 2017 by

If you’re like me, you noted the launch of Church Clarity a few weeks ago and the subsequent conversation unfold with a mix of applause and trepidation. Who doesn’t want clear communication, especially on our church websites, which often serve as the screening or vetting mechanism for an increasing number of people seeking a new church home? On the other hand, if your church is intentionally vague on this topic, Church Clarity can seem like shots fired over the bow of the ship.

Who doesn’t want clear communication, especially on our church websites?

Intentionally tackling messy cultural conflicts like LGBTQ inclusion can feel like walking in a minefield. Not only might it ignite significant strife in Christian communities, it can also jeopardize staff leadership, our church, and the people we are called to serve.

Church Clarity offers a Bible decoder ring around LGBTQ inclusion to cut through our Christian code words and measure how church websites communicate their policies, actively enforced or otherwise.

Church Clarity exists because real people are confused, hurt, and turned away by church communities that aren’t clear about where they stand on LGBTQ people being members, serving in leadership, and being welcome in their worship.

But sometimes drawing lines in the sand creates divisions—you can be clear and have clarity, and that itself can create a wedge in your church.

The LGBTQ conflict is especially polarizing in our current church context. The word “clarity” implies a cut-and-dried view on this topic, and some of our churches aren’t there. Having this type of clarity on your church website could shut doors before relationships are built and people on both sides are seen and known as Christ followers.

What Do We Do About Church Clarity?

So how do we as church communicators navigate this faithfully?

1. Take an Honest Look at Your Current Reality

As communicators, we’re often balancing how to be clear in our statements of faith while managing the nuances and shifting cultural landscape that surrounds this hot-button issue.

  • Maybe your church has a different stance than your ruling body and proclaiming that publicly has significant consequences.
  • You could be in the middle of discerning how to address LGBTQ inclusion and want to allow space for these tough conversations to happen in your community.
  • Perhaps various people in your church are hyper-vigilant with your communications, looking for evidence of an agenda on one side or another.
  • It could be that your church wants to welcome all people, but you’re simply not LGBTQ-affirming. You have a hard message, and that’s just your doctrinal reality.

Keep in mind your role as an advocate for your audience. You can give voice to the confusion a same-sex couple feels when their pastor declines to preside over their marriage ceremony. Or how opening the door to LGBTQ inclusion translates as a spiritual example for the next generation and our values of marriage.

Be ruthlessly honest in assessing your current reality—both situational and the tensions and questions of your audience.

2. Be Clear, but Don’t Get Too in the Weeds

In my opinion, many churches don’t need a separate area on their website dealing with LGBTQ concerns (but some do—you know your audience best). Consider integrating a clear, concise statement about LGBTQ inclusion along with your beliefs on other major issues, such as divorce, cohabitation, the role of women, alcohol, secular entertainment, etc. Churches could stand to offer clarity on a host of issues beyond LGBTQ inclusion (you can’t include every possible doctrinal position, but you know what’s important to your church).

Again, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds: Will pastors marry LGBTQ couples in the church? How about outside the church? Can my LGBTQ friend take communion or have their child baptized here? Hopefully, your leadership team will want to have those specific discussions with the people themselves, which is perfectly fine to point to in your communication material.

Then, you can then send it along to Church Clarity and see how they evaluate your statement. The feedback or category you fall into may cause your team to hone and refine the statement. Or you may know this is as far as your church community can reasonably go at this juncture.

3. Keep Your Focus on the Core Gospel Message

Wherever your church stands, remember the gospel message. We preach the gospel to broken sinners, who are restored and welcomed into the life of faith—where we continue to sin and repent and follow Jesus. Be clear about who you are as you welcome people into the life of your church.

It can be hard to keep your eyes on Jesus when tensions, anxiety, and conflict are high. When faced with troubling situations, it’s all the more important to remember the basic commands Jesus gave us. Remember God’s love for us and that “all things hold together in Christ” (Colossians 1:17).

None of these are easy steps. Church Clarity may not be a perfect tool, but it could be an important step in this larger conversation of how we communicate about polarizing, hot-button topics within our churches.

Jesus teaches us not to be troubled and afraid. As the church takes on these difficult questions, we are called to hold to truth while growing in our love of God and our neighbor. It is not one or the other.

Post By:

Jennifer Vander Molen

Jennifer Vander Molen happily relinquished her deacon presidency a few months ago at Fifth Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. During working hours, she does marketing and communications at The Colossian Forum, helping Christian communities deal with hot-button issues.
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