Conservative churches are troubled with the gay marriage decision and feel threatened lest the government punish them for teaching that homosexuality is sinful. But liberal churches are celebrating the ruling and will have no problem with discrimination statutes. If conservative congregations lose their tax exempt status, liberal congregations wouldn’t. Indeed, some denominations would presumably include conservative congregations that would and liberal congregations that would not.
So you have GOT to read Anthony Sacramone’s post Do You Worship in a State-Approved Church? Read especially “the talk” that he says conservative pastors must give to their congregations. I’ll excerpt the first part after the jump, but you really need to read the whole thing.
From Anthony Sacramone, Do You Worship in a State-Approved Church?
So now that the call for pulling churches’ tax exemptions is gathering Internet speed, I wonder if future commissars will make a distinction between “bad” churches and “good” churches. The former would have their charitable status eradicated, while the latter would continue to enjoy the tax benefits of getting on History’s good side, and no negative stigma would be attached to flouting one’s membership in same.
A “bad” church, of course, would be one that remained impenitent and continued to believe, teach, and confess the historic Christian faith and uphold the moral code embedded in that faith (regardless of, and even because of, how many fail flawlessly to obey it).
Which is to say, Southern Baptist, confessional Lutheran and Reformed/Presbyterian, “continuing” and confessional Anglican, Assembly of God, and Eastern Orthodox ministers, pastors, and priests may very well have to have “the talk” with their members.
That talk will probably go something like this:
As we know from history, the early Christians were sent out into a world that demonstrated great hostility to their message. They had neither political nor social status or props to keep them afloat nor financial incentives to encourage generosity. They did have, however, the Word and the Sacraments and the Great Commission. And of course, each other.
These inducements, prompting great courage, hope, and perseverance in the face of all manner of persecution and marginalization, were enough. Within one century, a small band of outlaw Jews and the believers in their care had spread the Good News and established churches throughout the Near East, as far south as Africa, as far east as southern India, and into various parts of Europe.
Those who gave — of their time, money, goods — gave gratuitously, and could count on no immediate reward, certainly not from Rome’s tax assessors.
Are you made of the same stuff? Or should I say, are you filled with the same Spirit? Will you continue to give, to support this ministry, to support this minister, regardless of whether you can write it off at the end of the year? Are you willing to dig deeper to make up for the losses owing to the changes in the tax codes?
Or will you walk away, the doors of this church closed shut forever behind you?
Why are you here? For the music? You don’t have to come here for that. That’s what iTunes is for. To see familiar faces, catch up on the latest news? Throw a party. Take your friends to lunch.
Or is it for the Word and for the Sacraments? That you cannot find anywhere else. It doesn’t have to be this building — in fact, we may have to move. It doesn’t have to be with air conditioning that works all summer, or even at all. It may not have a dedicated fellowship hall or special space for children and teens. But it has to be somewhere, with someone standing in the pulpit and at the altar. It doesn’t have to be me. You may have to find a single minister, at least for the time being, or one who has a second source of income. In fact, every minister, every priest, may, like the Apostle Paul, have to go back to tent-making now and again to make ends meet.
But you will need someone, someone who has received a call to minister to you what only a called and ordained minister of the Word can.
In the coming weeks we will throw open our books to all members so you can see exactly what it takes to keep the lights on here, and what losing our tax-exempt status will mean for our budget.
But please know this: I will not harangue you every Sunday about how you’re not giving enough or doing enough. There will be no guilt trips or strange looks at those who don’t give at all, who have never given at all. You will either rise to this occasion or you will not. Perhaps you cannot.
God has not been displaced by this court, this culture, this country. He is still on his throne and Lord of that History that is so often spoken of as it if were as autonomous as the Western Self, a contradiction that very few of the elite and enlightened seem to grasp.
We all know that nothing can ultimately prevail against the Church, the Body of Christ. Not hell, not hate, not even our own moral failings. Christ died once and cannot die again. We died once, in the waters of baptism, and rose with him, our new lives kept safe with him, no matter what the short term brings.
“Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.“
Or something to that effect. You can write your own version on your lunch hour tomorrow.
Roman Catholics will be in an interesting position. I wonder if Catholic Dems will force the IRS to make distinctions between “Francis” Catholics (good) and “Benedict” Catholics (bad). Yes, yes, you and I know there is no real difference when it comes to affirming all that. But we’re dealing with crazy people here, for whom theology, reason, tradition, legal and social precedent, First Amendment rights, separation of powers, etc., etc., are so many humorous asides in the keynote speech at the Annual Transhumanist and Euthanasia Dinner Dance.