Powerful institutions tend to operate in ambiguity, rather than in clarity. And churches are no exception. Many churches fail to disclose their actively enforced policies on their websites. Can a woman preach? Will you officiate a same-sex wedding? Hire a queer pastor? Answers to these questions often remain elusive. Ambiguity enables those with power to operate without accountability and cause real harm. Many people invest years of their lives into a church community, only to later discover the truth about the church’s policies, and end up feeling betrayed, deceived and “bait-and-switched.”
Some Questions and Answers (FAQs):
Churches are unique organizations. In America, they enjoy tremendous public subsidies, as they are recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt religious organizations. In exchange for these subsidies, churches are presumably expected to play a vital role in serving their communities. But there is very little accountability or proactive attempts to demonstrate that churches earn this subsidy. In fact, many churches fail to uphold the basic standards of transparency that we, as a society, expect from most other types of organizations.
These conditions have enabled an environment where ambiguity and misleading practices have become normalized. Many churches have avoided fully or clearly disclosing their policies out of a desire to be “seeker sensitive,” that is, wanting to attract “seekers” and convert them into loyal “customers.” This capitalist mindset is particularly dangerous in a spiritual context. It means that pastors will preach about “welcoming” and “loving” all people, no matter who they are, while quietly refusing to officiate weddings for LGBTQ+ people or skirt around questions of “why there are no female pastors.”
There are clear laws and regulations in the for-profit world that protect us from “false advertising” and “bait and switch” tactics. But while we, as a society, hold the “secular” marketplace accountable for such violations, we rarely insist that churches abide by similar expectations. Are the stakes not much higher when it comes to spiritual matters? Is a clearly communicated policy on a church’s website an unreasonable expectation? We don’t believe so.
No person should have to wonder the limits of their “welcome.” The vulnerability entailed in investing into a community is difficult enough — LGBTQ+ people should not have to constantly worry about when the other shoe is going to drop. Women shouldn’t have to wonder about the height of every church’s glass ceiling. Even when directly asked, many church leaders do not give straightforward answers about the church’s policies towards the most marginalized. It often takes multiple conversations and years of relationship-building before clarity is delivered — and by then, the damage is already done. It is unreasonable to expect people to jump through hoops to learn how policies that affect them will be enforced.
“…with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Jesus
This is a Reasonable question. Church Clarity is unequivocally inclusive, affirming and celebrating of all people. We champion human flourishing. We value diversity throughout our community of advocates including our leadership team, advisory council, and our incredible volunteers. We make no apologies for this practical element of our governing policy and are eager to model explicit transparency. Regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, regardless of your race, or socio-economic status, your abilities, your faith or theological views, you are eligible to participate at every level of Church Clarity’s mission. Thanks for asking! Please feel free to Contact Us with any questions about this or offer feedback on how we can articulate our answer to this question more explicitly.
The prevailing reality of ambiguity, misleading rhetoric and absence of conviction is causing Christian institutions to wander aimlessly through a desert of confusion. We don’t even have a consistent definition of CHURCH. Who speaks for the Church? What does the Church stand for and what does it stand against? Why is ambiguity acceptable? Why is accountability is rare? Why are church leaders permitted to conceal the policies that they actively enforce? How do we even begin to address these questions?
The goal of Church Clarity, ever since we launched on October 18th, 2017, is as simple as our name: to delivery Church Clarity. To literally map out the Church, and clarify what it contains. This requires a different approach to conversations among those who are stakeholders of Christianity including those who identify as Christians as well as former Christians. Before we can address our differences, we must first acknowledge them. Clarity is Reasonable, and the goal of delivering Church Clarity should appeal to all people, regardless of their particular beliefs, or even if they are not involved with a local congregation. Counter intuitively, Church Clarity is not exactly for ‘churches.’ It is for ‘THE Church’ — it is for the people.
We evaluate local church policies, NOT denominational policy. If a church belongs to an affirming denomination, but has a non-affirming policy, it would be scored as “non-affirming.” Same goes for a non-egalitarian church within an egalitarian denomination.
However if a church belongs to a non-affirming or non-egalitarian denomination, the burden of proof resides on the church to demonstrate on its website that it is going against its denomination’s policy and is practicing a fully affirming or fully egalitarian policy. Otherwise, the denomination’s policy will be assumed to be the local church’s.
Policies are much more straightforward and have real world impact on people. Will your church allow a trans woman to join the pastoral staff? Will your clergy officiate a wedding for a gay couple? Can a woman serve as senior minister of your church? These are the policy questions we are seeking to clarify. Policy and theology do not always operate in tandem; there are many churches that affirm LGBTQ people theologically but have restricted policies (e.g. no same-sex weddings) due to other factors, such as denominational restrictions. We painstakingly emphasize our laser focus on evaluating the level of clarity in regards to a church’s actively enforced policy.