Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ministry Case Studies

A. A non-messianic Jewish synagogue in your town burns down. The rabbi approaches you and asks to rent your sanctuary for worship until a new one can be built. Do you accept?

B. A Hindu temple in your town burns down. The priest approaches you and asks to rent your sanctuary for worship until a new one can be built. Do you accept?

C. A Shinto couple asks to rent your fellowship hall for a wedding. Do you accept?


Matt said...

Jewish - sanctuary - worship
Hindu - sanctuary - worship
Shinto - fellowship hall - wedding

In the first two instances, the fact that their temples burned down can be ignored, as the determining factor is not their level of distress, but whether it is acceptable to use a Christian sanctuary for non-Christian worship. In the 3rd instance, they are not asking to rent the sanctuary, but the fellowship hall.

My personal feelings :
For scenario A, I would consider this to be OK as they worship the same God (Yahweh), even if they don't accept Jesus.

For scenario B, I would not consider this to be OK.

For scenario C, I would consider this to be OK.

My feelings as lay leader of a UMC congregation :
Even though I have personal feelings on all 3 matters, as a UMC congregation, we follow the Book of Discipline and our own by-laws. As such, these are not matters for me to decide, but for the board of trustees.

As a final note, as a church plant, Wellspring (my congregation) has for the last 5 years met in 4 different locations, none of which belongs to us :
-The barn at Bill Bates Cowboy Ranch
-An elementary school
-A middle school
-Now meeting at another elementary school.

We own land now, but it's just open field still :)

John said...

I actually know of a case of example A. A friend of mine who was once the Episcopal rector here in Shelbyville moved to an inner-city church Washington, D.C., and when I spent the night with him and his wife on my way to Boston, he told me that a local synagogue was using their sanctuary for its weekly services. They carefully took down or covered anything in the room that might be construed as Christian symbolism, and then put it back up or uncovered it afterward. I do not recall the exact circumstances -- whether the Jewish congregation had been displaced by a fire or what have you.

Dan Trabue said...

yep, yep and yep would be my vote if the question came to a vote at our church.

If it were a hate group (the Westboro folk might be in need of some financial help here soon, for instance, or the KKK, or Al Qaida), absolutely not.

Right off the top of my head. I suspect my church would agree.

Stephen said...

First, I think there are some flaws to these "case studies". I don't think a Hindu temple would ever ask to use a Christian sanctuary as a worship place. First of all how many Hindu temples are there in smalltown, whereever. The only Hindu temples I know of are in larger cities, Dallas, TX comes to mind. So right off the top of my head I am wondering why they chose your church instead of ANY other place in Dallas to meet?

Secondly how many Shintos are you going to find that want to have a wedding in your fellowship hall (reception or otherwise). There are probably fewer Shinto's than Hindu in the U.S. so I am back to scenario one again.

The Jewish argument is a valid one, yet I question why any Jewish community would want to use a Christian Sanctuary as a Synagogue. Seems like a stretch.

Mark Winter said...

Hey, why make these tough decisions when you can pawn them off on the Board of Trustees?

Todd said...

To borrow Matt's analysis of use of a Christian sanctuary, I would argue that whoever occupies the space determines the spaces nature. It wouldn't be a Christian sanctuary for a Hindu or Shinto if they are worshiping there.

The issue at hand seems to be the personal question of how does the pastor in authority deal with a difficult decision in relation to inter-religious connection.

We opened our church facilities to the Cherokee tribe when they wanted to do a cultural day. Part of that cultural day was aspects of Cherokee mythical tradition. It didn't delve deeply into native religion, but it was not Christian. And surprise of all surprises, the building didn't fall down.

I would be open to allowing any group who respected the space for the use they wanted to use it, within reason.

But on the nit-picky side: Hindu facilities are dedicated to a particular Hindu deity. Shinto facilities have a particular reason to exist. And depending on what flavor of Jew, the more radically conservative, the less they want to mingle with goyim.

gavin richardson said...

yes, yes, sure - with our wedding coordinator as your guide.

Wabi-Sabi said...

I would have to learn more about the Hindu and Shinto faiths to comment on those scenarios.

However, for the first scenario, when our church burned down about 70 years ago, our congregation met at the local synagogue for a long time while the church was being rebuilt.

As a result, I know our church would return the favor.

Art said...

A - Yes

B - Yes

C - Yes

D - Why not?

John said...

I would answer 'no' to all because ground consecrated to the worship of the one true God should not be used for the worship of false gods or spirits.

John said...

Wait, cancel that. I would consider A so as long as no symbol of Christ was removed or covered by the worshippers.

greg hazelrig said...

Turn it around. If your church burned down and for some strange reason no other church or school or proper building was available, would you think that they would allow you to worship in their building?

UCM said...

I was just going to say the same thing as greg.

If my church burned down, would we turn to First Baptist which is just across the street?

Would we turn to First Christian which is one block away?

Would we turn to the other UMC in town, which is not on a main street, but hidden away in a residential neighborhood.

Would we ask the junior high, which is about 4 blocks away?

By the way, we have no other groups worshipping in our town of 15,000 besides Christians.

UCM said...

As the pastor, I would have no problem letting a Jewish group use our worship space.

As the pastor, I would have reservations about other religious groups, but I am open to hearing why we should or should not. It would also depend on what kind of previous relationship we had with the group.

If a group wants to rent our fellowship hall, I would defer to the trustees. Again, it might depend on what kind of prior relationship exists.

I do not believe that everyone's religion is basically the same. I do not believe we all worship the same God, just using different names etc. I am open to having friendships with others (and not just for the purpose of converting them), to dialogue, to learning from each other, and even working together in the community.

Having said that, I struggle with this issue.

John said...

Greg, they would be full within their rights (civil and theological) to deny us access to their temples. If they would welcome us, well and good.

It would not be inconsistent of us, as Christians, to accept such an invitation because we worship truth and they do not.

Steve Heyduck said...

Oh, yeah. I'd even recommend we not charge them rent - but we would, of course, accept whatever gifts towards operating expenses they wanted to offer.

Might actually leave me feeling better than the christian group that once asked to use our building for a series of gatherings - complete with lessons on "How to Speak in Tongues" for the youth.

They interpreted my "love offering" offer as our wanting to give them the building for the weekend.

John B said...

No on all counts. Christ is the head of the church and any worship not Christ-honoring has no business in a Christian church. Probably won't allow some self-described "Christian" preachers to use the sanctuary for the same reason.

jim said...

The Book of Discipline says that the board of trustees must decide who is eligible to use their space and that the decision is based on the social principles. Do any of these violate the social principles?

Similarly how does denying these groups interface with this:

"Religious persecution has been common in the history of civilization. We urge policies and practices that ensure the right of every religious group to exercise its faith free from legal, political, or economic restrictions. We condemn all overt and covert forms of religious intolerance, being especially sensitive to their expression in media stereotyping. We assert the right of all religions and their adherents to freedom from legal, economic, and social discrimination.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission."

DannyG said...

For what it is worth, the town our church is in (Kingsport, TN- population about 30,000) has a wonderful Hindu Temple. I helped conduct a bone marrow drive there in July, as well as at a festival they had a couple of months later.
As to the questions at hand: Yes, no, and Yes. Matt covered the answers pretty well.

the reverend mommy said...


For A and B. With the understanding that at one point the gospel would be proclaimed (by the pastor in charge). And do it in a way that would be respectful of their own systems of belief. (Cmp. Paul in Athens and Jerusalem in Acts.) This might be just a short testimony. I would expect it if my group were using another faith's space. That would be our condition. These are people who may never hear the gospel otherwise --

This would echo our polity as described in the BOD.

For C -- yes. If we will rent to other groups with no discrimination (neighborhood watch groups, Masons, AA, Weight Watchers, Bosnian Table Tennis groups, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Friends of the Library, Starfleet fan group -- all of which have met in various and sundry fellowship halls that I know of) why not allow a wedding (Shinto or not?) There are some places where the UMC's fellowship hall is the largest gathering spot -- would you rather show hospitality or give a cold shoulder?

A large part of the gospel for me is the idea of hospitality.

Anonymous said...

In no case would I consider allowing any of the three groups mentioned to use any portion of the church plant for any purpose. The church plant in whole or in part is purpose built for ministry in the name of Christ. To allow any of the named groups, which have no allegiance to Christ, to use church property for any reason would serve to lend credibility to them and at the same time send a mixed message as to what we as Christians believe.

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