Vol.XI No.III Pg.5
May 1974

Church Buildings (2)

Robert F. Turner

A brother asks, "Are weddings and funerals authorized works of a local church?" No, they are social functions. Marriage is of God, but church "sanction" is neither required nor suggested in God's word. "Then," (you know what's coming) "may the church building be used for weddings and funerals?" Yes, No, and I'm not sure!

The incidental use of buildings and accompaniments, use not directly related to their intended purpose, is most subject to abuse, and has raised soul-searching questions among brethren. There are three classes of such usage: unavoidable, inadvertent, and deliberate: and all originate with man and should not be used as a base for further judgements, nor bound as matters of faith.

A temperature-controlled shelter provides certain physical benefits to all present; and it is impossible to avoid all social aspects of an assembly. Removing other "violations" will involve impracticalities. Shall we forbid children (50 yrs. or older) to sleep on the pews? Allow no personal phone calls? No use of the water fountain except as essential to worship? No social remarks while in the foyer? It would tax the Soviet police force!

Deliberate "unauthorized" use of church property may not be as diabolical as it sounds. In times of disaster (tornado, flood, etc.) a well-built, centrally located building may be the only shelter available to refugees. The use is temporary, and incidental; we did not build for that purpose; and I do not believe such use would "authorize" anything. When in Arizona, a young couple drove many miles

to a small town where I was in a meeting. Arriving at the close of services, they asked me to marry them. The church building was handy, and cool, so I invited them in and we tied the knot. In years-gone-by the building was the most suitable place in town for the funeral of some well-known and loved brother. Of course these examples prove nothing— but they may illustrate, I hope, common sense.

But judgement depends upon circumstances, and different circumstances warrant different conclusion. I do not believe the church should have to bear extra expenses for such things, nor should they be allowed to interfere with regular church functions. (They could not then be called "incidentals.") Some things are "unseemly," and some would compromise the efforts of the church to teach truth. Today, when many churches have embraced "fun and frolic" as "church work," it has seemed necessary to avoid anything that would give solace to such error. (Our reaction may have given solace, but we tried, and God sees our heart.) Too, a few seem to have a very erroneous (almost Roman Catholic) concept of the "sanctity" of "church wedding." I would not want to encourage this.

Some feel it is better to ban all incidental uses than to have to explain "why not" to the undesirable cases; but this seems a coward's way out, and unjust to worthy cases. This may be the time for a searching new look at our concepts of "church property", "marriage ceremonies", and all. But whatever your judgement, have patience and charity for your brother.