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Old 09-25-2017, 08:00 PM
Al99 Al99 is online now
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Default Poly-friendly Churches

I recently wrote the following in response to a podcast that invited responses from Christian polyamorists. I've touched on this subject in a couple of threads here already, but thought I might as well as share these more complete thoughts here as well.

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While there are clearly many non-Christians of various sorts in the poly community, there are also a number of us who self identify as Christian and practice the faith as we understand it. I was raised in an Evangelical-Fundamentalist church, and while I discarded most of that traditional theology early on, I did eventually find great meaning in the metaphysical esoteric understanding of New Thought Christianity (eventually coming to a personal belief structure that might best be characterized as Platonic-Christian Gnosticism), and a spiritual practice based on love, kindness, forgiveness - and with tolerance and open-mindedness obviously being implicit in that. From my perspective, that is, after all, the message that Jesus intended to offer to the world - even if the Church founded in his name all too often fails to demonstrate those values.

The article led me to consider which churches would be genuinely welcoming to polyfolks and accepting of polyamory as a legitimate way of engaging in loving relationships. So, I did just a bit of research. I started by asking the pastor of the very liberal, very progressive mainstream church that my wife and I attend what he thought about polyamory. Now, this fellow is as liberal as they come in main stream Christianity, and is an avid champion of gay marriage - yet he rejected the notion of polyamory out of hand without hesitation. I did make it a point to respectfully tell him that I had been seeing the topic pop up more and more often, and with our church's very liberal reputation, that he should probably expect to come across it at some point.
(Recounted in more detail at: http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=90772)

Some Googling quickly revealed that none of the mainstream Christian churches - even those that have affirmed gay marriage - are ready for polyamory yet. In fairness, I did find an occasional defense or endorsement of polyamory by an individual churchman, but the denominations as a whole most decidedly reject polyamory as choice for a loving relationship style. This is not to say that polyfolks would not be welcomed in any given mainstream Christian church, just that their relationship style would not be sanctioned. The closeted polyfolks who enjoy attending church might find it best just to continue quietly attending their preferred church as normal if they are comfortable doing so. It goes without saying that it is very unlikely that the Evangelical-Fundamentalist churches would be a comfortable worship environment for the openly polyamorous, and most likely so for the closeted polyamorists as well.

However, there are a few other church options for the openly poly, although they each have identities that would not be acceptable to some, depending on individual preferences. The choice that seems most likely to offer a reasonably traditional Christian worship experience is the Metro Community Church. With over 220 congregation in 37 countries, they are present in many of the large US metroplexes. In a recent statement intended to counter the Evangelical-Fundamentalist "Nashvillle Statement" on sexuality and marriage, the MCC endorsed polyamorous relationships as being as valid as monogamy. Openly poly Christians that live near an MCC congregation might certainly want to plan a visit. It should be noted, however, that the MCC has a primary ministry of supporting the LGBT/Queer community, and it is possible that some cis-hetero individuals might not feel quite at home in these congregations.

The Unitarian Universalist (or UU) Church is already a popular choice among a number of polyfolks. There is even a "Unitarian Universalists for Polyarmory Awareness" group within the church. The very liberal and open UU Church has no creed or rules per se, and is characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" - making it a strong choice for many UU folks seeking a worship experience. There are over a thousand UU congregations within the United States, so there would likely be a congregation available in many medium to large US cities. However, while one may find Christians present at a UU Church, it is not a Christian Church as such - and this may be an issue for those individuals with strong Christian roots.

Another option for polyamorists would be the Christian New Thought churches such as Unity and Religious Science. These churches reinterpret traditional Christian theology from an esoteric and metaphysical perspective, presenting what many would consider to be a deeper, kinder, and less judgmental understanding of the Christian message. By their very nature, these churches would not judge polyfolks for their choice of relationship style, and would certainly honor those choices. There are several hundred New Thought churches in the US, with Unity being the largest and most well known of the New Thought groups. One is very likely to find a Unity Church or other New Thought Church in many medium to large cities. Because New Thought presents a very different understanding of traditional Christian dogma as well as a somewhat different style of worship service, some of the more traditionally minded Christians may not find New Thought to their liking.

And, if one is not too attached to Christianity, there are always the Wiccans...

Last edited by Al99; 09-25-2017 at 09:41 PM.
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Old 09-25-2017, 08:52 PM
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Attending worship services isn't my cup of tea (though it was at one time); however, it is interesting to hear which churches are the most accepting of things like poly. And while UU may not be Christian per se, it probably describes Jesus as a great spiritual teacher comparable to Buddha.

Just some thoughts
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Old 09-26-2017, 01:27 AM
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This is very well-written, Al. Youíve clearly done your research.

Although I identify mostly as a secular humanist with some Buddhist leanings, I looked up the Metropolitan Community Church and was happy to see that there are congregations in Ohio (none in Cleveland, alas; the closest one is in Columbus). If R and I find ourselves in a city that has an MCC church, I just might encourage her to check it out with me.

Iíve always had a lot of respect for the Unitarian Universalists. Might have to check them out again too.
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Old 10-01-2017, 07:18 AM
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...or maybe just give up on the need for communal affirmation of a personal truth...?
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Old 10-01-2017, 03:09 PM
Al99 Al99 is online now
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Quote:
...or maybe just give up on the need for communal affirmation of a personal truth...?
That is always an option of course - but some folks do find personal meaning in communal worship services - so at least there are some options for those who self identify as Christian and polyamorous to attend communal worship services if they choose to do so. After all, to each his own.... Al
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Old 10-02-2017, 04:40 AM
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I doubt that credentials are checked at the door. Should individuals wish to worship as individuals, is that a problem with any given denomination?
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Old 10-03-2017, 03:21 PM
Al99 Al99 is online now
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Quote:
Should individuals wish to worship as individuals, is that a problem with any given denomination?
If the individual publicly identifies as actively polyamorous, there can be problems in some circumstances. In the Roman Catholic Church, the person would not be allowed to take communion as long as they were actively poly (and sexually active) - although they could attend services (similar to sexually active gays). In some fundamentalist-evangelical or charismatic churches, a known actively poly individual might be asked to stay away until they changed their ways - or allowed to attend services but not granted church membership as long as they were actively poly. If they attended services, they would be constantly "witnessed" to in an effort to persuade them to give up their "life of sin".

More moderate churches would welcome poly identified individuals to participate - even with their partners - but would not sanction their poly relationship. But in most cases, they probably would not be told that they should "change their ways". Depending on the church and denomination, they might not be asked to fill leadership positions.

As I wrote in my original post - if an individual particularly enjoys attending a particular church (especially one that is actively opposed to poly), the best solution might be just to keep their poly identity to themselves - if they are comfortable with that. Obviously some would be and others would not.

The point of my post was to identify possible church environments where polyfolks would be welcome and their poly relationships acknowledged without judgment - and even sanctioned in writing in the MCC. Al
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Old Today, 01:39 AM
Atreides Atreides is offline
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Personally, I would like to see an independent small group/pub theology/house church/alternative community movement among Christians of various intimate lives, from various denominations, bringing together movements for intimate agency with wider movements for social change. I am planning on going back to school to pursue my doctorate in theology and I plan on focusing my work on constructing formalized theological thought centered on relational anti-normativity and dialogue across religious/spiritual identities since there is so much spiritual diversity in nonmonogamous communities. I would hope to see grassroots parachurch networks growing alongside that work. Personally I'm tired of fighting for institutional acceptance for XYZ identities, I say let's figure out how to do better on our own and then force more sweeping changes when the institution is ready. Evangelicals have already capitalized on the realization that the power for religious change is with the people and not the institutions. But that's me.

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