Todd Wagner's Statement in the Dallas Morning News
Loving correction (church discipline) can be a difficult idea to understand, because candidly -- though the mandate is clearly explained by Jesus in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament, most churches today completely ignore it. Discipline is an act of love, something any parent knows. The heart of true correction is always to bring about good in the life of an individual. Our goal with every instance of care and correction is to restore the relationship and save a hurting friend from the trouble that sin always creates.
Below is an overview of a church discipline incident that received media attention in our community. If you have questions about this or any topic, please reach out.
(Originally published in The Dallas Morning News:)
Recently, one of our former members here at Watermark Community Church shared communication he received from his close friends and church leaders informing him that his membership status had changed because of his desire to actively participate in a same-sex relationship. This letter has gained much attention online. Some are confused, even hurt and I understand why. The practice of church discipline (which is to say, loving correction) is a process that is unfamiliar to most and because of the harshness of the word "discipline" might even be perceived as unloving, oppressive or archaic.
Additionally, homosexuality itself is an area where the larger church has often failed to love well and many church leaders have unfairly and wrongly made it out to be a "larger" sin than other "more acceptable" sins like pride, pornography, materialism, anger or heterosexual infidelity. Any "church" that has said homosexual acts are a more significant sin than others has failed Christ and needs to seek forgiveness from both Jesus and those who struggle with same-sex attraction.
Following the example of Jesus, Watermark loves and welcomes people of all backgrounds, economic statuses, ethnicities and sexual struggles. Also following his example, we encourage people to turn away from sin and to follow Jesus. We have many members and several staff who struggle with same-sex attraction or for whom same-sex sexual activity is a part of their past. We count it a privilege to labor with them in their desire to resist temptation, and we rejoice with them as they experience forgiveness and new life in Christ. Their stories are powerful and serve as beautiful testimonies to the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
Prior to his membership status being changed, this friend made clear to us that he no longer believed same-sex sexual activity was inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ and no longer desired to turn from it. Like any member whose beliefs move away from the core commitments, biblical convictions, and values of Watermark, it became appropriate to formally acknowledge his desire to not pursue faithfulness to Christ with us. When you enter into a formal membership covenant with a church family, the leaders and church community promise to "keep watch over your souls," according to Hebrews 13:17, and will be held accountable before God for your spiritual care and encouragement. This care is a sacred trust and comes with great responsibility. As members of God's family we are called to love, admonish, encourage, and help each other in our relationship with Christ.
Loving correction (church discipline) can be a difficult idea to understand, because candidly -- though the mandate is clearly explained by Jesus in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament, most churches today completely ignore it. Discipline is an act of love, something any parent knows. The heart of true correction is always to bring about good in the life of an individual. Our goal with every instance of care and correction is to restore the relationship and save our hurting friend from the trouble that sin always creates.
We encourage anyone with more questions to see the statement below for an in-depth explanation. We'd also love to sit with you, answer any questions you might have, and encourage you in the midst of whatever struggles you face today.
We believe Jesus is the hope of the world and it's the job of his church to hold fast to the truth found only in the word of God. No sin is greater than another. Jesus died for you. Forgiveness and new life is available to you in Jesus Christ.
Todd Wagner is the pastor of Watermark Community Church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, one of our former members posted a letter he received from some close friends and the leadership of our church informing him that his membership status had been removed. We would like to take the opportunity to address this situation and offer clarity to those seeking answers and understanding.
As we’ve previously shared, following the example of Jesus, Watermark loves and welcomes people of all backgrounds, economic statuses, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and struggles. Also following His example, we encourage people to turn away from sin and to follow Jesus.
As directed by Scripture, Watermark makes a distinction between regularly attending and being a formal member of our church. We don’t remove someone’s formal status as a member for struggling with sin – whether that sin is pride, materialism, or sexual sin. Every member of Watermark needs God’s grace to stand firm in the midst of temptation and His forgiveness for the times we fall short.
An individual’s formal relationship with us as a member is only changed when someone no longer desires to resist sin and/or refuses our help, care, and encouragement. Even if someone’s formal membership status is removed, our desire is to continue to love and care for them, and they are always welcome to attend Watermark and be reminded of the grace and truth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
In regard to the specific letter currently on social media and the subsequent commentary on it, we would like to share a few things that have been misrepresented. Before he ever received this letter, some of his closest friends and then leaders at Watermark met face-to-face with him numerous times to understand how to best love and serve him.
In those meetings, it became increasingly clear that he no longer believed same-sex sexual activity was inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ, and he also made it clear that he no longer desired the help, care, and encouragement we were seeking to provide.
Like any member whose beliefs move away from the core commitments, biblical convictions, and values of Watermark, it became appropriate to formally change his membership status. However, we continue to express to him that he is loved and is always welcome to attend Watermark.
As he shared in his post, he received the formal communication from us a year ago. Only the few people who walked alongside him in this process and those who had a relationship with him were aware of the change in his membership status and the reason for it. While these instances are rare, we always endeavor to keep them confined to only the small group of people connected directly with them, with the goal of ultimately restoring relationships.
If you have any questions about this or would like to meet with a member of our staff to discuss, you can email email@example.com.
If you are a member of the media, please direct all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.