Meet a church clarity volunteer: jess kotnour
October 19, 2017

An Inside Look into Who and How We Score

We just published 15 more churches to our database and thought it would be helpful to give you an inside look into the Church Clarity Score process, as well as invite your feedback. Thank you so much to everyone who has already emailed and tweeted their input after our whirlwind launch just yesterday.

In this release, we’ve reviewed your submissions and have deliberately chose a sprinkling of churches:

  • Mainline churches. Although the problem of ambiguously communicated policies in evangelical churches is often more visible, the truth is that it exists in mainline Protestant churches as well. And, contrary to what many evangelicals believe, not all mainline churches are affirming. The United Methodist denomination, the largest mainline denomination in the USA, is currently internally divided on LGBTQ policy. So for this release, we scored two United Methodist churches, one of which is clear + affirming and the other unclear + non-affirming. And based on the 400+ forms that were submitted in the first 24 hours, it looks like we’ll be scoring many more mainline churches.
  • "Third Way" churches. A "third way" approach to LGBTQ policy essentially means a "third way" in-between being "open and affirming" and "traditional and conservative." Suffice to say, embracing "third way" means different things for different congregations. In this release, we scored 2 third-way churches who belong to the "Blue Ocean Faith" network, which has its own third-way approach to controversial issues. Blue Ocean Faith churches are fully inclusive and have no exclusionary policies that restrict LGBTQ people from participating in any part of church life. But they deliberately do not describe their approach as "open and affirming" because they do not require everyone in the congregation to agree or comply with their theological beliefs about LGBTQ people. We understand why Blue Ocean churches want to differentiate themselves from "open and affirming" churches. But from our purview, because we are solely focused on assessing clarity of policy (and not theology or ecclesiology), we scored Blue Ocean churches' actively enforced policies as "clear" and "affirming" because they allow LGBTQ people to participate at every part of church life and leadership.
  • International churches. Our database will most likely be dominated by churches within the United States, but, as many of our Advocates have pointed out (thank you!), #ChurchClarity is needed in many other countries. Who are we to argue with that? Thus we included a Canadian church in this batch, and we hope to include more international churches in future releases.
  • Expanding beyond mega-churches. This release also includes a number of “regular-sized” churches. Based on the forms that have been submitted, it seems that clarity is a reasonable expectation for  churches of all sizes.

Scoring case-study: Church Clarity & Denominations

*EDITED*

We have since changed our scoring criteria based on the feedback we have received. So long as our Scorers can find evidence online that a church belongs to a non-affirming denomination, it will be scored as "unclear + non-affirming" even if the church's website does not disclose its denominational affiliation.

One of the churches that we recently reviewed is Champion City Vineyard Church (CCVC). We scored it as "Unclear + Non-affirming" because the Vineyard movement has a pretty clear policy on LGBTQ people, even though CCVC does not, according to our research, state in its website's primary pages that it belongs to a larger church movement called Vineyard. 

Similar, that is why Elevation Church was scored "unclear-nonaffirming" -- Southern Baptist churches are essentially required to be non-affirming in their policy, if not they will be voted out -- even though it does not state on its website that it is a Southern Baptist church

As always, churches can appeal their scores if they find that our evidence is out-dated or inaccurate.

Chat with us on Twitter or Facebook, or email us, to tell us what you think about our scoring methodology and decisions. As always, if you disagree with a score you can submit an appeal here.