Poly-friendly Churches

Al99

Active member
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...
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
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
 
This is very well-written, Al. You’ve 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.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for the Unitarian Universalists. Might have to check them out again too.
 

Al99

Active member
...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
 

Al99

Active member
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
 

Atreides

New member
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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Al99

Active member
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.

Interesting concept, Atreides. I believe to a more limited extent - that is within a framework of more traditional Christianity and primarily embracing the LBGTQ community - the MCC was founded with a similar view. But I do understand that what you are proposing is more encompassing - both in terms of sexuality and theology. I applaud your vision and wish you the best in achieving your goals! Al
 

PolyNatural

Banned
Nah; nonsense. :D That's just Neopagan stuff that is nowhere near mainstream.

If hewing toward Xtiman ideals is ideal, then stick with Unitarian.

The Church of All Worlds is where the word Polyamory is widely credited to have come into existence, and they welcome those of Abrahamic faith. In contrast, the "mainstream" or Abrahamic religions are the ones that have traditionally pushed monogamy ( despite some of the biblical stories ). But there are other alternatives if you prefer a patriarchal religion based on fables and myths where non-monogamy was common, such as Nordic mythology. Not sure where you can go to worship Thor though. Why bother with religion at all is what I wonder.
 

Amarna

New member
Token UU here! Join our cult! :D

Personally, I've found that I like the community a religious community offers and am active in both the local UU and pagan communities, which have been very accepting of my polyamorous lifestyle.
 

Al99

Active member
The Church of All Worlds

I have to confess that I have a special fondness in my heart for the CAW - just because they adopted the name from Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land", which remains one of my very favorite novels of any genre to this day (it's been with me since I was ten). And I am also aware that the term polyamory is often associated with the CAW - which is an interesting point for our group. And I certainly have no objections to Paganism - I have a number of Pagan friends with whom I have some very interesting conversations.

The purpose of the post, however, was to present options for those individuals who specifically identify as Christians and have a preference for attending a Christian or a "Christian-style" (as in UU) church. Hopefully, it may prove helpful for some to whom that is important.

There are many other options for those who self identify differently and pursue other paths. Just a matter of preference. Some people prefer chocolate, some prefer poly.... etc....

Al
 
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PolyNatural

Banned
I have to confess that I have a special fondness in my heart for the CAW - just because they adopted the name from Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land", which remains one of my very favorite novels of any genre to this day (it's been with me since I was ten). And I am also aware that the term polyamory is often associated with the CAW - which is an interesting point for our group. And I certainly have no objections to Paganism - I have a number of Pagan friends with whom I have some very interesting conversations.

The purpose of the post, however, was to present options for those individuals who specifically identify as Christians and have a preference for attending a Christian or a "Christian-style" (as in UU) church. Hopefully, it may prove helpful for some to whom that is important.

There are many other options for those who self identify differently and pursue other paths. Just a matter of preference. Some people prefer chocolate, some prefer poly.... etc....

Al

Fair enough. If I keep going I'll just end up steering the discussion into the question of why bother with religion in the first place, let alone mythical superheroes like Jesus, and that's not what the thread's for. But for what it's worth, if Jesus was real, I think he'd be poly but repress it because he seemed to have this thing for suffering ... lol.
 

Al99

Active member
Podcast - Discussion of Christianity and Polyamory

I recently came across this podcast - which features an interesting, if not definitive, discussion on the changing relationship between poly and Christianity.

https://www.multiamory.com/podcast/176-christianity-polyamory

There is also a typed transcript of the podcast on the same page - which is a nice feature.

Caveat: the podcast stalled as I was listening even though my Net connection was solid. However, there was a "download episode" button just beneath the player that worked just fine (even though the stream was stalling) - so I was then able to listen to the file on my device with no delay at all.

Following is the intro to the podcast:

"Peace be with you! This week we're sitting down with Rev. Austin Adkinson and theologian J.D. Mechelke to dive into the tricky topic of polyamory and Christianity. How is the Christian church handling shifting values around sexuality and non-traditional relationships? What about the church's bad track record with sex positivity? And what the heck is a sword drill?

J.D. R. Mechelke (he/him/his) J.D. R. Mechelke currently lives in Minneapolis, MN. He graduated from Augsburg University in Minneapolis, MN with a B.A. in Youth and Family Ministry. Currently, he is pursuing an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He currently serves as High School Youth Minister at an ELCA church in the twin cities. When J.D. isn’t studying Lutheran and Queer theologies he enjoys drinking beer on the deck and paddling with his partner Andrew in Minnesota’s BWCAW.

Rev. Austin Adkinson is the pastor of Haller Lake UMC in Seattle. He is a member of the leadership teams of United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus and the Western Methodist Justice Movement and was part of the 2016 General Conference delegation from the PNW Conference. Beyond the church they serve on the board of Seattle’s Pan-Eros Foundation (formerly the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture) where he has been helping launch the foundation’s Consent Academy (www.consent.academy). "
 

Al99

Active member
Poly in the News Post on Poly and Christianity (10/16/2019)

Adding a link to this thread, for any who may be researching the subject - Alan M posted the following article on his Polyamory in the News Blog:

Poly & Christian -- a huge and diverse field

https://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/2019/10/poly-christian-huge-and-diverse-field.html

His article contains a number of links to various articles relating to "Polyamory and Christianity" that may prove helpful to those who may have an interest in the subject.

Al
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
Adding a link to this thread, for any who may be researching the subject - Alan M posted the following article on his Polyamory in the News Blog:

Poly & Christian -- a huge and diverse field

https://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/2019/10/poly-christian-huge-and-diverse-field.html

His article contains a number of links to various articles relating to "Polyamory and Christianity" that may prove helpful to those who may have an interest in the subject.

Al

Hi, Al.

I was wandering through those links, and found a transcript of a podcast, where 2 liberal Christian ministers are being interviewed about their views on how you can be a Christian and polyamorous.

https://www.multiamory.com/podcast/176-christianity-polyamory#transcript=

There's a common misconception that there is Biblical basis for a "one man, one woman" marriage being the only way a Christian can have a romantic relationship.

Of course, I've read about liberal Christians who set this aside, for gay matters, and sometimes for polyamorous matters. However, I never read a really good argument for how they specifically back this up Biblically. But I like this one:

Rev. Austin: So this coming Sunday, one of the scriptures is actually about Jesus' teaching in a group, and somebody says, "Hey, Jesus, your mother and your brothers are here, don't you want to go talk to them?"

He says, "Who is my mother? Who is my brother? All those who--" I'm going to butcher the exact quote here because I'm not that kind of Christian, but basically saying, "All those who honor my Father in heaven are my--" The translations I would use are brothers and sisters in Christ, but I think the actual Greek is brothers.

Of course it is. :rolleyes:

So Jesus was actually saying, our family is those who we are doing faithful love, and working toward the kingdom of God with. That's not to say that Jesus was anti-family, although his mother and his brothers probably would've been hurt to hear him say that. It was a much more expansive idea of who we love and care for. It's a large part of Jesus' message.

It's absolutely true that most of Christian history has focused on nuclear family, but I would say that's a secular value that got "religified..." rather than the other way around. There's a lot of Christianity in general, and a lot of assumptions about what it means to be Christian, that have come through the historical [secular, Roman, Hellenistic] thing, rather than what Jesus was really focused on.

So, when I do things that challenge people's concepts of what the Bible really says or doesn't say, you have to look a lot at the context of what each piece of writing [is in], what was happening around it, and not just take it face value. I bring a lot of nuance into it, that's how I get at it.

There's nothing in the Bible that's going to say polyamory is good, because there's no such phrase for that, but challenges of who we love, and who we're supposed to love, and really loving everyone, is at the center of things through all of Jesus' teachings.

I'd say that broader idea of, "family, brothers [and sisters]," is a pretty good out for all gay, bi and poly Christians, right there. It does away with "blood" family. It also does away with a secular idea of "one man, one woman" marriage. Therefore, 2 men or 2 women can love each other, and more than 2 people can love each other, in any sense of the word love.

Boom.
 

Al99

Active member
I'd say that broader idea of, "family, brothers [and sisters]," is a pretty good out for all gay, bi and poly Christians, right there. It does away with "blood" family. It also does away with a secular idea of "one man, one woman" marriage. Therefore, 2 men or 2 women can love each other, and more than 2 people can love each other, in any sense of the word love.

Boom.

Well said, Magdlyn. I had listened to that podcast on the Multiamory site and found it to be a quality presentation, but did not read the transcript - but I believe I will go back and do that. Your quote of the transcript is a very solid point to be made in defense of a Biblical defense of polyamory in a Christian context - which would be important for some in reconciling practicing poly and Christianity at the same time. Thanks for adding this to the discussion.

My own self identification as a (Gnostic) Christian is based upon my aspiration to live Jesus' teachings of love and forgiveness. Other great spiritual teachers emphasized other aspects of spirituality, but the message of love and forgiveness has always resonated with me.

My own personal view is that Jesus was an ascended master who taught a Gospel of love and forgiveness (although being an ascended master is not essential to the narrative, I believe it to be true). His followers then built a religion and folklore around him (including the New Testament documents. The Gnostic documents, such as those found at Nag Hammadi, probably come closer to reflecting his actual teachings) which incorporated existing mores and customs, and established his deification by developing such doctrines as vicarious atonement, and his unique divinity. But, that's just my take.

Al
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
Well said, Magdlyn. I had listened to that podcast on the Multiamory site and found it to be a quality presentation, but did not read the transcript - but I believe I will go back and do that.

It was rather terrible as far as grammar and punctuation, and the folks involved rambled all over the place, interrupting themselves time and again. As an editor, it kind of made me nuts. But I struggled on! :p

Your quote of the transcript is a very solid point to be made in defense of a Biblical defense of polyamory in a Christian context - which would be important for some in reconciling practicing poly and Christianity at the same time. Thanks for adding this to the discussion.

My own self identification as a (Gnostic) Christian is based upon my aspiration to live Jesus' teachings of love and forgiveness. Other great spiritual teachers emphasized other aspects of spirituality, but the message of love and forgiveness has always resonated with me.

My own personal view is that Jesus was an ascended master who taught a Gospel of love and forgiveness (although being an ascended master is not essential to the narrative, I believe it to be true). His followers then built a religion and folklore around him (including the New Testament documents. The Gnostic documents, such as those found at Nag Hammadi, probably come closer to reflecting his actual teachings) which incorporated existing mores and customs, and established his deification by developing such doctrines as vicarious atonement, and his unique divinity. But, that's just my take.

Al

Yes, I do not ID as a gnostic Christian, but I find gnosticism in itself highly rewarding. I do not believe in anything so poorly documented or extra-Biblically confirmed as the gospels, canonical or otherwise, to be historical fact. I do not believe Jesus as an actual person ever existed. But the gnostic writings are much more interesting than the orthodox ones. Less patriarchal, and more Buddhist in nature. Not that I am a Buddhist, I'm more neo pagan and goddess oriented. I find Mary Magdalene/Sophia to be the most interesting Bible character by far, with Asherah a close second.

I feel sorry for Christians trying to keep up with the times. Christianity is really so irrelevant and creaky in so many ways, in my opinion.
 
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