Summary of Trinity Alcohol Use Policy
In response to a member of Trinity's concerns regarding the general approval of alcohol use at various Trinity functions including Diaconate and Session meetings, the Session appointed a subcommittee consisting of two elders, two deacons and the concerned member to study the scriptures and make recommendations for the Session's consideration. This subcommittee met for a period of 3 months and made recommendations to the Session at their November 2017 meeting. The entire recommendation, as approved by the Session, is available on our web site. The following is a summary of this policy:
Several affirmations are very clear and were never in question.
- We affirm that we must depend wholly upon scripture as we consider the proper role of alcohol within our church rather than depending upon the culture we live in that would also seek to influence us.
- We desired to equally avoid two contrasting cultural pressures. The first is the general pressure from the culture outside the church to glorify and encourage the use of alcohol. The second is the pietistic pressure from within portions of the church to generally condemn the use of alcohol.
- We affirm that universally throughout Scripture, drunkenness is a serious sin against the express command of God.
- We affirm that we are additionally commanded throughout scripture to obey the laws of the state and the rules we are placed under. This includes age restrictions and place restrictions such as public properties and the particular desire of property owners.
- We affirm that the peace and purity of the church are of utmost importance and that this should influence every particular decision regarding alcohol use.
Beyond condemning drunkenness, Scripture has much to say regarding the use of alcohol. The Bible consistently refers in an approving manner the same wine and strong drink that it condemns us to use to become drunk. For example, the word used for "wine" that Jesus made from barrels of water at the wedding in Cana is the same as the word used for "wine" that we are not to become drunk while consuming. There are several other such occurrences. There is also very clear distinction made in scripture between non-alcoholic grape juice and alcoholic wine. Further, the idea that the wine referred to and approved by scripture is a weak wine is refuted by the OT blessings and coursings. One of the curses of disobedience is that your wine shall be watered down (Isaiah 1:22).
Wine and strong drink is repeatedly referred to as a gift of God or a blessing from God for His people. It was also to be given to the priests of God as an offering with the admonition that the Levites in your area not be excluded (Deuteronomy 14: 27). Melchizedek, a type of Christ, gave wine to Abraham as an offering (Genesis 14:18). Even strong drink, that is associated in other portions of scripture with the result of making drunk, is to be offered as a drink offering to the Lord in worship (Numbers 28:7) and is to be joyfully consumed as a part of the "rejoicing tithe" unto the Lord (Deuteronomy 14:26).
While God does forbid the use of alcohol in particular circumstances such as the vows of the Nasserite and regarding priests in the temple performing their priestly duties, this is never a general condemnation. In fact, these are clearly exceptions to the generally approved use. It is also clear throughout scripture that judgment not be impaired by alcohol. Elders and Deacons are not to be "addicted to much alcohol" (I Timothy 3:8).
Therefore, while scripture is clearly instructive that drunkenness is sinful and is very cognizant that alcohol can be dangerously abused, it nevertheless describes the various forms of alcohol as a gift of God to be enjoyed by His people. Therefore, we deny that the scripture forbids the consumption of alcohol provided it is enjoyed in the manner God intended.
We further deny that scripture encourages the abstention from alcohol except for particular and temporary times of vows and service. However, we affirm that alcohol is not essential for a full life and that in view of the extent of alcohol abuse in our culture some believers have chosen to abstain, even if not required to do so by Scripture. In the proposed guidance which follows below, we seek to ensure that abstaining believers are fully affirmed and welcomed into our fellowship. We would encourage both those who choose to abstain to never consider themselves a more complete Christian by their abstention and for those who choose not to abstain to never consider themselves a more complete Christian by their freedom to partake. Similar to other enjoyments that God allows if properly received, we deny that the enjoyment of alcohol should be perceived as an impediment to the proper understanding of God and his love for and restoration of his creation.
The Session acknowledges and fully understands that there are differing understands of those within our body regarding the issue of alcohol consumption - particularly at church related functions. We are aware that we must "not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." (Romans 14:13-15). For this reason it is our desire that the issue of alcohol not provide any basis for fracture and dissent among our body here at TPC. It is our sincere aim and hope that all will find Trinity a welcoming home and that the grace we have received from Christ will extend fully into the deepest parts of our interpersonal relationships. We affirm that scripture requires us to seek like mindedness, to esteem others as more important than ourselves, to look out for the interests of others, and even to consider the interests of others to be of equal or greater importance than our own.
- Since God has given us alcohol as a gift to be enjoyed, there is no church function where alcohol - properly used in accordance with scripture and in accordance with these basic understandings gleaned from scripture should be totally forbidden. We should teach our church from the perspective that alcohol, similar to food, sex, the arts, recreation, money and more, is a gift of God to be enjoyed but with wisdom and lawful restrictions.
- Not withstanding, we acknowledge the dangers of alcohol improperly used along with the addictive potential of alcohol and develop and communicate reasonable and prudent restrictions to its use. These should certainly include being cognizant of any within our body for which alcohol could be addictive or destructive and encourage circumstantially abstaining out of the perspective of compassion.
- While we generally approve the use of alcohol at church functions, we also expect that the organizers or leaders of each function be empowered to make the ultimate particular decision regarding its use.
- If the use of alcohol at any church function should result in fracture or dissent, among the participants in that activity, that cannot be resolved with teaching or the appeal to charity, we expect that the use of alcohol at that function be voluntarily avoided until these issues are resolved.
- Regarding particular church functions we approve the following:
|Worship - The only proper use of alcohol should be communion wine.
Weddings - Any alcohol is to be provided by the wedding organizers and served and policed in a manner so that underage children or "over imbibers" be denied.
Small Group meetings - Alcohol, may be served with the understanding that ability to study, understand, discuss and pray is never impaired.
Church Parties; Men's Pub nights; Women's functions; Men's and Women's Retreats - The event host should encourage moderation in our enjoyment of alcohol
Church wide dinners - Participants may bring beer or wine in reasonable quantity in a similar manner as they do other beverages provided there are prudent efforts in place to police in a manner so that underage children or those known to have addiction issues not partake.
Session/Diaconate and other official meetings - Alcohol, may be served with the understanding that judgment is never to be impaired. We encourage prudence and careful moderation in this legitimate freedom and that this partaking never be considered an expected occurrence.
APPROVED BY THE SESSION - January 2018