NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- A Nashville, Tennessee, swingers club -- an adult establishment where men and women, some married, swap sexual partners -- seems to be living by the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"- or at least look like you are joining them.
After Nashville Metro City Council and the Tennessee State Legislature unanimously passed measures which effectively prevented The Social Club of downtown Nashville from relocating to an outlying suburb, the club's attorney, Larry Roberts, vowed to take the issue to court. Instead, The Social Club resubmitted their request to the city council and received preliminary approval to open in the new location as a church instead of a club.
The business's plan to relocate to Madison, Tennessee, met fierce opposition from residents earlier this year primarily because the club's property borders 50-year-old Goodpasture Christian School, the largest private school north of Nashville which enrolls approximately 900 pre-school – high school students, annually.
"I think what's troublesome . . . is just the proximity it is to small children, but especially just children. Our goal is for them to never open their doors," Ricky Perry, president of Goodpasture Christian School, told Nashville ABC-affiliate WKRN in January.
Even though The Social Club's web site continues to advertise itself as a private-membership club where "singles and open-minded couples" can "explore their fantasies or simply enjoy the adventurous atmosphere," Roberts informed the Tennessean that no sexual activity will occur at The United Fellowship Center. "It's going to be a place where people can meet and enjoy fellowship," he told the publication. "I assume if someone meets there and wants to do something of a sexual nature, they'll go to a hotel or a motel or go home."
Others are not so sure.
Nashville Councilwoman Karen Bennett, who led opposition to the zoning request, told the newspaper that United Fellowship, which still plans to require membership, did nothing other than change the names of the rooms. United Fellowship floorplans are similar to those submitted for The Social Club with the "dance floor" now labeled as a "sanctuary," two rooms previously labeled as "dungeon" now called "choir" and "handbells" and several small rooms now labeled as "prayer rooms."
Bennett declared the organization will have to do more than call themselves a church.
"If they want to say they're a church, it really has to go through the normal process. I'm assuming they'll have to get their (nonprofit) status," she said. A letter to current club members stated that their memberships will still be honored.
Jon Roebuck, senior pastor of Nashville's Woodmont Baptist Church, told Christian Examiner that a true church is known by its fruit.
"People can put any sign on the outside of a building and can call themselves a church, but it is the hearts and minds of the people, not brick and mortar, that defines a church," he said. "The establishment of that church will be known – whether it believes in compassionate care for others and the study of God's word.
"Slap a name on it if you want to," he challenged. "If it's a falsehood that will certainly come to light."
Roebuck also explained that this situation demonstrates the importance of community involvement by church members.
"Churches have to be involved in the life of the community – be a transformative entity and share the love of Christ," he said. "The world is not impressed by our private devotion. The world changes when we live out our faith day-to-day. We really have to be involved in the community, know what's at stake, and know what are the means to impact that community."