Jason Whitener (41), whose grandfather was a Presbyterian minister, preached with clarity, conviction and compassion and then determined that in good conscience he can no longer serve in the PCUSA. You can hear his sermon here.
James Edwards, esteemed professor at Whitworth College and longtime leader in Presbyterians for Renewal and Theology Matters, demitted his ordination. Saying in part:
In condoning same-sex marriage and redefining marriage the General Assembly of the PCUSA has heard another voice regarding gender and marriage than the univocal voice of Scripture and tradition, and in its decision to embrace that voice it has chosen to follow another lord than the one and only Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ. An ecclesial body that turns from its orthodox heritage and teaches its members to do the same can no longer command, nor does it deserve, allegiance from the faithful. What the Apostle Peter said to the Sanhedrin I must say to a denomination that has substituted an alien anthropology for a Biblical and Christian anthropology: ‘I must obey God rather than man’ (Acts 5:29).
Dan McMillan, who has pastored faithfully for in the denomination for decades, wrote to his congregation:
A nation that no longer recognizes and defends its sovereign boundaries is no longer a nation.
A church that no longer recognizes and defends moral boundaries is no longer a church.
We are living in catastrophic times. It may not seem like it. Folks still go to work, fight traffic jams, take vacations, work hard to keep the house and lawn looking great, gather for family meals, go to sporting events….
It all seems normal where we live. But the world has changed disastrously right under our noses.
Proof? The nation will not defend its borders. It is being overwhelmed with children refugees and criminal elements from Central America and the Middle East.
Our national leaders’ response? Calls for compassionate care of the children, billions proposed to beef up an overloaded system of adjudication, requests to house the children in detention centers at military installations, extra funds for border patrol agents to baby-sit our new guests.
Some of our leaders propose securing the borders. But how? All of our leaders equivocate about closing the borders through use of arms and surveillance measures. Those who propose harsh measures for rounding up our illegal guests and transporting them home are called names like “racists” and “hate-mongers”
No, we no longer are citizens of a sovereign nation. State militias and private citizens are volunteering to close the borders themselves. They are trying to enforce federal law that national leaders refuse to enforce. They are accused of being lawless, taking the law into their own hands.
And what about a church without defined and defended boundaries?
I haven’t the space to explain. Two examples will suffice. First, an overture from Green Hill and approved by our Presbytery was voted on at General Assembly last month. Our proposal to the church at large was to simply study for two years the plight of unwanted children, both the born and unborn. It was a call to the church to open its collective eyes. It went down in flames, overwhelmingly defeated in committee and in the Assembly plenary session.
Our denomination won’t spend the time and effort to evaluate sacred boundaries of life created in the image of God. Think about that!
How can an individual believer in Christ, much less an entire congregation like Green Hill, contribute one penny to an enterprise that wilfully remains blind to camps of death where children are considered to be blobs of tissue or somehow less than human? If we remain silent we should be forced one day to apologize to the silent Germans of the 1930’s and 40’s.
Our denomination will not defend biblical holiness, but neither will it defend its own order and constitutional law. The worship directory in the current Book of Order clearly spells out that marriage is between a man and a woman. Blindly and foolishly the General Assembly voted to clarify the forever understanding of marriage and its own constitution by creating a new moral right of ministers to marry persons of the same gender in states that allow it.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is no longer a church. It cannot abide by its own Constitution, much less God’s covenant law regarding human relationships. Churches like Green Hill have been cast aside. Our mission partners in foreign lands are aghast at a once great missionary-minded and bible-believing denomination.
What are we to do now that the boundaries have been removed?
Let us be like Joshua who declared the truth of God to ancient Israel. He not only declared the truth, but He took a firm non-negotiable stand when he said “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
The time has come to declare the boundaries; but not only to declare them; we must take a stand as a church to defend them no matter what the cost.
A Spiritual Descendant of Joshua,
A pastor who served as a commissioner to the GA informed his congregation that if the amendment to formally redefine marriage in the Book of Order Directory for Worship were to achieve the necessary votes in the presbyteries then he would, in good conscience, have to retire at that time. The response from his presbytery has been to mobilize the Committee on Ministry to remove him now, charging that his statement was somehow designed to distance the congregation from the prevailing direction of the denomination.
Even institutional insiders like the former head of the denomination’s Office of Theology and Worship, Joe Small, sees problems with the procedures followed by the Assembly that led to its flawed decisions.
Of course, that is not the whole story.
While these grieve, others celebrate. You can read the reflections of pro-LGBTQ activists here:
While some grieve and some rejoice, others are not yet satisfied. Threats to the so-called protection of conscience clause that was added to the amendment that is now before presbyteries for a vote, galls some for whom the LGBTQ agenda is genuinely a justice issue. Justice advocates are not satisfied with freedom of conscience for all. They are not satisfied until all agree with them.
Expect to hear arguments on the floor of your presbytery that feature the points made by Donna Riley who laments what she calls “heteronormative” language in the Book of Order.
Where will this all end? Good question. What we know is that the next year in the life of the PCUSA promises to be tumultuous.