Do you find it curious that the media considers it news when a pastor — who openly serves the LGBT community and openly attends LGBT national events — makes his “coming out” in favor of same-sex marriage the subject of a Sunday sermon?
While the article in a local paper may have local significance, the content of the sermon has eternal implications.
“I have concluded, after exhaustive biblical study and theological reflection, that the Bible does condemn promiscuity of all stripes, and rape in all forms, but knows nothing of the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living. I therefore support marriage for all, with the terms and conditions of marriage being applicable for all marriages.” – Rev. Richard Gantenbein, in August 14, 2016 sermon, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Sonoma, Calif.
Either God is omnipotent, sovereign and eternal, or God is not God.
The issue is not same-sex marriage.
The issue is not the propriety or impropriety of sex of any variety.
If we say that the Bible “knows nothing of the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living,” we are either saying that God knows nothing of such relationships; that God intentionally included confusion about the issue throughout the Old and New Testaments; or, that the Bible is not the Word of God. Let’s take those in order.
Option 1: God knows nothing of “the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living.” If so, then God is not God in that God is not omnipotent. And, if God knows nothing of these relationships then what is a pastor or church doing when they bless such relationships? How can could God’s representatives in the world be actively blessing something that they admit God does not even know? Clearly, those who claim that the Bible doesn’t know about the kinds of LGBT relationships that exist today are saying something other than God doesn’t know about it.
Option 2: God knew and God knows about “the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living” but God put misleading and contradictory information in the Bible for some purpose known only to God. You cannot get around the fact that the Bible says what it says about gender identity, homosexual acts and bisexual behavior. Even the pastor at the center of this article admits as much:
“People say to me, ‘Everybody knows what the Bible says about this,’ and yeah, I know what the Bible says,” Gantenbein remarks. “But I think what’s being talked about in the Bible is not Ron and Dan, or Mike and Brian. I think the Bible’s talking about promiscuity. I think it’s talking about sex for the sake of sex, outside of a covenant relationship. When I get to Heaven, if I find out that I read the scripture wrong, well, I’d rather risk that, than risk being on the side of those who stand against being loving and accepting…”
The pastor is making a choice that includes the active suppression of what the Bible clearly says. So, if the Bible says what it says and yet means something different than what it says, then God is a God who cannot be trusted. That doesn’t seem like a good place to land.
Option 3: The Bible isn’t really the Word of God. You don’t have to believe what the Bible says if the Bible is merely the words of men.
Pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA) — of which Rev. Gantenbein is a member — are taught this in the denomination’s Confession of 1967 which says in part: “The Scriptures … are nevertheless the words of men.”¹ Having undermined the foundations of the authority of the Scriptures as God’s Word, it is easy to set oneself up as an authority over what the Bible says.
There are errors in the article not least of which is the statement that “Gantenbein’s view on same-sex marriage is now shared by a majority of American Presbyterian congregations.”
While post-Obergefell research from Pew says that 64 percent of white mainline Protestants now approve same sex marriage, a 2012 Presbyterian Panel survey of the PCUSA found that “around one-half of members (51 percent) and ruling elders (48 percent) oppose same-sex marriage, while more than one in three are in favor (34 percent; 38 percent); the rest are not sure.”
Furthermore, Gantenbein’s view is anathema in every expression of Presbyterianism except for the PCUSA. So, Presbyterians in the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and on and on, do not share Gantenbein’s view but hold instead to the 2,000 year teaching of the Church on the subject.
1. See page 291 of the PCUSA’s Book of Order, paragraph 9.29.