With the legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area (PTCA) issued a reminder to churches that civil action by the legislature does not affect the Book of Order, which governs the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Presbytery officials sent out an email blast May 17 to its 71 member congregations about action by the Minnesota legislature taken earlier in May regarding same-sex unions.
On May 14, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law the same-sex marriage bill that takes effect Aug. 1. His signature on the new law came a day after the Senate passed the measure by a 37-30 vote. A week before, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a 75-59 margin.
Minnesota becomes the 12th state to enact legislation approving gay marriage. Over a 10-day period earlier this month, Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota all gave the OK for such civil unions to become legal.
The other nine states that have approved same-sex marriages are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, Maine and Washington.
Even though states have legalized gay marriage, the PCUSA constitution still prohibits clergy from performing such ceremonies and using space for same-sex unions.
The text of the email alert sent to churches in PTCA outlined the matter. It reads:
“On Tuesday, May 14th Governor Mark Dayton signed into law the Freedom to Marry Act legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Minnesota. It is a sweeping and dramatic change in the legal standing of marriage in this state. This action will create a new landscape regarding ceremonies that are permissible in the life of Minnesota faith communities and each will navigate that landscape according to their particular polity. Some of our own Presbyterian clergy may be asked to perform such ceremonies. This change in civil law in Minnesota does not affect the Book of Order which establishes the parameters of our covenantal life together. While it may create a difficult situation for some from a pastoral care standpoint, The PC(USA) constitution prohibits Presbyterian clergy from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies. Congregations are also prohibited from using space to conduct such ceremonies. PC(USA) clergy are permitted to do services of blessing for a couple, but these are not to be understood as a marriage ceremony. Civil laws and ecclesiastical standards have always moved at different paces. This is the current reality in that intersection.
“Questions on this matter can be addressed to the Executive Presbyter, the Stated Clerk, or the General Assembly office of Constitutional services.”
For more information, please download the Advisory Opinion on Marriage and Same-Gender Ceremonies.
The names of PTCA Executive Presbyter Chaz Ruark and Stated Clerk William Davnie accompany the alert. Neither responded to calls or emails from The Layman regarding the alert.
In a call to action inspired by several commissioner testimonies at the 220th General Assembly of the PCUSA in Pittsburgh, Pa. last year, More Light Presbyterians (MLP) asked PCUSA teaching elders who have performed same-gender weddings, or who are willing to perform them as the pastoral need arises, to join together and publicly proclaim that witness of pastoral care to the wider church. The invitation to affirm such action also was extended to ruling elders and entire church sessions.
Five of the 289 teaching elders to sign the MLP stand for love stating they have or are willing to marry same-gender couple are from the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area along with nine of the 495 ruling elders who signed a similar document affirming the choice of teaching elders to perform same-gender marriages.
Those teaching elders who signed the document were the Rev. Richard Lundy, Dr. Larry Alderink, the Rev. Dr. Richard Headen, the Rev. Timothy Johnson and the Rev. Lindsay Louise Biddle.
Ruling elders (those currently serving a session or not) who gave their endorsement of the MLP stand for love were Betsy Kerr, Ruling Elder Steven Theiss, Ruling Elder Kay Myhrman-Toso, Jeri Lenz-Papke, Jim Hooker, Ruling Elder Benjamin Masters, Laura Kadwell, Leo Gehlhoff and Nancy Scott.
The Book of Order outlines marriage in the directory for worship, W-4.9000-4.9006. In section W-4.9001, the BOO clearly defines marriage as being a civil contract between a woman and a man.
“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.”
Furthermore, the PCUSA constitution does not allow teaching elders to perform and officiate same-gender marriages, and those officers authorized to perform marriages shall not state, imply or represent that a same-sex ceremony is a marriage. However, a 2008 General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) ruling indicated there is “no prohibition in W-4.9001 against performing a same-sex ceremony” or blessing of a union. However, the PCUSA teaching elder must make a clear distinction that a same-gender union ceremony is not a marriage.
The Advisory Opinion on Marriage and Same-Gender Ceremonies also is clear that church facilities are not to be used for same-sex union ceremonies determined to be a marriage ceremony, and it points out that changes in state law do not amend the Book of Order. That ruling was handed down in Southard v. Presbytery of Boston when the GAPJC stated further noted, “in light of the change in the laws of some states, this Commission reiterates that officers of the PC(USA) who are authorized to perform marriages, when performing a ceremony for a same-gender couple, shall not state, imply, or represent that the same-gender ceremony is an ecclesiastical marriage ceremony as defined by PCUSA polity, whether or not the civil jurisdiction allows same-gender civil marriages.”
Editor’s note from Carmen Fowler LaBerge:
Several of the comments posted to this article suggest that the Presbyterian Lay Committee is supporting or endorsing “Stand for Love” campaign. That is not accurate. As has been reported elsewhere by The Layman, the Stand for Love campaign is an effort by pro-LGBTQ advocates through which PCUSA ministers are openly confessing to flagrant violations of the denomination’s constitution. Others are using Stand for Love to express a willingness to allow their PCUSA churches to be used for purposes that are expressly contrary to the ruling of the denomination’s Permanent Judicial Commission in regard to same-sex marriage ceremonies. The PLC does not support the Stand for Love initiative. The article here was posted as a news story about the action taken by a presbytery to inform its members and congregations that the denomination’s standards remain even as the state’s rules have changed in relationship to same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
Thank God, my church bucks that rule. My minister has routinely performed Same Sex Unions in my church. Even thought it isn’t legal in the State of Tennessee, we feel at my church that all people should be allowed to get married and have their commitments recognised publicly. PCUSA, catch up to the times. MoreLight means more parishioners.
I think it is commendable for the Presbytery to send a reminder to the local churches as to the importance of adhering to the denominational standards. And given the theologically liberal and socially progressive leanings of that Presbytery, the closing comment about civil laws and ecclesiastical standards moving at different paces is probably a necessary palliative for those who would prefer to follow society’s lead. And while I might be inclined to criticize the inclusion of that statement, with its implication that ecclesiastical standards will eventually change, for now it should suffice to say that churches may exhibit mature leadership by holding fast to their standards, and the reminder of what those standards are was a worthwhile acknowledgement by the Presbytery.
Now let us pray that the churches hold fast.
Bruce – you seem to be advocating for religious anarchy. “And everyone did what was right in their own eyes,” was not a positive endorsement of such religious chaos, but a condemnation of it.
Does your pastor pick and choose the rules he will follow?
Does your Session or your Presbytery have the courage of its convictions and the moral tenacity to bring him up on charges? Ecclesiastical discipline has its place, and this would seem to be a situation where it is called for.
So, a teaching elder can perform a not marriage ceremony, but can that ceremony be a civil marriage? This, too, will pass. LGBTQI persons need an equal path with the heterosexual majority to woo, wed and cohabit, recognized by the community, on equal footing.
Our presbytery has a celibate Gay pastor (whom I have not met or identified personally), but to me that seems wrong. If there is marriage for him, there needs to be wooing, too. So in some senses, it seems that wedding will lead to accepted wooing. Think of that.
Love and Peace, Live like Jesus,
Bruce was talking about me. Thanks, Bruce! It may require federal law before Tennessee accepts marriage equality. Until then I will marry same-sex couples and regard these unions as marriage in every conceivable way except the license. If I lived in Minnesota or in any marriage equality state, or if a couple from one of those states asked me to be the preacher and sign the license, I would do it. The good news is that same-sex couples can find PCUSA ministers to do it right in their own neighborhood.
Apparently, Forrest, no you don’t have the courage of your convictions or moral tenacity. You could file a charge yourself. A fill-in-the-blank form is in the back of the Book of Order.
Do the right thing, beloveds. Stand for love.
Without wishing to be confrontational in any way by “Standing for Love” and officiating at marriages of same gender loving couples – there is no alternative faithful choice for many of us to make. I “Stand for Love” and stand with John Shuck and others moving toward a time when all may freely marry.
Ray Bagnuolo, National Chaplain
That All May Freely Serve
Time for all Good and Faithful Presbyterian Pastors to follow Jesus ‘ call to love and no discrimination and stand up for LGBT marriage and buck the system and provide Christian marriage ceremonies for all who want them heterosexual and LGBT!!! Stop the bigotry and hate…and if you want to use the lame Leviticus defense all of you pastors out there who are divorced…YOU…my friends are in defiance of the teachings of Jesus!
I applaud several writers who have written to state their willingness to stand for love and marriage as defined by the times and personal opinions. This will undoubtedly bring the PC(USA) into greater favor with the world and bring lasting acceptance with all. I wonder though if there will eventually be any difference between those two entities…the church and the world. Time will tell.
Many thanks to those Teaching and Ruling elders who Stand for Love and to the Layman for once again publicizing that statement! I hope this article will convince even more folks in theTwin Cities area (and everywhere else) to sign on! The 5.4 million good folks of Minnesota now join the other 500 million people on the planet who live in a jurisdiction where same sex marriage is legal, which means there are plenty of opportunities to Stand for Love.
You are quite mistaken in your belief that if the Presbyterian Church (USA) compromises on the Biblical teaching that marriage is a covenant ordained of God between one man and one woman only, that more people will join PCUSA congregations. It has been the mantra of Theological Liberalism ever since the days of Friedrich Schleiermacher that if the Church of Jesus Christ wants to be relevant to the world on behalf of Jesus Christ, then she must compromise on her teachings that the world deems most offensive. Indeed, Theological Liberalism has insisted that the Church must do this both to stem the loss of members from her congregations and also to attract new converts to Christianity.
This might have been the case during the modern age, during which being a Christian was seen as something of a social obligation; that is, in order to be seen as socially respectable, one was obliged to be a member of a Christian church. Theological Liberalism offered an alternative to Biblical Christianity in that it did not (and still does not) insist that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, unchanging, literal Word of God and allows for greater license in dissenting from Biblical doctrines.
But as Dean William R. Inge famously said, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” And this is the great problem that Theological Liberalism faces. In the postmodern age, being a Christian (indeed, being a member of any organized religion) is no longer a prerequisite for social respectability. Individual spirituality is now more highly prized in the world than is adherence to organized religion, and organized religion, in all its multivaried forms, is increasingly regarded with suspicion by the world. Why should an unchurched postmodern person want to be a part of an organized religion, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA)? To follow Mr. Herbertson’s logic, in order to attract this person, the PCUSA should compromise on Biblical teachings that unchurched postmodern people find offensive, such as that wives should submit to their husbands, that homosexuality is a sin, and that faith alone in Jesus Christ alone is the only way to be saved from sin and reconciled with God. But the majority of preachers in the PCUSA have been doing this for the last fifty years, and the denomination has been losing members every year, with her membership falling from above four million fifty years ago to less than two million today. And there is no foreseeable end to this precipitous decline in membership.
Given the current state of the PCUSA, I predict that the General Assembly next year will send an amendment to the Book of Order to the Presbyteries to allow clergy to perform same-gender “marriage” services. Such an amendment might or might not be ratified by a majority of the Presbyteries; if not, the 2016 will send another such amendment that almost certainly will be ratified. But it will not make a whit of difference in the PCUSA’s annual membership loss because the Theologically Liberal PCUSA has not come to grips with the fact that her former paramour, the spirit of the modern age, has died, and that the paramour to whom she is now attempting to make her self appealing, the spirit of the postmodern age, hates her only a little less than he hates Biblically faithful Christianity.
But both spirits are, in fact, the spirit of the world, and the world, in the end, is at enmity with Christ. And the Apostle James has a word to the Theologically Liberal Church that has compromised herself to the world: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (Jas. 4.4-7) But “submit” is an ugly word to the world (unless it is the Church submitting herself to the world’s lusts), and the Theologically Liberal PCUSA has long forgotten what it means to submit herself to God.
Likewise, the Apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I Jn. 2.15-17) But unfortunately, the Theologically Liberal PCUSA loves the world and craves the world’s favor. She is quite willing to do what the world asks of her, but quite unwilling to do what her Lord and Husband asks of her through His servants, the prophets and apostles.
The Apostle Paul wrote that “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not (and still does not) know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (I Cor. 1.21) But most PCUSA pastors do not trust what Paul preached but instead rely upon their own wisdom and understanding. And again, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12.2) But the Theologically Liberal PCUSA is radically conformed to this world, as evidenced from the fact that most of the responses to the above article, including Mr. Herbertson’s and his pastor’s (below), are parroting the world and not flowing from the Word of God.
And so, the PCUSA languishes, convinced that renewal and revitalization are just around the corner if only the PCUSA would more fully compromise the Biblical teaching to the world’s prejudices, thoroughly oblivious to the fact that she is in her current state of decay precisely because she has already compromised so much of the Bible’s teaching to the world’s way of thinking.
Shucks, John, I would be glad to, but all I’ve got to go on is hearsay from on-line posts. If someone in your presbytery were to file charges for “marrying” same-sex couples contrary to both the law of the State of Tennessee and the Book of Order of the PCUSA, how would you plead? Are you saying you’ve actually performed same sex marriages in the state of Tennessee?
I would have signed the “Stand For Love” pledge except for the position of our session that God calls us away from doing legal marriages for both heterosexual and same-gender couples. A judge in our congregation performs the legal part of the marriage ceremony, a family near the church opens their home for the judge to perform the legal contract, and the covenant that echoes traditional wedding language is used in the sanctuary blessings. Session adopted this position for the sake of a variety of considerations. This includes the conviction that God – contrary to both anti-gay reactionary elements in the denomination and the frequent condemnation of marriage by militant members of the homosexual community who equate marriage with “oppressive heterosexual discourse” – retains the freedom to call Christian gay and lesbian persons into faithful, monogamous covenants for the sake of confining sexual impulse, raising children, and generally serving God. To be honest, our congregation has not been flooded by bus loads of gay and lesbian couples wanting to be blessed. Indeed, our requirements for those who want to use our long central aisle and hear our beautiful pipe organ play at their blessing ceremonies keep all kinds of couples away from scheduling services with us. We insist that they know the gospel by taking new member classes (they are not required to join) and receive pre-marital counseling (both from me and a professional therapist). Yet as a congregation we have been growing due to persons who hear in our position the good news of Jesus Christ and his call to enter the Realm of God and its characteristic justice, mercy, and faith. Indeed, my own observation is that too often both sides of this quarrel are straining gnats and swallowing camels. Life is hard; although Jesus praises those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of the Realm of God, the church in mercy blesses, for Christ’s sake, covenants for those who struggle with being human and single, and yet still yearn to serve God. Mercy means not sacrificing same-gender couples on the altar of our legalism and false conscience.
Note: The Layman staff edited my comment without noting they did so. They deleted the Stand For Reason sign-up URL, even though the article itself links to that website and the MLP website three times.
So, I suspect that posting any link in any comment is against the commenting guidelines, but I am unsure if that is the case. Is there a list of Layman commenting guidelines that forbid posting of any links by anyone? If I ran afoul of these guidelines, could Layman staff please post a link to them so that we can all insure that we’re abiding by the guidelines? We certainly don’t want commenting anarchy!
Also, is there a list of editorial guidelines that the Layman staff uses describing when and/or if the staff will and will not edit comments and how other readers can know that the Editors have modified comments and how? A link to those published guidelines would be helpful too. Have any of the other comments in this thread been edited? How do the readers know if they have or have not?
Thanks! And thanks again for publicizing this important work in the church. Keep up the good work!
I am a ruling elder who has signed the Stand for Love, and would do so again without hesitation. It is my firm conviction that in doing so I am choosing the path God wishes for us all. Sexuality does not exist in a conveniently dichotomous state. Humans, like all species, have been created in many wondrous ways, and all are God’s beloved children. I simply cannot see that God would want us to exclude some of those beloved children from the possibility of life partnership in marriage. That is not my understanding of Scripture, nor my understanding of our God.
Those who claim to be “standing for love” are in truth standing for selfish disobedience. This selfish disobedience in a denomination that they are not forced to remain a part of but simply did so to change the church to what they want it to be. Jesus Christ said that we are to die to self, pick up our cross and follow Him. He meant it literally. It is a hard, narrow path to follow and not a ride inclusive road.
Ray, there has always been an “alternative faithful choice” you could have made. You could have left the denomination. In your decision to remain and disobey, you have show complete disregard and contempt for the very vows you took and the people that the liberals have deemed as being “homophobic, intolerant, heterosexists, xenophobic, bigots.” . Such disobedience is “confrontational” and the numerous times the liberals called for another round of denomination-wide voting until the liberals got the outcome they desired was always about being “confrontational.”
Katherine, since you brought up divorce, have you confronted some of the LGBT activists that divorced their wives and husbands? They are in defiance of the teachings of Christ and you should since you are showing such concern about being in accordance with his teachings. I hope you give the MLP an earful about having such men as Gene Robinson as a speaker when he divorced his wife and left her to be with a man. It sure seems the liberals are rather celebratory about divorces when it is in pursuit to “come out of the closet” and “be who you are to have affairs with people of the same sex” but quickly bring up divorce to condemn those that do not agree with them. One of my friends that is a pastor had his wife file for divorce so she could be with her lesbian lover. Are you condemning men like him for his wives sinful defiance? Sure seems like you are doing so with your blanket condemnation and in a rather bold rock throwing gesture that is not reflective of the teachings of Jesus Christ. You calling for “Good and Faithful Presbyterians” is done by your definition of good and not according to what Jesus said. He said that none are good but God. You’ve elevated yourself to judge that the “good and faithful” are the ones that disobey while at the same time you conveniently forget what Jesus said about obedience. Seems you are in defiance of Jesus teachings and are calling for others to be defiant of His teachings as well.
Jesus stressed the importance of obedience. This is a denomination in a nation where people are free to join or leave a church as they wish. Such defiant disobedience that Shuck, McCracken, White and others promote is hateful, mean-spirited, selfishness that seeks to destroy and judges all who do not bow to their desires. It is not “love” as they have declared. If only these disobedient men and women had left the denomination instead of working to divide and conqueor as they have for their own selfish desires, then I would have at least respected them and say they had shown some amount of love. No, instead they willfully disobey, cloak themselves in rainbow scarves to bring attention to themselves to boast about their unity breaking defiant disobedience and then have the audacity to sit in judgement of pastors, elders, deacons and congregations voting to leave the denomination as being the people that are “breaking vows and the unity of the church.”
The true nature of love is found in I Corinthians 13:4-7. 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Charles…I do not condone anyone who divorces their spouse whether for another heterosexual relationship or for a GBLT relationship. I have many friends whom I love who have chosen divorce for both reasons…my point is that if one is going to start throwing out quotes about what Jesus…who is seen as the leader of the church universal by most rather than G-d … Jesus did mention divorce….conservatives who pick and choose which Leciticus passage they want to follow or not follow is ludicrous …where is the church’s condemnation on tattoos, eating pork and shell fish, wearing blended fabrics, etc. The hatred coming out of all denominations of Christianity is what is pulling it down…not gay marriage! I don’t even call myself a Christian anymore because of what “Christianity” is doing…I am a believer in G-d and a follower of the way of Jesus…my advice to folks of all groupings is to stop the hate and start doing what Jesus told us to do…LOVE one another…yes even ones enemies…maybe the church and its people need to read the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats more often to find out what they need to be doing,
I am a ruling elder in the PC(USA) who has signed the Stand for Love. I know something about love and have been deeply in love and remain so with the same woman for 62 years. It is truly a gift of God. AND I also know that homosexual person know about love (just as well if not more so than heterosexual persons.) And their love is just a real, just as authentic and just as God given as is mine. The PC(USA) is compeletly lost in great confusion about sex in human beings – they had one chance years ago in a commission which gave them a great report. But still they cannot hear. God is Love and please PC(USA) get-wtih-it! Peace, John
Who made you to judge that others declaring sex outside of marriage of man-female being sinful is doing so out of hatred? You know their hearts? As I said, I see more hatred coming out of your side that has only worked to divide and conqueor as you see fit and just. You then brag about how you are being loving and good.. I don’t see love from people that willfully disobey as you do and are calling for others to do.
The complete removal of sexual behavior standards that your side called for is exactly why you should never even comment on divorce because there are no standards specificied as you desired. You can’t call for laws and standards to be completely removed then use those removed standards to judge that others have sinned.
The orthodox were disobedient to what Paul said in I Corinthians 5 about what we are to do regarding those that claim to be brothers and sisters yet do not repent and boast about their sins. It was sexual sin that the Corinthians were boasting about being good and Paul told them that those disobedient, unrepentant boasters were not to be associated with at all. We are to be removed from them. We aren’t to eat with them. The Southern Baptist were growing the decades the mainlines were shrinking because they did remove them. They did so in their seminaries and their pulpits.
The orthodox leaving are repentant of their disobedience. They are well aware of what happened because they listened to people like you who have lied to them over the years instead of being obedient to those instructions in I Corinthians 5. Something I never hear from the left are the stories about your own brokeness and sinfulness. I hear conservatives preach about their brokeness and sinfulness. Maybe you should focus on preaching about your sinfulness and stop showing such hatred toward the conservatives as you display. Maybe if you first practiced doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, then you would be too busy worrying about yourself so you wouldn’t call for disobience in this denomination you could have freely left years ago but only worked to destroy..
Where are your sermons about your own hatred toward others? All I see in your comments is your focus on others supposed “hatred.” I have heard the leftist sermons about how you and your friends aren’t judgmental haters like those “conservatives.”
I don’t go to church to get patted on the back or to hear others tell me how wonderful they are. That nonsense makes me ill. I go to hear the truth that comes from God’s word. Truth that burns me of my own wickedness and brokeness that I know about myself and transform me.
It was the disobedience of taking and eating a piece of fruit and eating it from a tree that God told Adam and Eve not to eat that seperated us from God. Doesn’t seem like a big deal to take a piece of fruit to sinful man and that is exactly why you declaring your disobedience being good does not fit what God and His son Jesus Christ declared must be followed – obedience to Him and His commandments.
Rev. Dr. White, please read the proscriptions of the Book of Leviticus in context. The proscription against homosexual conduct is found in Chapter 18, which also proscribes incest (vv. 6-18), engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period (v. 19, which is distinct from the uncleanness command in Lev. 15.24, which declares a man to be ceremonially unclean for seven days if he happens to be engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman when her menstrual period begins; the commandment in Lev. 18.19 is moral in nature, inasmuch as a man would deliberately uncover a woman’s flow of blood, which the Lord regards as morally reprehensible), adultery (v. 20), child sacrifice (v. 21), and bestiality (v. 23). All of these commandments are moral in nature, and except for child sacrifice, they are all sexual in nature. Preceding this list of proscriptions, the Lord commanded the people of Israel through Moses, “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.” (vv. 3-4) And what is more, at the end of the chapter, He reiterated, “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” (vv. 24-28) Please note that it was not because the Canaanites wore tattoos (19.28), ate pork (11.7-8) or shell fish (11.10-12), or wore garments of cloth made of two kinds of material (19.19) that the Lord drove the Canaanites from the Promised Land, but for adultery, sexual immorality (including homosexuality), and child sacrifice.
The wearing of tattoos, eating of “unclean” foods, and wearing garments made from different materials belong to the Ceremonial Law that attended the offering of the Sacrifices that are enumerated in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. As we confess (WCF Ch. 19 §3; PCUSA BoC §6.103), the Ceremonial Law passed away when the Lord Jesus Christ “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10.12), namely, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9.26) As the Lord Himself commanded Peter, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat” the unclean animals on the great sheet in his vision (Acts 10.11-15), so, too, are the Old Testament proscriptions against eating unclean foods passed away in the New. So, too, are all the regulations by which Israel was to demonstrate outward holiness to the nations (e.g., Lev. 19.19,27-28) passed away: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—’Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2.20-23)
Conversely, all the proscriptions of Leviticus 18 are moral in nature, and as we confess (WCF Ch. 19 §5; PCUSA BoC §6.105), the Moral Law never passes away but applies for all time, and by it, the Lord will judge the nations, for He has written His Law on every human heart, so that the conscience of every man or woman will convict him or her when he or she stands before the judgment throne of God (Rom. 2.14-16). That homosexuality is part of the Moral Law of God is evident, for Paul tells us “that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” (I Tim. 1.9-10) Likewise, he tells us, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6.9-11) And if you refuse to listen to the Apostle Paul, insisting that Jesus overrides him, remember that Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5.17-19) And by this, He put His stamp of approval on the whole Old Testament Law, including the proscription against homosexuality in Leviticus 18.22. And to be sure, He also said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Mt. 15.18-20)
Now, shall we love our neighbor as ourselves as Jesus commanded us (Mt. 22.39, Mk. 12.31)? Absolutely! But let us also remember that He quoted this from Leviticus 19.18. Was Jesus then telling us that loving one’s neighbor as oneself was somehow incompatible with regarding homosexuality as a sin against God’s Moral Law? Moses evidently didn’t seem to think so when he wrote the Book of Leviticus.
So then, shall I show love to my homosexual neighbors by telling them that God does not regard their homosexual practice as sin, that there are no negative moral consequences to homosexual practice, and that homosexual “marriage” is approved by God? I would not be showing love if I should say such things, but I would be lying through my teeth! It is written, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Heb. 13.4) What, then, is the purpose of saying these things? That I hate homosexuals? God forbid! My own flesh-and-blood brother is a homosexual, in a “marriage” with another man; nevertheless, I love my brother, and I love his homosexual “husband”. But I should show myself not worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ, unable to be His disciple, if I should allow that love to cause me to misrepresent God’s Holy Moral Law and thus love the Lord my God with less than my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mt. 10.37-39, Lk. 14.26). The point of saying these things is for the hope that homosexuals should repent of their homosexuality, turn to the only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and thus be healed and saved from their sin and unrighteousness.
Reading these apologies for disobedience leaves me spiritually tired. I mean no disrespect for those who teach a greater degree of latitude regarding the Covenant of Marriage, but I cannot say you are correct when I know you are not. The ethical and theological teaching regarding the nature of marriage is so well established in God’s revelation that to say otherwise demonstrations either rebellion in the face of a what your surely know is the way of God or a heart blinded by the “world, the flesh and the Devil.”
I have no desire to argue point for point with those whose spiritual state is akin to the lost. I have wasted far too much time doing that already. I say that the PC(USA) is hopelessly divided and those in the liberal majority, if they are consistent with their desire for grace and justice, should find ways of allowing congregations to withdrawal to a denomination more fitting to their convictions without extracting your pound of flesh as payment.
I simply wonder if all those advocating the following of conscience in disobeying the current standards will remember all this later. Why? Because I will need to follow my own conscience and not participate in either the ordination of a gay teaching elder, ruling elder, or deacon or in the conducting of same-sex wedding ceremonies. If current trends continue, both will soon move from “permitted” to “required.” Will I receive the same latitude being urged in the present situation? No, based on comments in this and other forums. All the current talk about being true to conscience will fade away. Both gay ordination and same-sex marriage will be seen as justice issues, with no room for acts of conscience by those who disagree. The minimal enforcement found now will be only a memory. I will be accused of discrimination, homophobia, and other chargeable offenses. I will be tried and found guilty. My ordination and standing in the PCUSA will be revoked.
I’m not being reactionary. I’m simply being realistic. In the words of that renowned theologian Pete Townsend (!), “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
What saddens me most: I perceive some of you on this thread will be perfectly fine with the treatment I will receive and wish it could be done sooner.
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