One of the things I love about the Presbyterian Church is that it allows for differences of opinion. Our constitution says, “we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good characters and principles may differ.” (G-1.0305)
For me, allowing ourselves to disagree on issues while standing firm in faith, is what makes us strong, keeps us challenged, and encourages us to think outside of our own world views. It’s precisely this strength which will keep us alive and well as the world becomes flatter and more global.
Nowhere do we see it played out as in the area of ordination standards and homosexuality. This week the Presbyterian Church (USA) threw out its “Authoritative Interpretation” of 1978 and all subsequent affirmations of that statement which basically said that homosexual activity was contrary to the will of God and, therefore, unrepentant homosexual men and women could not be ordained in the church. This week that changed.
Two decisions of the General Assembly 1) to throw out the authoritative interpretation and 2) to ask the presbyteries to ratify a change in the constitution to replace the “fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness” clause with a much broader statement including fidelity to faith.
Let’s face it. The PC(USA) is still divided on the issue of the sinfulness of homosexual activity … not unlike the American public. A recent Gallup Poll states, “Americans interviewed in Gallup’s 2008 Values and Beliefs poll are
evenly divided over the morality of homosexual relations, with 48%
considering them morally acceptable and 48% saying they are morally
How does a church which values different opinions live respectfully and with “mutual forbearance” on an issue like this? We avoid national standards on homosexuality, and allow for “local option.” In other words it’s up to the governing body autorizing the ordination whether or not a gay or lesbian could be and elder, deacon, or minister of the word and sacrament.
I think that brings the debate to a local level and includes real and specific people which makes the issue much more personal … it will take people of great integrity and discernment to decide which “scruples” are against the essential tenets of the faith and which are not … it calls the church, each corner of it, to engage in careful and prayerful consideration … not so bad in my opinion. It’s what makes us strong.
Of course, the news media is saying this ruling allows homosexual ordination as if every church in America will be forced to have a gay or lesbian pastor. No. Pastors still need to have calls in order to be ordained, Churches still initiate those calls and Presbyteries confirm or deny them. The Church decides.
Those who believe the PCUSA as fallen off the deep end into a moral abyss … no, we are merely accepting the reality that this is a moral issue which divides the church just as it does society. Let’s be models of Christian respect … of realizing that men and women of sound mind and doctrine may and do disagree.