Sunday, January 18, 2009

Asking questions about the word of God, the affirmation of sexual sin, and the Lord's Supper


I am interested and concerned with a comment Noel Anderson, of Anderspeak, placed on Jim Berkley’s blog posting, Speaking Nonsense to No One in Particular?” That posting is about the prayer, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, will give at one of the Presidential inauguration ceremonies.

Anderson's comment includes “I expect we [Evangelicals] will all soon face an option of whether or not to share communion with those who violate their vows and/or those who think it is okay for them to do so.” He added “in certain gatherings.” And I would suppose he is thinking mainly of Presbytery meetings.


This statement was something I had been thinking about but not voicing. I think those of us who are Presbyterians (USA), in California, waiting for the California Supreme Court to decide if Proposition 8 is lawful or not, are mulling over and praying about all kinds of painful decisions.

I thought about this, and read Calvin, (of course), but, already understood that the efficacy of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is given by the Holy Spirit and is active because of the faith of the believer in Jesus Christ. The sinfulness of those who serve, both Pastors and Elders does not change the Supper. (That is an argument that is constantly arising and being resolved in the history of the Church.)


But, as I see it, here is the problem: The Sacrament is to be attended by the word of God. And that word is the gospel of Jesus Christ which affirms the righteousness Jesus bought for sinners by his blood. The Holy Spirit makes the promise a reality to the believer. The Sacrament without the promise is no sacrament at all.

This was part of Calvin’s complaint about the Catholic Eucharist, that it had degenerated into a kind of magical rite that simply had some words mumbled over it instead of the promises of God’s gracious gift attending its giving.

And writing of the difference between the false and true Church, Calvin refers to Jer. 7:4 and writes, “The Lord recognizes nothing as his own, save when his word is heard and religiously observed.” So if someone is offering communion who believes, against the word, that sexual sin is not sin, and that Jesus Christ did not need to die for that sin, is that a problem?

That is, if some in my Presbytery are ordaining homosexual elders or marrying same gender couples in civil ceremonies and then leading a communion service in my Presbytery haven’t they divorced the word from the supper? And should I participate?

And to put it even bolder if a whole denomination states, which they have not yet done, that sexual deviancy is not sin, and so make void the promise of Christ to forgive and transform the sinner with the blood of Christ, wouldn't that eliminate the promise from the Supper? Wouldn’t the sinner, instead be encouraged to boast in their sin thus separating God’s word from the Lord’s Supper?

Then wouldn’t those particular churches whose orthodoxy causes them to disagree with such affirmations about unrepentent fornication, adultery and homosexual sex be the only safe place for the orthodox or evangelical to participate in the Lord’s Supper?

“Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood , suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach . For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” (Heb 13:12-4)

9 comments:

Bill Crawford said...

You have courage for bringing this up. I have long found the book of Jude to be the primary test for this situation:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jude%201:1-%2012;&version=31;

Viola Larson said...

I keep returning to the book of Jude constantly and other people I talked to tell me the same thing.

timeforthetruth said...

Thank you Viola for bringing this discussion to the fore.

These are some very hard questions and one's that all Bible-believing evangelicals within the PCUSA will have to wrestle with.

I have a question for you.

You stated, "...if a whole denomination states, which they have not yet done, that sexual deviancy is not sin...".
What do you mean by the "whole denomination"? Does this mean the official approved position? Does this mean a unanimous vote of all members?
How about official approval of ordained pastors and elders officiating and approving of "gay unions"? Is this not the current official stance, approved by both GA and GAPJC?
In your opinion when does this line get crossed? Is it when the BOO is changed so that you have an official line that approves of homosexual acts?

How about other considerations other than communion? How about involvement in any level of Presbytery meetings in ordinations?

Viola Larson said...

Adel,
First a question for you. I see you are a Presbyterian Pastor. Are you PCUSA, PCA or EPC or something else? Also I see you are going to the same Seminary one of my Son- in-laws went to when he got his PHD. He now teaches N.T. at Toccoa Falls College.

"The official approved position?" and that is what I mean, and by that I mean that the new amendment b is passed which I am almost certain will not pass. And also that the highest PJC allows to stand the ordination of a practicing homosexual which they have not yet done.
And I have in mind a Church in my area whose session allowed that the pastor's could officiate at gay civil weddings when it was legal in California and one in SF that did do weddings.
I don't think I want to address gay unions since that is not my subject.

Viola Larson said...

I keep forgetting people need to sign their full real name and city and state.
Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

timeforthetruth said...

Hi Viola,

I am an ordained PCUSA, Confessing, New Wineskins, currently without-a-call pastor.

Adel Thalos
Snellville, GA

Mac said...

I agree with your definition of "official approved position." When the public face of the denomination becomes that of faithlessness, people will leave their old homes and migrate to faithful venues.

The official face will never be determined by the "unanimous vote of all members" because we are presbyterian in governance, not congregational--although as a dear pastor friend of mine often says, "All presbyterians are closet congregationalists. at heart."

The presbyterian system of governance is republican, not democratic, in form. Thus, while a majority of the overall membership can be of one mind (as evidenced by the repeated refusal within the presbyteries to get rid of ordination standards), it is the "representatives" in the governing bodies that make many of the decisions. If the "minority" can capture the representation at governing bodies, the "official policy" becomes the public face of the denomination.

The PC(USA) is well on its way to that result. The "minority" has captured the bureaucracy of the denomination. I agree that it is unlikely, at least this time around, that "b" will be removed, but the GA that sent that amendment to the presbyteries also elects the GAPJC. I think your second scenario, amendment of the Book of Order by judicial fiat, is more likely to occur in the not too distant future.

And that is why the bureaucrats in Louisville are willing to spend $600,000 in one small northeastern presbytery to prevent one congregation from leaving the denomination without their property. (That coercive attempt worked out well for the PC(USA)--now 80 or so people are left with a large and expensive physical plant to maintain while 300 faithfully attend to the Word in borrowed surroundings.)

When the majority finds that their denominational face has been hijacked, many will leave. Some, tied to property, will not and that is Louisville's only hope.

Mac said...

Sorry.

Mac McCarty
Downingtown, PA

Viola Larson said...

While I agree with a lot of what you are saying Mac, I actually see some of the "officials" as Evangelical where a few years ago they were not. I think this is an extremely important time in the PCUSA because right at this point we can turn either way.