Not now apostate but ...
As I read through Hudson River Presbytery’s overture 020, “On Amending W-4.9000 Regarding Marriage,” I was struck by the many confessional and biblical problems in the rationale section. The overture is asking that the words “man and woman,” be changed to “two people” in some cases and “the couple” in other places.
Also the line “Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman” is to be changed to “Marriage is a covenant between two people (‘the couple’) and according to the state also constitutes a civil contract.” One further sentence that is extremely troubling is the change from “In the name of the Triune God the minister shall declare publicly that the woman and the man are now joined in marriage” to “In the name of the Triune God the couple are [sic] now joined in marriage.”
In the rationale there are at least four glaring confessional and biblical problems.
One problem is in the very first sentence of the rationale, “Marriage is beyond gender.” No, marriage is about gender, and Jesus allows his listeners to understand by basing his pronouncement about divorce on the biblical account of God’s creation of Adam and Eve. He goes to the original creation story, the first coupling, one man and one woman is God’s design. The two complement and complete each other, because of this they are helpers to each other. (Matt. 19:3-6)
Two other problems are biblical accounts that are misinterpreted. One is about Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch and the other is Peter’s vision of the unclean animals and his ministry to the gentiles in Cornelius’ home.
The rationale states:
“We join those in the early church by stepping into line behind people like Philip, who, in his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, was moved to overturn his previously narrow perceptions and prejudices and make the circle of God’s family much wider than his previous religious upbringing had allowed him to imagine (Acts 8:26-38) and Peter, who was given a vision that the lines he had previously drawn between clean and unclean were too narrow and had to be abandoned to embody God’s loving way (Acts 10:9-22).”
In fact, there are many problems with this statement. Philip did not overturn previous “narrow perceptions and prejudices.” Instead he was transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That meant that the laws that pertained to the temple worship in Jerusalem no longer applied to him or to any other who received the gospel. (Deut. 23:1) He had not let go of what was bad, narrow or could be called prejudice.
Philip was not free to sin nor was the eunuch. But now the eunuch could take hold of that promise in Isaiah 56:4-5. He is not given a name in Acts but remarkably from the Old Testament he receives a promise of “a name better than that of sons or daughters.” And it is an everlasting name. That is Isaiah, in Revelation the name expands to all (we are all, after all, eunuchs toward God since we are fruitless without him.). There we receive a new name that is Christ’s name. We are found in him. (Rev 3:12) We are transformed and made holy in him.
I have written in another place about Peter and his vision of the unclean food. In that text, after Peter has been shown a sheet full of unclean creatures and told to eat from them, he hears a voice telling him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” Now notice the words “What God has cleansed.” God has taken something that is ceremonially unclean and through the eternal Son’s fulfillment of the law, by a perfect life, death and resurrection, has made the unclean clean. But how does humanity become clean?
“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14b)” Looking also at 1 Peter :18-19 as well as Eph 1:7-8a, we know as Christians that we are made new, whole and clean in Jesus Christ. And we are called to holiness. All of this is about “God’s loving way.” In love he gave the Jews the law that he might bring them to the promises of Christ. In love he gave his eternal Son that all of us might be clean and free. But he has not in his love called us to sin. As Paul writes, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
The last problem I see in this overture I believe forebodes serious events for the Church in the United States if it or others like it passes. It means the Church will lose her soul to both the culture and the State. She will certainly be denouncing both the Bible and the Confessions. It also means that orthodox pastors in the PCUSA will be put in dire straits.
The Hudson Valley Overture states that:
“In a state that already permits same-gender marriages or civil union, ministers and ruling elders would be relieved of the fear of ecclesiastical charges and would be able to respond equitably and pastorally to marriage requests by all, not just some, members of their congregations and to do so without fear of charges filed in ecclesiastical court.”
When I read this I am forced to think of Christians in so many places and so many ages who have not bowed before the unrighteousness of fallible rulers and laws. They have not rewritten their constitutions, Scriptures or Confessions in order to better conform to a decadent society. And in fact some of our confessions were written in just these kinds of circumstances. The Theological Declaration of Barmen is one.
Looking at the first part of Barmen the writers point out that the Church in Germany was being overtaken by “alien principles” and that if the principles were “held to be valid” the Church would cease to be the Church. (8.07)They go on in the body of the Declaration to insist that no government or ruler or anyone even in the Church could use the Church to proclaim another revelation.
Because, “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scriptures is the one Word of God which we have to hear and have to trust and obey in life and death,” then we must “reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.” (8.11-12)
Finally they deal with the separate duties of church and state leaving the Church free to proclaim God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.
“We reject the false doctrine as though the State, over and beyond its special commission [the task of providing for justice and peace], should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.” (8.23)
"We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission [“calling to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled”], should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.” (8.24)
The circumstances of this insistence that the church not proclaim what the State proclaims when it is not God’s Word is more clearly explained in the sermon on Barmen given to the Barmen Synod before the vote on it was taken. For this part of Barmen, Pastor Hans Asmussen stated:
“When the State proclaims an eternal kingdom, an eternal law, and an eternal righteousness, it corrupts itself and with it its people. When the Church preaches a political kingdom, an earthly law, and the justice of a human form of society, it goes beyond its limits and drags the State down into the mire with it.” (Emphasis mine)
The latter part of Asmussen’s statement is exactly what this overture is doing. The Hudson River Presbytery is asking the Church to both preach and participate in a human form of justice that is contrary to Scripture. It is not a part of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ as he is known in the Holy Scripture. If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) allows same gender marriage into her constitution and thereby into her churches she will cease to be the Church. And she will by her actions drag the State down into the mire she has created.
 “An Address on the Theological Declaration Concerning the Present Situation in the German Evangelical Church,” Pastor Hans Asmussen, Appendix VIII in The Church’s Confession Under Hitler, by Arthur C. Cochrane (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press 1961), 261.