Monday, October 18, 2010

Bruce Reyes-Chow: peace and division

A friend of mine recently wrote a comment on a blog that his “daughter’s gay college professor passed out a letter to her whole class proclaiming that those like [my friend] who oppose homosexuality essentially have no right to exist.”

He was answering another persons posting that suggested that Amendment 10A would help us live and let live. My friend wrote, “That’s what we have to look forward to in this future world of live-and-let-live: the rest of us will be continually branded as hatemongers until we surrender to every last demand of those on the other side. I think that some form of separation is probably the only logical path to the live-and-let-live scenario you envision.”

Studying in the gospel of Luke the last several weeks I have increasingly become interested in Jesus’ words about division and peace. After reading two different statements by past Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow I have decided the words of Jesus on peace and divisions are immensely important.

Reyes-Chow’s statements are several months apart. I will begin with the latest, which is an interview first posted on Rev. Janet Edwards’ blog and then picked up by More Light Presbyterians. Both sites are advocating for the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. In that interview Reyes-Chow sounds temperate and kind in his words. Edwards asks him: “What would you say to those Christians who have a different view on inclusion?”

Reyes-Chow’s answer is “What I often say is this: I hope folks who disagree with me will trust that I am seeking to discern the same mind of Christ as they are. We are all searching for God as our lives unfold. In the midst of our differences, we share a conviction that our relationship is built on God and our faith in Christ. I acknowledge that God is playing a role in the other person’s life.”

Next, Edwards asks Reyes-Chow “What can we do to foster dialogue and build bridges with people with different views on inclusion?”

Reyes-Chow gives several answers, including “We can appreciate where people are coming from, which is different from agreeing with them. We can agree that a win/lose approach has proven that it is not helpful.”

But that interview is linked to a speech he gave much earlier on proposition 8 in California. In that speech Chow stated, “This is a time when Christians around the world who will continue to push for justice must come out and stand, stand long and advocate the message of God to those Biblical literalists who have poisoned our understanding of marriage, sexuality and love."
And while he later insisted he did not aim that speech at Presbyterians, (Not even conservative ones), he recently stated in his article “An open call to Christian LGBTQ allies on NCOD:”

And let us make no mistake that one of the greatest perpetrators of the rhetoric, justification and execution of the spiritual and physical violence has been the church. I fully know and admit this as part of the reality of this family of people that I am part of.
So claiming a biblical position on the ordination of those who insist sin is not sin, who seek ordination without repentance, does place orthodox Christians in a troubling position in the eyes of the progressives. And the reason is clear. In many cases the Christian progressive is speaking with somewhat winsome and reconciling words to the orthodox, while to the secular community and other progressives they are making common cause against the orthodox with what would be, in any other case, called hate speech.

I have several observations after reading Luke 12: 49-52. This is Jesus’ statement, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo and how I am distressed until it is accomplished! Do you suppose I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you no; but rather division; …” Jesus goes on in this passage to speak of the family divisions that would occur because of him. This verse does appear in some ways to be a contradiction because Jesus does promise peace and he prays that his followers will be in unity.

But through the long history of the church she has been in battle both from forces within and forces without. And often, as today the forces within and without have joined together to assault her. But the real attack comes not from humanity but from spiritual powers of wickedness (Eph 6:12) which want to destroy her unity, purity and faithfulness. So what is Jesus saying?

His baptism and the fire are his death and resurrection and the divisions they cause because humanity must make choices either for him or against him. As Darrell L. Block says in his commentary on Luke:

This passage stands in contrast to other Lucan declarations about Jesus’ offering peace to humans (Luke 2:14; 7:50, 8:48; 10:5-6; Acts 10:36). But in these texts, peace comes to those who have responded (cf. Eph. 2:13-17, being tied to the offer of the message and thus contingent on a favorable response.) Without such response, division occurs. The peace that Jesus brings in his coming to earth is not universal, because some do not respond favorably to his offer. Jesus’ offer contains the choice between aligning with the kingdom and standing against it. One must take sides.”[1]

And what is the message that is either rejected or accepted? It is tied up with the baptism that Jesus speaks of. Here is what Bock writes about the message’s origin:

Thus the point of the metaphor is that Jesus faces a period of being uniquely inundated with God’s judgment, an allusion to rejection and persecution. Luke will later describe Jesus’ dying as ‘accursed’ not as an act from God against Jesus but by God through Jesus against sin (Luke 24: 44-47); Acts 5:30-31; 10: 30-43). And here lies the judgment’s uniqueness: God’s plan and the coming of the Spirit’s judging work of fire cannot occur until Jesus undergoes rejection and bears God’s judgment. Only then can Jesus begin to do much of what he came to do.[2]
Jesus work of saving humankind from their sin is his purpose. It does include creation but in order for that to be so it is focused on humanity and it brings division, and yet peace to those who receive forgiveness. So now to a later question that Reye-Chow directs, during the interview, to those in the church who are orthodox.

"And I ask them: If the PCUSA does change and we open ordination to LGBT people, is ordination so central to your faith that you will leave the PCUSA? Is this so central to how we are to love Jesus and how Jesus loves us? Is this is a Cross issue, a measure of what is most important to our faith in Christ?"

The answer isn’t really about whether one leaves or not. There is faithfulness in following Christ in obedience, whether it is in the midst of the proclamation of darkness or the proclamation of light. But yes, it is a “Cross” issue. Yes this is central to how we love Jesus. We are obedient and faithful to Jesus because he died for us.

Painful divisions will come when we reject the mercy of Jesus Christ.

In the video wait for Hector's speech. He finishes what I want to say here.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, Vol. 2 Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand rapids: B Baker Academic 1996) 1194-95.
[2] Ibid. 1194.


John McNeese said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John McNeese said...


If "ordination" is a "cross issue" for you, then your practice of ordination, a human construct,  has become Idolatrous. If you want to climb up on your cross, go right ahead. It matters not at all to me. I really don't care anymore.

John McNeese
ponca City, OK

Dave Moody said...

Thanks Vi...

Pastor Bob said...

How quickly the oppressed (and gays and lesbians HAVE been oppressed) turn to being the oppressors like the professor at the beginning of your blog. I suggest that this is how humans usually react to oppression. When freed they oppress. There are numerous examples down through the ages.

Viola Larson said...

Ordination is not a human construct. Leadership, although given various names, is all through the N.T. When elders lay hands on new elders or pastors are ordained we are affirming God’s call on their lives. The New Testament also sets out regulations for those who preach and rule in the church. But all of this is not the point.

The point is Jesus Christ died for our sins, if we refuse to call our sin, sin we are in rebellion against God.

“This is the message we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses from all sin. If we say that we have no sin , we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10)

Viola Larson said...

Bob we are certainly all sinful and capable of anything. And I think we fool ourselves if we don't realize that.

John McNeese said...

Jesus ordained no one. He said follow me. After he was gone, the question of leadership became a very human one, who is in charge? Jesus was very gentle with the people: no name calling, just go and sin no more. He reserved his invectives for the religious authorities of his day: "But woe to you, ministers and elders, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.  Woe to you, ministers and elders, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

Maybe we should abolish the practice of ordination, rather than argue over who is qualified for elevation to high office. but then who would be in charge.

Viola Larson said...

"the question of leadership became a very human one, who is in charge?"

You just threw out a great deal of the New Testament. The apostles were chosen by Jesus. Paul was chosen as an apostle.
See Matt 10:1; Luke 6:13.

God still chooses those he calls to ministry and they are ordained as acknowledgement of his calling. And the Church has every right to refuse that acknowledgement when they know the person is walking in willful disobedience to Christ.

Anonymous said...

Why do the bigots rage?

I am always amazed at the lengths people will go to justify their homophobic tendencies. You pull all the stops.

Sad and pathetic.

But the fact is, people are born gay just like they are born white, or female or Samaritan. And God calls gays to the ministry just like he calls Asians and women.

Those who turn the glory of the Scriptures into racist or homophobic or misogynistic rhetoric are just as anti-christ as those John called the same. But Jesus would have reached out to the GLBT of our society and embraced them with deep abiding love and accepted them for who they are. You cannot read the Scriptures with an open loving heart and come to any other conclusion.

And to reject for ministry those whom Jesus has called to serve him, what is that if not the essence of being anti-christ?

I am sorry, but I cannot accept your diatribe against Bruce and/or gays. My only prayer is that you will see the error of your ways and repent and show the same passion for the Truth as you show now against those whom Jesus has called to His service.

Steve Justin
San Diego

Viola Larson said...

I am sure Jesus did reach out in love to the homosexuals of his day. Just as we Christians must. But Jesus forgave and transformed. He didn't just leave people where they were. He admonished them to go and sin no more. Real love is not only kind it is also truthful. In fact, it is not kind if it doesn't tell the truth about sin.

Anonymous said...


The problem is that you keep calling something a sin that is not. In Jesus' time there were those who believed that someone born blind was born that way either because of a sin of their own or a sin of their parents. They treated blind people the same way you treat gays. Jesus had to explain that it was neither.

He would not have accused a gay person of being in sin for being gay.

And so he called a blind man to be an evangelist to the religious authorities, the elders and the bible thumpers.

Being gay is not a birth defect, but it is a birth condition nevertheless. Birth conditions are not a sin.


Viola Larson said...

It has not been proven that homosexuality is genetic. But even if that were true the Bible still calls it sin. Some men are born with a disposition to be violent but we don't and shouldn't condone that.

Jodie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Moody said...

There are a truckload of pre-suppostions in your comments. Scripture is clear and univocal regarding prescriptive sexual ethics. You may believe and practice what you wish, but you can't say what you're advocating is somehow consistent with scripture, and the jewish Jesus who is revealed in scripture.

I wish you the best, but dial back the ad hominem attacks. Make your arguments, by all means... but the verbal bullying, just listen to yourself.

John McNeese said...


I would have more respect for the orthodox belief about sexual ethics if they actually followed the teachings of Jesus and lived the Sermon on the Mount.  The orthodox pick and choose just like the rest of us.

Viola Larson said...

That's a fairly broad statement. All of us fail to live up to the sermon on the mount. (Praise God for the grace of Jesus and his righteousness.)But none of us (I hope) think we shouldn't be trying everyday. None of us (I hope) say I'm not living up to the sermon on the mount but I don't believe that is sin so its okay.

Dave Moody said...

You paint with a pretty broad brush. Hypocrisy is not limited to one segment of humanity, but the whole race, yourself included as you freely admit in your comment.

So, instead of then throwing up our hands and saying, 'can't be done' thereby justifying our hypocrisy, lets humbly seek to be obedient to that which has been given to us- in the power and grace of the Hoy Spirit.