10-A, the overture that has allowed some to ordain LGBT persons, has passed; what is coming next? The Covenant Network, an affinity group connected to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has agreed that it is too divisive to endorse overtures asking that the Book of Order be changed to allow same sex marriage. They will not support such overtures at the 2012 General Assembly.
The group, whose main focus has been to change the constitution to allow for LGBT ordination, states, “Given that there are many in the PC (USA) who are troubled by the change in ordination standards, the Board of Directors lifts up this effort mindful of its commitment to tend to the unity of the denomination.” Instead they will lift up and endorse overtures, “seeking Authoritative Interpretation to protect pastoral discretion to celebrate same-gender marriages where they are sanctioned by the civil authorities.”
Two troubling issues arise with this decision. The first is the issue of unity; the second is the issue of aligning morality with the prevailing culture. Both are, however, alike; they put aside biblical teaching in order to pull the cultural milieu within the denomination. The world seeks for unity as well as diversity but not a unity founded on Holy Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.
But unity has already been broken; it cannot be so easily fixed by withholding support from overtures seeking to change the Book of Order. The truth is the Covenant Network, surely unintentionally, is seeking a worldly kind of unity which has nothing to do with the faith. Instead it is seeking after a unity that would mix biblical authority with experience, sin with righteousness and cultural norms with biblical mandates. It isn’t real. There is no such unity. But the seeking has taken a different turn.
The decision to uphold Authoritative Interpretations that would allow ministers to marry same gender couples in a state where it is legal is an attempt at alignment with a worldly culture. And this is where we must remember that the Kingdom of God is not the kingdoms of this world.
Some are standing in the wilderness with Jesus and Satan is pleading worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world. Jesus quoted God’s word back to him and Satan, the Scripture text states, “left him until an opportune time.” And Satan did come back. And he keeps coming back to the Church. This is not the first time that the Church has been tempted to lift up sexual immorality for the sake of its life in the world.
I am reading a book mentioned by Dr. Richard Mouw, The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World by Elizabeth Rapley. Over and over the Church and the monasteries became a part of the world by choosing worldly riches, power and sexual immorality. Over and over they needed reformation. And still today, the same temptations involve the Church in seeking to conform to the sinful positions and laws of secular governments. And it is in many ways as much a temptation for power as it is for conformity.
This places the faithful in a dire position which has nothing at all to do with unity and everything to do with submitting to the Lord of the Church and his written word. There will be no unity when those in the PCUSA align with secular power while their brothers and sisters take the more humbling seat of refusing to walk with the culture.