The Presbytery of East Iowa has sent an overture, [OVT-009] to the 220th General Assembly seeking to change the language of the Book of Order as a means of allowing same gender marriage. The overture asks that language in W-4.9000 be changed. In W-4.9001, W-4.9002, W-4.9004, W-4.9006 “man and woman” and “husband and wife” would be changed to “two people.” The rationale for the overture is contrived and theologically misconstrued. It is also dangerous for the life of the whole church. It is based on three thoughts.
1. Using [F-1.01] God’s grace is for everyone “We are called to make disciples.”
2. Marriage is a response to God’s word proclaimed “The Marriage ceremony is worship.”
3. Our polity is contradictory because we are not allowing all to worship. “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall guarantee full participation and representation in its worship, governance, and emerging life to all persons or groups within its membership.” [F-1.0403]
The first point in the rationale is certainly biblical, we are called to make disciples and no one is to be turned away from following Jesus Christ. However the next two points do not follow from the first.
In the second part of the rationale the authors of the overture state that “Responding to the Word is a demonstration of the love of God for God’s people.” Instead it is the believer’s response to the love of God for God’s people as heard in the word proclaimed. And more importantly it is the act of participating in the work of Christ as the great high priest of his people. In our union with him we freely come before God in adoration. In fact, we do not come before God in any other way but through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Book of Order lists many ways that worshipers respond to the word proclaimed, including marriage, but it is a response to God because of his word, and it is, if we are believers, always through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the BOO explains the response as being expressed “in an affirmation of faith and commitment.” That means one has faith in the word and is committed to that word preached. Response to the word by same gender marriage has two possibilities within the mandate of this overture.
One possibility is that the word preached is not truly the word but a false word that teaches that marriage is not only between a man and a woman. (Matthew 19:4-6) In that case the ceremony would not be true worship because the word is false.
The second possibility is that the word is rightly preached but the response is not of faith or commitment to the word. For if one does not believe that marriage is between one man and one woman then there is no faith or commitment to the word. Those attempting to worship by responding to the word with a same gender ceremony would be worshiping falsely because their commitment and faith toward the word is false.
Finally if one worships in union with Christ, it will be in obedience to his word, since he is the sinless Son of God and the fulfillment of the law.
The third part of the rationale, that the church is denying some the right to worship, isn’t at all true. If we worship rightly we will have faith in and be committed to the word of God. No one is denied this when same gendered marriage is denied, because the word is not denied but rightly preached. All may freely worship by honoring the word.
And finally if we accept the final thought in this rationale, that F-1.0403, “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall guarantee full participation and representation in its worship, governance, and emerging life to all persons or groups within its membership,” means that we must allow for same gender marriage it will follow that all will not only be required to subscribe to the ordination of practicing LGBT people but all will be required to marry same sex couples. This will effectively end the participation of all the orthodox in the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)