Jesus prayed for a unity among his followers sanctified by the truth of his Father’s word. (John 7:15-19; 22-24) He also warned his disciples that following him would bring a sword between them and others including their family. (Matt. 10: 34-36) While the Covenant Network of Presbyterians speaks and writes constantly about unity, they also make statements that show their intentions of pushing the orthodox from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Their sword is often poised to sever. In 2011, they published Guidelines for Examination of Church Officers which insists that those candidates who are unable for conscience sake to ordain practicing LGBT persons cannot themselves be ordained.
Now they are insisting that teaching elders may officiate at same gender civil marriages. In other words, without a denominational court’s decision and without a yes vote of the General Assembly they are attempting to perpetrate their own laws and decrees. Board member, Timothy Cahn, has written in “Thoughts on Officiating at Same Gender Blessing Services” this statement:
Teaching elders may participate in a civil ceremony of marriage for a same-gender couple. Nothing in the Constitution or polity prohibits a teaching elder from signing a legal certificate or license of marriage or acting as a witness to the civil marriage. (Bold the author’s)
They base this statement on the “Presbytery of Newark v. McNeill, (2012), Disc. Case 221-02,” which did not have to do with a teaching elder officiating at a same gender marriage. Rather the case was about a teaching elder being married in a same gender wedding. Although most of the orthodox in the PC (U.S.A.) would disagree with the commission’s ruling in this case it is nonetheless different than a case against one who officiates at a same gender wedding.
If this were not true then there would have been no reason for Tara Spuhler McCabe to be censured by her presbytery for officiating at a same gender wedding. The Presbytery in that case in fact stated:
Whereas you, Tara Spuhler McCabe, admit the offense of officiating at a same-sex marriage ceremony on or about April 28, 2012, and admit that by such offense you have acted contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA); now, therefore, the Presbytery of National Capital, in the name and authority of the Presbyterian Church (USA), rebukes you.
Furthermore, while giving advice about how teaching elders could somehow use a religious same gender blessing after a civil ceremony, Cahn suggests there likely would not be any consequences past a rebuke if one combined civil and religious ceremonies together. He ends with this:
Finally, for those who reject applying the fine distinctions suggested above, but who instead decide to provide the same service of marriage to same-gender couples, accusations and charges likely will come. It is likely, however, the practical consequences from such a charge would not be severe. Experience from other cases has been that Investigating Committees and Prosecuting Committees will apply only the mildest form of discipline, a Rebuke, to teaching elders who are found guilty of the offense of officiating at a disapproved same-gender wedding ceremony.
The duplicity of both statements, one on the legality of officiating at civil ceremonies and one on proceeding to break vows because you won’t suffer any grave consequences, cancels out any real concerns for a unity sanctified by truth. The theology is not sound, the polity maneuvers are dishonest. Those within the PC (U.S.A.) who are still here in obedience to Christ’s call are continually placed under the sword of division. Jesus used the word “enemies.” “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
If members of the Covenant Network be they professors, teaching elders or ruling elders, persist and officials in the PC (U.S.A) continue to stand behind them it will be enough to split the denomination far beyond what they now see or might imagine. There are some places that faithful Christians cannot go. In my lifetime I have seen prostitutes, witches, drug dealers, and the self-righteous church member who did not know Jesus Christ confess their sins and come to him. I have watched faithful Christians enter into the sinner’s lives to lead them toward Christ. But a Christian cannot go where duplicity and sin live together without repentance.