Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Declaration of Conscientious Dissent by some dear friends

I am placing a document, written by some dear friends, on my blog today. The document, Here We Stand: A Declaration of Conscientious Dissent, and Necessary Action, in response to actions of the Presbyterian Church USA, is a sign of the struggle the Western Church is involved at this time. The many Reformation Confessions attest to the Church’s struggle during that period we call the Reformation when greed, false teaching and sexual sins were rampant in the church. There were many declarations and confessions written during the Church struggle in Nazi Germany. Such statements are guides, as well as warnings, to believers that God is calling his Church to awareness, repentance, obedience, prayer and back to the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.

The Declaration follows with a link to the site where it can be signed.

 Here We Stand

A Declaration of Conscientious Dissent, and Necessary Action, in response to actions of the Presbyterian Church USA.

After prayerful consideration of recent actions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA and the affirmation of these actions by a majority of the several Presbyteries, we note that there is significant disagreement with these actions among Presbyterians of good standing. Furthermore, we accept the principle written into our constitution that councils of the church can and do err (F-3.0107). Therefore, we, the undersigned, submit the following statement declaring the most pressing areas of our disagreement, in which we state clearly our faith as relevant to this controversy, and the actions required by that faith which we assert our willingness to do, until these errors of these councils, should be sufficiently corrected.

We do this in all humility, yet believing that the Universal Church of Jesus Christ has long affirmed its prophetic role to declare the Word and Will of God in the world. This is universally acknowledged and accepted by all segments of the Body. We believe that the turmoil and ongoing debate over issues of sexuality in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a symptom of confusion about the interpretation and authority of Scripture for our lives. The Bible is God's written Word, revealing together the Word and Will of God to humankind, and is the unique revelation of Jesus Christ, God the Son and the Second Person of the Triune God,who is our Lord and Savior. Therefore, we humbly acknowledge that the Bible as we have received it is the product of the Holy Spirit's inspiration and preservation. Where the Church has erred in the past in interpretation or application of Scriptural Authority, it has been the error of the Church and not of Scripture, which while reflecting the historical context of the human writers, nonetheless is inspired and reliable to instruct us in, and thereby direct us toward God's will for our faith and life in all times and places. We are accountable to the Word of God, the Word is not accountable to us or to what appears to be “knowledge” which we observe from other sources or create from our own reasonings. We are to be shaped by the Word; we do not shape the Word---except to our own peril.

In our attempt to uphold God's standard for sexual expression, we have sometimes expressed rejection toward those who struggle with their sexual identity or who engage in same-sex relations, while failing to express even a mild reprimand toward those who sin in heterosexual relationships: in both cases the Lord calls us to repentance for our failure to speak the proper healing prophetic word. Again, we recognize that human sexuality within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is a wondrous gift, when enjoyed within the biblical principles provided by God; yet many of us in the Church and culture have considered personal sexual fulfillment more important than obedience to God's call, and have thereby turned the gift into an idol. Our idolatry has led to broken marriages, broken homes, and broken lives.

I. We repent for our idolatry and lack of compassion, and choose to make Jesus Christ, His Kingdom, and righteousness the centerpiece of our lives.

II. We declare our commitment to Scripture's infallible truth. The recent actions by the PCUSA to change ordination standards is in blatant disobedience to the plain teaching of the Bible, promoting and encouraging behavior that Scripture condemns as sin. Our proper response to the Word of God is to submit to it; through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we seek to conform our experience to that Word, not to conform the Word to our experience.

Our Reformed tradition has always stood on the absolute authority of Scripture in these matters. The Bible tells us that male and female alike are made in God's image and are intended by God to express sexual love for one another only within the bonds of the life-long covenant of marriage. We resist oversimplifications about the causes and cures of human sexual ills and recognize that a variety of prenatal and environmental factors may influence each of us. Transformation into the image of Christ is a process in which biblical preaching, prayer, support groups, Christian counseling, and personal repentance play a vital part through the gracious and truthful outreach of the Christian church.

III. We will not teach that homoerotic practice is affirmed, blessed, or approved of by Jesus Christ; instead, we will teach that it is a sin to be confessed with a repentant heart. Furthermore, we confess that homoerotic practice is contrary to the will of God expressed by Jesus Christ in Scripture; and that it is a grave injustice, tantamount to utmost hatred, to teach, preach, or counsel the acceptability of homoerotic practice in the eyes of Jesus Christ to God’s precious children who happen to experience same-gender attraction. By God’s grace, we will strive to offer compassionate ministries of healing for those who have experienced brokenness from extramarital affairs, sexual addiction, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attractions, divorce, and the like, as part of the overall expression of God’s love shown through the ministries of the Church.

IV. We confess that Christian marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, ordained by God, and designed for three purposes:

1. The mutual help and joyful fulfillment of husband and wife.

2. The safeguarding, undergirding, and development of their moral and spiritual character.

3. The propagation of children and the rearing of them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (The inability of some male-and-female couples to have children does not contradict this element of God's purpose in marriage.)

We do not acknowledge the existence of such a thing as same-gender marriage, but rather confess that same-gender coupling is a violation of the image of God in humankind and contrary to a Scriptural definition of marriage.

V. We call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to join with us as we follow the Bible's teaching, our Reformed confessions, and tradition of the Church throughout history in declaring that the only possible expressions of sexuality that are not in direct rebellion against God's revealed will are those that are within the covenant of Christian marriage.

VI. We believe that those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. We declare the decision of the General Assembly and the subsequent endorsement by the presbyteries to remove the requirements of fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness to be grievous error, and damaging to the communion of the Church of Jesus Christ.

We will not willingly or knowingly participate in the ordination or installation of deacons, elders, or ministers of Word and Sacrament refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin. We will neither now nor will we ever intentionally participate in, or support ordinations that are constitutionally or biblically unsustainable. We will vigorously examine each candidate seeking admission to our Presbytery, especially from Presbyteries who cannot share this affirmation in good conscience.

VII. Though no one can achieve perfection during this earthly life, we nevertheless proclaim the possibility of living in greater conformity to the revealed will of God, by the grace of Jesus Christ, sustained by the transcendent power of the Holy Spirit; and we will proclaim this to those who experience same-gender attraction, sexual addiction, sexual temptation leading to promiscuity, and divorce. For both those who experience same-gender attraction and those who experience opposite-gender attraction are subject to the same temptations of mind, heart, and body, bear the same image of God, have the same salvation in Jesus Christ, are given the same Spirit, and bear the same cross.


We cannot and will not recant these statements. Our consciences are captive to the Word of God. We will not cease these proclamations if rebuked. We will not accept discipline that rests on human institutions instead of God's Word. Here we stand. We can do no other. We trust in God through Christ for His deliverance and grace.

Here We Stand


John McNeese said...


Somehow I don't think this measures up to the Theological Declaration of Barmen nor is it a Martin Luther moment. I seriously doubt that any lgbt candidates would want one of these folks participating in their ordination anyway. So let them have their moment in the sun. By the way, are they remaining anonymous?

Viola Larson said...

You just don't read my blog enough. There were many declarations written before Barmen, and there was an outcry against the sexual sins of the priests during and before the Reformation.

The writing of this was a group effort but if you look at the first two signatures you will see two people who spent a great deal of time and care creating "Here I Stand."

Mary E said...


It is hard for me to read this Declaration and not cry tears of joy. That no compromise, no holds bar, speaking the truth, straight up old time gospel.

It has to be one of the best sermon I have heard in a long.

Mary E.

Rev. Mark Simonds said...

Several people contributed to the effort and the group decided to make the statement public. Those wishing to join in signing can do so at biblicalpresbyterians.net. Anonymous signatures will be deleted. Just as those that disagree have the right to be heard and have no problem making their voices heard. We too would like those who agree with this statement to know that they are not alone. Whether you agree or disagree,
my faith tells me to "speak the truth in love" I know I have friends who identify themselves as gay or lesbian, others who live promiscuous heterosexual lifestyles outside of marriage. It would not be love to tell you, "go faster and enjoy the ride." if I believed you were going down a dangerous road, with a Bridge out at the end. It would not be love to say nothing and let you go. Instead, love compels me to share what I believe to be true, based on the authority of the source of my information. You may dispute my information, you may decide I am wrong, and if I am I will be accountable before God, but, I would be wrong to say one thing in private and nothing, or an entirely different thing in public.
I sign my name to what I believe is true, and I trust the results of my choice to the Grace of Almighty God who gave His Son to die for my sins. I am not telling anyone what he or she must do, that is left to your conscience. I am not encouraging anyone to leave the PCUSA behind, though I support any member of the Church in whatever direction you discern the Holy Spirit to be calling you as you are looking to obey the Lord. May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Anonymous said...

While such attitdues sadden me personally, people do have a right to follow and serve God according to their conscience (a right conservatives denied others it should be noted).

People DO have a right to the said statements in this declaration.

Of course, they also have a responsibility, in a connectional denomination, to recognize their fellow ministers and elders, ordained by their sessions, and thus by ALL the Church.

It is a connectional church, after all.

And if you remain in it, you ARE by our very connectedness acknowledging and recognizing GLBT persons who are ordained, some of whom are married in the states in which they live, and many others of whom are in Holy Unions that a decade ago, our denomination choose by Presbytery vote to allow.

Rev. Simonds, a few years ago, two pastors I know tried to use the "speaking in love" line with me, and tried to tell me they "love me but hated my sin." they did not get to finish, and I promptly told them both I was sorry if he mistakenly thought it was possible to be friends with someone and denigrate an integral part of who they are (my being Gay) and that neither would ever again speak such words to me, or speak to me in more than a polite greeting, until he was ready to apologize. That included all meetings and other formal or informal situations in which we would encounter each other.

Happily, one has since appologized. The other, knows not to speak to me.

You may hold your prejudices Rev. But your friendships with gay people? Not with your attitude.

No need to shoot (erase) the messenger. Mrs. Larson has a habit of erasing posts which point out realities she does not like.

But this is the reality we will all be living with if one is a member or ordained in the PCUSA.


Viola Larson said...

Mary E and Mark, thanks for the comments. And Mark your extra information is very helpful. I know people have trouble understanding how one can hate the sin but not the sinner. Maybe if they understood that we hate our own sin it would help. That is some of what repentance is about.

Viola Larson said...

Gene the calling to ordained ministry is God's as is the requirements if they are biblical. When humanity steps in and reinterprets the commonsense meaning of Scripture in order to justify their own sin it is idolatry.
All people have flawed natures including those who are genetically disposed to be violent, be addicted to alcohol or be promiscuous; we don’t encourage them to continue on in their brokenness or sin. That leads to death both physically and spiritually. Loving the sinner requires hating the sin, even, especially in ourselves.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, one member of my extended family was told that they would be barred from having any contact with other members of my extended family if they broached the subject of "excessive drinking" ever again.

You see the dilemma: Love requires for the sake of the loved ones that words be said, but the beloved, trapped in denial, threatens to cut off contact with the beloved.

Fortunately for my family, the excessive drinking led directly to a crisis severe enough that the drinker was forced to face reality without the crisis doing irreparable harm. All has been well for well over a year now. What a blessing from God!

My prayer for those who insist on celebrating their sin (myself included, whenever necessary) is that God will bring a point of crisis sufficient to communicate the need for change without irreparable harm being done in the process. Unfortunately, it does not always happen thus.

What I learned from the above is that words can be true and said in love, but rejected none-the-less. Sin must be confronted, but it's unwise to expect gratitude from the sinner (certainly not in the moment). Our culture has twisted itself such that both sin and sinner are deemed righteous, but righteous and compassionate judgement of sin is deemed contemptible. Humanity clings to its sin and even seeks to find its deepest identity in that which destroys.

In our stand for biblical truth, we must be prepared to be called names, cut off from fellowship and judged. This is nothing new, of course, and the time has come when those who do these things will do so believing that they're doing a service to God.

May God bring a boundaried crisis to all those who oppose biblical sexuality such that they might turn, and may we ask God to remove the logs from our own eyes even as we speak his truth to those who refuse to hear it.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Anonymous said...

With the respect due to a women of your age (a glory) and your education (it shows) The majority of voters in the 173 Presbyteries rejected what the declaration states. This is obvious, but I mention it because we now do, and will continue to, ordain Gay, Lesbain, Bisexual and Transgendered in the Church. If you are a member of the Church, or an Ordained officer of it, you are by definition, in a connectional church, by remaining a member, agreeing to this. Declarations from here to horizon otherwise, that is the case.

That is not my assessment, although it is common sense. It is the assessment of a Very conservative associate of mine (I have no conservative friends, only associates, some of whom I respect greatly I should add) who is an elder, and who feels very distressed by it, but says his ties to his home congregation are so strong he will not leave, so, "Willing or not, I now, by connection, honor gay ordinations to. (pause) thats what staying means, no matter how much we try to pretty it up or complain about it or make little ghettos for ourselves."

He isn't wrong.

I merely point out that signing a 'declaration' changes this not one bit. Were we congregational...well...but we are not.

Your opinions on the 'love the sinner hate the sin' (sic) idea are well stated and articulated.
Again, I merely point out that the days where people can say that in the real world (vs. here, in the cyber world) have ended, and that the Gay people in question have heard your arguments, and like the majority of HETEROsexuals in the denomination, disagree, and see your opinions as at best misinformed, and at worst as open prejudice.

Mr. Byrne, respectfully, we have heard you. We heard your arguments, and those of persons in the church that USED to think as you do. We heard from persons both gay and straight, and your sides arguments and Biblical understanding have not carried the day. Don't be so sure it is MY side that is in need of correction, and a welcoming home after repentence and apology.

It takes two sides to have a discussion Mr. Byrne. Your side lost the intellectual and Biblical argument, whether you can bring yourselves to admit this or not. And we on my side are tied of hearing it, and will be treating those who espouse it the way we treat others who worked to keep other people (women, other races) from the full service of the Church, quoting scripture the whole time they did so.

Again, I point out I am just being honest, and saying what, as one conservative associate of mine has pointed out of himself "I don't want to hear, but deep down already know".
In the echo chamber of modern 'divided' blogging, we can all (progressives included) hear only what we want to hear.

As per the declaration, once again, I must ask, aside from letting some upset people say how unhappy they are, what does it really accomplish in a connectional denomination? An ordination by one, is an ordination by all, regardless of what ones congregation or one person states.

Mrs Larson, in your last posting, I don't disagree with a word you say. Of course, I will not, nor will the Church, concur that greater understanding of this issue is as you describe it, so, your point, as I believe you meant it, does not apply to the ordination of those called to serve who are LGBT.

Atlanta, GA

Anonymous said...


Most of your readers will appreciate this (rather lengthy) article by Stanton L. Jones. (Robert Gagnon linked to this on his facebook page.)

Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality


Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Rev. Mark Simonds said...

There is little I can say to argue with those who disagree. You believe one thing I believe another. Where you are correct is that our connectionalism as a denomination does create a crisis whereby declarations do not solve anything. I fully agree. But it is necessary to declare our position nonetheless. I am also surprised that when the majority spoke in the past it did not silence those on the opposite side, yet now that you've won, due largely to the fact that a large number of those who would agree with this declaration's ideas have left and therefore can no longer vote, we're supposed to be silent and not resist. Bizarre. "Fidelity and chastity" did not silence MLP,Covenant Network, and TAMFS. Why should 10A magically silence dissent now? This is where I stand, period. I have to stand on these things and say these things BECAUSE you believe I am wrong; BECAUSE they are no longer assumed; and BECAUSE if I do not say them people will assume your point of view is the only one out there. As for the "love" question. I admit I cropped my comment from a larger piece I wrote to friends and colleagues who actually knew me, where I said, "You who know me must judge for yourselves, based on all you know of me whether I am telling you the truth when I say I join with these other elders in declaring what we believe, and tell you I say it in love. But nevertheless integrity requires that I say it..." I can't expect you to be able to accurately judge my sincerity. Thankfully I am in God's hands not yours.

Dave Moody said...

Thanks for the link... very helpful. Also, for the winsome witness to the grace and truth found in our Lord and Savior. 8 days after Easter...

Fairbanks, AK

Presbyman said...

Our church session wrote and distributed (to the other churches in our Presbytery) something similar to this last November.

Bless you,

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Anonymous said...


Yes, 8 days after Easter indeed.

Speaking of which, how did we not manage to connect last year?

Looking forward to it.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Viola Larson said...

Gene a vote does not biblical truth make, nor does it assure one that the foundation is intellectual. And if one refuses to be a part of the ordaining of those who live a non-repentant lifestyle that breaks the connection and sometimes Christians have to do that. Your words sound like you would like us all to leave.

Viola Larson said...

Bruce I read that earlier. Thanks for the link it is some help in clarifing for both sides.

Thank you everyone else for your words.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bryne, if I gave the impression I question your integrity I apologize in a massive, public Mea Cupla. You do not strike me as a liar or untrustworthy. What I question is the assumption that one CAN do what you think you wish to do, "love the sinner hate the sin" in the case of Gay people.

As per the comment someone made that the vote only passed because conservatives had left, there is some truth to that, but also truth that MANY a mind was changed. I have seen this pesonally.

As per professor Gagnon, well, if did not exist, my side would have to invent him. I personally know several persons who find his personality, approach, tone and style so offputting that they began to read the works of other Presbyterian seminary professors who disagree with him (Guthrie, Brugerman, Achtiemier, among others), and they carried the day, not him. I encouraged everyone to read him. To good effectin several cases (as my side would see it).

Rev. Simonds, I admire the honesty. I mean that. On the point that this was not a topic my side ever gave up on you are partly right. But I would encourage you to remember something Dr. King once said; the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, and we correctly saw this as a justice issue. Just as in the past "liberals" worked for 'outlandish' 'heresies' like racial integration in the church and the rights of women in the life of the church, both of which were fought against by those quoting scripture and history as being on their side. Many a Baptist still says "The Bible Says..." before they make the arguement against women in te pulpit. etc. Same thing in this case.

That said, most people look back on those positions, held so sincerely by conservatives who just KNEW they had history and scripture on their side, and see that this is the exact same situation. Just as the Church has made adjustments that would (and did) horrify many of my ancestors, it did so because it was the right thing to do.

Barna (always a useful source of information, though personally very conservative) backs me up on this. If anyone does not believe me, I suggest you dig deep into his research on Chruch and society.

Mrs. Larson, when GLBT people were called by God to the pulpit, did you not work to deny them this call? When people held sincere beliefs based in study and prayer, did you say you disagreed, but would graciously put you faith in God that they were called?
No. And many of them felt very much that you wanted them to leave.

Do I want you to leave if you wont reconsider your position? No. And unlike you, who worked to see that people who God had called did not get to serve, I have no desire to see conservatives denied a call. Each congregation should call whom they feel called by God to call. I don't want to treat your side the way you treated us, to be very honest about it.

Even though I truly believe you are wrong, I don't question your faith, or your right to be a part of this Church.

Yet we are a denomination of rules and laws, and those laws were used in the past to prevent people Like Rev. Largess from taking her pulpit, and to file cases agaist many people. Now the laws of the Church are on our side, and I merely point out that if you stay in a PCUSA church, declarations to the umpteenth power otherwise, by our connectional nature as the Rev. Simonds pointed out you ARE recognizing the ordinations of GLBT people, and remaining a part of a denomination that looked at the theology of Gagnon, and that of many others, and decided that the others more closely followed and understood the will of God (not of man).

That is the situation we are in, and will be in, and declarations of conscience, while perhaps cathartic, do nothing to change it. That is what I was pointing out.

Atlanta, GA

Viola Larson said...

Robert Gagnon is a friend, I have listened to him debate, and I know him to be a kind and compassionate person. If you persist in such remarks you will be deleted because I consider that hateful. It is not surprising that the world or Christians who want to live in the manner of the world would hate a person such as Gagnon; Jesus said it would be like that-but I don’t have to allow it on my blog.

Anonymous said...


No "mea culpa" needed. I did not feel you questioned my integrity. Only those who know me do that. : )

You wrote: "What I question is the assumption that one CAN do what you think you wish to do, "love the sinner hate the sin" in the case of Gay people."

The foundational issue in the matter has always been whether homosexual behavior is sin. Those who come to the wrong conclusion cannot speak the truth in love because they cannot speak the truth, regardless of their motivation. This applies to both sides in this issue.

I acknowledge that I could be wrong and if I am, I'm guilty of attempting to keep some who are fit for leadership from leadership. You could be wrong and if you are, you're guilty of encouraging behavior, the unrepentant practice of which, could mean missing out on the kingdom of heaven.

I accept that there are those on the other side of this matter who honestly believe that they've won the biblical and intellectual debate, but I also know that there are those for whom this assertion is but a tactical maneuver. I don't claim to know your motivation, of course, but I am convinced, in either case, that the assertion is simply false.

But my purpose in writing today is not to take on the claim that your side has won the biblical and intellectual debate. I want to merely note that I refuse to be told what I can and cannot hate or who I can and cannot love. I simply refuse to let your side set the boundaries on this matter. The member of my family who was previously in denial tried to set any discussion of his/her behavior off limits with the threat of sanctions if their boundaries weren't honored. That's just the way that game is played. Well, I don't have to play that game. I just have to be willing to suffer the sanctions until the denial is broken.

Regarding homosexual behavior, my prayer is that God will make me willing and able to stand up under the sanctions until the denial is broken. And that the denial is broken with the least amount of damage to all concerned.

If you and I agreed on the nature of homosexual behavior, I believe you'd pray this prayer as well.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bryne, I like how you write. As per the member of your family and how you hold him, I concur entirely. Now, were he a gay man, that would be a different issue than his problem with drink.

Mrs. Larson, I did not attack Mr. Gagnon. I simple wrote how he is seen by a Lot of people, and the effect his personality and writing style (as well as arguements) are understood by others. It was an honest assessment of your friend. Not an attack. Respectfully, you sometimes conflate honest assessments you find disturbing and attacks from time to time.

Atlanta GA

Viola Larson said...

You are not writing about what someone wrote or believed but about their character. Because you cannot argue with their words you belittle their manner of writing and their character as an argument. That is actually a logical fallacy- please say no more.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully Mrs. Larson, I feel you are not fairly representing what I am trying to communicate, and thus hope to clarify it. After doing so, I will honor your request to say no more concerning this aspect of the discussion. Its our site, after all.

I ALSO wrote that the works of other theologians were seen as more persuasive than professor Gagnons. And, while I concur, I merely repeated a truth; that the manner of communication, as well as what he communicates, on the part of Professor Gagnon, did not help his cause nearly so much as many conservatives assumed it did or does.

Some people, on all sides are winsome. Some are not, even if they are our friends. The manner in which he writes and presents himself, fair or not, does affect the reader of his works. The same applies for any author I believe.
As per his theology, that was read by a great many people, and was by most, found less persuasive than that of Rogers, Bruggerman, and others.

Thank you for the chance to clarify my statements on the matter.

Atlanta GA

Anonymous said...

pardon...YOUR...not our (a typo)

Viola Larson said...

Gene you are saying the same think over again. Say it again and I will delete you. I should now.