Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An overture coming to Sacramento Presbytery

Sacramento Presbytery in their February 25th meeting will be voting on an overture for the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The overture is entitled “On honoring Christ in our relationships with one another.” It is endorsed by Teaching Elder Margaret E. Cross and St Stephens Presbyterian Church. It can be found at the Presbytery of Sacramento, as Attachment A. The overture which has some great ideas nonetheless has a logical flaw and a theological misunderstanding. It has some minor problems too. However, I do think that this is all unintentional. I will explain.

The overture is seemingly attempting to bring us altogether in reconciliation; each accepting the other’s interpretation of Scripture as it pertains to the issue of sexuality. However, the most important lines in the overture state:
The 220th General Assembly (2012) acknowledges that faithful Presbyterians earnestly seeking to follow Jesus Christ hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed same-gender relationships. Therefore, while holding persons in ordered ministry to high standards of covenant fidelity in the exercise of their sexuality, as in all aspects of life, we decline to take an action that would have the effect of imposing on the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one interpretation of Scripture in this matter. We commit ourselves to continue respectful dialogue with those who hold differing convictions, to welcome one another for God’s glory, and not to vilify those who convictions we believe to be in error.(bold mine)
An overture asking all to speak kindly to others would undoubtedly be helpful. That is a Christian calling. However, this overture is doing much more. Under the guise of caring about each other it is asking for one side to now accept things as they are and to not attempt to vote back into polity any sexual fidelity standards that we held barely a year ago. After one side used GAs over and over to change our standards the orthodox are being asked to not try and change them back. The logical flaw is that while asking for congeniality among members of the PCUSA, the overture is attempting to put shackles on the actions of one side of the debate.

Going even further the overture concludes that there are now no sexual standards but that of fidelity—within same gender relationships and relationships between a man and a woman. But that has not yet actually been determined. After all we have both Scripture and Confessions that only speak of marriage between a man and a woman.[1] And we do have a court case pending on this exact issue.

The theological misunderstanding: The rationale attempts to put both sides on equal standing by suggesting that:
While it is incumbent on all to continue to seek God’s will for sexuality, no human being has a full understanding of God’s Truth and all are called to humility before the Lord and charity toward one another. Questioning the faithfulness of those who in good conscience disagree with our interpretation does not bring honor to Christ or build up the Church.
No, we could not possibly have a full understanding of God’s Truth but we do have the written word of God and with that the revelation that he has given us. But more so the progressive side of the argument does not yet understand that the orthodox in the church see the issue as a matter of either denying the Lord Jesus Christ or submitting to his will. If you ask the orthodox to submit to actions they consider unbiblical it is the same as asking them to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar.

Some mistakes concerning Scripture and Confessions.

There is a paragraph in the body of the overture that is missing an important line. It is from the Second Helvetic Confession, 5.010.:
We hold that interpretation of the Scriptures to be orthodox and genuine which is gleamed from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages [here “and of many and clearer passages” is missing]) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation.
The idea of looking at the many and clearer passages of scripture on homosexuality has a great deal to do with the interpretation of the scriptures. The line should be added back into the overture before it is voted on.

The rationale also states, “Although Scriptures contain a variety of patterns of sexual relationships without condemnation, most Presbyterians believe that intimate sexual expression is to be restricted to a committed partnership between two consenting adults who regard one another as equals and seek to honor God, community, and each other in their covenant relationship.” The author goes on to say that there are two different views about the right or wrong of the gender of the two consenting adults.

Yet, although the Scripture speaks of men with many wives and it seems to allow this in the Hebrew Bible, God does not put his stamp of approval on the many wives. And Jesus goes back to God’s original mandate of one man and one woman when questioned about divorce. (See Genesis 2:21-24 and Matthew 19:4-8) There is no biblical record of same gender marriage with God's approval.

There is too much amiss in this overture. It can only damage further the relationships of members of the PCUSA.

[1] The overture strains to not use the word marriage thus seemingly accepting even fornication.

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