Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gay, Proud, and Presbyterian

Last week or so, the Presbyterian denomination P.C.U.S.A., ordained the first openly gay minister. You can watch the interview here. Its pretty sad, because I have family members, in-laws, and friends in PCUSA churches as members and ministers. Those churches don't feel this same way, but perhaps the day is coming when they must recognize that they can't have real fellowship with those in their own denomination. Crazy.

If the bible is "silent" on homosexuality, on what issues is it "loud?" Or if there are different ways of interpreting the bible (called a "hermenuetic"), which allow us to pick and choose what we follow, then I'd keep the homosexual part in play but throw out the whole love your enemies part. That's one I don't like all that much. It's hard. But I don't get a vote, and I'm glad.

Anyhow, here are a few takes from this video

1.) What is Liberalism? A friend of mine, when being accused of being a "liberal," was asked, "What is the difference between you and liberal mainline Christianity?" He answered, "I stand UNDER God's Word as the final authority." A typical liberal mainline minister will stand OVER God's Word to critique it.

2.) At what point is a church no longer a church? The Reformers gave three marks of a church: Preaching of Word, Administration of Sacraments, and Church Discipline. When the word is preached in such a way that is not the final authority, then it would be tough to argue that is being preached at all. How many liberal churches are truly churches? I don't know, but something to consider.

Of course in my denomination, we have to ask that question as well. Just because a group of people have a building, that says, "Church" on it, is that gathering legitimately a church? Is it a church when there are 6 people, 20 people? Is there a cut-off? Should we consider it a bible study that meets Sunday mornings? So we have that question as well, but it becomes more difficult when theological fidelity is present, and perhaps the Holy Spirit absent. Again I don't have answers, but just want to point out that theological orthodoxy does not in and of itself make or maintain a church.

3.) Language games. It is not hard to say the correct theological terms and mean something completely different. A plethora of German scholars in the late 1700's-1800's had one foot in a "conservative camp" with their words, but in their meanings, they paved the way for a severe lingering suspicion of the scriptures. They would say things like, "Jesus is my Savior," but mean that Jesus was important to them. You can also say things like "God's Word is my authority, but I just don't think the bible speaks against homosexuality." Again, a language game.

4.) What's the difference? When a church is so identifiable with the cultural stance or perhaps even a political one, can it then turn around and say anything true about the gospel or people's need for it? How is it different than a social club worshiping a deity that it finds palatable? I'm actually kind of curious to visit such a church, but on the four Sundays I have off each year, I'd rather hear God's Word preached faithfully.

5.) Many Christians literally struggle with same sex attraction. While some folks have pronounced victory in this fight, there are other Christians who affirm homosexual sex is contrary to God's will, and as a result fight each day to live faithful to the Lord who has bought them with the price of His blood. This book, Washed and Waiting, is one of the best books I've read this year. In it you'll hear of a normal dude struggling in this area, yet trusting in Christ to forgive and empower him. I felt for this brother in Christ. How must he feel when other "Christians" choose to ignore God's commands and good design and profess to be saved by and follow the same Savior? And then celebrate their "victory."

The evangelical church probably still has a ways to go. To condemn and affirm sin is one thing, but to not welcome, not affirm the dignity, to provide blanket assumptions for why folks are gay, and to not befriend and get to know other fellow sinners (but ones yet to experience grace) misses Jesus as well.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

If I may play the role of the contrarian for a moment. I'd like to suggest that as we are part of a denomination that failed to exercise church discipline against the sin of racism until 2008, that tolerated openly and unrepentantly white supremacist Steve Wilkins in in the denomination until he left over other theological disagreements, and that has no problem with books by Southern slavery apologist Douglas Wilson being promoted in PCA churches, we ought to exercise caution when pointing fingers at other denominations for their perceived failings.

I don't think it's fair to cast aspersions on the folks in the PCUSA and to imply that they don't have as high a view of scripture merely because they reached a different conclusion than the PCA does. I'm sure there are godly men and women in the PCUSA who sincerely believe that their understanding of scripture is right, just like there are godly men and women in the PCA who believe their understanding is the right one.

Is arguing with the PCUSA over this really something that's going to help advance the Kingdom of God?