The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, in another high-profile case involving gay ordination, has voted to restore the ordination of seminary professor Paul Capetz.
I say forget Larges because she still has hoops to jump through that may or may not result in her being ordained. Capetz is another story.
Capetz, who had been ordained in 1991 as a minister of Word and Sacrament, had voluntarily set aside his ordination in 2000 because of his disagreement with language in the ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which requires those being ordained to practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are single.
But in 2007, Capetz asked Twin Cities presbytery to allow him to declare a scruple–an objection based on conscience–to the standards, and asked that his ordination be reinstated.
In a specially-called presbytery meeting on Jan. 26, the presbytery did just that – voting 197 to 84, with two abstentions, to permit the scruple Capetz had presented, determining it did not involve “a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity.”
Except as is made clear below, this is not just a matter of “I disagree with the particular aspect of the PCUSA ordination standards.” This is exactly what critics of the Authoritative Interpretation said would happen–a “scruple” would be allowed that would then be interpreted by the presbytery to mean that the scrupler didn’t have to abide by the provision he disagreed with. Louisville has been saying all along that just because someone scrupled didn’t change the fact the he or she would have to abide by the provision objected to. Twin Cities has just blown a big Bronx cheer in Louisville’s direction.
Twin Cities presbytery also voted 196 to 79, with three abstentions, to restore Capetz to ordained office.
And, by a voice vote, it approved accepting as a “validated ministry” Capetz’ position as an associate professor of historical theology at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
In an interview late last year, Capetz said he is gay and not currently involved in a relationship. But he said he would not, as a matter of conscience, pledge to be celibate as a condition of ordination. [Emphasis added.]
He said that ahead of time, Twin Cities knew that was his attitude. And they proceeded anyway. They put their stamp of approval on that attitude, and in the process defied the denomination to do anything about it.
Capetz has argued that he cannot, as a matter of principle, support a Protestant denomination making celibacy a requirement for ordination – because imposing such a requirement is, in his view, not in accord with the Reformed faith.
“If there was one thing the Protestant Reformation stood for, it was the abolition of celibacy for religious reasons,” he said.
This is a professor of historical theology? He thinks that the Reformation was about celibacy? If I had been a student of his, I’d demand my tuition back.
After the vote in Minnesota, Capetz said, “I’m happy with the outcome,” and said his ordination would be restored immediately. Capetz will continue doing the same work – teaching at the seminary – but said he’d be open to what possibilities might come along, to discovering “what God wanted me to do.”
Obedience to His Word would be nice. But hey, if you’ve got a problem with that, don’t sweat it. God certainly won’t.
UPDATE: One of the Layman Online articles adds this:
In a statement, Interim Executive Presbyter Sarai Schnucker said, “We are overwhelmed by the grace and love that this presbytery exhibited today. The members of the presbytery have conducted themselves with respect and restraint, even while handling such a controversial issue. As a presbytery, we listened to each other and heard each other. In the midst of this time of debate and discernment, there was true worship by the Body of Christ as we sang songs and broke bread together.”
“We are unaware of what might take place as a result of today,” she said, “but we have come together as the Body of Christ and we are grateful for the presence of the Spirit with us. Thanks be to God.”
(Hat tip: Will Spotts.)
UPDATE: The Presbyterian News Service quotes Capetz saying this:
Describing the church’s current position, Capetz said, “In its categorical opposition to all expressions of homosexuality, the Protestant church has unintentionally found itself having to deny one of its own essential tenets, namely that vows of celibacy are wrong because they imply works-righteousness before God.”
Capetz took several questions from the floor, noting on several occasions that he would not take a vow of celibacy. When asked to elaborate on his view of the works of Martin Luther and John Calvin, Capetz cited justification by faith alone and not by works, noting that sexuality is an “inescapable” part of humanity. Demanding celibacy is “kind of works righteousness,” he said.
For a professor of historical theology, this strikes me as either ignorant or self-serving. Capetz keeps using the expression “vow of celibacy” because he’s trying to draw a parallel to the Catholic vow of life-long celibacy enforced on priests, monks, and nuns. There is, in fact, no parallel. The requirement of PCUSA ordination standards are not vows, and they are not life-long unless one chooses to take them that way. To Capetz’ certain reply that the “fidelity in marriage, chastity in singleness” clause means that he, because he is gay, must stay celibate unless same-sex marriage is legalized in Minnesota, I reply: yeah, so what’s your point? There are a lot of people who might like to chuck the fidelity/chastity stuff who aren’t gay: single heterosexuals who want to live together and be sexually active; polyamorists who want to be able to diddle their friends’ wives without consequences; people who want to use the services of prostitutes, and so on. That standard crimps lots of people’s lifestyles, and you know what? That’s life in the Christian faith. If you don’t like it, become a Unitarian.
As for the claim that “demanding celibacy is ‘kind of works righteousness,” one has to wonder whether Capetz believes in any moral standards whatsoever. Or are all calls for Christians to refrain from sin just examples of “works righteousness”? Does he really think that any Christian who deliberately makes a choice to not commit adultery, not kill his neighbor, not steal from his employer, not commit fraud on his income taxes, not abuse children, not engage in racist behavior, not covet what his boss owns, not bow before idols–does he really think that such moral conduct, along with not engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage or with people of the same gender, constitutes “works righteousness”? All I can say is that if he does, and I had been a student of his, I’d not only be demanding my tuition back, but I insist on at least 50% interest. It’s one thing to be able to define latitudinarianism, it’s another entirely to claim that the Martin Luther and John Calvin were latitudinarians, simply so that I can justify my own personal behavior.
Finally, there’s the unequivocal money quote:
When questioned if his departure from the chastity and fidelity section would be in both belief and in practice, Capetz said, “I refuse to be in compliance with The Book of Order as it now stands.”
Which just about says it all.