The leaders of the PCUSA have sent out a missive designed, above all, to minimize the inevitable fallout from the passage of Amendment 10-A that throws open to doorway to sexually active gays being ordained. The letter, which might have been entitled “Can’t We All Just Get Along and Keep Those Dollars Flowing?”, says:
The debate about ordination standards has been a Presbyterian family struggle for much of the last three decades. We have sought to find that place where every congregation and every member, deacon, elder, and minister of the Word and Sacrament can share their gifts in ministry while, at the same time, the integrity of every congregation, member, deacon, elder, and minister is respected.
This makes clear that the leadership was not disinterested in the outcome, not that anyone really had any doubts. Louisville was gung ho for this change, which is actually about the overthrow of biblical standards for ministry and sexual practice.
This decision begins with an unequivocal affirmation that ordained office will continue to be rooted in each deacon, elder, and minister’s “joyful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”
Except that every presbytery is now free to define “the Lordship of Jesus Christ” in any way they want. If a presbytery thinks that a bisexual person living with both a man and a woman is a “faithful expression” of their “submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” it can do that. This is what happens when the standards for ordination are severed from the biblical standards for Christian leadership.
This action also has important effects on our life together as a church, namely:
- in keeping with our historic principles of church order, each session and presbytery will continue to determine the suitability of individuals seeking ordination within its bounds.
- persons in a same-gender relationship may be considered for ordination and/or installation as deacons, elders, and ministers of the Word and Sacrament within the PC(USA); and
- all other churchwide standards for ordination remain unchanged.
Reactions to this change will span a wide spectrum. Some will rejoice, while others will weep. Those who rejoice will see the change as an action, long in coming, that makes the PC(USA) an inclusive church that recognizes and receives the gifts for ministry of all those who feel called to ordained office. Those who weep will consider this change one that compromises biblical authority and acquiesces to present culture. The feelings on both sides run deep.
Because it’s really all about feelings, isn’t it? Not faithfulness, not fidelity to Scripture, not theological coherence, not missional necessity, not adherence to truth. It’s all about feelings:
However, as Presbyterians, we believe that the only way we will find God’s will for the church is by seeking it together – worshiping, praying, thinking, and serving alongside one another. We are neighbors and colleagues, friends and family. Most importantly, we are all children of God, saved and taught by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
If they actually believed this, they would be advocating that everybody go back to Rome. What they actually mean is, “we’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs!”
We hold to the strong affirmation that all of us are bound together as the church through Jesus Christ our Lord. “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all,” Paul wrote to the Ephesians (4:5-6).
That’s a nice thought, but it is demonstrably untrue in the case of the PCUSA. As John Gresham Machen said almost 90 years ago, there are two different religions (at least two, maybe more, now) at war within the institutional mainline churches, one of which is human-centered, experience-based, and culturally captive, the other of which is God-centered, biblically-based, and counter cultural. The passage of Amendment 10-A represents the triumph of the former, and one which you can be absolutely certain will not be up for debate at the next General Assembly.