THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA) & HOMOSEXUALITY
The new "Auburn Declaration"
The original "Auburn Declaration" of 1924:
The original Auburn Affirmation was written by personnel at the Auburn Seminary in northern New
York state. The Affirmation tackled a conflict between Fundamentalists and
moderates within the denomination. At the time, candidates for ordination
had to agree with five
fundamentals of the faith: inerrancy of
scripture, the virgin birth, the
sacrificial atonement of Christ, the bodily resurrection
of Christ and the performance of miracles by Christ that superceded
the laws of nature. (Some held the fifth belief to be the
anticipation of the second coming of
Christ). 1 Liberals in the denomination felt that ministers should be free to
hold diverse belief about these matters.
The Declaration stated, in part:
"Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the
deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations
of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these
are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as
explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all
who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ
to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship."
The Affirmation asserted that Presbyterians at the
|"Safeguard liberty of thought and teaching of its
|Prohibit restricting the church to rigid
interpretations of scripture and doctrine; and |
|Refuse to rank
ecclesiastical authority above the conscience swayed by the [Holy] Spirit.
That document influenced delegates to the 1927 General Assembly who declared that it is the individual presbyteries, not the General
Assembly, which have authority over what their clergy must be required to affirm
theologically. They instituted a type of local option within the
denomination. The Assembly repudiated the expulsion of liberal ministers and
limited the Assembly's power to reviewing individual cases, not in setting
Over time, a wide diversity of belief over the five fundamentals of the
faith has developed.
Affirmation 2001: referred to as the "New Auburn Declaration:"
Three generations after the 1924 declaration was published,
Presbyterians found themselves in another liberal/conservative conflict.
Jamie Spahr of "That all may freely serve" -- a
gay-positive Presbyterian group -- described the debate as being about:
|How to interpret the Bible, and |
|The role of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people (GLBT) in
the church. |
The denomination celebrated the 75th anniversary of the
Auburn Affirmation In 1999. A year later, during a sermon, Rev. A. David Bos
compared the crisis in the church in the 1920s with the current crisis over
homosexual equality. He said: "very soon, now, we will need another
A group of Presbyterians gathered in Baltimore MD on the weekend of
2001-FEB-10 intending to either update the original declaration, or draft a
new "covenant of dissent." According to Rev. Bear Ride, director of the Peace
Center at United University Church in Los Angeles, and a member
of the board of More Light Presbyterians:
"We've determined that we need to begin by defining what we see
as the crisis in the church, much as the writers of the original Auburn
Affirmation did in their time. But it is hard to say exactly what we'll
do. The group has never gotten together before. The consensus among us
is that the church has really strayed from faithfulness to the gospel
and the broad principles on which it was founded, (including) tolerance
of different opinions. There really is a parallel to the controversies
of the '20s. It does seem to have gotten to that point. Some issues are
different; some are the same. But people are not free to express
different theological (ideas) without causing great furor in the church."
The group, called "Auburn Spirit," called on Presbyterian Church
(USA) members and governing bodies "...to safeguard the unity and liberty
[of the denomination] in the spirit of the Auburn Affirmation (1924)."
They released "Affirmation 2001" in 2001-AUG. It asks Presbyterians
|Be faithful to our church's constitutional call of openness to all
church members who earnestly profess their faith in Jesus Christ;|
|Reaffirm and protect freedom of conscience, liberty of expression
and the freedom to disagree within our broad Reformed principles; and
|Resist any action taken by governing bodies that fails to welcome
all persons who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as full and equal
members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).|
Rev. Hal Porter said.
"Affirmation 2001 is something anyone with an open mind, heart, and
hands can endorse. This is pure reformed theology at its best. This is
the kind of openness the Presbyterian Church needs to reaffirm. This is
the kind of thing the first Auburn Affirmation affirmed."
Unfortunately, "Affirmation 2001" does not seem to be available online at
this time. We are trying to obtain a copy.
Also in 2001, perhaps in response to the "Auburn Spirit" activity, the Presbyterian
Lay Committee called for a loyalty oath that all Assembly program staff
members would be forced to sign. It would list three 'essential
|"The infallibility of Scripture, |
|Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, and |
|Heterosexual marriage as the only permissible form of sexual
- Text of the 1924 "Auburn Affirmation" is online at:
- "Church leftists may draft new Auburn Affirmation," PCUSA
News #6379, issued 2001-FEB-9.
- "Affirmation 2001" Proclaimed in the Spirit of Auburn Affirmation
(1924). Janie Spahr Urges Support," That All May Freely Serve, at:
- "Presbyterian Church (USA)," Newsletter of the Interfaith Working
Group. 2001-MAY, at:
Copyright © 2001 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update 2006-MAR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson