The Presbyterian Church (USA) & gay/lesbian ordination
Reactions to the decision of
the 2008 General Assembly
General Assembly decisions:
The church's 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) -- a.k.a. PC(USA) -- was held in late 2008-JUN in San Jose, CA.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the very first debates
on homosexuality. For three decades, the denomination has been attempting to
resolve whether non-celibate homosexuals -- typically those who are in loving,
committed relationships -- should be considered for ordination. These
discussions were started by a predecessor denomination, the
United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
At this General Assembly, three items were approved:
Paragraph G-6.0106b of the Book of Order, as
written, would be deleted. It required ministers and other church officers
to live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a
woman or chastity in singleness." It would be replaced with an amendment
that would not contain specific references to sexual behaviors. It would
require the candidates to make a sincere effort to obey Scripture as they
interpret its meaning.
An existing authoritative interpretation that prohibits
same-sex behavior by church officers was deleted.
A new authoritative interpretation was added that would
allow ordination bodies some wiggle room in ordaining those homosexuals who
are in committed relationships.
The amendment to G-6.0106b requires a majority vote by the
church's 173 presbyteries. The other two changes came into effect immediately. More details.
Reaction from some subscribers to the OneNewsNow news source:
Subscribers to the OneNewsNow conservative news source
appear to be mostly conservative Protestants. They were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the General
Some typical comments:
- "How can
those who profess to be teachers of The Word agree to something
like this? ... God will have last word on this issue and they
will not like it. May God have mercy on us."
- "We are
seeing the falling away from Jesus. All the arguments here are
based on how much God loves people. That is very true but the
Bible is clear on what is right and wrong in His eyes."
Presbyterian Church should not be allowed to preach Jesus Christ
at all. They have blasphemed His Holy Name by accepting that
even the idea of homosexuality is at all right in the sight of
God. No one's heart that promotes that sort of lifestyle, or
lives it, will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
- "Allow me to
be the first to say that I am saddened by this ruling in the
Presbyterian Church. Why? Because it is further evidence that
so-called Christians are buckling to the pressures of special
interest groups rather than following long established
guidelines that have been based on the scriptures."
- "First, only
a Christian can be a pastor, elder, deacon or member of Christ's
church. Homosexuals cannot be any of those, simply because they
are not Christians."
- "God is the
same yesterday, today and forever, unfortunately his church is
not. Judgment is coming."
The Presbyterian Church (USA) doesn't care what Jesus would say.
But they will one day, probably very soon."
- "The proposed
new language would demand candidates 'pledge themselves to live
lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church.' ... How
can a homosexual person do this when their very lifestyle is in
opposition to the teachings in the Holy Scriptures?"
- &"Unbelievable, what do they want to move forward to?
- "Ok Christian
people, it is settled. The great falling away has come.
Honestly, I feel there is nothing we can do to get this world to
change course for the better. So therefore, we will have to go
into Christian survival mode..."
- "It's getting
to be a sad day when PC USA does not understand the Book of
Romans and call sin as sin and quit trying to do the politically
correct or appeasing thing!"
- "The church
is making man made laws over Gods laws. WHAT A SHAME."
- "This is
indeed a very disturbing departure from biblical guidelines.
Another instance of 'I choose my way over God's way.' Thankfully
there still many churches who adhere to God's word; however very
few in the mainline group."
One subscriber made a general observation:
- "I am always
surprised that articles such as this one never mention those who
have already left denominations such as the PC(USA) because it
hasn't ordained lesbian & gay people. I know of many gay/lesbian
and even straight-supporting ex-Presbyterians. But I constantly
hear about conservatives who flee. Seems like a double
Reaction by Presbyterians for Renewal:
Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) is a conservative
group within the denomination dedicated to: "Mobilizing the leaders of
congregations within the PC(USA) to be biblically faithful and missionally
minded in their service to Jesus Christ." 2 The
group was founded by 73 ministers and elders of the PC(USA) in 1988. They
believe is that the PC(USA) has abandoned its "clear, Christ-centered
identity" and has embraced the non-Christian beliefs of the American culture --
particularly with respect to topics on which the culture is undergoing rapid
change: e.g. abortion access, equal rights and protections for
gays and lesbians, and
The PFR appears to follow a literal interpretation of the
six biblical "clobber passages" that are often cited
in anti-gay material. The three decision of the 218th General Assembly which
generate a type of local option for the ordination of gays and lesbians in
committed relationships appear to have driven the PFR to take radical action
bordering on, but not quite including, a schism of the PC(USA) into two
They propose to "reshape the life of the denomination"
to accommodate "formally distinct bodies" to hold "different
version of Christian faith and life" within "the same denomination."
Presumably, there would be two divisions within the PC(USA), one holding
conservative views, and one holding liberal views towards such topics as the
inerrancy, infallibility, authority, and
inspiration of the Bible.
They will no longer take part in debates over ordination
standards and sexual ethics. They realize that these conflicts are only
surface manifestations of fundamental disagreements on the nature of the
Bible and Gospel.
They will work actively at the presbytery level to defeat
the amendment of G-6.0106b that was approved by the General Assembly.
They will bring an overture to the next General Assembly
that will define a new authoritative interpretation regarding homosexual
They will work for a change to the denomination's
constitution to allow individual congregations to leave and take their
church property with them. The constitution's current wording has property
of departing congregations revert to the presbytery.
They will encourage conservatives within the denomination
to direct some of their financial contributions outside the PC(USA).
They will "...pursue missional partnerships within and
beyond the PC(USA)." 2
Author's personal comments:
The root cause of the conflict is an apparently unresolvable
clash over the nature of morality and ethics.
Christians generally base their moral truths on five main criteria:
What does the Bible say?
What does the Bible mean?
What is the historical position taken by the denomination?
What does personal experience show us?
What do scientific studies conclude?
Unfortunately, religious conservatives and liberals tend to
weigh these five criteria differently. Conservatives give greater weight to the
first few criteria than the last few; liberals do the reverse. In addition, many
conservatives search the Bible for verses and passages that deal directly with
the topic, while many liberals look at general themes in the Bible, like love
Debate is generally fruitless and dialogue often impossible.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Eric Gorski, "Presbyterian Assembly votes to drop homosexual clergy
ban," Associated Press, 2008-JUN-28, at:
- "Reshaping the PC(USA): PFR Looks Beyond the 218th General
Assembly," FPR, 2008-JUN-27, at:
- "Presbyteries will vote for 4th time on sex issues," The Layman Online,
undated, at: http://www.layman.org/
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2008-JUN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson