Homosexuality and Christian denominations
Part 2: Year 2010
Presbyterian Church (USA): Excerpts
from the special committee's minority
civil unions & marriages
Excerpts from the minority report:
Three of the members of the Committee were unable to ethically agree with the final/majority report. They produced a minority report which discussed a wide range of topics from a traditional Christian point of view which is unaccepting of same-gender sexual behavior. They believe that God restricts sex to within marriages of one woman and one man.
They noted that:
- "The 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. issued a report on homosexual practice that found the following:
- 'homosexuality is a contradiction of God’s wise and beautiful pattern for human sexual relationships revealed in Scripture. ...;'
- 'unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with the requirements for ordination;'
- 'Persons who manifest homosexual behavior must be treated with the profound respect and pastoral tenderness due all people of God [as they] ... strive toward God’s revealed will in this area of their lives and make use of all the resources of grace;'
- 'There is no legal, social, or moral justification for denying homosexual persons access to the basic requirements of human existence'." 4
- "History’s trajectory, looking at the thirty years that separate us from those hopes and prayers, has not been a gradual harmony, but an increasingly strident and rigid disharmony that threatens to once more tear the PC(USA) asunder."
- "The variant interpretations of Scripture are the foundational reason that the 1978 theological/pastoral/advocacy strands have unraveled. The ongoing controversy around this issue and others will not be resolved until consensus is reached on the interpretation of Scripture. Unity cannot be reached through polity inventions. Unity will only be reached through common affirmation of truth."
- "Both approaches appeal to Scripture, although they read it differently. Both refer to history and biological and social sciences. Both see their approach as compassionate toward lesbians and gays, although they understand the requirements of compassion quite differently:
Traditionalists tend to focus on specific biblical commandments that appear to prohibit same-sex relations categorically. Progressives tend to focus on broader principles of love and justice that they regard as more important than the specific commandments.
Traditionalists tend to emphasize a core meaning of marriage established by God in creation. They see the near universality of marriage in almost all known cultures as confirmation of God’s design in creation. They think it unwise for either church or society to alter the core meaning of marriage. Progressives tend to emphasize the variability of marriage across human history and around the world. They are reluctant to fix a core meaning. They view further evolution of the institution as natural and necessary. ..."
"Traditionalists acknowledge that the church has changed its mind previously on issues such as slavery, divorce, and women’s ordination. But they believe those revisions of doctrine came about because of fresh insight into the Scriptures—not merely out of a desire to conform to social trends. They do not see the issue of homosexuality as analogous, because the biblical texts on that topic are much less ambiguous. Progressives believe that sometimes God moves first in society to bring about greater justice and then pulls the church along behind. They believe that changes in teaching on slavery, divorce, and women’s ordination do set a valid precedent for a possible change in teaching on sexuality."
"The pastoral model for traditionalists is: Compassion toward practicing homosexual persons means calling them, with all heterosexuals who have departed from God’s intentions, to repentance and restoration. The advocacy model is to call society away from its destructive 'anarchy in sexual relationships' (The Book of Confessions, The Confession of 1967, 9.47). For progressives the pastoral model is: Compassion means affirmation of everyone’s sexual orientation and encouragement to use it responsibly in covenanted relationships. ..." 4
- "The issue before us is whether this question of covenanted same-gender partnerships is determined by the Word of God or not. The fact that equal sisters and brothers in Christ have differing convictions does not imply that all those convictions have equal standing in the church. The historic principles maintain that:
'... no opinion can be … more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty.' (Book of Order, G-1.0304)." 4
- They quote the miniutes of the Benton case in church court, Part I, P. 588 (Year 2000):
"Ministers and churches may celebrate a 'loving, caring, and committed relationship' between persons of the same sex. But such a ceremony should not 'appropriate specific liturgical forms from services of Christian marriage,' nor should it 'confer a new status' upon the persons being blessed. It should not be 'construed as an endorsement of homosexual conjugal practice.' Same-sex couples should be instructed 'that the service to be conducted does not constitute a marriage ceremony' (Benton case, Minutes, 2000, Part I, p. 588). 4
- "... those relationships, whether same or opposite gendered, that although committed and caring, which are outside of God’s design of sexual expression, cannot be encouraged or blessed. Pastoral care must be extended to all people within the body of Christ. Such care should always conform to the standards of the confessions as the church works to “gather and perfect” the saints.
For over three decades, the PC(USA) has wrestled with questions of human sexuality. When presbyteries have been asked to depart from the historic teaching of the church, they have declined. The Book of Order has been amended to make clear that chastity outside of marriage and monogamy within marriage, with marriage being defined as one man, one woman is a requirement for ordination. If this standard is considered serious enough to bar ordination, then the church in good conscience cannot encourage behavior or relationships that violate this standard. The Benton and subsequent decisions make it clear that in blessing same-sex couples, such blessings cannot be seen as marriage and cannot be construed as blessing sexual activity within these relationships."
- For many decades, Christian traditionalists have believed that God can help individuals with a homosexual or bisexual orientation convert their sexual orientation to heterosexuality. However, decades of attempts by Christian groups like Exodus International to convert clients to heterosexuality have failed. In recent years, Christian traditionalists have realized that sexual orientation is fixed and that the only options that they regard as moral are:
- For bisexuals to make a commitment to restrict their relationships to members of the opposite sex and to not act on their sexual attraction to persons of the same-sex, and
- For gays and lesbians to make a committment, with God's help, to adopt lifelong celibacy, and live without an intimate partner.
The minority report states:
"We are called to offer the Gospel’s grace to a hurting world full of people who desperately need to know God loves them and they can be freed of the things of this world that so easily enslave us. Love is never about license and, for too many years, the PC(USA) has been silent as the carnage of sexual hedonism engulfs our culture. Let us boldly proclaim that God has a place for sex: It is within marriage between a man and woman and that commitment is for life. Let us work to support, encourage, and nurture those who are not married and help them know that God’s plan for them is just as important as God’s plan for married people. Let us honor celibacy and those who practice it as engaging in a profitable spiritual discipline that may be lifelong or for a season of life. 4
- Under the heading "Current Research" the minority report states:
"The effect of the laws and the developmental differences of children in same-gender parent families are difficult to determine because cultural attitudes are not static. As one article states:
"... whether same-sex marriage would prove socially beneficial, socially harmful, or trivial is an empirical question that cannot be settled by any amount of armchair theorizing. There are plausible arguments on all sides of the issue, and as yet there is no evidence sufficient to settle them. 4
This topic continues in the next essay
with a discussion of the 2014 General Assembly
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Rev. Andy Little, "Presbyterians to Study Civil Unions and Christian Marriage," Ministry from two poles, 2009-FEB-05, at: http://revandylittle.com/
- Office of the General Assembly, "Civil union and marriage issues questions and answers," PCUSA, 2010-JUL-14, at: http://www.pcusa.org/
- The text of "The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage to the 219th General Assembly (2010) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" is at: http://www.pc-biz.org/
- The text of "The Minority Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage to the 219th General Assembly (2010) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" is at: http://www.pc-biz.org/
- Meezan and Rauch, "Gay Marriage, Same-sex Parenting, and America’s Children," The Future of Children, Vol. 15, no. 2, p. 110 (2005).
Copyright © 2014
by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2014-JUN-24
Last update: 2014-JUN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson