Part 7 of series: The End of the Presbyterian Church USA? Revisited
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In my last post I tried to explain the ideological and emotional motivation of those who support the ordination of gays and lesbians. They believe it’s a matter of justice, even divine justice.
For Opponents of Gay Ordination: A Matter of Righteousness
Those who oppose gay ordination see it as a matter of fundamental righteousness. It has to do with right and wrong, with right relationships and wrong relationships. Opponents of gay ordination base their moral judgments on their interpretation of the Bible’s teaching about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. For them, Scripture is abundantly clear about “fidelity and chastity.” Sex can be right only in the context of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman. Sex outside of this relationship, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, is sinful.
Those who regard all homosexual activity is sinful do not insist that persons with homosexual feelings cannot be ordained. They ask such people to live in chastity, just as they ask those who are heterosexual but unmarried. Moreover, opponents of gay ordination do not deny that homosexual Christians can be gifted for ministry. They do believe, however, that such people should live according to biblical righteousness. And this, in the view of gay ordination opponents, makes no room for homosexuality activity.
Even if you disagree with folks who oppose the ordination of active homosexuals, you must at least recognize that they aren’t necessarily crazy or bigoted or homophobic. The vast majority of Christians throughout history have believed that homosexual behavior is wrong. And the vast majority of Christians throughout the world today still believe this. Some of these people may have been motivated by ignorance or meanness. But many have come to their conclusion prayerfully and with genuine compassion for gay and lesbian people. I know many parents who deeply love their gay or lesbian adult children, and who continue to have positive relationships with them even though they believe that their children are making wrong choices with regard to their sexual expression. Many of these parents would love to be able to affirm their children’s choices completely, but their commitment to Scripture precludes this option.
Christians who consider Scripture as their primary source for divine guidance usually conclude that homosexual behavior is always wrong. This isn’t a case of irresponsibly reading one’s own views willy-nilly into the text (even if it’s an incorrect reading of Scripture). Consider some basic evidence: Not one passage in the Bible speaks positively of homosexual behavior or gay relationships. Not one passage in the Bible provides a positive example of an active homosexual in leadership. Wherever Scripture speaks directly about homosexual behavior, it judges it to be wrong. Some gay advocates claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn sexual intimacy between loving, mature, committed persons of the same sex. But even if they’re correct, which I doubt, this leaves gay advocates who seek to base their position on Scripture with, at most, an argument from silence combined with many explicit counter-examples. That’s why most supporters of gay ordination do not base their position upon the Bible alone. It’s seems clear to me that those who see homosexual behavior as sinful are in line with the plain and consistent teaching of Scripture, even if, in the end, they’re wrong to regard all homosexual activity as sinful. (Of course those of us who hold this position don’t believe we are wrong.)
So, if the PCUSA were to ordain people who are engaging in homosexual behavior and who intend to keep on doing so (as opposed to repenting of it), then folks on the pro-righteousness side believe that the PCUSA would be endorsing sin. It would be a contradiction of biblical righteousness. It would be just as if the PCUSA allowed avowed racists to be ordained on the ground that racism is not always wrong. One cannot be committed to the PCUSA and to the belief that homosexual behavior is sinful and simply let the PCUSA approve of sin. Live and let live just won’t work here. Folks who oppose gay ordination are compelled by their commitment to the PCUSA and by their biblically-shaped moral convictions to fight against any allowance for gay ordination. Their perception of biblical righteousness requires it. Their sense of faithfulness to God demands it.
In my next post I’ll draw some conclusions about our “getting along” as a denomination in light of what I’ve explained in this and the last post.