Surely, Presbyterians can agree on these affirmations!
- Jesus Christ is Lord.
- Faithful disciples seek to honor Christ and follow his example.
- Church officers should be faithful disciples.
- All disciples fall short of perfection in following Christ.
- Jesus taught that love – for God, neighbor, even enemy – is the fundamental ethical principle.
- Ordaining and installing bodies have a responsibility to examine candidates carefully.
- Scripture is authoritative.
- The Book of Confessions expresses our Reformed theological heritage.
- Presbyterians differ in their interpretations of Scripture – always have, always will.
- The PCUSA is weary of the conflict over gay ordination.
- The energy and resources being expended in the ordination struggle could be used to respond to other Gospel imperatives.
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
Read the text of Amendment 10-A. Even if you believe that Scripture teaches same-sex expression always to be sinful, is there anything objectionable in it?
Amendment 10-A emphasizes:
- The Lordship of Jesus Christ;
- A requirement for rigorous examinations, based on both external authorities and personal qualities;
- The importance of Scripture, the confessions, and the constitutional ordination/installation questions;
- The historic Presbyterian balance – established in the Adopting Act of 1729 – between shared national standards and application to individual candidates by the body that knows them best.
The only real objection to Amendment 10-A is in what it doesn’t say: “fidelity and chastity.” And yet that language has mired the PCUSA in conflict from its inception – because it cannot be affirmed by all Presbyterians together.
Presbyterians will continue to disagree about the ethics of same-sex relationships – the Holy Spirit has not yet brought us to consensus on that, and the discernment will go on as we study Scripture together. But we can move on beyond the conflict over this paragraph by approving 10-A, which lifts up principles upon which we can all agree.
For the health of the PCUSA, it is imperative that we begin to act as if we trust each other even if we are skeptical; for even if we cannot quite trust one another, surely we can trust God, who is still sovereign.
Will we make different decisions about whether to ordain LGBT persons? Yes, of course; we already do! Jesus Christ is still Lord, even though we will inevitably make mistakes. We cannot function with the current over-controlling approach to community life. The Gamaliel principle – what is of God cannot be thwarted forever, and what is not will eventually die away – will prevail in case of bad decisions.