Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Won, so Shut Up

The Presbyterian Coalition has declared victory but still wants folks to vote no on B in presbyteries that have not yet voted.
We encourage those of you whose presbyteries have not yet voted to work diligently for its defeat in YOUR presbytery.
Why? Because those who think that discrimination is a bad idea need to shut up. They say that "pastorally" of course:
It is time to accept the Church's decision

Since the 1970s the PC(USA) has heard, considered, and responded to appeals to change her standard of sexual morality. Those who wish to change the biblically-rooted standard have continually pressed the matter and required repeated votes that have had the same outcome each time. It is well past time to acknowledge that the Church today, as throughout her history, knows her mind on this matter, and that it is the mind of Christ. It is time to call for forbearance from those who constantly disturb the peace and unity of the church.

Now it is time to live out the decision pastorally, leading people out of our society's sexual confusion into repentance and newness of life.
A little fact check. The "same outcome each time" is wishful thinking on their part. Since June 2008 the PC(USA) has made the most significant gains in equality for LGBT persons ever. Times are changing and they know it.

This is the type of rhetoric we will hear from the right wing until and through General Assembly 2010. You will hear words like "pastoral" and phrases like "disturb the peace and unity" until you want to run off screaming into the darkness.

What does it mean to "disturb the peace and unity of the church?"

Since these folks like to use the Bible as a nightstick against LGBT people, here's the Bible back at ya:


11They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace.
12They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not at all ashamed,
they did not know how to blush. (Jeremiah 8:11-12)

They want to defend the "peace and unity of the church." What they call peace and unity is an abomination. It is the enshrining of discrimination, ignorance, and falsehoods as a so-called "biblically-rooted standard."

This is the kind of "peace" that needs disturbing.

The ones who are disturbing Christ's peace are those who continue to wound God's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people.

And they don't even know how to blush.


28 comments:

  1. I am delighted, honored, and humbled to even be tangentially a part of the movement to disturb the peace and unity of anything that is discriminatory!

    The baby Jesus loves him some good rabble rousing!

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  2. Oh yes, what was it they said to Episcopalian LGBT folk--"Your manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church" or something.

    Sending love and hope to you all in the Presbyterian neck of the woods from an Anglican whose mom was raised Presbyterian. Truth will win out someday.

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  3. I think Nenya just came up with our new slogan, John!

    "226 years of challenging the wider church with our manner of life."Sweet

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  4. What's amusing is that, on several blogs now, I've seen several complaints about the peace of the church .... from people who've already left for the EPC. LOL

    It is pretty remarkable that, after 30 years of arguing and over a decade of voting on G-6.0106b, the folks on the other side just don't get this fight at all or the LGBT folks and their allies who are in it to win it. They essentially capitulated years ago when they made it clear that they are willing to leave. We've never made that threat. It's clear then who is in this for the long haul.

    To work all this time, and yet they've apparently learned nothing about those they're working against? I'm not even sure how that's possible, and yet they seem to have succeeded amazingly well. It must take real work to stay that in the dark.

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  5. Unbelievable!!

    Those people have no shame. We should all shut up and allow the continuation of violence, spiritual and otherwise. Well, we've got news for them, Christ's message of reconciliation will be preached and, God willing, their ears and hearts will be opened.

    The Presbyterian Coalition said at the end of their victory propaganda speech: "The PC(USA) has just taken its stand"... I don't know what voting results they've been looking at, but I think it's pretty clear which stand will ultimately prevail. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds every day.

    If the best they can do is tell us to shut up, then they've already lost.

    Here's another example: "That being said, we are no longer going to debate Biblical standards for sexuality on this blog." That one's from Toby Brown. He has no winning argument, so he shuts the door to debate, and like so many other bloggers on his side of the argument, he tries to control the debate through censorship.

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  6. I think the caricature you've painted of anyone who votes against Amendment B is almost as bad (but probably not quite as bad) as the very stereotypes you've been fighting against regarding the LGBT community. I'm actually a bit disappointed at this inconsistency because I think you are a passionate and thoughtful guy.

    But listen, I've struggled through the issue of homosexuality, I've worked side-by-side with LGBT brothers and sisters in ministry...I am sick to my stomach over the pain that some of these folks have endured, often times, at the hands of the Church.

    Things must change. But, I also have to say, that I believe (through careful study and questioning, and personal conversations with brilliant people on both sides of the issue) that the bible is clear against homosexual practice. Obviously, none of you folks will agree, but that's not my point.

    The point is, to label me a "fundie" or "ignorant" or worse is not only incorrect, but it's tremendously unfair. Just because I don't agree, doesn't make me a lemming. It's an issue that has haunted me to a certain degree.

    If you recall, after Amendment B was proposed by the GA, there was a TREMENDOUS amount of "let's be peaceful and unified" coming from the Moderator and LGBT supporters. Talk of being "unified" and letting the voice of the church speak, it seems, is the voice of the winning party (LGBT or "fundie").

    Here's the thing, polity shouldn't be the answer. It should be theology. Let's have conversations in the PCUSA over the theology of homosexual practice, because that's what it's really about. This business of letting polity run roughshod over Reformed theology I think is a mistake.

    Okay, can of worms...do your worst.

    Blessings.

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  7. Jason -

    Thanks for your thoughts. Here's my shot, for what it's worth. You say that you've studied long and hard about what the Bible says about homosexuality, and you feel strongly that the Bible says it's wrong.

    So what? Is that your argument for saying that gays and lesbians, et al, shouldn't have a place at the table? Do I really need to point out the myriad inconsistencies in that? Such as asking when was the last time a vision test was required for anyone who wants to go into the clergy? Yeah. Long time. If ever.

    Yet it sounds like that is exactly what you are saying - that because everything you've read re-affirms your feelings that homosexuality is wrong, you are willing to allow the church to continue to discriminate against your GLBT "brothers and sisters".

    Now, I'm not saying you're a fundie for thinking that. I'm just saying you're wrong for thinking it.

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  8. Hey Jason,

    Welcome and thanks for the comment!

    To clarify, this post is a response to the Presbyterian Coalition's latest email and website posting.

    My congregation has received their updates throughout their campaign to defeat B (and if my congregation gets them, then every congregation in the PCUSA must get them).

    This organization exists to keep discrimination in the constitution and to use the disciplinary procedure (and raises money to do so) to prosecute clergy in particular who they think break the rules.

    If you think polity before theology is bad, what about judicial proceedings before theology?

    My post (admittedly sharp) was not against individuals wrestling with their consciences about how to vote on B. This post was about the big guns behind the anti-LGBT movement and especially their latest tactic to attempt to silence those who advocate for change.

    As far as you personally, you have studied the issue and made your decision. Great. Maybe your position will change, maybe it won't.

    In regards to theology first. Well, of course. We have been talking theology since it began.

    Speaking of theology, on a previous post I included a video by Mary Griffith whose son committed suicide. She attended a Presbyterian church that taught that homosexual practice was a sin. That was her theology. A theology that informed her that her son needed to change or God wouldn't accept him. It is pretty common theology. I see it every day in the lives of lesbian and gay people who have heard this theology on a regular basis.

    Back to Mary Griffith. Her theology changed after the death of her son. She still believed in God, but it was a very different God than the one she had believed in previously. In a most heartbreaking statement she said if she had believed in the God then that she believed now, things might have turned out differently.

    Theology changes. Also, things change theology. One of the Reformed theological principles is that the Holy Spirit is dynamic. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work opening our eyes to see others, the Scriptures, and God with the eyes of Christ.

    This is no matter of simply polity or polity before theology. Those of us who advocate for unity and peace in the church are coming from a theological viewpoint. Speaking just for me, it is a theology that sharply challenges any vision of peace and unity that is based on excluding those whom Christ calls.

    Obviously, the Presbyterian Church is made up of people with who differ over theology.

    I disagree that polity is running "roughshod over Reformed theology." Polity is part of theology. It is theology in practice.

    As far as conversations are concerned. Where have you been, my friend! : )

    Sure we can talk about the theology of homosexual practice I suppose. We can also talk about the theology of heterosexual practice and the theology of idolatry and false witness and the theology of what it means to be in Christ.

    You sound like a thoughtful guy, too. I am glad you work with LGBT people and through this have heard the pain they experience from the church.

    I am going to suggest something. Some people think theology is an abstraction. This is because we have tended to make it so heady and bookish. That tends to foster a dualism between real people and talk about God (theology).

    It could be that if your LGBT friends are talking to you about their lives, that might be a place to begin rather than to begin with a theological theory of homosexual practice.

    Thanks again for the comment!

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  9. "Let's have conversations in the PCUSA over the theology of homosexual practice, because that's what it's really about. This business of letting polity run roughshod over Reformed theology I think is a mistake."

    Jason, I don't know you, so I hope you won't think I'm being presumptuous by giving you a little history. Back in 1976 the Presbyterian Church (then the UPCUSA) began considering questions regarding homosexuality and ordination. The denomination asked member congregations to begin their own studies and many did, including our congregation, and it formed a task force to study the issue as well. Again, just to emphasize my point, that was 33 years ago, just a few years after I was born.

    After a great deal of Bible study, prayer, worship, and consideration both of secular evidence and theological, our congregation came to the conclusion that sexual orientation should not be a bar for ordination or marriage.

    The denomination did not agree and issued a report. That report ended up giving rise to AIs and amendments and arguments for the last 33 years. That's a long time. The church has been arguing about this for nearly my entire life, and you don't think we've studied this?

    In response to the continuing arguments several more study task forces have been created, most recently the Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force. In the intervening years, many noted Reformed Presbyterian scholars have weighed in on these issues from both sides.

    So, with respect, if you think we haven't already studied the theology of these issues, then you simply haven't been paying attention.

    You know what we've never had a study task force about? Homophobia and what the church is doing to its members, LGBT or straight. That's the real issue here, and somehow that gets ignored. Yet, I don't think that's what you mean when you say more study is needed.

    I don't know whether or not you're a fundamentalist. Not everyone who holds that homosexuality is a sin is a fundamentalist, but all fundamentalists hold that homosexuality is a sin.

    I don't think you're stupid, but I do think you're ignorant. By that I mean I believe that you are lacking knowledge about these issues. That doesn't mean you're incapable of understanding them, just that you've received misinformation. The fact that you are apparently unaware of the 30 years of study that has gone into these debates proves my point, I believe.

    As for your belief that polity is running roughshod over theology, I think that's incorrect. First of all because, as I've said, we've done the study. We're up to our gills in study. We've had committees, and task forces, and reports, and books, and study until we're blue in the face. Second of all, our participation in the church is through our polity. And our polity is based on our theology. You see a separation between polity and theology where good, orthodox, Reformed theology sees none.

    I would remind you of the words of Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper who said that "there is not one thumbprint on this Earth that Jesus Christ does not look down upon and say, 'That is mine.'" That includes our polity.

    It may be messy, it may be annoying at times, but our theology informs our polity and tells us that we Presbyterians actually have the odd notion that the Holy Spirit works through votes. We believe that the discernment of the governing body is more likely to be right more often than the individual interpretations of its individual members. We also believe that sometimes we as a group get it wrong. That's our polity, and it's based on our theology. Don't take my word for it. Read the Book of Order (and not just the gay parts.) It's all in there.

    Finally, I would echo John. If you think the solution to these arguments is to debate academics instead of meeting people; if you think we should further study the issues instead of talking to people; if you think that further delay is going to solve everything; if you think the real issue is here LGBT people and not the bigotry, injustice, and anger directed *at* LGBT people then I think you simply haven't been paying attention.

    I don't particularly care if you agree with me about homosexuality. The genius of our polity is that we don't have to agree. If you don't want a gay man ordained as a minister in your Presbytery, Jason, then simply vote "No" when he comes up for examination. If you don't want a lesbian ordained as an elder in your congregation then vote "No" when the Nominating Committee brings her up for a vote. Nothing about this debate on Amendment B is going to change your right to vote however you want on any candidate you want for any reason you want.

    I know there are plenty of people out there who have been ordained who I would have voted against, had I been in their congregation or presbytery. But they're still ordained. I think they're sinners (like the rest of us), I think they're not particularly good pastors. Worse, I think some of them are actively working to tear down the church. Worse than that, I think some of them rather relish working to tear down people. But I didn't ordain them, I don't know them personally, I've never met them, I'm likely never to meet them, and frankly I've got bigger fish to fry. The church will survive with them in it, just as it will survive with me in it. It has survived for 2000 years and I don't think Jesus is done with it yet. In other words, I don't need to be another busybody, fusspot, tattletale or scold just because I don't happen to like a few people in the denomination. I can get over it.

    Why can't you?

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  10. "Second of all, our participation in the church is through our polity. "

    I would modify that to say "partially through our polity."

    Wouldn't it be great if there were an edit feature for comments?

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  11. I appreciate the dialogue folks, and the information. I guess I can respond in a couple ways:

    1. Just because we've talked about theology in the past (which I was aware of, Alan) does not mean we should give up on those conversations now. They are hard and often times feel like spinning in circles, but they MUST be had alongside polity precisely to ensure that our polity remains theologically grounded. Perfect polity (and theology) is an eschatological concept. It is, in the end, fallen. It must always be checked! Which is why 33 years of conversation may not be enough.

    2. A theme that came up in several remarks was the ever-changing nature of theology. I agree. But again, this change must never depart God's word. "Reformed and always reforming" isn't the whole phrase, it's: ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum dei (Reformed and always reforming according to the word of God).

    3. For the record, I'm not a fundamentalist :) Here's where I am theologically: I would be considered a raging conservative at Princeton seminary, and a raging liberal at Westminster seminary.

    4. Also Alan, you've assumed an awful lot about me. I never said anything about denying LGBT's access to the Table. That's a HUGE leap from not affirming a particular lifestyle. I also think any such affirmation is an affront to God.

    How can you say I don't love someone just because I don't affirm homosexuality? Some of the people I love the most in this world have lifestyles that I don't think God wants. But I'd give my life for them in a heartbeat. (additionally, as a sinner, I KNOW that I fall short every day of my life!)

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments...I know this is an absolutely volcanic issue..thanks for the tolerance of one who simply doesn't agree with your agenda.

    But here's the question: Can we still minister side-by-side? Can we still share the good news of Jesus Christ SOMEHOW? I certainly hope so.

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  12. "Can we still minister side-by-side? Can we still share the good news of Jesus Christ SOMEHOW? I certainly hope so."

    That is precisely what our attempts to remove Amendment B are designed to facilitate. People who are voting against it do not want us to minister side-by-side.

    "Which is why 33 years of conversation may not be enough."

    Wow. Well, we definitely disagree. Shall we go for 100 more, and check back then? Perhaps you could check your calendar and let us know when we might find a date more convenient for you?

    Justice delayed is justice denied.

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  13. Hey Jason!

    Thanks for hanging in there.

    You wrote:

    **Can we still minister side-by-side? Can we still share the good news of Jesus Christ SOMEHOW? I certainly hope so.**

    Well, yeah. In my presbytery, the vast majority of my colleagues are more conservative than me.

    Not all of them though. I am the most mouthy.

    However, we minister side by side all of the time. Just this afternoon I will be working with them on a committee I serve to make plans for promoting our presbytery's five cents a meal program for hunger relief.

    Side by side with those who share different views than I do.

    I have been doing this my whole career.

    Working for legislative change does not take away from that unless we let it.

    Theological conversation does not preclude changes in polity. In presbytery after presbytery people debated theology in regards to amendment b. It took a whole lot of Jesus just to get through our meeting!

    Finally, my opinion. Our current polity regarding ordination is NOT based on Reformed Theology. It is based on idolatry.

    I agree with all your Latin, the whole of it. What says the Word of God? Well, Jesus, the Word of God, says "Feed my sheep."

    OK, one more finally, I echo Alan. You can't work side by side if you aren't allowed to work.

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  14. Thanks for listening folks.

    "Wow. Well, we definitely disagree. Shall we go for 100 more, and check back then? Perhaps you could check your calendar and let us know when we might find a date more convenient for you?"

    Alan, perhaps a little of that tolerance and respect that you desire for the LGBT community should be offered to everyone.

    You either misunderstood my comments regarding the importance of the relationship between theology and polity, or you are demonstrating exactly why I worry that faithful Christians on both sides of the issue will have a hard time working together.

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  15. "Alan, perhaps a little of that tolerance and respect that you desire for the LGBT community should be offered to everyone."

    I do. Which is why this isn't about just the LGBT community, but about the entire church. When the blot of discrimination is removed from our Book of Order, that will be a winning day for the whole church.

    Tolerance and respect do not necessarily mean agreement.

    "You either misunderstood my comments regarding the importance of the relationship between theology and polity,"

    I did and I responded, with a classically Reformed understanding of both our theology and our polity.

    "I worry that faithful Christians on both sides of the issue will have a hard time working together."

    Will have? I think the point is that they do have. And why? Because the other side got B put in the Book of Order in the first place. Now that it's there some want us to wait for a while.

    It's hard to work with someone who wants you gone and wants you to shut up. And lest you think that's a misstatement of what they want, I'd suggest perusing several conservative blogs and/or the Layman. They're all pretty clear they want us to leave and they want us to shut up.

    But hey, any time folks on the other side decide that they're willing to work with us, that'll be a great day.

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  16. "What says the Word of God? Well, Jesus, the Word of God, says "Feed my sheep."

    John: Thanks for your willingness to talk. I think the only point that I didn't quite get, is how Jesus' mandate to "Feed my sheep" is somehow equivalent to LGBT ordination.

    But, what I think you mean is that there is NO ONE to whom we should ever withhold the Gospel. The love of God has no bounds, and nothing can separate us from God's love, not even sexual orientation. That being said, love isn't a concept, it's not "toleration" per se, it's not a feeling, it is a Person, Jesus Christ. All human love is derivative of this One Love. In other words, if someone says, "Christians ought to love one another" there must be a definition of what love is and what love is not. God is love. And this love is revealed to us over against the shadow of sin and death. God's love hates sin. We are elect even in the face of reprobation--out of love.

    I think the real issue for me, as I'm engaging in this blog, is that I believe, based on the Scriptural witness, that homosexuality is a sin. I don't want to believe it. I want to wish this problem away. But it's there. And because the Scripture is the unique and authoritative witness of Christ, the only norm for faith and life, I have to side with Scripture.

    Since that is my starting point, it puts me on a completely different trajectory. But, I'm not satisfied with the traditional gay-bashing of the Church. I actually would ordain a LGBT if they felt that in order to remain faithful to God, they would deny engaging in relationship of someone of the same sex. I do believe there are many who are "born" that way. But, unlike most of your readers, I see it as a disordered human nature, not something God has designed.

    I should probably just stop commenting on your blog, John. I think I'm just making everyone mad. I think I just have been longing to talk about this issue more with people who see things differently. Thanks for your patience.

    Blessings.

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  17. Hey Jason,

    Glad you are here!

    I have no need to argue my view. I tend to think that there is no matter of reason that convinces someone.

    It wasn't reason that moved Mary Griffith to a different theology after the suicide of her gay son.

    I don't think it was reason that moved Jack Rogers do see the Scriptures in a new light (I think anyone would be hard pressed to find someone more "Reformed" than he is).

    You wrote something that I have heard from others:

    **I think the real issue for me, as I'm engaging in this blog, is that I believe, based on the Scriptural witness, that homosexuality is a sin. I don't want to believe it.**

    It is as if you are saying, "If it weren't for the Bible I would believe and do the right, just, and loving thing. I would accept my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, celebrate their relationships, and celebrate their calls to ministry. That is what I would do. But that darn Bible causes me to be unjust and unloving and tells me to tell the people I know and love that their relationships are sinful. It also tells me to deny their rights (including marriage), and to exclude them from ordained service, even though I personally know better."

    If the Bible is telling you to believe or do something that is not good, then it may be that you are mishearing the Bible.

    It could be that your struggle is telling you something. The interpretation of the Bible you have learned is not connected with the reality you see.

    But, hey, it isn't up to me to convince you of anything. The Spirit moves in the Spirit's time with each individual.

    The Spirit, in my interpretation (and I am the only one who can interpret it for me), is moving me to put my theology into practice. Part of that practice is to work for legislative change in our denomination.

    Please continue to comment. You are welcome here.

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  18. Jason,

    You said:

    "I do believe there are many who are "born" that way. But, unlike most of your readers, I see it as a disordered human nature, not something God has designed."

    I'm having a hard time seeing your train of thought here. Could you explain to me how it is you came to believe that some people are "born" that way, but God didn't design it? Whose design is it?

    You also said:

    "I think the real issue for me, as I'm engaging in this blog, is that I believe, based on the Scriptural witness, that homosexuality is a sin. I don't want to believe it. I want to wish this problem away. But it's there. And because the Scripture is the unique and authoritative witness of Christ, the only norm for faith and life, I have to side with Scripture."

    Well, I also feel I have to side with scripture, I use the same kind of descriptive terminology you use for Scripture, but I have come to a different conclusion concerning some LGBT folk. My curiosity leads me to ask you what versions of the Bible you have studied, and where do you believe the Biblical authority truly rests?

    As an Elder in the PC(USA) I've taken a vow to be guided by our historic reformed faith as expressed in our Book of Confessions, and I take this vow very seriously. It is from there that I am led to seek out the wisdom contained in the original languages whenever there is a matter of controversy. It is from that perspective that I have discerned for myself that the Bible does not condemn all same-sex erotic behaviors, only some of them, and it appears to primarily depend upon the motivation of those involved.

    The trend I see in our translational history of Scripture is one of increasing homophobia. I find that trend to be quite disturbing. Jason, in case you haven’t already done so, compare Martin Luther’s 1545 German translation to today’s modern English translations, particularly where it pertains to same sex behaviors (Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1), and then tell us if you do or do not see a homophobia problem creeping into the “vulgar language of every nation” (The Westminster Confession Of Faith, 1647 version).

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  19. Arthur: Thanks for the feedback, brother. Here are my answers:

    1. "Could you explain to me how it is you came to believe that some people are "born" that way, but God didn't design it? Whose design is it?"

    The human condition has been radically and universally corrupted by sin. As such, creation itself has suffered at its hands. Genetically speaking, there are abnormalities that have led to disordered human nature: take disease for example. I don't believe in a God who wills children to be born with terminal cancer. But it happens. It's a result of this fallen world.

    2. "Well, I also feel I have to side with scripture, I use the same kind of descriptive terminology you use for Scripture, but I have come to a different conclusion concerning some LGBT folk. My curiosity leads me to ask you what versions of the Bible you have studied, and where do you believe the Biblical authority truly rests?"

    I wasn't raised in the church, and I have no sentimental bias to any translation. In seminary I studied Greek and Hebrew and took several exegesis classes in these languages. Of course, anyone who's studied these languages will tell you that a couple years does not make me an expert, but it helps open doors to the nuances of translation. All of my positions are based on my own exegesis from the Greek or Hebrew, using tools as I go, and of course, compared with a variety of translations. You may indeed be right that Luther was homophobic. I don't know if I could say with any authority what exactly his agenda was. But I don't need Luther to tell me what seems to be consistent with a canonical reading of homosexuality from the OT to Paul.

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  20. "*I think the real issue for me, as I'm engaging in this blog, is that I believe, based on the Scriptural witness, that homosexuality is a sin."

    I think, Jason, that you're confounding two issues here.

    1) Is homosexuality a sin?
    2) should sinners be ordained?

    We disagree about the first point. You've come to the conclusion that any sexual orientation other than heterosexual is a sin. I've come to the opposite conclusion. There really isn't any middle ground there.

    But...

    2) Should sinners be ordained? As it turns out, we only ordain sinners in the PCUSA. We ask them to repent of their sins. The gay man who does not think that being gay is a sin has done so faithfully. The divorced straight man who does not think his divorce was a sin (contrary to Jesus' clear words on the matter) has done so faithfully as well. If we believe they're faithful in their repentance then we should ordain both of them.

    The current amendment being debated gives us the option to do that. Without the change, we can ordain the straight sinner, but not the gay sinner, and the only distinction between the two is the way that they were created, which has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not they can faithfully discharge the duties of their office. That's simple discrimination.

    People have been asking for a "middle way" for years without recognizing that the genius of our polity already provides for a middle way: the ordination of an individual is the responsibility of the ordaining body. If you don't want gay people to be ordained, then vote against their ordination.

    It really is that simple.

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  21. That was my point, exactly, Alan! Even assuming that everyone everywhere might allow that homosexuality is a sin, when did the church stop ordaining sinners? Other than blasphemy, aren't all sins equal?

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  22. All sins are equal, Snad, but heterosexual sins are more equal than others.

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  23. Alan and Snad: You both make excellent points that I agree with. The problem isn't that we ordain sinners (of course we all are without exception), the problem is that if homosexuality is a sin then the homosexual candidate is not seeking forgiveness for that sin, and is in open rebellion against what God has called sin. If homosexuality is not a sin, then it's a moot point.

    So, for example, let's say a divorced man is a candidate for ordination. He recognizes that his divorce was a sin and asks for forgiveness for that sin--to me, that's fine. It all hinges upon whether or not the candidate is openly rebelling against sin or not. The fact that we all sin is a certainty...it's in the repentance that matters.

    Now, of course, of someone could show me how scripture warrants homosexual relationships, I would obviously see things differently. But that's why I can say that we can ordain repentant homosexuals, etc. Just because we're born "that way" doesn't make it right. I was born with a desire for drunkenness. Should I act upon it freely, knowing that it's not sin if I was created that way?

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  24. Regarding the divorced man whose divorce and remarriage was a sin (it's actually the remarriage part that's the adultery, according to Jesus), have you ever met a divorced person who was forced, upon realizing that the divorce/remarriage was a sin, to divorce their current spouse and remarry their previous spouse, in order to be ordained?

    Because that is what would qualify as repentance. Repentance isn't just saying "I'm sorry and I won't do it again." Repentance is a 180˚ shift from where you are to a new path.

    At some point we need to trust that God is actually working in people to lead them to repentance for the sins they've committed. And if God has led someone to believe that being married to a man is not sin, then at some point people need to trust that's what's He's done. It might also be nice if occasionally we recognized the Reformed theology behind the difference between justification and sanctification.

    In addition, your view seems to assume that it is actually possible to recognize all the sins we commit. We cannot. It is simply impossible to know the sinful consequences of all of our actions. You can't repent of a sin you don't know you've ever committed. So every person we've ever ordained has sins of which they have never repented. And yet we ordain them anyway, as long as the sin isn't homosexuality.

    You believe people who think homosexuality is not a sin should not be ordained because they're not repentant. Yet people who believe homosexuality is a sin get ordained all the time, even though in my view they're guilty of lying. They don't repent of their lies of course because they honestly don't believe they're lying. Yet they are, and they don't repent, and yet they get ordained.

    We. Are. Not. Catholic. And we need to stop setting up our offices of ministers, elders, and deacons as if they are special orders of the Catholic Church.

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  25. BTW, the doctrine of total depravity states that every action we take, every one, no matter how good, is tainted by sin.

    How many people do you know that repent for giving money to charity? For giving tithes to the church? For helping an old lady across the street? Every one of those actions is somehow tainted by sin too, and yet those actions and millions like them go unrepented by ordained folks in the PCUSA every day.

    Total depravity is the nail in the coffin of your argument, Jason. Unless you want to argue that absolutely each and every action taken by an ordained person is either repented of, or is wholly good. So you're still stuck with trying to find people to ordain who have perfect knowledge of the sinful effects of all of their actions, even the best of them, for which they have repented.

    I think the number of people who are like that rounds to zero.

    I'm fine with the understanding that we're all just people trying to be as faithful as we can to the Truth that God has called us, as we are continually sanctified by Jesus. I'm also fine with relying on the Holy Spirit to guide my discernment, and the discernment of everyone else in the congregation when we elect a new elder.

    Perhaps some people need to find just a little more trust.

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  26. Alan: This is the kind of dialogue I'm talking about! Good stuff.

    "In addition, your view seems to assume that it is actually possible to recognize all the sins we commit. We cannot. It is simply impossible to know the sinful consequences of all of our actions. You can't repent of a sin you don't know you've ever committed. So every person we've ever ordained has sins of which they have never repented. And yet we ordain them anyway, as long as the sin isn't homosexuality."

    I actually agree with your statement. My view does NOT assume that everyone knows all their sin. This is precisely because I believe the sin of homosexuality is made plain in Scripture.

    Let me say it another way: If I grew up in a culture that thought murder was a virtue (and these cultures do exist), and somebody told me it was a sin, what would their reason be for doing so? What are they basing this on? The answer? Of course, we start with common sense, but then we check it against Scripture. Why is it sin? Because God said it was. Maybe we didn't need the Bible to tell us that murder is bad, but again, that's the foundation.

    Similarly, how do we know homosexuality is a sin? Whether or not common sense gives us an answer I can only speak for myself, but then how would a Christian know? Consult the Scripture. And, I believe Scripture is clear.

    You're right, everyone who's ever been ordained in history has had some sins they didn't even know about. But homosexuality isn't one of them for Christians. It's one of the sins that is spelled out.

    When we "discern the Holy Spirit" as you say, we are not receiving NEW revelation. Scripturally, that's not how the Holy Spirit works. The Holy Spirit illumines that which has already been revealed in the WORD. And what is in the Word? That homosexuality is a sin.

    Therefore, to make an appeal using the Holy Spirit argument simply does not jive with how God's being and action are witnessed to in Scripture.

    Now, that's not to say I'm trying to put a limit on God. God can do anything God wants. But it's a revelation that would be inconsistent with the Scriptural witness.

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  27. Again, you're missing my point.

    You believe homosexuality is a sin. I do not. That is not what I'm arguing. You're confounding that issue with the issue of ordination.

    You admit there are sins that everyone commits without realizing it and for which they cannot then repent. G-6.0106b clearly states that those people (ie. everyone!!) cannot be ordained. It doesn't say you have to repent of sins you know about, it says you must repent of anything the Confessions call sin. There's no escape clause for sins you do not know about.

    So then everyone who has been ordained since 6-6.0106b was enacted is out of order. Yet the rule is only enforced for LGBT folks. That's discrimination. Period. And that's why we need to change the Book of Order.

    As some of us have been saying since it was enacted, it isn't Reformed, it isn't Presbyterian, and it isn't workable.

    If you'd like to argue about whether or not homosexuality is a sin, feel free. You'll have to find someone else to argue with because I'm not interested in that. I believe the matter is settled. However, that issue has nothing to do with the un-Reformed, un-Presbyterian, unworkable G-6.0106b.

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