Today, my presbytery meets and will vote on the proposed replacement to our Book of Order regarding the much debated “fidelity and chastity clause.”
Currently the book of order states:
Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.
Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
The proposed replacement states:
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.
Let me be clear, G-6.0106b is not simply about homosexuality – it is about the submission to the authority of Scripture for all who have been called to ordained ministry. Read the last sentence again, “Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”
As Theology Matters put it, “This is not a call to perfection, but repentance. No candidate for office is without sin. The issue is whether any sin is defiantly embraced, or is repented of with a desire to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live an amended life. Scripture is clear that sin is a denial of Christ’s Lordship and no leader can be effective in leading others to submit to the Lordship of Christ when he/she has rejected it in his/her own life.”
The proposed language calls the church to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life, but seemingly separates submission to Christ from submission to Scripture; they are the same. Moreover, the new language removes not just an explicit standard that fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness, but also an ethos of humble, repentant, submission to Scripture as the word of God which reveals to us the person, work, and will of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am saddened by the vitriol, the arrogance, and the back-room politicking perpetrated by all sides of this matter. This proceedure has made it quite clear that “ordination standards” are the least of this denomination’s problems, and the only thing holding us together may be a well-funded endowment and property rights (it certainly isn’t a common faith and mission). As it seems inevitable that this amendment will pass in the denomination, my heart is grieved and I am ashamed.
Still, the question before us today is shall the PC(USA) open the door for the ordination of those who knowingly and willingly continue in any activity (not just homosexuality) that the confessions, (which “guide the church in its study and interpretation of the Scriptures,” and are for the church the standards of our faith and practice) call sin?
My answer, my prayer, will and must be an emphatic and resounding “No!”
1 John 3:4-10 – “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared to us was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”