CNN reported that the PCUSA denomination voted to ordain its first openly gay pastor earlier this week. Rev. Anderson was previously ousted from his ministry because of his openly gay lifestyle, but now has received a new lease on life, or at least in ministry. I’m saddened by the news not solely because of its approval of homosexuality, but because of the underlying view of Scripture that it represents. The fact that this was left to a vote on how to interpret the Scriptures with regards to homosexuality is deeply troubling.
The PCUSA formally changed its ordination policy after a majority of presbyteries, or regional groups of churches, approved the change. The move went into effect in July.
An amendment was passed at the General Assembly, or churchwide governing meeting, last year to remove the marriage language from the church’s constitution and insert, “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”
A letter from church leaders posted on the church’s official website explaining the changes called the matter “a Presbyterian family struggle.”
PCUSA has failed to understand that this is not just a preferential, denominational stance – like church polity or governance. This is a fundamentally, moral position that has to do with the very fabric of what it means to be made in the image of God. Life in the kingdom of heaven is not democratic, but theocratic.
I remember sitting in a Doctrine of the Church lecture under my seminary president, Paige Patterson. He prophetically warned us that the moment a denomination undermines or forsakes the authority of the Scriptures and suspects its inerrancy, that domination has begun a rapid descent into irrelevance and obscurity. He went on to talk about the battle for inerrancy within the Southern Baptist Convention, how in the late 70s and early 80s, an undermining of Scriptural authority threatened to undo the entire denomination. It is something that I have never forgotten because if it’s true for a denomination, then it certainly is true for a local church.
I have long known that the PCUSA was headed down a slippery slope, and I grieve even more that such a large and stalwart denomination has signed off on its own demise. Rev. Anderson’s final quote says it all,
“I think what’s happening in the Presbyterian church is happening also in the Christian church across our nation right now…Our church is recognizing there are a variety of viewpoints on scripture. There’s no longer a right viewpoint and a wrong viewpoint but several faithful viewpoints, one of which includes me in terms of being a minister in the Presbyterian church. So we’re honoring a diversity of viewpoints in our church.”
No longer a right or wrong viewpoint? I wonder if Anderson will ever face the same dilemma that the great theologian Karl Barth faced when he decided to forsake the rampant liberalism of his day. When asked why he left the higher critical school (which questioned the authority of the text) to pursue a renewed respect and vigor for the Scriptures, he responded that he realized that by undermining the authority of Scripture, he had nothing left to preach of any value or authority or help to anyone.
PCUSA has given up the very voice that gave it existence in the name of diversity. May God make us faithful and bold to continue to proclaim the Undiluted Gospel to this world.
2 thoughts on “So long, PCUSA…”
I respect your view. However, there are many different interpretations of the Gospel. Could you explain to the lay person how one is to know which interpretation is “correct”? It seems that interpretation is based on both a scholarly knowledge of the subject and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While the Word is without error, how do we know the interpretation is the same? It is a question I know that many ask. It is also one of the reasons the Catholic Church is so dependent on its hierarchy ( Pope & Ecumenical Council) in maintaining its doctrine of faith or infallibility. It also explains its past reservations in the lay person’s deeper study of the Bible.
Good thoughts, Deb. The science of interpretation is a highly contested one. What you observe is that interpretation is directly related to authority – that’s why it’s so dangerous. While I don’t have as much problem with diversity in interpretation, I do take issue when the inerrancy of Scripture is in question (ie: what the Scripture teaches about homosexuality). The interpretations may differ in terms of periphery doctrine, but are there major areas of doctrine that are indisputable?