Andy Schreiber

Support of Overture 15: Amending the PCA’s Book of Church Order on Qualifications for Church Office

We do no favors to the members of our churches, nor to those men themselves who are entangled in the sin of homosexuality, when we allow such men to be ordained to office in the church, contrary to our Lord’s appointment. It behooves us, then, for the sake of everyone involved, for the purity and peace of the church, and for the glory of Christ, that we seek to strengthen our BCO on this issue.

Overture 15 seeks to amend chapter 7 of the PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO) as follows:
7-4. “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
The necessity and propriety of this particular amendment may be clearly demonstrated in a number of ways, only a handful of which will be considered briefly here. First and foremost, the most basic, fundamental biblical qualification for the offices of both elder and deacon is that a man must be found blameless. Our Book of Church Order must reflect the clear teaching of Scripture on this point.
The biblical qualifications for the office of elder or overseer are primarily found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. In 1 Timothy 3:2 Paul tells us that “an overseer must be above reproach . . .” (ESV). The rest of what follows (other than perhaps the ability to teach – v.2) is more or less an expansion and explanation of the kinds of things that such blamelessness entails.
The sin of homosexuality is one that clearly brings reproach upon a man’s character and reputation, and so it violates the most basic qualification for office in the church.
In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul essentially singles out the sin of homosexuality as especially heinous in nature, even itself being “contrary to nature” (v. 26, ESV), and an evidence of the judgment or wrath of God. Romans 1:26 speaks of homosexual lust or desire in terms of God giving people over to “dishonorable passions,” and v.27 speaks of being given over by God to homosexual sin as a matter of such people receiving their “due penalty.”
Not only that, but God calls the sin of homosexuality an “abomination” (e.g., Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). That should get our attention. Now there are certainly a number of other sins that God’s Word refers to as abominations as well, but that should in no way lessen the force of the use of this word in relation to the various sins of homosexuality.
Are we to suppose that men who identify with the very sins that God Himself calls an abomination, and which are themselves in some ways evidence of His judgment, are somehow fit or qualified for office in His church? Do we think that we are wiser then God? What do we suppose God thinks – is He pleased with us if we approve of such things? It is the Lord Jesus to whom we will answer for how we conduct ourselves in the household of God (2 Timothy 4:1).
In addition to this, in Ephesians 5:3, Paul writes, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” What does this mean? Simply put, it means that when people think of the reputation of those who profess to be believers in Christ (much less office-bearers in the church!), sexual immorality must not be what comes to mind. That must not be the reputation of Christians, and so this is even more true when it comes to those who would hold office in the church!
But is this not precisely the spirit of what has come to be known as “Revoice” theology or so-called “Side-B gay Christianity”? Do such as hold to this heresy not quite literally “name” the sin of homosexuality among the saints, and even among the officers of the church?
This being the case, simply refraining from the outward, physical act of sodomy alone is in no way sufficient to render a man blameless in this regard. Indeed, that is not the biblical standard for repentance and holiness. Even the inward lust and the desire itself are sins that are to be repented of and mortified. If such sins truly have been and are being repented of, then they certainly should not be considered as somehow being part of the believer’s identity or defining characteristics.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul writes:
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (KJV)
Sexual immorality is not the only sin on the list, and of the various kinds of sexual immorality listed there, the particular sins related to homosexuality (i.e., effeminacy and sodomy) are not the only such sins that Paul mentions. All such sins, though, if not repented of, exclude the person from the kingdom of God. That is such a sobering truth that Paul adds, “Be not deceived” (v.9). It is far too easy, especially in our day, to be deceived regarding these things.
Thankfully, Paul goes on in that passage to speak of the power of Christ in saving even such sinners as these. In v.11 he writes, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (KJV). And so those sins were now of their past, not their present. Why? Because by the grace and power of God through faith in Christ, they had been washed, sanctified, and justified by the work of His Holy Spirit!
Now certainly Paul is not saying that these believers never struggled against sin after coming to Christ by faith, but are those who hold to the Revoice heresy not making far too little of the grace of God in the salvation of sinners in this regard? Some in this camp explicitly teach that a change in one’s orientation and desires is extremely rare, and even that it is unnecessary for a believer.
So-called “side-B gay Christianity” contradicts the clear teaching, not only of the Scriptures, but also of the Westminster Standards, which are the doctrinal standards of our denomination (the PCA). The Larger Catechism, for example, states the following in Q. 139. What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.”
Not only is the outward act of sodomy forbidden by the 7th commandment, but so are “all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections . . . .” And so even the orientation itself (if we may use such a term) of homosexuality is in no way neutral, but is itself a sin, and so it is to be repented of as such.
The common approach to handling this sin among some in this camp is also directly contrary to our Standards here. How often are we told that a commitment to life-long celibacy (i.e., refraining from sex entirely) is the proper way to handle this sin? And yet look at Larger Catechism Q/A 139 (above). It plainly states that among the sins forbidden by the 7th commandment are such things as “”entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage,” etc.
Chastity, of course, is to be observed by all outside of marriage, but heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman (and not celibacy) is the biblical answer for those who do not have the gift of continency. Q/A 138 states that marriage is one of the duties of “those that have not the gift of continency,” as well as “conjugal love, and cohabitation” then within the confines of marriage. The Revoice approach to this issue much more closely resembles that of Roman Catholicism than it does of the biblical, Reformed faith and practice.
The biblical and confessional teaching on these things is clear. And our goal here as elders in Christ’s church must be faithfulness to Christ and His Word, regardless of how that may or may not be received by a world that is increasingly hostile to the truth.
We do no favors to the members of our churches, nor to those men themselves who are entangled in the sin of homosexuality, when we allow such men to be ordained to office in the church, contrary to our Lord’s appointment. It behooves us, then, for the sake of everyone involved, for the purity and peace of the church, and for the glory of Christ, that we seek to strengthen our BCO on this issue.
For all of these reasons and more, I commend this overture to you, that you vote to approve it, so that it may be ratified at our next General Assembly.
Andy Schreiber is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Ramona Valley PCA in Ramona, Calif.
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