Overture 15 from Westminster Presbytery asked the PCA General Assembly to amend BCO 7-4 by adding the following sentence: “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 GA approved this as wording on June 23, 2022, which will be sent to the PCA Presbyteries for ratification. During the debate Dr. Palmer Robertson made the following speech which many believe put the proposed amendment is a helpful context. Read the speech below and/or listen to the it here.
Mr. Moderator, Palmer Robertson, Piedmont Triad Presbytery.
We could quote a famous statement, “There is a tide in the affairs of men,” and say there is also “a tide in the affairs of churches.” And that tide rises when the culture demands a response.
Over the past 25 years I have had the privilege of serving in a country in Africa where the parliament passed the death penalty for homosexuality, which is somewhat an extreme. Coming back every five years over these last 25 years, I have seen the drift. First, all the sitcoms of one year were homosexually oriented. Not just many sins, not different kinds of sins, but specifically homosexual sin. Then there was laughter—the introduction of laughing over this matter. Not of any particular sin except homosexuality. And then I come five years later and now there’s a celebration of a marriage, here and there, of homosexuals. Specifically, that particular item.
And now we are moving toward a position in which it would become very difficult, and in some countries, in England (where I have visited on occasion) to even read the Apostle Paul, Romans Chapter 1, in public, and you can be arrested.
What is it in Romans Chapter 1 that is stressed so strongly here, as Paul is trying to establish the need of humanity? He says, “Therefore,” and he begins to specify; and what is it that he specifies? “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Men exchanging their natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).
Mr. Moderator, you never hear the word “perversion” anymore. It used to be that you could speak of “sodomy” and “sodomites.” That is a specification of a sin in the Old Testament that is just as relevant for today. And though, with all love, and here, if we are to say those who are captured by this sin, then we must speak that wonderful word, the first word of salvation, which is “repent.” Repent of what? Repent of that specific sin that is the one that is pressing the wedge between truth and behavior and untruth in the totality of our culture today.
And so, Mr. Moderator, I would urge you to respond…you know, in history, you will see that there is this floating, this movement along in history. And then somewhere, something cuts the line and says, “this far and no further.” And then, everyone reads the history and says, “Why of course, that line should have been drawn right there.” And that’s where we are today. Somewhere we must draw the line about this specific item of homosexuality. And if we are to draw any line in the public eye, it would be with respect to the ordained minister of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore, Mr. Moderator, I would speak in favor of this amendment.