Regarding the meaning of the Overture 15 wording: “This language if inserted in the BCO would not serve to disqualify a man who merely experiences same-sex attraction… it’s a question of how you relate to your same-sex attraction, someone who has repented of their same-sex attraction, who has denied it, is seeking to mortify it and does not claim it as a way to describe himself is the difference.”
It has been over four years since a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) hosted the inaugural Revoice Conference which promoted “Side B Gay Christianity.” The PCA has been debating the issues regarding Side B ever since. After last year’s proposed amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO) failed to meet the 2/3 threshold of Presbyteries required to pass them, a slurry of new Overtures seeking to amend the BCO to address the Side B issue came before the 49th General Assembly held earlier this year. Three results of the Assembly’s deliberations this year is that Overtures 15, 29, and 31 passed and are on their way (as Items 1, 4, and 5) to deliberations and votes in the PCA’s 88 Presbyteries.
Since the close of the 49th General Assembly, Stated Clerk Bryan Chapell has shared his summary of the State of the PCA in various ways. In this document entitled “STATED CLERK’S SUMMARY AND REFLECTIONS ON THE 49TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY,” Dr. Chapell writes:
“Still, we have struggled to apply our standards to ordination requirements if a man pledges and practices sexual obedience but honestly acknowledges some degree of same sex attraction. Despite statements in the Study Report that attempted to clarify our stance on this, we have subsequently differed among ourselves about whether the same sex attraction itself should disqualify from church office.”
In this presentation at Southwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Huntsville, AL, Dr. Chapell explains:
“Here’s where we’re struggling, how do we deal with a minister who says ‘I believe that homosexuality is a sin, I will not practice it, I will remain celibate but I confess I struggle with this desire?’ Can the desire itself be allowed? And that is the present division, that is what we are presently arguing about: is the desire itself disqualifying?“
I strongly disagree with Dr. Chapell’s assessment of the current debate. While I cannot say that no one holds the strict position which Dr. Chapell describes, I am very familiar with the debates. I have had countless conversations with men on both sides of the issue for the last three years. I do not know of one single person that believes that “the desire itself is disqualifying,” and yet there is a very real and sharp disagreement in the PCA over Side B.
Dr. Chapell graciously spoke with me about his characterization of the issue. He was prompt to get back to me within a day of my contacting him, and we spoke for a half hour. Dr. Chapell was patient as always, and he listened well. While I think we disagree as to what the debate’s central issue is, Dr. Chapell apologized for not representing my position (in favor of PCAGA49’s Overture 15) as I would. He also said it was never his intent to give his opinion on the matter, but rather he believed he was accurately representing the debate. We exchanged subsequent emails and he knows I am writing this article.
I also want to say unequivocally that Dr. Chapell affirmed his commitment to the biblical gender and sexual ethic, the sinfulness of both homosexual activity and desire, and everything he wrote in the AIC Report on Human Sexuality. Those things are not at issue here.