Thoughts on the Present State of the Presbyterian Church in America: A Series of Theses Presented by a Concerned Member—Part Three
That the whole testimony of Scripture stands against those who would make homosexual lust an acceptable trait of ministers. For Scripture is uniform in denouncing everything to do with homosexual desire or deeds as sinful, and it is unthinkable that anyone whose thought was formed solely by Scripture would ever conclude that something like Revoice is a proper endeavor of the church, or of any who claim Christ as their Lord.
- That the Presbyterian Church in America has been deaf to the frequent exhortation to be watchful and discerning. Already the first stages of a slide into infidelity are being entered, and yet we seem blind to the frequent exhortation to not be deceived by those who, with smooth words and many assurances of good intention, yet labor to “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” (Jude 4) and to make acceptable all manner of immorality with “empty words” (Eph. 5:6).
- That we show a willful and remarkable ignorance of history and of the course of other denominations on this matter. Every church which has tolerated homosexual sin has reduced its size by driving away the faithful. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is an example, as is the United Methodist Church, which is actively splitting because of this matter. Also, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Brethren Church, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Reformed Church in America.
- That our denomination risks replicating the career of the Church of Scotland: faithful and zealous at first, but soon overrun with a refined worldliness similar to that of our wider society.
- That the world interprets matters very differently than the church. The knowledge that the Presbyterian Church in America allows the ordination of men who publicly identify themselves as homosexual is not likely to impress or please the world, which will be satisfied with nothing less than absolute defection from our beliefs and a complete embrace of its own.
- That in an age in which people are conspicuous for the haste, superficiality, and inaccuracy of their judgments, it is likely that the fact of same-sex attracted Presbyterian ministers will not be met with more conversions of those that are ensnared in homosexual sin. It is feared that it instead makes their repentance less likely because it sends them a confused message. For on the one hand, we say that homosexual behavior is damning sin, and yet on the other we permit at least the desire for it in our church’s leaders. The unbeliever can scarcely be blamed if he interprets this to mean that the Presbyterian Church in America is confused in its teachings and therefore unworthy of being regarded as credible.
- That there is an active campaign to normalize homosexual sin in the church, and that we are witnessing the first stages in the controversies surrounding such things as the Revoice conferences.
- That Satan acts in this matter, as in every other, with cunning, patiently moving in steps and always disguising his position as good (2 Cor. 11:14-15). His first move has been to make acceptable the thought of what was previously unthinkable. Next was to make acceptable the utterance of what was in previous times unmentionable. We may expect future stages in which he gradually changes the question from one of the permissibility of those with same-sex attraction serving as ministers to one in which blatant sin is accepted totally.
- That false teachers are not open and forthright but secretive and deceptive. As Peter says, it is the method of false teachers to “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Jude says of false teachers that they “crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4) and our Lord says of such people that they “come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:11).
- That they who think they stand should take heed lest they fall (1 Cor. 10:12). As homosexual (and other) sin has found gradual acceptance in many other denominations until its goodness has become an unquestionable dogma, and until the powers of the church are used rather to silence sin’s critics than its proponents, so also is it possible for the Presbyterian Church in America to fall in this matter. We would be fools to imagine that we are inherently or incontrovertibly faithful, or to imagine we will persevere where others – including those with whom we have previously been associated – have fallen.
- That the course of the acceptance of homosexuality has nowhere halted itself. In society it immediately yielded to the push to normalize yet worse abominations. In those denominations where it has been accepted it did not content itself with the stage at which it was simply tolerable or simply a question of temptation or celibate experience, but demanded – and seems everywhere to have received – a full acceptance in time. Sin advances until it dominates absolutely all that it touches. It can be resisted and beaten, but it nowhere checks itself.
- That there are things which disqualify one from ministry – as age, sex, length of time as a believer, or lack of the needed gifts – which are not themselves sinful.
- That there are sins, temptations, and past misdeeds which unfit one for ministry, because their association with the church’s leaders would bring scandal on the church.
- That homosexual lust is one such disqualifying temptation and sin, for if acted upon it would destroy the church’s credibility in this matter and give much occasion to infidels to blaspheme.
- That homosexual lust is thus disqualifying is proved by Scripture forbidding office to those whose course of life is unchaste, as for example he who is not a ‘man of one woman’ (1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6).
- That such lust is disqualifying is seen also in that Scripture denies office to those that have especially dangerous sins of the heart. Scripture says that elders must be above reproach and forbids office to the greedy or arrogant (Titus 1:7) because these sins, though ones of internal disposition, yet tend to show themselves as scandalous external deeds. So also with sexual temptation, which is notoriously voracious and destructive of the personal holiness that one must have if he is to minister to Christ’s church (1 Pet. 2:11). If common sins such as arrogance disqualify, how much more sexual perversions.
- That same-sex lust unfits one for ministry can be seen in that Scripture forbids office to those whose external sins are of a less scandalous character, such as those that fail to show hospitality (1 Tim. 3:3).
- That homosexual attraction is disqualifying can be seen also in this, that Scripture presents homosexuality as being of a worse severity of sin than many others, a result of God removing the restraints of civil righteousness as a punishment for rank impiety (Rom. 1:24, 26-27). It is experienced in societies that have fallen into utter depravity (as Sodom or Gibeah) that are ripe for the calamitous judgment of God. Would we draw such things near to our own denomination?
- That homosexual sin is not the only sin mentioned as proof of severe societal decline (Rom. 1:21-32), and that some of the other sins Paul mentions (as gossip, Rom. 1:29) have a lamentable currency among professing believers, in no way means the church should soften its message about the depravity of sexual perversion. Rather, it ought to be more diligent in declaring with appropriate vigor the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) as regards the evils of all sins.
- That the whole testimony of Scripture stands against those who would make homosexual lust an acceptable trait of ministers. For Scripture is uniform in denouncing everything to do with homosexual desire or deeds as sinful, and it is unthinkable that anyone whose thought was formed solely by Scripture would ever conclude that something like Revoice is a proper endeavor of the church, or of any who claim Christ as their Lord.
- That the testimony of the church is against those who would have ministers with perverse sexual desires. For it is everywhere the case that the church has regarded homosexual sin as shameful and especially depraved and has treated it with ardent and uncompromising disapproval. There was no church council that had the character of Revoice in the ancient or medieval church, and those groups that permitted sexual indecency (as antinomians or the Adamites) were roundly condemned.
- That the testimony of the church and of Scripture being uniformly against even the slightest acceptance of anything to do with any perverse sexuality, any endeavor to that end is inspired by external sources.
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, S.C.