In the midst of mainline Presbyterians opening ordination to sexually active homosexuals, some salient facts have been overlooked. I share the blame for that as I did not spell those out yesterday. So, with a helpful nudge from Peter Ould, here goes.
First, reports give the impression that the PCUSA had a mean “No Gays Allowed” policy, and that it is now reserved. Not so. The requirements for ordination as far as sexuality is concerned were as follows:
Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
Note that there was nothing disqualifying a gay person from ordination. What was required from a gay candidate was “chastity in singleness,” which is exactly what was required from a heterosexual single (a policy with which I heartily agree).
The second aspect of what the Presbyterians have done which is being overlooked is that there are now no clear standards for sexual behavior for candidates for ordination. Read the new language which now replaces the above and see for yourself:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
Of course, “scripture and the confessions” demand chastity from singles. But you know what happens to such guidance in the hands of libchurchers. In any case, there is now no direct mention of sexual morality.
So what the mainline Presbyterians have done really has more to do with sexual anarchy in the clergy than with including gays. There was nothing in the canons excluding chaste gays. Now there is little in the canons requiring chastity from anyone.
Alan Wisdom of the IRD is among those who get it:
This is a lonely day for Presbyterians who believe what the Bible and the Church have consistently taught: that God’s will is that we be faithful in marriage or chaste in singleness. Now we belong to a denomination that is no longer sure it believes that teaching.
Now we belong to a denomination that gives no clear counsel on sexuality. It is a denomination that will not necessarily support its members as they struggle to obey the high standards of Scripture. It will not call them to repentance when they fall short of those standards, and it will not offer God’s forgiveness for what it no longer recognizes as sexual sins. In a society where the abuse of sexuality is devastating millions of lives, this abdication by the PCUSA is tragic.
By dropping the ‘fidelity and chastity’ standard, the PCUSA separates itself from the Scriptures that are supposed to be its ‘rule of faith and life.’ It separates itself from the historic Christian tradition and the vast majority of the global Church. It separates itself from many of its own members who remain committed to upholding ‘fidelity and chastity.’