Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Two ways of handling a challenging issue


The bible is very clear about sexual ethics. Sexual activity is reserved for marriage, which by definition, is one man and one woman. All other sexual activity falls outside of God's design and is forbidden, not to mention damaging.

Such a position draws the ire of a secular progressive society like ours, the current struggle about the definition of marriage is an example. Like it or not, little by little, the secularists, irreligious, and ignorant, are winning the movement toward redefining marriage to include two people of the same sex in a covenanted, marital, relationship. Along with this cultural shift toward the validating of so-called gay marriage is an increasing pressure on churches to pipe down about condemning homosexual practice. Soon to follow will be more and more legal pressure to put a gag order on pastors regarding public statements about homosexual practice being sinful. Clearly our culture is slouching toward Gomorrah more and more.

In the last week there have been two examples of how churches or Christian institutions are dealing with this touchy issue.

Example #1- The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) has officially removed any restriction for gay people to be ordained as ministers in their denomination. The PCUSA constitution will be altered to allow openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders and deacons. The prior constitutional requirement for clergy to live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness” is thus done away with.

So, the PCUSA has completed it's utter sell out to secular culture and is no longer any kind of salt whatsoever. The PCUSA is a dying denomination, and hopefully this decision will only hasten it's death. A friend of mine, a former PCUSA minister whom I greatly respect, has lamented for years about the denomination's loose leaf bible. He is exactly right. Back in the 60's the PCUSA stopped requiring ministers to believe and teach that Jesus was God (as Scripture says), so it was only a matter of time before this day would come. Oh, don't get me wrong, things could get more wicked in the PCUSA, but I do think any church that exists in the PCUSA with a twinge of appreciation for biblical authority (I do know a couple) will be forced to leave now. If they don't, they'll be assimilated.

On the very challenging issue of being faithful to the bible's teaching regarding sexual purity, specifically related to the issue of homosexual practice, the PCUSA has again failed miserably, and tragically.

Example #2- Wheaton College has boldly moved to address the issue by allowing the formation of an "advocacy" group (called OneWheaton) for students struggling with same sex attraction. It should be noted that Wheaton president Phil Ryken, a PCA minister, is a key player in this situation. The immediate response to Wheaton's move was rash by some (charging that Wheaton had compromised or might even be pro-homosexual rights). The press reports were a touch confusing. President Ryken acted carefully to explain the school's actions. See an email he sent to the student body April 29 (and others) below:

This morning, a group of Wheaton College alumni distributed a letter on campus to announce the formation of OneWheaton, an advocacy group of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) and questioning alumni and allies. According to the group’s website, its intent is to counter “prevailing ideas about homosexuality in the Wheaton community.”

Wheaton College agrees with OneWheaton’s stated desire to “affirm the full humanity and dignity of every human being, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Our Community Covenant upholds the commitment of every Christian to loving God, and to loving our neighbors as ourselves. We see each member of the human family as created in the image of God himself, and thus each of immeasurable value. This includes our neighbors and alumni who identify as LGBTQ.

We recognize that the needs of LGBTQ individuals present a particular challenge for institutions like Wheaton. Many have experienced insensitive or callous responses in this community, for which we repent and seek forgiveness. We repudiate and condemn violence and injustice directed toward LGBTQ people.

We also remain committed to following Christ as faithful disciples, which entails conforming our lives to God’s truth revealed in the Scriptures, and specifically to a biblically-based stance on sexual ethics. In this, we seek to prepare our students to maintain fidelity with the historic stance of the Church on these issues. Our Community Covenant again speaks for the College on this matter:

We understand that our calling includes . . .[t]he call to pursue holiness in every aspect of our thought and behavior (2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 4:7; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:15-16)... Scripture condemns… sexual immorality, such as the use of pornography (Matt. 5:27-28), pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman (Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31).

We stand with LGBTQ persons before God as persons created in God’s own image, and also as sinful persons in need of God’s forgiveness and love through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We carry a burden for our students, faculty, staff and alumni who experience same-sex attraction because of the pain they so often experience, and pray that we can be a community that loves those who identify as LGBTQ. While we recognize that Wheaton’s stance may be unsatisfying to some of our alumni, we remain resolved to respond with truth and grace.

So, Wheaton seems to be attempting to address the challenge of people who struggle with same sex attraction. I know some will think Wheaton is compromising by not calling out such students and disciplining them, but honestly, from what I see, it seems like they are handling this very well. They are not condoning homosexual practice, in fact, by my reading, they are saying homosexual practice is a sin. Practically, they are trying to be real and address the matter instead of ignoring it like most churches, schools, and other Christian institutions do. Let's face it- it's a tough issue that makes said organizations uncomfortable. As a result, people who struggle with same sex attraction never really have the benefit of learning how to deal with their struggle and properly react to it. They are made to feel like pariahs and often gravitate to groups that claim homosexual practice is compatible with being a Christian (which eventually leads to full blown advocacy of homosexual practice as per the PCUSA). Now, I don't know all that Wheaton intends to do with this group and where it will end up, but at first blush, it seems like a wise, careful course of action.

Like I said, this is a challenging issue. Two responses of note- one horrible (but not surprising) and one bold (seeming to honor Scripture and care for struggling sinners). May God judge the one and help the other- for His glory.

As for me and my preaching/teaching. Please pray I always preach what the bible says, even if it gets me in trouble. Please pray I am pastorally compassionate and address the full range of sexual sins- of which homosexuality, quite frankly, is a small part of what faces us sexually today. Please pray for God's grace to all of us sinners and at the same time make His Church salty again.

4 comments:

Woody Woodward said...

I will pray, as I know you lead us in TRUTH. God bless you for speaking only Biblical truth, without regards for the world's or other "churches" poluted opinion.

It is indeed a disgrace the decision the PCAUSA has concluded. May the Lord give those within the strength to do what they know is right. Without causing division, make their stand known to the pastorate and leaders, then gracefully depart. May the Lord lead these searching folks to truth as HE led me and Cheri back in 2005. And you are exactly right-on in the direction this is all taking.

It's just time before UMC follows suite, probably this year's national convention.

Rick Calohan said...

As you know Tony, I use to be a member of the PCUSA; in fact I was an elder by default. It was during my time as elder sitting in the session meetings, discussing what the Top down General Assembly More Light members were becoming bolder and winning converts, while the Laymen cling on to what little hope they had from watching this denomination diminish any further. Needless to say by the time my pastor and mentor retired I by the grace of God left the PCUSA and found Redeemer.

I have been accused of being narrow minded and bigoted by a childhood friend now attorney who is adamantly against the Defense of Marriage of Act, been told my kind will disappear as a new generation will grant “civil rights” to homosexuals. I even recently learned of a relative who’s mother passed recently was in such a relationship but upon her learning of my views has broken off any contact with me despite the fact I showed nothing but grace and love towards her in her time of mourning. This is what happens when you are bold and take a stand, or as the Japanese proverb, “the nail that sticks up, gets hammered down.”

I guess for the PCUSA the number of social conservative, Bible affirming members has decline so much, that only the reprobate remain and thus have taking over. But the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the church that Christ built. I have come to now accept that majority of Americans including friends of my youth and Western Civilization continues to be Slouching towards Gomorrah. Thus there is nothing that really surprises me anymore. I am grateful that by the Grace of God Alone, I can see the light, and while we are to love thy neighbor as we love thyself it does not mean that I should condone the practice of homosexuality or refrain from calling sin just that sin.

So with no offense to those in heterosexuals in the theatre, I started calling “Gay Marriage” for what it truly is a “Broadway Musical”, thus it is only fitting that the PCUSA ordained homosexuals in order to produce and perform future Broadway Musicals.

Adam said...

Tony, I'm glad you juxtaposed these two approaches to the issue. I've read some articles on this which have comments sections below. I'm convinced opening dialogue between the those who hold the Biblical Standard on this issue and those practicing certain sins, (homosexuality in this case) is the way to share our faith; not merely state views that those that are offended feel belittled by. After all, all of us need the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and need to look to Him for salvation from our sins.

Woody Woodward said...

I will pray, as I know you lead us in TRUTH. God bless you for speaking only Biblical truth, without regards for the world's or other "churches" polluted opinion.

It is indeed a disgrace the decision the PCAUSA has concluded. May the Lord give those within the strength to do what they know is right. Without causing division, make their stand known to the pastorate and leaders, then gracefully depart. May the Lord lead these searching folks to truth as HE led me and Cheri back in 2005. And you are exactly right-on in the direction this is all taking. It's just time before UMC follows suite, probably this year's national convention.