He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Matthew 19:4-6 (RSV)
The 2010 victory allowing ordination of practicing homosexuals was just the beginning. Over the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 over 500,000 existing members made the decision to exit the PCUSA. Obviously, their reasons varied. However, there is no doubt that a major motivation was loss of confidence in the denomination as a viable vehicle for the proclamation of a reformed, orthodox Christian understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With the exit of so many that were in opposition to the PCUSA’s direction, those in favor were empowered to push it forward further and faster.
Thus, at the 2014 General Assembly, the PCUSA approved same gender marriage. As reported by the denomination:
The Assembly approved sending out for presbytery approval a constitutional amendment to W-4.9001 of the PC(USA)’s Book of Order that would change the constitutional definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two people, traditionally between a man and a woman.”
The vote on the authoritative interpretation – which takes effect immediately – was 371-238 or 61 percent to 39 percent.
The vote on the proposed constitutional amendment – which goes to the denomination’s 172 presbyteries for ratification – was 429-175 or 71 percent to 29 percent. A majority of the presbyteries must vote approval of the measure for it to take effect.
To supporters, this action was a long overdue victory for social justice and human dignity. That is, the traditional definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman was an affront to, and overt discrimination against, homosexuals.
To those in opposition the action was an explicit repudiation of God’s Word and the Confessions. That is, the GA had elevated selected ideas from secular society above God’s Word and our Confessions.
For many members this issue is vexing and confusing. They listen to the debates and hear what appear to be valid points on both sides. They believe in the ultimate authority of God’s Word and desire an ever more just society. And, they are weary of the decades long debate over this set of cultural issues. Perhaps, some reason, the best path forward is simply to fall in line with the current cultural direction.
There is one element of this debate that in many cases may be decisive – that being the contention of same gender marriage supporters that, at worst, the Bible takes a broad view of marriage’s definition, and, at best, clearly supports the extension of marriage to cover homosexual couples. Was this the case, the primary argument of those in opposition would be gravely compromised.
Therefore, the writers of the Overture Rationales supporting same gender marriage had a wonderful opportunity to not only advance their cause, but also to heal the wounds caused by this divisive debate. They had every advantage to make a powerful Biblical case – years of experience from debate and discussion, months of time to write the text, the resources of whole Presbyteries (pastors, elders and in some cases seminaries) and scholarship from around the world.
For those church members who were desperate to move on, a powerful Biblical case would cause many to accept this change. For those who were in determined opposition, some might decide to leave, but others might decide that there is enough justification to allow them to stay. The benefits were overwhelming.
Thus, the center of my analysis will be on how the Rationale writers in support of same gender marriage responded to this opportunity.
There is a final point that must be made absolutely clear. In the following posts I will be very critical of arguments in favor of same-gender marriage. I am in fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters who support same-gender marriage. I worship, explore God’s Word and the Christian life, serve on church committees with them and generally enjoy their wisdom and encouragement. They lead activities in Christian mission and fellowship that leave me both humbled and invigorated.
Though we do not agree on this issue, I know that they listen to my point of view with respect and provide thoughtful responses. It would be a tragedy if my comments were misunderstood to be rejection of all who disagree with me on this particular issue.
No, those with whom I am contending have added a heavy dose of postmodern philosophy to their understanding of Christianity. I have previously identified this faction as “postmodern Christians” and it is to this party that my following criticisms primarily apply.