After having overseen the net loss of over 190,000 members in 2012 and 2013 (The PCUSA’s Continuous Decline), the PCUSA’s leadership is now pressing for adoption of the Belhar Confession into our Book of Confessions. This astounding membership decline was not a random occurrence. Rather, it was a consequence of relentless campaigns, first to allow ordination of practicing homosexuals and then to allow same gender marriage.
Now we are being told that “unity and reconciliation” as taught by this new confession is necessary. I’m afraid that this rings hollow in my ears. If the PCUSA’s postmodern leadership had demonstrated a commitment to “unity and reconciliation” while they were pursuing their goals, then things might be different.
For example, you are not building credibility with regard to “unity and reconciliation” when you pass, as did the Presbytery of Chicago, an Overture that:
[equates] legitimate opposition theological arguments with name-calling and culpability for violence, and then declaring both to be out of bounds.
Recall also my comments in an early post (Redefining Christian Marriage) regarding same-gender marriage.
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.
Had the postmodern Christians who supported same gender marriage a real commitment to “unity and reconciliation,” they would have written very different Rationales. As it is, they refused to engage with the slightest seriousness in the Scriptural concerns of their opponents.
Finally, I recall the Presbytery of Chicago Assemblies where same gender marriage was “debated.” In both Assemblies, two microphones were set up, one for pro and one for con. On the con side, speaker after speaker asked for an explanation of the Scriptural justification. On the pro side, speaker after speaker supported this innovation based on their own apparently sovereign personal experience. In the end, neither the Presbytery leadership nor those in favor of same gender marriage deigned to provide a response.
My point is that falsely equating your opponent’s viewpoint to cruel slander and then treating it as something of such insignificance that it doesn’t require a substantive answer does’t create a credible platform from which to seek “unity and reconciliation.”
Now, after having pushed same gender marriage through, we are told that it’s time for “unity and reconciliation.” “Unity and reconciliation” wasn’t at the top of their priorities over the many years in which the votes were against them. No, they relentlessly pressed their case, making it clear that in spite of their failure to demonstrate Scriptural support they would have their victory at any cost.
I have no doubt that the postmodern PCUSA leadership greatly desires “unity and reconciliation.” I have the deepest, most profound doubts that the authority of Scripture will have any real part to play in this new order.
Given the appalling treatment of individuals who dare to exercise their First Amendment rights, be they the CEO of a major tech company or a small town pizzeria operator, there is good reason to be concerned. Will “unity and reconciliation” in the PCUSA be about reaching out to a now minority group in the denomination or about increasing the pressure on them to fall into line?