There are enough loopholes in the proposed changes to continue to allow Side B Homosexuals to continue as officers in the PCA (or be admitted to the PCA). All a man needs to do is to say that his identity in Christ is greater than his identity as a homosexual. All he has to say is that he struggles with this sin, that he knows that some have been delivered from it, and that he wishes to make progress over this sin – but he has not.
I appreciate all the optimism of my brethren in the PCA who view the recent results of the PCA General Assembly as a win for our denomination. In some ways, I too rejoice with them. On a number of issues, indeed there were wins. The little guy stood up!
However, with regard to the status of what has been called Side B Homosexuality, I am afraid that there was no real victory. The little guy stood up, but I’m not sure he won. Let me give a few reasons why I hold this position.
- Overture #16 from Westminster Presbytery was lost in the shuffle. The Overtures Committee answered it by reference to another action of the Committee. Overture #16 was straight-forward in that BCO 7-4 should be changed to read, “Men who identify as homosexuals, even those who claim to practice celibacy in that self-identification, are disqualified from holding office in the PCA.” This was a clear statement that any man who identifies as a homosexual (or using whatever other term he prefers to use such as “gay” or “SSA”), even if he identifies himself as being in Christ, and even if he practices celibacy, should not hold office in the PCA. He certainly may be a member of the PCA, as we sympathize with his struggle with sin, but he is not above reproach, nor does he have a good reputation with those inside and outside of the church. Therefore, he does not qualify as an office-holder according to the teaching of the Scriptures. Overture #16 was a clear and simple statement on the issue, but it was not adopted.
- The Chairman of the Overtures Committee began his report by saying that Overture 23 “is not to exclude Christians who are gay but remain celibate.” I understand that the words of the Chairman are not a substitute for the exact wording of the proposed changes, but they do give us a background on which to interpret those proposed changes.
- There was little resistance from the opposition. Greg Johnson spoke briefly about the need to apologize for the past, but there was no outcry about the changes being unfair to homosexual officers in the PCA. If the intent of the changes were to disqualify Side B Homosexuals from holding office, I would have expected more emotive resistance. I would have expected weeping and crying from certain sections of the Assembly.
- As far as I know, not one Side B Homosexual who holds office in the PCA plans to resign from his position. I would suggest that if the changes are ultimately adopted, none will resign. And don’t expect any disciplinary action. Again, this leads me to think that those on the other side do not see these changes as a threat to their positon as an office-bearer in the PCA.
- There were several Side B Homosexuals at the Assembly who spoke on the floor of the Assembly. In 2019 it was very different. One minister was the focus of that General Assembly, but this year, there were several men who publicly identified themselves as Side B, SSA elders who spoke to the issue. Their number appears to be growing.
- The proposed changes to the BCO are not part of our constitution yet. There must be a two-thirds majority vote of presbyteries who adopt the changes. I don’t foresee this happening. There will be a knock-down, drag-out fight in the presbyteries, and a two-thirds majority is a large number to overcome.
- Even if the changes are adopted and become constitutional, after all the phrases have been analyzed, after the context of each sentence is scrutinized, and after all the words have been parsed, in my opinion, there are enough loopholes in the proposed changes to continue to allow Side B Homosexuals to continue as officers in the PCA (or be admitted to the PCA). All a man needs to do is to say that his identity in Christ is greater than his identity as a homosexual. All he has to say is that he struggles with this sin, that he knows that some have been delivered from it, and that he wishes to make progress over this sin – but he has not.
I don’t like being negative, nor do I want to quench the spirit of victory that now pervades many in the PCA. However, as a teaching elder who sits in almost every presbytery meeting of one of the most conservative presbyteries in the PCA, this is the way I see it.
I pray that I am wrong!
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.