The poignant issue for the PCA is…the ordination of men who publicly identify as gay-Christians. On this issue the document leaves the progressive side a wide-open pathway to capture the PCA. On page 31, the document says, “Insofar as such persons display the requisite Christian maturity, we do not consider this sin struggle automatically to disqualify someone for leadership in the church….” In other words, Side B gay ministers may continue in the Church preaching from the pulpit. It also opens the door in the future for the ordination of other such men to leadership positions in the Church.
The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Study Report on Human Sexuality is out now, and it is the hot topic of the day for conservative Presbyterians. Since the General Assembly was postponed for another year, we all will have plenty of time to analyze and dissect the document with a fine-tooth comb as good Presbyterians do. I won’t try to summarize the document here. You can read it online. It is fairly short and with a good theological dictionary, most laymen can work through it fairly well. For my audience, I will assume that you have read it.
Overall, the positive presentation of Reformed Theology as opposed to the extreme voices of Revoice Theology, was evident in the Report. The Twelve Statements in the Report are representative of Old School Calvinism. From its section on marriage to other areas like concupiscence and our identity in Christ, it was very well written.
As it reflects the tenets of Reformed Theology, the Report will no doubt appeal to many on both sides of the landscape in the PCA. One man casting a minority vote on the Nashville Statement (and a supporter of Greg Johnson) at the last General Assembly said on an internet group that this document will bring together the contentious 60% – 40% voters. It will help heal the division.
In my view, the pro-Greg Johnson and pro-Missouri Presbytery group were actually the winners with the publication of this Document. With its ardent orthodoxy in soteriology, it placates many in the right wing of the denomination, and I am afraid it may sadly lull them into compromise. Even though the document was very conservative in many respects, this may only weaken the majority resistance in the PCA and pave the way for a progressive take-over.
Since the document was so theologically sound and Confessional overall, some might ask why I would be so negative. Why throw water on the party? Let me mention just one item that disappointed me.
The poignant issue for the PCA is not the mere existence of Christians who struggle against same-sex attraction, but rather the ordination of men who publicly identify as gay-Christians. On this issue the document leaves the progressive side a wide-open pathway to capture the PCA. On page 31, the document says, “Insofar as such persons display the requisite Christian maturity, we do not consider this sin struggle automatically to disqualify someone for leadership in the church (1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9; 2 Pet. 1:3-11).” In other words, Side B gay ministers may continue in the Church preaching from the pulpit. It also opens the door in the future for the ordination of other such men to leadership positions in the Church.
I have argued before (Homosexuals as PCA Elders, July 25, 2019) that an elder in the church must be blameless (not sinless), and that the public identity of a teaching elder as a homosexual (even if he practices celibacy) disqualifies him for this office. This is the Achilles heel in the Report, and this is one reason I believe that as good as the Report may be in many other areas, it does not deal with the central issue that is presently the divisive point in the PCA.
Actually, it is sad to say that in the whole Report the desires inherent in pedophilia or bestiality could be substituted for same-sex attraction, and the overall tenor of the Document would not change. Yes, it was well-written and Reformed in soteriology, yet disappointing in that it did not clearly disqualify certain men from holding office in the PCA. It left the door wide-open, and I believe this gives an advantage to those in the denomination pushing for the ordination of those who identify as gay (or having the orientation of same-sex attraction).
For many of us in the PCA this is highly disturbing. At the Spring meeting of Westminster Presbytery (my Presbytery), the elders voted to state our position clearly on this issue. Any man who identifies himself as a gay Christian shall not be eligible to hold office in Westminster Presbytery. This Committee Report certainly does not represent the consensus of my own Presbytery.
Presently, the Report is nothing more than that, just a report from a Committee. Unless something changes, it will simply be “received” at the next General Assembly. It will not be approved or adopted. It has no judicial teeth in the PCA. However, if the PCA follows the direction of this Report, the PCA as a denomination will be officially a Side B denomination. And we should note, that once mainline Side B denominations have a history of developing into Side A denominations (whether they be Presbyterian, Methodist, or Episcopal). This is the reason I have a problem with this Report.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.