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The False Gospel in Gay Marriage Services

A Review of Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook

By S. Donald Fortson*.

inclusive marriage services-a-wedding-sourcebookSeveral mainline writers have collaborated on a recent book, Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook.[1] Contributors to the short volume, not surprisingly, come from denominations such as the UCC, TEC, ELCA and PCUSA – bodies that no longer confess Christian teaching on human sexuality and marriage.  This book, and others like it, is a capstone to the great ecclesiastical debate of our time by suggesting language for publicly invoking God’s blessing on homosexual “weddings.” The mainline churches, having abandoned biblical authority in their affirmation of homoerotic behavior, now complete the circle of rationalization in these marriage services.

The editors claim that the book does not seek to reinvent the wedding or redefine marriage.

The introduction describes how the book’s liturgies intend to reflect the language of historic marriage rites but modify them by utilizing language that is broadly inclusive for gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people.  The editors state, “What is different about these services is the language for couples is not gender specific. There is little emphasis on procreation as a chief purpose for marriage.” In addition to gender neutral services, there is also a liturgy for couples in which one partner is not Christian – a violation of biblical teaching (1 Cor. 7:39, 2 Cor. 6:14,15).

For example, the Presbyterian liturgy is adapted from The Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Throughout the liturgy one finds “two people” not language of male and female or husband and wife.  So “two people become one just as Christ is one with the church.” The vows speak of taking one “to be my beloved” or “to be my own” not taking one as a husband or wife.  The exchange of rings is in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – unchanged language but an abuse of God’s name.

In a section on “Scripture Suggestions” one finds many traditional texts associated with wedding ceremonies.  On the Ephesians 5 text which speaks of wives being subject to husbands, there is a long editorial comment in italics (only text with a comment) about “centuries of misusing this liberating text to preach women’s second-class position” – a pejorative comment about past saints with no corroborating historical evidence.  One of the suggested biblical texts is 1 Samuel 18, which speaks of the love of Jonathan and David for each other.  Of course, this text has nothing to do with anything of a sexual nature but since both men were married, the authors must be implying that David and Jonathan were bisexuals.  That is misusing a text!

The book includes a special section on “Same-Gender Weddings” addressing the love-hate relationship that gays may have with a church that has rejected them.  Many have left the church so they could “live as the people God made them to be.” So it is important to welcome them back to the church: “At weddings of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people, there may be many who have experienced the church as hurtful and judgmental. The welcome is opportunity to speak a new word that many may have not heard from the clergy. These words of welcome can be an important announcement of the gospel of love that Christians know in Jesus Christ.” Historic orthodox Christian teaching knows nothing of such nonsense. God does not make people gay. The book of Genesis provides the foundational narrative for Scripture’s understanding of marriage and sexuality; it is affirmed by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament. According to the Genesis account males and females are sexually designed for each other, and the Fall explains the sexual brokenness that pervades human experience.

One of the recommended “words of welcome” for a gay wedding is very revealing of the sub-Christian theology behind these new liturgies: “We celebrate here the love that welcomes everyone, regardless of whom we love, where we have been, what we believe, or what we have done.” There is much bad theology in this statement – so persons can love whomever they want, believe anything and don’t need to worry about repentance?  Does this sound remotely Christian in any sense? This may be politically correct language, but it is not a proclamation of the gospel of love in Jesus Christ who died because of who we are – sinful human beings who need redemption.

Ironically, on the acknowledgments page one finds this statement: “Finally, we give thanks to our ancestors in the faith who shaped the marriage rites from which these liturgies have grown, with prayers that those who use these services will find them to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a source of blessing for their unions.”  Protestant ancestors would be scandalized by the blessing of same-sex unions.

John Calvin commenting on Romans 1:

“Paul here records those abominations which had been common in all ages, and were at that time especially prevalent everywhere; for it is marvelous how common then was that filthiness which even brute beasts abhor: and some of these vices were even popular . . . he calls those disgraceful passions, which are shameful even in the estimation of men, and redound to the dishonoring of God.”[2]

Martin Luther commenting on the Sodom and Gomorrah story:

“They departed from the natural passion and longing of the male for the female, which is implanted into nature by God, and desired what is altogether contrary to nature.  Whence comes this perversity? Undoubtedly from Satan, who after people have once turned away from the fear of God, so powerfully suppresses nature that he blots out the natural desire and stirs up a desire that is contrary to nature.”[3]

Presbyterian ancestors, for example, would no doubt declare that “Christian” gay wedding services are a violation of the third commandment.  Invoking the name of the Holy Trinity in these services is a perverse misuse of God’s name.  And God will not hold person’s guiltless.  Consider the old Presbyterian Creed, the Westminster Standards of the 17th C.  The Westminster Larger Catechism Ques. 113 asks: What particular sins does the third commandment forbid?  The answer includes, “misinterpreting or misapplying God’s word or perverting all or part of its meaning in any way; . . . or to promote sinful desires and activities; maligning, scorning, reviling, or opposing in any way God’s truth, grace, and actions; pretending to be religious or using religion for evil purposes.”[4]  Gay marriage services must certainly plead guilty.

What is patently obvious in these liturgies is how diametrically opposed they are to the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  How is it that some professing believers have become so opposed to the gospel, and seemingly ashamed of its declared power to change lives, that sealing sinful practice in a religious ceremony is now the ministry of the church?  Rather than encouraging homosexuals to seek repentance, forgiveness and deliverance from their sin through the gospel, persons are confirmed in sinful life patterns that will destroy them in this life and the next. If this twisting of the gospel is not inspired by the devil, I don’t know what is!

Contrast these devilish marriage services with the glorious power of the gospel as seen in the transformed lives of former homosexuals Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield .[5]  Yuan and Butterfield both bear witness to repentance, forgiveness and a changed life of self-denial – all which flows from the grace of Christ. After the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, Yuan and Butterfield (who now live respectively in celibate singleness and conjugal marriage) jointly issued a response which included this statement:

“In 1999, when Jesus Christ revealed His saving grace and love to each of us, we learned that our unbelief, and the idolatrous sexual lusts that flowed from it, were no longer matters of personal choice. We accepted that following Jesus meant giving up everything. We understood that repentance meant fleeing from anything that embodied the temptations that we knew best and loved most. . . . when the Holy Spirit changed our hearts, we came to know this: the gospel is costly and worth it. . . . We affirm that God has ordained marriage to be the union of a husband and wife which Jesus himself restated in Mark 10:6-8 and Matthew 19:4-5.”[6]

We should pray for professing Christians who deny that only conjugal marriage between two believers is Christian marriage. Pray for God’s mercy, that they would repent and return to the orthodox Christian faith. Affirming gay marriage is proclaiming a “false gospel” as the Anglican bishops of the majority world have called it.  German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg observed:

“If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical grounds but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”[7]

While soft persecution is starting in America against Christian’s refusal to buy the lie in the cultural elite’s pro-gay script, the mainline church is marching right along in the gay pride parade, refusing to call homosexual practice sinful.  This false gospel is encouraging people in their sin rather than proclaiming the gospel’s call to repentance.  Perpetrating the delusion that Christianity and homosexuality are compatible is the most unloving thing imaginable – affirming sinful behavior that wreaks havoc in this life, and judgment in the life to come.  And to seal the deception, the church now provides marriage services invoking the blessing of God upon sinful behavior condemned in Holy Scripture.

Make no mistake about it – affirming homoeroticism through “Christian” marriage services will incur the wrath of God. Jude wrote to early Christians urging them to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” and warning them about those who “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” And what historic example did Jude use? He wrote, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of fire.” (Jude 3-7, ESV). Following the commands of Holy Scripture, our Protestant ancestors did not bless homoerotic behavior among those who profess faith in Christ – neither should we.

*Donald Fortson is Professor of Church History and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is co-author, with Rollin Grams, of Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016).

[1] Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook , eds. Kimberly Bracken Long and David Maxwell (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 2015.

[2] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. John Owen, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 19 (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 79.

[3] Martin Luther, “Lecture on Genesis,” Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, vol.3 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1961), 255.

[4] Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechism in Modern English (Summertown Company, 2004), 105, 106.

[5] See Christopher Yuan & Angela Yuan, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2011); Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012).

[6] “Something Greater Than Marriage: A Response to the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision” (June 30, 2015) by Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield. Accessible at  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/something-greater-than-marriage

[7] “What Wolfhart Pannenberg Says About This Debate in the Church,” Christianity Today, November 11, 1996, 37.

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Presbyterian Church in Australia May Cut State Ties Over Gay Marriage

By Greg Sheridan, The Australian.

pres-church-australiaThe Presbyterian Church will halt all co-operation with the state on the matter of marriage if same-sex marriage is legalized.

It will refuse to conduct any state marriages and some of its pastors will encourage Presby­terians to live outside the legal institution of marriage. They would live in de facto relationships as far as civil law is concerned.

In one of the most radical ­actions taken by a mainstream Christian denomination in Australia, the Presbyterians will divorce themselves from the state, and institute ecclesiastical marriages instead, if its General ­Assembly accepts the recommendations of a church committee charged with reviewing the issue.

The Reverend Darren Middleton will present a report to the Presbyterian General Assembly in September.

“We will recommend to the General Assembly that no Presbyterian Church of Australia minister would solemnize any marriage under the new Marriage Act,” Mr Middleton said.

He has already had talks with the Attorney-General’s Department about the formalities of handing back the church’s official marriage licence. If the General Assembly takes that decision, it will apply to all Presbyterian ministers in Australia.

Under Middleton’s proposal, the church would establish its own independent register of ecclesiastical marriages, which would have nothing to do with the state. The ecclesiastical marriages would have no legal standing but be recognized by the church itself. It would be up to individual couples whether to also to go through a registry process to have their marriage recognized by civil law.

“I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone, but I can see why a lot of people would choose to do so, for social reasons or property reasons,” he said.

“The church and state have traditionally shared a common understanding of marriage so it’s been sensible to have co-operation ­between.”

If same-sex marriage is legalized, there will no longer be a common understanding and so co-operation no longer makes sense, he believes.

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Georgia Gov’t Reviewed Pastor’s Sermons on Homosexuality Before Firing Him, Documents Show

By Samuel Smith, Christian Post.

dr-eric-walsh

Eric Walsh ((Photo: Facebook/ I Support Dr. Eric Walsh)

A public health expert and Seventh-day Adventist pastor was fired by Georgia’s Department of Public Health after public officials were assigned to watch and review the content of his sermons on YouTube, official government documents indicate.

On Wednesday, The First Liberty Institute announced that it filed a lawsuit on behalf of Eric Walsh against the DPH, alleging that he was fired by the agency over concerns about his sermons’ content on homosexuality.

As it is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make employment decisions based on a person’s religion, documents and email conversations obtained by First Liberty through the Freedom of Information Act appear to reveal a host of damning charges against the DPH.

According to an obtained email, Walsh, who has a medical degree, doctorate in public health and was appointed to President Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs, was hired in early May 2014 and scheduled to begin working for the agency on June 16, 2014.

But as controversy had previously surrounded Walsh’s conservative views on marriage in California, when LGBT activists protested his selection as commencement speaker at Pasadena City College, documents indicate that officials at the DPH decided to conduct an investigation of their own into Walsh’s view on marriage.

According to an email from May 14, 2014 that was sent by the DPH’s human resources executive Lee Rudd, it is clear that a number of employees were specifically assigned to take a few hours and listen to the content of Walsh’s sermons.

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ISIS Is to Islam What Same-Sex Marriage Is to Christianity???

By Mateen Elass, on his personal blog.

marriageFive years ago, I wrote a blog about the PCUSA decision to normalize homosexuality and predicted that one of the fall-outs of this error would be the inability of PCUSA missionaries to reach the Muslim world. Since Muslims are taught within their own Scriptures that homosexual behavior is sinful, they would quite naturally conclude that any group espousing that homosexual practice is fine with God would have nothing trustworthy to say on any other spiritual topic.

I had not imagined five years ago that this homophilial stance of the PCUSA and other mainline denominations could produce further bitter fruit in Christian-Muslim relations. But it has.

In an interview with Ishaq Akintola, an African  professor of Muslim Eschatology and Director of Muslim Rights Concern (“Islam has no age barrier for marriage — MURIC Director, Akintola,”Punch, March 6, 2016), the professor is asked to defend the morality of Muslim men marrying young girls. His response is that Islam has no prescribed age barriers, and that those outside Islam have no business judging something happening within Islamic practice — they should, as Jesus told his disciples, judge not lest they be judged. But his second defense is that Christians should look to their own house before they criticize the houses of others. Specifically, he cites the fact that churches are now conducting same-sex weddings. “So, instead of paying attention to marriages conducted among Muslims, Christians should do something about gay marriages inside churches” (emphasis added).  In essence, Mr. Akintola is saying to the Western (“Christian”) world, “Who are you to pillory us for something that our religious law allows? At least we still see marriage as between members of the opposite sex. But you allow the perversion of homosexuality in your churches and even celebrate it with a marriage ceremony.  You have no moral high ground to stand on — we have no obligation to listen to you. In fact, your practices are reprehensible before God while ours have divine sanction.”

A second helping of bitter fruit was served through remarks made by Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam and Sheikh of Al-Azhar University (the head spokesman of Islamic theology at Sunni Islam’s premier institution of higher learning) while he was at a conference at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta on February 23rd of this year.

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African United Methodist Bishops address issues of terrorism and marriage

By Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism.

United Methodist bishops in Africa, meeting at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, have issued a Sept. 11 letter outlining new actions to combat poverty on the continent. The bishops that make up the church's African College of Bishops expressed "righteous indignation at the current plight of our continent" and resolved to work with professional, community and nongovernmental organizations and agencies to alleviate poverty in Africa. They view the United Methodist-related university as a vital resource toward that goal. A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens. Photo #080869. Accompanies UMNS story #382. 9/15/08.

United Methodist bishops in Africa. A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens.

Recently 14 United Methodist bishops in Africa, collectively representing 5 million United Methodists in Africa’s growing churches, spoke out remarkably on the topics of terrorism and marriage.

Their words were very different from rhetoric typical of the long declining U.S. church.

Speaking well before the recent Paris terror, the African United Methodist bishops cited Islamist terror groups like Nigeria-based Boko Haram and Somalia-based Al-Shabab for their “atrocities and mayhem,” such as suicide bombings, kidnappings and rape. They prayed for “divine intervention” and for the “persecuted church,” pledging to search for practical counter measures to “needless suffering.”

The African bishops were too polite to mention that U.S. church agencies and officials almost never talk about terrorism per se, instead lamenting “violence,” often implying no major moral distinction between terrorism and military/police action against it. I can recall no major official United Methodist attention in the U.S. to Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, which have murdered thousands of Africans, targeting Christians especially.

Unlike protected, wealthy Americans, the Africans must actually live with and contend against these ongoing Islamist terror forces. They don’t have our luxury of detached, abstract theorizing about “violence.”

The African bishops also spoke up strongly in defense of United Methodist biblical teaching on marriage, which next year’s governing General Conference will again debate.

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Read the statement from the Africa College of Bishops’ meeting on the state of global UMC and our common world.

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Overture seeks to restore marriage in the PCUSA to between one man and one woman: Concurrence needed

bible and wedding ringsThe Kiskiminetas Presbytery approved an overture seeking to change the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s definition of marriage to once again reflect that marriage is between “one man and one woman.” That definition was changed March 17 of this year when a majority of PCUSA presbyteries ratified the vote of the 221st General Assembly (2014) to change the definition of marriage to be between two people. The new definition went into effect on June 21, 2015. The overture – approved by a 49-37 vote at the presbytery’s Sept. 8 meeting – reads:

Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between one man and one woman to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The couple is called to live out the sacrificial love modeled for us by Jesus Christ as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community. In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an active part and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and acknowledges … Read the entire overture here.

Before it can be considered by the 222nd General Assembly, however, another PCUSA presbytery must also vote to approve – or concur – with the overture. The deadline for a concurrence is February 19, 2016, 120 days prior to the General Assembly which will meet June 18-25, 2016 in Portland, Ore.

The overture was sent to Kiskiminetas Presbytery by nine churches: Bethel Presbyterian Church, Blairsville United Presbyterian Church, Clymer Presbyterian Church, Harmony United Presbyterian Church, Pleasant Grove Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church of Plumville, Rochester Mills Presbyterian Church, St. Benedict Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.

The overture’s rationale states, “When we fail to seek Christ’s direction we are subject to the direction of the culture in which we reside and therefore can make errors in our judgment failing to glorify Jesus Christ in whom we seek to serve first and foremost.”

When the PCUSA voted to amend the definition of marriage found at W-4.9000 in the denomination’s Book of Order, “there was no Biblical background given for its consideration and then its passing.

The rationale offered for the most recent revision to the definition of marriage referred mainly to society’s views and civil legality, not what is in Scripture and the Confessions,” states the overture’s rationale.

The rationale continues that Scripture not only calls the act of homosexuality a sin, it also “consistently describes marriage as between a man and a woman, from Genesis 1:26-31 to Mark 10:6-9, where Jesus Himself describes marriage. No place does it define it any other way other than the relationship between Christ and His Church.”

“While we understand and acknowledge that all are sinners and laws like those for divorce are permitted to deal with sin they certainly are not celebrated within our congregations. So must it be with homosexual behavior. While we as humans may feel compassion to those who are treated differently based on their sexual orientation, we are called to follow the instructions from Scripture and the teachings of Christ in those Scriptures. Therefore, while we all sin, we are called to repent as we seek to become more Christ-like. We are also called not to judge the behavior of others as we are all sinners and all sin is equally wrong in the eyes of God. So we seek to include all people, regardless of sexual orientation, but continue to teach the Word of God that all may be saved and called to a life obedient in Christ.”

The rationale also addresses today’s society and culture, saying that while it “continues to expand acceptance of same-sex marriage, Christ’s Church is called to follow His teachings.”

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PCUSA: The dying denomination?

By Rachel Williams, Juicy Ecumenism.

bible and crown of thornsBack in March of this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to change the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” This allows clergy to now perform same-sex marriages and also states those clergy who are personally opposed to refrain from performing gay marriages.

This decision has been a long time coming for the PCUSA. In 2011, the largest Presbyterian denomination voted to allow gay clergy. Unsurprisingly, an exodus ensured as 60 congregations left the PCUSA and joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. After the initial vote, the following year 110 congregations joined different denominations. The year before the vote only 21 congregations left the PCUSA.  By 2012, the PCUSA lost over 102,000 members. To put this loss into perspective, the PCUSA reportedly enjoyed 4.25 million in 1965 at its peak membership. In 2011, they maintained 1.95 million members. In 2014, the membership fell to 1.67 million. In fact, during 2014 the PCUSA dismissed more than 100 congregations to other denominations. Over the last several years, a total of 428 congregations have opted to leave the denomination.  And furthermore, over the last 50 years, the PCUSA has steadfastly lost a large percentage of their members; the denomination is effectively on the decline despite enjoying large membership numbers.

A more in-depth analysis shows that from 2012 to 2014, the membership has declined by more than 15% . This simply cannot bode well for the future of the PCUSA. Also noteworthy, the donations by members also declined from $1,848,807,540 in 2013 to $1,738,915,711 just one year later.

It all started back in 2006, after the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, there was a surprising change in their attitude toward human sexuality.

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An open letter to all the presbyteries who voted against Amendment 14F

vote noGrace and peace be with you through our Lord Jesus Christ. I wish to thank all of you for voting against this amendment. The finally tally is 121-48 with 2 not taking any action (Dakota and Western Kentucky). An inaction by presbyteries automatically defaults to a No vote. For a measure to pass, a yes vote must be enacted followed by its preponderance.The passage of this amendment now changes the definition of marriage in the PCUSA constitution from between “a man and a woman” to “a UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP between TWO PEOPLE, traditionally a man and a woman.” The percentage of no votes comes out to a 29%. I will now refer to you as the 29 %’ers.

I now wish to discuss the concept of the term “remnant.”  The definition of remnant is as follows: a small part, member, or trace remaining; a part of something left after the other parts are gone; a trace or vestige when other are gone. In the Old Testament, the Jews returning from the Babylonian Captivity are referred to as the remnant. The New Testament that refer to the faithful include Romans 11:5 (“So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”) May I add, “To the praise of His glory.” A remnant is chosen by God to be a witness to the world. God has never at any time left His creation without some type of witness as to how to come to know Him, and to be reconciled to Him, and experience His forgiveness. God chooses these remnants and reserves and brings them unto Himself.

As you recall, Elijah had a contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1Kings 18). He was really concerned with the spiritual condition of the Land. God spoke to him after the wind, earthquake, and fire. A still small voice came to him. In a nutshell he complained to the Lord that he was the only one around that was concerned with keeping his covenant. All others seem to have fled. God told Elijah that there was a remnant of 7000 that have not bowed the knees to Baal nor kissed him.

To the 29%’ers, you have not bowed your knees to Amendment 14F, but instead chosen to keep the definition of marriage to 1 man-1 woman FOR LIFE (emphasis mine). None of you (or me) deserve being a remnant, but it is by God’s choosing. There is nothing that you or I did to earn this, but is only by God’s grace.

Friendship with the world is enmity with God. It is not a popular thing to speak out against same-sex behavior, and Jesus never promised us that as His followers, we would be popular. It is not a politically correct thing to say same-sex marriage is an abomination in the sight of God. There will be the start of persecutions as a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v Hodges. It was the judiciary that approved the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies (Roe v Wade), and it was the judiciary that legalized wholesale perversion upon this land. Amendment 14F was finalized on 6/21/15, and 5 days later received its Supreme Court blessing on 6/26/15.

I believe the battle lines have been drawn in the sand and that God is speaking to His people to make a decision. The key operative verse is Joshua 24:15 that states, “Choose you today whom you will serve, whether the gods of your fathers or the gods of theAmorites, but for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Blessings to all the 29%’ers.

Elder Tadashi Agari (7-21-15)

(a member of) Calvary Presbyterian Church,  Stockton, Ca

Formerly of the Presbytery of Stockton and now a member of ECO

Disclaimer: The views written in this article does not necessary represent the views of my church or current presbytery.

 

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Think nothing has changed? Think again

For those who think that nothing has changed for Presbyterian pastors and sessions since the Presbyterian Church (USA) began allowing for same sex weddings, think again. Scrolling through the lead on virtually every page of The Presbyterian Outlook website reveals a thorough transition.

The home page on 7/16 features “The Gift of a Wedding” by Stephen McKinney-Whitaker. The post begins, “I recently officiated a wedding of two women, Jessica and Kirsten.” Further down the home page you can read, “Practicing the scales of love: Rethinking Christian marriage,” wherein the writer reveals her rejection of divine inspiration of the Bible when she says, “The truth is, no biblical writer could have ever imagined marriage the way we understand it now — an egalitarian commitment between two people who love each other and depend on one another for romance, sexual fulfillment, mutual support and happiness.”  Now almost off the page with its July 7 posting date is Leslie Scanlon’s research based piece of journalism, “A new normal for Presbyterian weddings.” The piece is illuminating about what marriage has become from the viewpoint and practice of those interviewed. Notably, no one who is doing weddings exclusively “the old fashioned way” (between a committed Christian man and woman) is interviewed.  

Over on the Outpost blog page of the site you can read through a litany of personal reflections by PCUSA teaching elders sharing their theology and practice of performing weddings. The “institution” is minimalized, God is optionalized, there are references to unicorns, luck, and hope but nothing about how the Confessions are guiding these people in their interpretation of the scriptures of the Old and New Testament being brought to bear in the lives of couples entering into holy matrimony.

This is not a criticism of The Outlook nor their contributors. I’m seeking to make an observation about the state of things.

In February I raised concerns about the trajectory of the denomination’s official publication, Presbyterians Today. Recently, they launched a blog site called “Reimagining the Church.” (Yes, I wondered aloud when I learned of it whether they had a conscious memory of the pagan celebration “Reimagining” conference in 1993. If they did not know, why not, and if they did know then the new site is a conscious choice.)  On the blog site you can read disparaging remarks about traditional marriage and those whose interpretation of the scriptures lead them to consciously object to same sex marriage. But you can read equally disparaging remarks about “white folks.” The site is an equal opportunity platform for those with “subversive” ideas.

My takeaway? Those within the PCUSA who continue to espouse and seek to honor sincerely held religious convictions about human sexuality and marriage the are informed by and aligned with the Reformed theology of our Confessions, are now “out.” (A recent article by Princeton Theological Seminary President Craig Barnes makes my point, in case I failed to.)

If your session shares the concerns raised here, you might find this resource helpful.

 

 

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Princeton Seminary President Craig Barnes on same sex marriage

Craig Barnes has been a colleague in the renewal efforts within the Presbyterian Church (USA) for a generation. In 2013 when he was named President of my alma mater Princeton Theological Seminary, I was hopeful.

However, in an article posted on The Christian Century, Barnes seems to be advocating for a preservation of the visible unity of the institutional church through the allowance of a divided mind. Instead of the balkanizing effect of biennial assembly voting, advocates a revised agenda wherein local congregations be given time to come around to the “prophetic proclamations” of “the gospel” that “gay marriage” is “justice for LGBT people.”

Barnes says:

The problem is the inability of a modernist superstructure like a denomination to handle postmodern affections.

What are these so-called “postmodern affections” and how do they substantively differ from the affections of fallen Man since the dawn of time? The Word of God has not changed about such affections.

Then Barnes says,

In the 1950s, the church could speak with one voice because people trusted big institutions. Then it made sense to speak about the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, or Methodist position on the issues. Now we have to humbly remind ourselves that there is a myriad of positions on every issue within the church.

Is it possible that “in the 1950’s the church could speak with one voice” not because of a trust of “big institutions” but because it willingly trusted more rightly discerned the perfect and pleasing will of God in full submission to God’s authority?

The seminary president rightly respects the position of local pastors caught in the body-slam of denominational wrangling. But he misidentifies the problem as a diversity of opinion instead of a divided and divisive theological mind. Maybe a “myriad of positions on every issue within the church” works in the academic environment of PTS but Christ’s mind is divided when it comes to the witness of His own Body, the Church.

In the 1990, Barnes served on the board of Presbyterians for Renewal. And in 1996, as the pastor of Washington D.C.’s National Presbyterian Church, he worked for the adoption of an amendment to the Book of Order requiring officers of the Presbyterian Church USA to abstain from all sexual activity outside of the covenant bond of marriage between one man and one woman. That language was stripped from the constitution in 2010/2011 and in 2014/2015 same sex marriage was approved.

The PCUSA’s newly adopted language in its Book of Order is in open conflict with the statements about marriage in its Confessions and the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. How the denomination will be held together when it does not hold to the revealed will of God in the Word of God is yet to be seen. It will necessarily be a unity based on something other than a shared biblical theology and ethic.

 

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