Let me just state that I’m concerned with sinfulness in human sexual relations. I’ve even spoken about it in, oh, three or four sermons I’ve had in the past year (keep in mind I’m an associate, and I don’t preach every Sunday). I believe that the biblical image of human sexuality is clear that it is best as part of monagamous, ritualized relationship (called marriage, though I’d expand marriage to same-sex couples) and is a deep expression of love and affection and commitment to one another.
A few other things: Sex is a wonderful gift from God. That image goes deeper than the NT record. Read the Song of Songs someday. But I’m not convinced that every sexual encounter outside of marriage is sinful, though. Nor, of course, is every sexual encounter within a marriage bond, ipso facto not sinful. Intent. Expression. Purpose. Execution. All are part of understanding that action. I wrote paper upon paper about this in seminary, with biblical argumentation, so even though I choose not to do so here, please do not assume that this position is not based on wrestling with, exegeting, and listening to scripture.
But here’s todays point and my question: why is all this hubbub about homosexuality? whither the angst, protests, threats to take the ball and go home over things like abortion, or the death penalty, or any of the other narrow issues of the day? Particularly aborton, which seems to me to have the strongest reaction by the pro-life community in a church that is supportive, on paper and in practice, of a nuanced pro-choice position?
Here is Will in a good article about the dilemma facing some of those thinking about leaving (excerpts):
Many traditional Presbyterians are also unconcerned with the personal histories of candidates for ordination. Many of us have no interest in installing cameras in bedrooms or in conducting inquiries. Again, we acknowledge that all elders – ruling and teaching, and all members, and all non-members sin. Most of us are not overly concerned at the prospect of being “in relationship” with sinful people. If that were our concern, we could not live in this world, and we could not live with ourselves. Are some traditional Presbyterians judgmental and wrongly motivated? You betcha. Are some progressive Presbyterians judgmental and wrongly motivated? You can take it to the bank. The existence of wrong motives certainly needs to be addressed, but for most traditional Presbyterians it is not “the imperfect holiness of the church” that is prompting talk of schism.
It also bears observation that to seemingly set at variance love and a desire for the church not to actively endorse and encourage sin, does not, in any way, provide a workable solution for traditional Presbyterians. I cannot imagine one advancing such a suggestion unless one did not believe in the existence of sin, did not believe sin to be a big deal (perhaps invoking God’s abounding grace), or did not believe that the specific actions traditional Presbyterians believe to be sin were, in fact, sin. What I mean is this: if one saw a person one dearly loved embrace what one believed to be truly evil and harmful, one would not, for the sake
of that love, remain silent. In fact, if one found oneself in that cruel situation, one would, because of love, all the more strongly oppose the embrace of evil and harm. Imagine the despair you would feel if suddenly your church came out endorsing what you believe to be evil and harmful – speaking in your name and literally encouraging people you loved to be harmed. You would not consider it in any way acceptable to be told that Jesus’s command to love one another meant that you must tolerate this.
…For most traditional Presbyterians this is not about being in relationship with fellow believers; it is about participating in things we believe to be wrong. We cannot violate our consciences and our deepest convictions about the nature of God, what God expects of us, and the testimony of the Gospel.
Will argues that the problem is that many they see their church actively supporting evil, sinfullness, thus distorting the gospel and making it impossible to commune with them. Fine, I get that (even though I’m struck with the assumptions that makes about my motives and the absolute nature involved in their assessment: no doubt whatsoever that homosexuality is a sin). But what is it about this that causes the internal struggle now? Why not abortion? If that is to many of these churches an evil, a sin, but yet their denomination in its discernment of God’s will articulates a pro-choice position, why not run at that? Twenty years ago?
I’ll have to dig into that some more, but an interesting question for the week…
To my “traditional” brothers and sisters in Christ: We disagree as to what exactly the sin is here. I’m not willing to concede without a lengthy discussion and much prayer that my position isn’t biblical (as I know others wont), nor that your position is the only clear biblical view (and certainly you don’t think mine is). So where does that leave us? We either work together and try together to listen for God’s will and learn from each other, or one of us (in this case, the NWI it seems) goes elsewhere. I think God wants us to be together, but if for your conscience you must leave, I will mourn your decision and wish you God’s grace for your journey…