It was my privilege to be your overture advocate at the General Assembly last summer where all of the almost 2 dozen overture advocates, the Assembly Committee and a majority of the delegates agreed that the time for Amendment 10-A is now because its proposed new language for G-6.0106(b) doesn’t just remove what many of us consider error, but actually makes our constitution more faithful to Christ and to our Reformed heritage than it currently is.
The Book of Order reminds us:
“The Church is called to be a sign in and for the world of the new reality which God has made available to people in Jesus Christ. The new reality revealed in Jesus Christ is the new humanity, a new creation, a new beginning for human life in the world: Sin is forgiven; reconciliation is accomplished; the dividing walls of hostility are torn down.”
One paragraph in the Book of Order contradicts this call: Denying the new reality revealed in Christ, G-6.0106b is a stumbling block in the path of forgiveness and reconciliation, shoring up the very walls of hostility that we are called to tear down.
This mistake in our Book of Order creates two classes of Baptized members. There is nothing in Scripture or in Presbyterian polity to support the establishment of “first” and “second class” Christians. Yet our Constitution bars some from ordained leadership simply because they are different, because of whom they love.
But “What about scripture?” I can almost hear some saying. We must acknowledge that some “traditional” readings of Scripture have held that same-sex expression is sinful; but we also know that in the Gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples to expect new insights through the Spirit (John 16:12ff). And we’ve come to understand what Jesus meant. Time and again, the church has experienced a “new openness” (G-3.0401) as groups of persons once considered less worthy have been brought into full acceptance. That happened in Scripture itself when the early church was challenged to welcome Gentiles, traditionally considered “unclean,” as full members of the community. (Acts 10-11) As Peter and Paul and the early church struggled with who was in and who was out—they did NOT rely on scripture to set aside old interpretations of the law…but instead on the witness of Christ’s ministry and their own discernment of the Spirit moving in the lives of those whom God had called into their midst. We ask you to do the same, returning US to that same faithful process of discernment for all candidates for deacon, elder and minister of Word and Sacrament.
For thirteen years, our church’s Constitution has been at odds… with itself. The Book of Confessions reflects the heritage of our faith and helps us understand the Church’s reading of Scripture through the years. It was never intended to be a laundry list of prohibitions but G-6.0106b reduces it to just that. The new G-6.0106(b) would return the confessions to their traditional role…subservient to the witness of Christ, and to the witness of scripture seen through the lens of Christ’s life and teachings.
I have no doubt in this room we are all seeking passionately after the will of God. On one side, people of good faith seem to hear Jesus setting a standard, drawing a line. They have heard the Spirit saying that sanctified sexual relationships come in only one design. On the other side, people of good faith seem to hear Jesus calling everyone, inviting us all into ministry. We have heard the Spirit speaking a resounding “whosoever” through the voice of Scripture – and we have discerned the Spirit alive in the calls to ministry in our own lives and the lives of others, regardless of how our sexual identities have been differently crafted by the hand of God.
My human brain says someone must be wrong. My Reformed heart nudges back reminding me that no one is wrong, everyone falls short of the Glory of God. And so I return to the question…acknowledging that neither side has God figured out…which is more faithful to who we are and who we are called to be—the old G-6.0106(b) or the proposed language…a line in the sand, or surrender to the flowing river of the Lordship of Christ?
At the foundation of our Reformed Faith is the simple, yet profound notion that God alone is God. It is God who first chose us, who first loved us. And God will call as God will call. But G-6.0106b gets in God’s way for us all, allowing us to tangle ourselves in knots of discord.
Our gracing God longs to untangle us, and the Spirit has something better for the Church. We fervently believe that Amendment 10-A is a first step on that journey to something better, to something more faithful. And in the end, it is all about faithfulness: faithfulness to God, faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the faithfulness of those who seek to serve Christ’s church.
Please vote for Amendment 10-A. Thank you.
Michael Kirby is pastor, Good Shepherd Church, Chicago, Ill.