The Issue

Who is Jesus Christ? is the central issue facing the church today, or so I have claimed in the last four columns of this series titled "An Apology," "A Testimony," "Confession" and "Life." This claim has been related to Scripture, the gospel and the Christian life. This final part relates the claim to the issues that so deeply divide the church today and whose resolution seems nowhere to be in sight.

If the premise upon which this series rests is true: that Jesus Christ discloses all we need and can know about who God is, who we are, and what God intends for us and the whole creation, then the way we answer this central question will shed light on the answer to the matters with which we are currently preoccupied — primarily the church and homosexuality but, more broadly, human sexuality.

There is no intention here to debate the issue head on, or to do so in the terms usually employed in the discussions. Rather, the purpose here is to lift up some questions that must be raised if Jesus Christ is the central focus of all of life, the object of our faith and devotion, the Lord of the world whom we are called to serve in every dimension of life, including the sexual.

The two presenting issues are ordination of self-affirming, sexually active homosexuals and whether or not the church should acknowledge, bless, formalize monogamous relationships between same-sex persons.

They are important because the church’s decisions in the matter of homosexuality will be overheard by the world and will necessarily have an impact on the way the world perceives our witness to the matter.

They are important, too, because the issues affect in a personal way our brothers and sisters in Christ, their friends and families. By virtue of our membership in the church, these issues affect us all.

Ultimately, the church must seek God’s will on these issues, which seem to be more difficult of resolution than any similar ones previously faced by the church. In other situations in which the church has changed its mind, using Scripture, the church has found another word in Scripture which takes precedence over those used to justify some form of discrimination or to prohibit certain actions — such as divorce. In this case, however, even though the Bible speaks infrequently about homosexuality, the witness is uniformly negative, so that if the church were to change its mind on the subject, it may well be more difficult to find a new word in Scripture to justify change in the church’s understanding and practice. But nonetheless the effort must be made because we care so much about these sisters and brothers in Christ whose sexuality differs from that of the majority.

The central doctrine at stake in this discussion is creation. The church must revisit this doctrine as it is developed in the Old and New Testaments, to see if there is any opening that might enable the Christian community to change its mind, at least in part.

We say, at least in part, because in this writer’s view, the theological decision that the church — at least the Presbyterian Church — will ultimately make will probably not satisfy at present either of the most polarized parties to the conflict.

Such a decision will be based on Scripture, the confessions and the prayerful discernment of the church as it seeks to understand the love and justice of the Triune God.

As the church continues to struggle with this issue, we have confidence that if we constantly focus the discussion on Christ we will not go wrong in our thinking and doing. We will not all agree, but most of us will reach a considered opinion about the matter that will enable us to dwell in peace and love as the people of God.

For we are all sinners, and but for the grace of God we would be outside the tent. All who have faith and trust in Jesus are guaranteed a place at the banquet table.


This is the fifth in a series of five editorials by Editor Robert H. Bullock Jr. The first was Jesus Christ: An Apology and the second was “A Testimony, the third was Confession and the fourth was Life.

Send your comment on this editorial to The Outlook.
Please give your hometown and state the subject of the viewpoint you are replying to.