Proposing to jettison the considered decisions of Assemblies of the past 30 years, and dissolving the bonds of connection which undergird Presbyterian polity and unite us with the church universal, Amendment A says “We disagree with you; let us alone to do as we wish.”
Ordination is an act on behalf of the whole church. An ordination within Yukon Presbytery is valid and recognized in Baltimore Presbyery, and vice versa. Their meaning is held to be the same, as the standards governing both are likewise the same. To remove basic standards that govern sexual behavior from the Constitution — manifestly to permit the ordination of practicing homosexuals — is to sacrifice our connection for the sake of expedience.
We are part of the one holy catholic apostolic church, and we need to heed her counsel. During the year I was privileged to serve as moderator of the General Assembly, our debates about homosexuality were reported worldwide. In both Africa and South America, leaders of churches with whom we have long ties of mission and affection took me aside to say “Why are you doing this? Don’t you know that if you ordain practicing homosexuals we can no longer be your partners?”
Presbyterians are not alone in facing these issues. In 1998 the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury, England. This every-decade convocation spoke plainly, with the bishops of the Third World churches decisively rejecting attempts to legitimize homosexual behavior and ordination.
Christians of other cultures often see our adaptation more clearly than do we. The recent letter to our moderator from Masgood Kamil, executive secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan, warns that “If the present [PC(USA)] ordination standards are waived, there might be some partner churches who will part company with the PC(USA).” Within our denomination, we have been blessed and encouraged by vibrant Korean congregations. In an open letter to the General Assembly Council and other governing bodies, the National Korean Presbyterian Council said “Our view is that this society values novelty a great deal, much like the church at Areopagus, but we do not believe that Jesus has a Œnew word’ for his church concerning sexuality.” There is, in truth, much light shining on this matter from the wider church. Brothers and sisters in Christ from other communions and cultures are calling to us “Turn back!”
Some claim that Amendment A will bring peace. This is folly. Amendment A simply shifts the debate to every presbytery and session. “Will you participate in the ordination of a practicing homosexual?” will become a standard question — in many governing bodies a litmus test. The debate will not stop with the first vote, for as the Stated Clerk’s Policy Reflection #43 concludes, “All affirmative and negative examinations before ordaining bodies may be appealed, calling for judicial review.”
Amendment A would institutionalize the very division that many are working to heal, and would sunder relations with other churches. It is not a “middle way,” but rather “the broad and easy way that leads to destruction.” Amendment A offers neither peace, nor holiness, nor hope, and should be disapproved.
posted Sept. 5, 2001
David Dobler is executive presbyter, Yukon Presbytery, and a former General Assembly moderator.