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An Appeal for the Word

Presbyteries are voting on many amendments. I’m writing about Amendment ‘A’ which would delete G-6.0106b from our Book of Order. For almost fifteen years this paragraph has clarified that we Presbyterians believe what the Christian church has always believed, namely, that God’s intention for us humans is “to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or [in] chastity in singleness.”

This is a very important vote. This vote will determine whether as a church we will continue to adhere to this teaching or whether we will say this teaching no longer applies. Having had this clarification in the Book of Order, the action of removing it means that we disavow it – regardless of the nice sounding language that will replace it.

If you will be voting on this proposed amendment, my appeal is simple: cast your vote based on your best understanding of the Bible. If this change is not faithful to the written Word of God, please vote ‘No’.

Some will say that Amendment ‘A’ is faithful to the Bible. I appeal to you to consider that carefully.

Is it true to what the Bible tells us about God’s design in creation, about God’s intention for humans, about the way Eve was, at last, one fit for Adam?

Is it true to the way the Bible honors marriage – even lifting up the union of a man and a woman as an outward sign of the union of Christ and the church (Eph. 5)?

Is this proposed change true to the one voice with which the Bible speaks in opposition to homosexual practice?

Unless you can answer ‘Yes’ to questions such as these, please vote ‘No’ on this amendment.

Faithfulness to the Bible has always been a hallmark of the Reformed tradition. We have acknowledged the Bible as a word extra nos, from outside of ourselves. A word from without, a word from above, a word from God.

That means it speaks to us words that are not always what we would say to ourselves.

That means it speaks to us words that are not always what we want to hear.

That means it speaks to us words that are not always what the culture speaks.

Sometimes . . . actually often . . . the Bible speaks a word against the culture. So the Theological Declaration of Barmen, part of our Book of Confessions, must break with much of the surrounding church and culture for the sake of “the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit.” (8.01)

The Declaration goes on: “If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God….” (8.04)

Loving words must always be true. Healing words must always be true. Jesus held together love and truth, compassion and conviction. He loved every person perfectly. He loves every person perfectly. And still today, as when he walked the earth, Jesus invites every person to come to him and be transformed by the grace of God.

Henry B. Greene is pastor of Central Presbyterian Church, Merced, Calif.