The query from the floor was, “How does the PC(USA) believe it has the privilege of changing God’s word to make it fit its own purposes? How do you get away with changing the wording of the Bible when it comes to marriage, which clearly states that marriage is between a man and a woman, to saying something else?” There was an air of distrust and a hint of anger in his voice when he asked me that question. He was seated near the back of the sanctuary where I was a guest answering questions.
My answer? “First of all, I want to thank you for coming tonight and caring enough about the church to ask your question. Your presence indicates you care, and that you are not closing others out who might think differently.
“Secondly, let me say that you are not the only member of the PC(USA) to ask those questions. Many others have wondered about it, and have entered into disciplined study about the matter. One person wrote to ask me why the committee dealing with same-gender marriage at General Assembly did not pray nor read the Bible. I assured her that they prayed and read the Bible with great care.
“Remember that the way we read and understand the Bible has been evolving throughout Christian history. Some Presbyterians believe same-gender marriage is a sin. Others believe that a committed marriage between two adults who love each other is consistent with their understanding of God’s word. I am not trying to say that we can just sit back and interpret the Word of God in any manner that feels good to us. But I do say that God continues to reveal new insights to us.
“For instance, in this sanctuary I would imagine we have a number of people who are divorced. Yet we don’t believe that because it says in the Bible they should be taken out on the street and stoned to death, that is what God wants us to do. It is not my job as Moderator of the denomination to defend the actions of the church. It IS, however, my job to make sure that the work of the General Assembly is correctly interpreted.
“Remember, Paul told the church in Corinth, ‘we see through a mirror dimly.’ The full truth has not been revealed to any of us in this lifetime. Instead, we look at the image we see, and do our best to understand what God is saying. Sometimes that image differs from our neighbors. But when we disagree, the model of love says we share and debate our differences in a spirit of love.”
Let’s keep the dialogue going. Let’s seek ways to broaden our own understanding of the faith. And let’s be sure all of this is done in a spirit of prayerful respect. We are a denomination of grace and hope, not one of judgment and condemnation.