Second Class Citizenship?

February 27, 2012


The second argument appearing in the Spahr decision comments:

 2.  By refusing to marry homosexual pairs, the church is declaring them second-class citizens contrary to the affirmations in the Book of Order where full equality of all people in the church’s life is affirmed (citing F-1.0403, F-1.0404, G-1.0302).

Citizenship in the Kingdom of God is granted by God under certain conditions, among them 1) faith in Jesus Christ, as in John 1:12: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”; 2) repentance, as in Acts 2:38: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven”; and Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you will all perish”; and 3) forsaking practices and prevailing sins which cannot exist in the Kingdom of God, as in 1 Cor 6:9: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” All people, regardless of their previous condition, habits, lifestyles, nationalities, political affiliations, gender, or socio-economic status, come into the Kingdom of God the same way: by repenting, denying themselves, taking up the Cross, and following Jesus. It is not our sinful condition that qualifies us, but our turning away from who we are (denying ourselves) to become what God always meant us to be (his children). This we believe is accomplished by faith when we put our full trust on the meritorious work of Christ for our salvation. Period.

Is the full equality of all people in the church’s life affirmed? In the Book of Order, statements appear that would seem to do this:

F-1.0403: “God unites persons through baptism regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sex, disability, geography, or theological conviction. There is therefore no place in the life of the Church for discrimination against any person. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall guarantee full participation and representation in its worship, governance, and emerging life to all persons or groups within its membership.”

Problematic here, of course, is the reference to “theological conviction,” which would seem to say, “You can believe anything you want and still be counted among us,” which defies any sort of faith standard, including the essentials of Reformed faith. Further, it is not clear what a “group” is within PCUSA membership, but LGBT people are using this term to secure guarantees for “full participation and representation” within the church’s life. If we were to take their preferred meaning, then who is to say “adulterous clergy” is not a “group” deserving full “rights.” Our definition of terms must synchronize with other restrictions given by the “Scriptures, our only rule of faith and manners” (F-3.0107).

F-1.0404 affirms openness to the sovereign work of God in the world, “becoming in fact as well as in faith a community of women and men of all ages, races, ethnicities, and worldly conditions, made one in Christ by the power of the Spirit”

I say Amen to that, recognizing that while the world is changing, God and God’s message is not. Being open to fellow Presbyterians is not to be equated, however, with submitting to the errant teaching of folks who will not repent of prevailing sin. Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

G-1.0302, “No person shall be denied membership for any reason not related to profession of faith.”

Jesus defined this for us: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” One’s profession of faith is demonstrated by obedience to God’s will. That commitment to obedience (which is preceded by repentance and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord) is related to profession of faith and therefore a very relevant condition for inclusion in Presbyterian membership.

Do these affirmation mean that the homosexually committed among us must be included in the life of the church? [We ask the question also of the committed adulterer, the committed defrauder, the committed gossiper.] Such a guarantee is not offered for those who promote their sinful practice as a condition for church membership. The unrepentant one is a “second-class citizen” to the degree that he or she refuses the full effect of the “ticket” God has offered in Christ, which is nothing short of a complete transformation empowered by his Spirit. To unite a homosexual couple, under marriage vows, is putting the church in the position of making permanent what God cannot bless. In such a case, how can the church mediate the grace of God? In Christ, we are promised new life and the power of the Spirit to live it. This is at the very heart of the gospel, and the faith it embodies is the faith we profess in order to become members of the PCUSA.





5 Responses to “Second Class Citizenship?”

  1. Rosario Batlle Says:

    There’s nothing more to say. You have spoken clearly in love. When there is no conviction of sin, that’s God’s project. So sad that some members of PCUSA have allowed their compassion to blind them to God’s absolute Kingdom values. It’s happens easily when we are ignorant of or disregard Scriipture as God’s rules of life.

  2. Jim Tilley Says:

    Thanks, Mary, brilliant as always! The culture & liberal theology continue to make the same ontological error: those who engage in same-sex behavior and/or “identify” themselves as gay are simply not a “group” in any of the same ontological sense that whites, blacks, Hispanics, or Asians are. The political arm of the pro-gay movement has adopted this language simply because of its manipulative power and political advantageousness. “How cruel of you to exclude me” has successfully manipulated innumerable debates on the issue. Quite reminiscent of the “have you stopped beating your wife?” maneuver. (For the millionth time), we are not “excluding anybody”: only certain commitments, agendas, and behaviors that are in contradiction to scripture. And after nearly 40 years in these debates, I am seriously beginning to wonder indeed if it is not some neurological impairment that prevents the left from even being able to comprehend — let only begin to agree with — the distinction we make here. I do not say the foregoing easily or with hostility. But I wish I had the proverbial penny for every time I’ve experienced this scenario in debate: the left barrages us with the usual charges of being closet racists in disguise, we patiently explain the ontological distinctions, they become nervous, we remain patient & talk enthusiastically about the (many) successfully ex-gay people we know (and love); we even talk of those we know who choose not to turn away from the lifestyle & we love them regardless, the other side rolls their eyes & becomes even more agitated… we quote even pro-gay geneticists that state there is no scientific evidence that “they are born that way”… eventually the “debate” ends… and as they go out the door, they part with “I’m sorry you hate us”. It’s enough to make me buy stock in Tylenol.

    Our side has got to do a better job of debunking this mythology. There is absolutely no scientific basis for the (endlessly repeated) assertion that “gays are born that way” (see for an excellent resource). There is, however, outstanding (and longstanding) evidence that much transformation toward heterosexual desires & behavior. We need to do a better job of promoting ex-gay ministry: these are truly the folks on the “front lines”

  3. Truth Tolife Says:

    In the Benton case, the Permanent Judicial Commission for the PCUSA’s General Assembly held that while clergy were not permitted to conduct same-sex marriages, they could offer “blessings” for such unions. But why no blessing for the idolators? Or the greedy? Or drunkards? Or thieves, revilers, or robbers? And what about the other sexual conduct? Why are the homosexuals given a blessing, but not fornicators, adulterers, or male prostitutes? If a line is to be drawn then why not place it where God did. The church should not bless that which God has called sin.

  4. Jake Horner Says:

    Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore !!!God gave them over!!! in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    For this reason !!!God gave them over!!! to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

    And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, !!!God gave them over!!! to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom 1:22-32 NAS).

    This ought to scare every one of us silly.

  5. Dave Moody Says:

    Amen Jake Horner, Amen…

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