What Did 10-A Do, Really?

April 26, 2012

 In instances too numerous to mention, Presbyterians have claimed that the passage of Amendment 10-A last summer opened the door to the ordination of practicing LGBT people. But is this what 10-A did, really?

Read it for yourself:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (F-1.02). The council responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.2.0402; G-2.0607; G-3.0306) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of ordered ministry. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W- 4.4003). Councils shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates. (G-2.0104b)

During debates on this constitutional amendment, its proponents made clear that this was an affirmation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and who could be against that? However, its detractors smelled a fish and understood the true agenda was to remove ordination standards from the examination process. The power of this amendment was not in what it said, but in what it did not say. The insertion of this new paragraph removed the fidelity/chastity standard (previously numbered G-6.0106b) and replaced it with language that is innocuous at best, and includes no standard at all. Its true impact comes from the fact that it deleted a clear sexual standard for church officers, which required faithfulness in heterosexual marriage and sexual abstinence in singleness.

What we can say, based on observations since last summer, is that Amendment 10-A created the impression (perhaps wishful thinking) that the PCUSA no longer has a sexual standard for its officers, and this is what several presbyteries are “applying.” The church’s practice is evolving, such that the word “applying” does not mean “require adherence to.” In practice, presbyteries are maybe opening the Bible and saying, “Okay, we see what the Scripture says, and applying it to this case we see no connection between what it teaches and what this candidate wishes to do. But we have referred to it; now we shall do what we see fit.”

However, they should take caution, because 10-A did not achieve what they think it did. By requiring ordaining bodies to be guided by Scripture and the confessions, our Constitution still points to the scriptural teaching that undergirded the fidelity/chastity standard in the first place. Elsewhere in the Book of Order, Scripture is identified as “the only rule of faith and practice.” If this is true, and the teaching of Scripture prohibits homosexual behavior, then the fidelity/chastity requirement is still a standard for ordination. This is the claim that is being tested tomorrow in the Parnell v San Francisco appeal before the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission.

The church is reminded again of the advice given by the Advisory Committee on the Constitution in 1993 that only an explicit constitutional standard (which G-6.0106b was) could assure clarity on the issue for ordination decisions. Now that the explicit instruction has been removed, we can see how prophetic the ACC’s advice was, regardless of the claims of 10-A’s proponents. Why should it take a court case to determine whether the Scripture is binding upon every single ordination decision? Because ordaining councils are showing a willingness to ignore it or waive its requirements.

Please be in prayer for the GAPJC tomorrow, and for the legal teams on both sides, that their presentations will set before the Commission a clear choice; that the Commission will act consistent with the teaching of Scripture; and that the Church will submit to God by adhering to the gracious and truthful Word of God.

 

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10 Responses to “What Did 10-A Do, Really?”


  1. Mary,

    While I hope you win your case with the GAPJC, I have come to the place where I just don’t think it matters any more. Let’s just say that 10-A didn’t actually accomplish the purpose of those who wrote it, namely, to open the door to ordination of non-repentant men and women living in homosexual relationship. Nevertheless, all of those who voted “Yes,” which was a significant majority, did so with the intent of bringing about that result. So, even if we can use legislation to hold off the flood for another couple of years, the heart of the denomination is still in rebellion against the clear and unanimous teaching of scripture.

    (This doesn’t even begin to take into account the bisexual and transgender part of this issue.)

    Many of my liberal-progressive friends will argue that the Bible, rightly understood, does indeed require that we endorse and welcome unrepentant people in homosexual relationships into church leadership. But, as I think we will agree, their exegesis and hermeneutics are wildly out of whack, and though they may be sincere, they are, unfortunately, sincerely wrong.

    On the other hand, if the GAPJC sides with the Presbytery of San Francisco in this case, they will make the reality of where the PCUSA is and where it’s headed crystal clear. That is perhaps a good enough reason to continue your quest.

    Blessings,
    Jeff


  2. I and many others will be remembering you and your team. You are a wonderful, strong, faithful, courageous, bold, (and more) follower of Jesus. Thank you for taking on this challenge.
    God’s blessings to you,
    Matt Ferguson
    Hillsboro, IL

  3. Dennis Evans Says:

    I will be praying for you and your team and for the Church.

  4. John R. Kerr Says:

    Mary,

    Many will be praying for you and your team, as well as for the church. Many of us pray for a turnaround, but this summer’s GA may bring us more of the same with calls for changing the definition of marriage in the Directory for Worship. We live in difficult times! God with God, speak the truth in love, and may the Spirit move!

  5. Jodie Says:

    Mary,

    If 10-A allows the ordination of practicing homosexuals, it’s because the conservatives have decreed it so, by strident word and deed.

    In my opinion, 10-A is a much better rule than the unenforceable G-6.0106b, by which no person could be ordained without some of amount of hypocritical winking. The conservatives should have supported 10-A all along, and denied that it allowed the ordination of gays all along. To do it now, after so much rancor and wailing… ? They will lose what little credibility they have left.

    I like you and I like the way you think. But for the record, the problem is not adherence to the Scriptures. The problem is that nobody believes the conservatives when they say its because of the Scriptures that they deny the ordination and marriage of gays. They think the conservatives are rationalizing. It’s a credibility problem.

    Always has been.

    And the conservatives have done nothing to address it. To the contrary, even.

  6. Linda lee Says:

    Mary,
    I pray that you will have ready words to speak the truth, instant wisdom to guide your arguments, sustaining faith in God for the out come and physical strength for the task before you.
    May you know, without a doubt that God is bringing about
    His will, His way, for His time and the Holy Spirit is moving.

  7. Rev. Adel Thalos Says:

    Mary,

    I too will be in prayer for your consistently faithful work. And you are correct that 10-A simply points back to scripture in general, where there is clear unequivocal condemnation of all homosex behavior. But the problem is that so many have been traveling the denomination muddying this truth, arguing that it is an “interpretive” issue. While they are utterly wrong, either deceived or deceiving, it still stands that within the PCUSA the issue has become so muddled that people actually believe that the Bible can be legitimately interpreted as to defend homosex behavior. In my opinion this is the work of the enemy, and so many leaders in the denomination are only too happy to do the work of the Deceiver.

  8. Karen Says:

    G-6.0106b was poorly written polity and was more of a witch hunt than a standard. How many heterosexual pastor, most male, had affairs with congregants and went from church to church leaving a wake of destruction yet kept their ordination? Fidelity and Chastity was unenforceable because everyone refuses to talk about sex in the church. To turn away those with gifts and call to ministry because of sexual orientation and yet stand idly by while some heterosexuals are not in compliance with polity, but a blind eye is turned.

    Because of uneven enforcement of the rule that was voted into polity in the mid 90’s, Jodie is correct – the conservatives lost their credibility.

  9. Timothy Says:

    It was enough for me to renounce my ordination after 28.5 years as a Presbyterian Pastor and go to a place where they not only believe Scripture but try to obey it.

  10. Rev. Adel Thalos Says:

    Karen, simply because the enforcement of a BOO provision was weak by your standards, does not mean that it was poorly written.

    Do you have any evidence of pastors who have had affairs and went from church to church and did not face any discipline? If so, why did you not file complaints and call on others to do so?

    All of those who violate the standard should face discipline. When I was an ordained elder and pastor in the PCUSA, I would certainly have filed charges in such cases within my Presbytery if I became aware of them. How many charges have you filed in cases where you indicate pastors had affairs?

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