Recently, Presbyterian News Service, a PC (USA) online news site, featured an article on the National Council of Churhces’ November 9th Centennial Gathering in New Orleans (NCC’s Centennial Gathering looks ahead to a new century) In 1910, when the National Council of Churches was organized, the motive behind the movement seemed in every respect noble—a desire to unite Christians and foster more harmony and charity between Christians from all across the denominational spectrum.
A hundred years later, many believers today feel that the NCC, at best, has accomplished little for the kingdom of God, and at worst, has actually caused harm. Dissentors level as their main criticism the charge that the NCC tends to minimalize important differences in doctrine and ethics—differences even over “essentials”—in the hopes of fostering unity. This, in a nutshell, is why the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America have never sought any involvement in the NCC.
The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of NCC, but individual Catholics are involved. Catholic archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond of New Orleans gave the opening homily at the Centenial Gathering at Cathedral Bascilica of St. Louis, the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States. In his talk, which was given to a crowd of approximately 400, he discussed how his church frowned on the ecumenical movement in the past, but that mindset was challenged by Vatican II.
The article focused especially on the comments and perspectives of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church USA’s presiding bishop; Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, patriarchal vicar of the Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church for the eastern United States; and Rev. Walter L. Parrish III, general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
It was Parrish’s comments that were most disappointing of all, as he likened the current debate over the church’s response to homosexuality to the civil rights issues of racial and gender equality in generations past. “People’s unwillingness to disavow either their sexual orientation or their faith in Christ has challenged all of us,” he said.
Christianity has never demonized same-sex temptation, as people are hardly to be blamed for the temptations they encounter in life. For example, the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church says men and women who are attracted to members of the same sex should be ministered with gentleness and sensitivity. It is the decision to act on the temptation, to give in to the desire to express oneself sexually in ways that Scripture warns about, that Christianity has preached against. Actions are actions, and a person’s race or gender is a trait.
Even if someone is attracted to members of the same sex, it is always a conscious decision to act on those desires, rather than remaining abstinant. When a person who has a same-sex orientation acts on that, even though Scripture sets the peramaters of sexual expression as being male/female marriage, then that action is going against Christian teaching. When one convinces oneself that it’s okay to indulge sexually in ways that contradict the teaching of Scripture, then a case can be made that one is arguably, by action, if not by word, disavowing their faith in Christ, at least to an extent.
What Parrish seems to say, though, is that a new generation of Christians has stepped up saying it’s possible to be both a Christian and a practicing homosexual by lifestyle. He went on to say, “We are being called in new ways to work for peace locally and globally, to be with those who have been denied justice regardless of their location or orientation.”
But there’s the rub. What does Parrish mean by his comment about people being denied justice because of their orientation? What rights is he referring to? The right to get married? The right to adopt children? The right to serve as clergy in Christian churches? Does historic Christianity, in saying that marriage is between a man and a woman, (and therefore the norm should also be that child-rearing be done by a mother and father) commits an injustice? Churches must have the right to practice what they believe to be God’s truth, and as Scripture clearly envisions ministers as being either celibate or the “husbands of one wife”, people whose lifestyle contradicts this aren’t ordained. Why? Because the church hates people who practice certain lifestyles? No. Because the church doesn’t have the right or authority to normalize something which God says is harmful.
If the church gives a hearty stamp of approval for people inclined towards homosexuality to go ahead and practice that lifestyle, the church is encouraging people to disobey Scripture, and, to ultimately incur harm upon themselves. God doesn’t warn against things capriciously or arbitrarily—he does it because he made us, and therefore knows what it is best for us, physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, etc…
Christians must treat all people charitably, doing to others as we would have them do to us. No one, regardless of their lifestyle, should be maligned or mistreated. However, as Jackson Presbyterian Examiner has said before, one of the most unloving things a church can do for someone is to encourage them to do something that will injure the soul. Christ loves all people, including homosexuals, and it is because he loves them so much that he wants to redeem from the homosexual lifestyle. Christians will never have any credibility to address the issue of homosexuality unless their motive is the same as Christ’s: selfess love.
Isn’t it ironic that a national gathering of Christians committed to greater unity would produce statements that actually marginalize and put on the fringes most Christians worldwide? The Presbyterian News Service consistently portrays revisionists (regarding sexual ethics) as being the truly compassionate members of the Body of Christ, while (if they’re acknowledged at all) portraying traditionalists, as “narrow” or “intolerant”. Nevermind that traditionalists still make up the overwhelming majority within the global church, especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the “Global South.”
If this was a one-time occurrence, it might be something that could be overlooked. But week in and week out, PNS profiles men and women, many of them clergy, who are vocally in favor of redefining marriage. The “other side”, if represented at all, is generally portrayed as defined primarily by a lack of compassion. The denomination prides itself in being open to varying views, being broadminded, but the Presbyterian News Service’s approach to this issue has been anything but inclusive.
One would scarcely even be aware that some in the PC (USA) still defend traditional marriage, judging by the denomination’s news site. Still less would one ever guess that many of marriage’s most ardent defenders are tender, compassionate, charitable people.
· Last month, the Presbytery of Mississippi voted overwhelmingly, 47 to 11, to keep the Pc (USA)’s current ordination standard, calling for “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness” for all ordained offices. To learn more about the Presbytery of Mississippi’s stance on this controversy, click here.