Last night, Oakland held its first of two Family Meetings to inform you all of 2 significant changes in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s, our mother denomination’s, constitution. First, the PC(USA) adopted THE BELHAR CONFESSION as an official doctrinal document. It is a South African, anti-Apartheid confession expressing the Christian faith.
Secondly, the Presbyterian Church (USA), our mother denomination, now allows Pastors and Sessions to perform and host, respectively, same sex marriages. The PC(USA) does not mandate they do so. So basically, each Pastor and each Session must decide whether or not, they can in light of Scripture, Tradition, and Prayer perform same-sex marriages. We have decided the following:
Pastor Andrew cannot and will not perform same-sex or same-gender marriages, because he is prohibited from doing so by Scripture.
Likewise, the Session of Oakland Presbyterian Church will not host same-sex or same-gender marriages on church property.
As communicated at the first Family Meeting on April 26, 2015, we know that these are emotional decisions that affect people we love deeply. We know that some brothers and sisters are frustrated and others are relieved. All of us have a close family member or friend that is gay and so we do not make these decisions lightly or callously. Instead, these decisions were made after thoroughly studying the Scripture, Church Tradition, contemporary Church interpretations from around the world and from a variety of viewpoints, and contemplating their implications.
To aid in the continued study and discernment, I suggest the following resources.
For a summary of the PC(USA)’s decision and its implications, see this Official Q&A Document provided by the PC(USA).
We came to our conclusions because every single time that homoerotic (same-sex sex) behavior is addressed in the Scripture, it is identified as sinful behavior, like unto and equal with other sins like idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, or ruthless profiteering. While these once described each of us, they should not be persistent parts of the Christian life. The most relevant Scripture passages are:
Lev 18:22; Lev 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; Acts 15:28-29; Romans 1:18-32. Of these, 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1, and Rom 1 are the most significant, with Romans 1:18-32 being the most thorough and theological.
I believe these texts teach that same-sex sex is sin, which is forgiven and abandoned as we turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior. People who experience life-long same sex attraction or homosexuality are welcome in our congregation and our activities, just as people with a proclivity towards lying, gossip, and alcoholism are. Oakland is full of sinners and nobody else, so we expect and welcome people to come with their known and unknown sins to receive the strong medicine of Jesus as we live out life together.
For more thorough, theological, and historical engagement with this traditional understanding, see this very detailed essay by New Testament Professor Richard Hays. Richard Hays is a well-respected scholar, who presents his research fairly and compassionately. Other supporters of traditional marriage include Wesley Hill, Rosaria Butterfield, Robert Gagnon, and Timothy Keller.
The Session and I also engaged with pastors, theologians, and laypersons that disagree with us, including Matthew Vines, Desmond Tutu, Frank Schaeffer, and Mark Achtemeier. For an example of a contrary opinion that believes it is faithful and necessary to accept, perform, and promote same-sex marriages, see this article by Mark Achtemeier. Mark Achtemeier is a Presbyterian pastor and scholar once vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage, who recently recanted and whole-heartedly endorsed marriage equality with this speech, which summarizes his book, God’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage.
I resonate with the deep compassion and concern expressed Achtemeier and Tutu, men I respect greatly. I recognize and confess that people that have been hurt by hatred. I too mourn their pain and wish not to inflict more, but overall find the affirming arguments more emotive exceptions to Scripture rather than rational engagements with it, and therefore remain unconvinced. Still, I present them here for your edification.