Dear Brothers and Sisters:

 

As you may have read in the news or heard on the radio or seen online, the PCUSA has officially adopted Amendment 14-F. This amendment has been the focal point of much prayer, angst, and debate. Here is the text of the adopted amendment:

Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.

In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an active part, and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and acknowledges.

An earnest study of and evaluation of homosexuality began in 1976 when the General Assembly of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America established a task force to study the topic. Their report[1] was delivered to the General Assembly in 1978. Since that report several other studies have been conducted and various statements have been issued[2]. What has been evident throughout the present journey is that the denomination remained in a state of confusion regarding the topic of homosexuality in general, ordination of LGBTQ individuals, and, now, same-sex marriage.

The current debate related to Amendment 14-F will do nothing to quell the discussion, debate, and angst of many within the denomination. The proverbial “balm of Gilead” cannot be found in any amendment, no matter how much one wishes that to be the case. Congregations will continue to leave the denomination citing, among other things, what they perceive to be a lack of appreciation for the authority of Scripture as it pertains to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Other congregations will celebrate exuberantly and declare “victory at last”. Still other congregations will sit within the boat being rocked by the waves created by proponents on both sides of the issue. But let me be clear, this isn’t simply an “issue” and I am somewhat loathe to use that word, because what we’re really talking about isn’t an issue as much as it is “life”: It’s about people created in the image of God, just like you and me. And those “people” are our brothers and sisters.

Amendment 14-F does several things, from my perspective. First, it provides the denomination with a sense of clarity on a conversation which has been occurring since 1976. Secondly, it acknowledges the centrality of God as the giver of life and love: “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Third, when combined with actions taken at the previous General Assembly[3], we honor the freedom of conscience outlined in the Book of Order[4].  Lastly, it changes our definition and understanding of homosexuality and marriage.

The Session of Westminster Presbyterian Church United has discussed this Amendment and the actions of the General Assembly at various meetings over the past year. Together, they struggled to come to a place of unity as they discerned what God was calling this body to do in light of all these changes. But let me clarify what I mean by unity. Unity, as I use the term, does not signify agreement with the amendment or actions of the General Assembly. Indeed, there are Ruling Elders who expressed opposition to the amendment and action of the General Assembly. Instead, the word “unity” strikes a higher chord than simple human agreement. It’s a unity in Spirit. The best definition of this type of unity might be found in a statement in the Swearingen Commission, which in 1926 wrote this: “…the Church has flourished best and showed most clearly the good hand of God upon it, when it laid aside its tendencies to stress these differences, and put the emphasis on its unity of spirit”[5].

Although I am a strong supporter of these changes, I know some of you take issue with the changes. Westminster is comprised of a wonderful menagerie of thoughts, views, opinions, theologies, and Biblical viewpoints. That’s what makes Westminster so wonderful, and that is what will continue to guide us as we walk through this newest path related to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. If you are struggling with the ratification of Amendment 14-F or the actions taken by the last General Assembly, please know that you, your thoughts, your opinions, your values, your theology, and your Scriptural beliefs are important to us. YOU are important to us. My door is always open and you are more than welcome to drop in and discuss what’s on your heart and mind. I will be providing a brief presentation on these changes during the coffee hour sometime in April. I encourage you to attend if you’re interested and to share your thoughts and opinions as you feel comfortable.

 

May God continue to guide us and to unite us in spirit as we seek to serve our Risen Lord.

You can download the letter here

 

 

[1] https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/_resolutions/church-and-homosexuality.pdf

[2] http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/101/homosexuality/

[3] https://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/6/20/press-release-presbyterian-church-us-general-assem/

[4] F-3.0101

[5] https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/oga/pdf/dissent_and_defiance_ao%5B1%5D.pdf (page 3)