Answers for Earl
It appears that Earl couldn't let my posting go however, returning five times to leave comments. Let me see if I can succinctly clear away a few of his queries and challenges:
- Does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) consider homosexual practice an atrocity? The Authoritative Interpretation says such things as "the practice of homosexuality is sin." It talks of the need to "repent of homosexual practice." It says, "the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life." So, is sin something light and meaningless? To God it is such an atrocity that it separates us from God. Jesus had to die to cover the price for the atrocity of sin. Yes, I would say that homosexual practice, like any other sin, is, to both God and believers, an atrocity.
- The church is supposed to be open to homosexual persons, isn't it? Yes, definitely. No change of mind there. The church opens its doors to all to come in and experience God. In addition, being a homosexual person is not the same as practicing homosexual sex. The orientation is not the sin; succumbing to temptation and then to homosexual practice is the sin. It's not unlike appreciating pretty things not being a sin, but succumbing to greed and stealing them is.
- You want a clear answer for what homosexual practice is. How about this for a try: Acting on same-sex temptations. Paul says to Timothy: "Shun youthful passions" (2 Tim 2:22). I think that's pretty clear, for a heterosexual or homosexual person. We don't ask, "Well, is THIS little kiss okay or THAT little touch? How much can I get away with and still not break the law?" Shun it all, as difficult as that will be. "Flee!" we're told.
- What is it about homosexual practice that equates with evil like the Nazis? You're the one bringing in Nazis and equivalence. I was talking about two analogous things, not two equal things. But while we're at it, sin is sin. Any failure to live up to the righteousness of God demands separation from God. It is only by grace through faith that any of us is forgiven, but we cannot be forgiven for sins we refuse to call sins. So homosexual practice, just like fornication or adultery or lust or hatred or lying or whatever sin, including Nazi genocide, equates with separation from God, apart from confession, repentance, and Jesus Christ's atoning work.
- Why can't all churches just be like College Hill, which simply loved you and taught you about Jesus? It's wonderful that a fine church like College Hill embraced you and showed you the love of Christ. Yes, all churches should be that way. But I would suspect that even College Hill, during the time of Jerry Kirk and Hal Schell and later with Pat Heartsock, also stood for God's Word and helped lead people toward transformation in Jesus Christ. There is no more disconnect between lovingly caring for a homosexual person and calling that person toward fullness of discipleship than there is between lovingly supporting a businessperson sent to jail for fraud and helping that person move beyond this sin. Churches are hospitals for the sick. We all need the care and correction, both.
- Why pinpoint the sin of homosexual practice as an atrocity when there are plenty of other sins? You're absolutely right: sins like lying, cheating, gluttony, and Sabbath breaking are also atrocities. But none of them have dedicated advocates trying to erase the biblical record and all of Christian practice to say they are perfectly okay, such as homosexuality currently has. The battle is engaged precisely because there are those who wish to reverse our Christian standards for no better reason than the secular pendulum swing of sexual license.
- Should charges be brought against every ordained Presbyterian, because all sin? No. Charges should be brought only against those who refuse to repent, considering their own devices and desires superior to God's will.
- If I like the Authoritative Interpretation so much, as you quoted me saying from last June, and the Authoritative Interpretation says Presbyterians should work to decriminalize private homosexual acts, why then do I say that homosexual practice is an atrocity that should not be tolerated, and the guilty need to be brought to justice? Earl, I'm pleased! First, that's a fine logical argument you're mounting. Second, you actually remembered something I wrote seven months ago! Cool! Your logic is great, but you started with a faulty premise. I was not writing about criminal courts for homosexuals in society; I was referring to judicial remedies, if necessary, for practicing homosexual persons within leadership of the Presbyterian Church. But--the blame is mine on this one. I wasn't sufficiently clear. Thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that.