The Theological Task Force's Humongous Dilemma
Does anyone else remember the Chippendales-tryout skit with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live? In the classic comedy sketch, the suave hunk Patrick Swayze and the rotund slob Chris Farley are the final two auditioners left in a tryout for a job as a Chippendales dancer (masculine cheesecake, if you’re not familiar with Chippendales). Swayze has all the moves, the look, the build. Farley has sweaty rolls of fat and a clueless but chipper earnestness.
The running joke is that the producer just can’t decide which guy to go with. Wow! It’s SUCH a tough decision. With Swayze’s charm and Farley’s fearless physical humor, the skit is a hoot.
So why do I keep picturing that skit when I think of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church?
Well, the Task Force just CAN’T decide about the big ordination question. It is SUCH a tough decision. I mean, think about it:
On the one hand, in opposition to homosexual practice being okay for Christians, you have:
· The clear text of the Bible, whose plain disapproval of homosexual practice Christians have always understood.
· The uniform moral belief and practice of the Christian church as long as there has been a church.
· Confirmation by what our Confessions teach.
· An express provision in our Constitution that turned into explicit law what had always been practiced implicitly.
· A definitive guidance, authoritative interpretations, and advisory opinions that also point out the incompatibility of homosexual practice with God’s will, Christian discipleship, and church leadership.
· Decisions by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission that further reinforce the Constitutional standard.
· Progressively more lopsided victories in churchwide constitutional votes that upheld standards opposed to homosexual practice.
· The magisterial exegetical work of Robert Gagnon that makes a biblical case against homosexual practice that no other scholar has successfully disputed.
· The witness of faithful Christian churches around the world who beg Presbyterians not to trifle with the faith by embracing homosexual practice.
· The stories of former homosexual persons who have found release and transformation in Jesus Christ.
Wow! That’s pretty awesome!
But, wait. We’d better see what’s lined up on the other hand. After all, in favor of homosexual ordination, you have, uh– Well, you’ve got some … hmmm … Well, there’s, um, there’s some:
· Sad stories about people who feel oppressed because they can’t freely practice forbidden sex.
· Yeah, and you’ve got some pretty darn strong personal opinion, too!
· And you’ve got the way the sexual-liberation tide is sweeping through a degenerate Western society. You’ve definitely got that.
· And, to top that off, you’ve got some really imaginative, uh, “interpretation” of some spare parts of the Bible that their commentators haven’t tossed out altogether quite yet.
So, line them up: biblical faithfulness on the one hand, and worldly wish fulfillment on the other. With a massive dilemma like this, golly! How’s a Theological Task Force to decide?
Well, they couldn’t. Discernment was not their strong suit. And that’s why I think of Farley and Swayze when the Theological Task Force comes to mind.
And that’s why the Task Force report fails Presbyterians. It neither directs us toward peace, unity, and purity nor corrects our moral failure of will. At General Assembly next summer, the report must be replaced, amended, or simply defeated.
(For a clear-eyed, much more serious analysis of the subject, take a look at the essay by Thomas Warren, pastor of Deltona (FL) Presbyterian Church, in The Layman Online’s letters to the editor on November 14, 2005.)