A compliance check on sexuality materials
I realize that’s a knock-your-socks-off claim. What do I mean?
Item 12-11, approved by General Assembly, bears this title: “On Sexuality Curricula and Other Materials Being Consistent with the Biblical and Confessional Teaching.” The overture reads:
The Presbytery of Shenango overtures the 217th General Assembly (2006)to direct the General Assembly Council (Congregational Ministries Division) and all other PC(USA) entities to use the biblical and confessional teachings that sexual relationships belong only within the bond of marriage of a man and a woman as the standard for the development of any future materials or recommendations for materials in print or in its website. The curriculum should include information on reproductive health to allow for an open discussion between teachers and youth in light of our understanding of God’s plan for sexuality.
The language is a little convoluted, so to see more clearly what is really being said, here’s a more graphic version of the key provision. The overture directs…
(1) the General Assembly Council (Congregational Ministries Division) and
(2) all other PC(USA) entities
to use the biblical and confessional teachings that
sexual relationships belong only within the bond of marriage of a man and a woman
as the standard for
(a) the development of any future materials or
(b) recommendations for materials
(i) in print or
(ii) in its website.
Let me boil that down to even simpler language:
All PC(USA) entities are directed to use the teaching that sexual relationships belong only in heterosexual marriage as the standard for any materials being developed or recommended.
That's what it says, folks. And General Assembly approved it.
Note that the directive covers sexuality curriculum materials, but it is not limited only to such materials. In fact, the overture itself doesn’t even mention curriculum; it uses the more inclusive word “materials.” The overture title proves that sexuality curricula aren't the only intended subject: “On Sexuality Curricula and Other Materials Being Consistent with the Biblical and Confessional Teaching” [emphasis added].
This General Assembly directive to all entities covers all materials of any kind in development, and all recommendations, in print or on the Web. This is remarkable! I like it.
But what will it mean in practice? Let me hazard a few answers:
- The Washington Office will need to take steps to ensure that all of its print and electronic materials comply with the standard that sexual relationships belong only within the bond of marriage of a man and a woman. That will mean they can no longer press for gay marriage or civil unions, nor can they recommend materials that do so.
- Any materials such as newsletters and e-mail alerts developed from now on by any Presbyterian entity cannot be in violation of the standard that sexual relations belong only in heterosexual marriage.
- Curriculum Development within Congregational Ministries Publishing and Christian Education will need to conform to this standard all their curriculum pieces being developed, and when they recommend other reading, that reading will need to conform, as well.
- No entity such as Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association or its networks can develop materials or recommend items that promote or permit premarital, extramarital, or homosexual sexual expression.
- The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy will need to conform its coming papers and policies to the standard of heterosexual marriage as the only moral setting for sexual relations.
- Materials circulated by the National Network of Presbyterian College Women will need to conform to this standard as well.
- Church magazines, such as Presbyterians Today, cannot promote or excuse such things as cohabitation or same-sex marriage.
- Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options will need to cease treating premarital or extramarital sex as normal and will need to affirm abstinence outside of marriage.
- Articles, books, and websites that approve of or promote premarital or extramarital sex, homosexual sexual expression, same-sex marriage, or same-sex unions would not be appropriately developed, used, or recommended in any Presbyterian source.
Well, we’ve got the General Assembly resolution, and it sets an excellent standard. Let’s keep an eye out to identify ways the resolution is either followed or defied. Defiance would be the most natural course of events, given that the resolution itself is not particularly popular with many of the entities noted above. Compliance, however, ought to be the only possible response open to entities and leaders under the authority of General Assembly.
So watch with me the implementation--or not--of this amazing resolution.