Saturday, November 22, 2008

"No on B" Votes Increasingly Doom Passage

As of this writing, 9 of 173 presbyteries have voted on Amendment 08-B. All have voted no, most overwhelmingly. Each successive “no” vote makes the prospect of gaining approval of the moral revisionist amendment—and thus approving nonmarital sexual practice for ordained Presbyterians—all the more unlikely.

“Well DUH!” you might say. “Every no vote isn’t a yes vote, and they need yes votes to win. And besides, all nine presbyteries have voted just as they have in the past. The vote is rather obvious, with no surprises so far. It doesn’t prove anything.”

I’m no rocket surgeon, as a “Dilbert” In-Duh-Vidual was once quoted as saying, but I think there is something very important going on even in these according-to-form early votes. It is this: The folks who want us to toss out our ordination standard and approve the constitutional amendment desperately NEED some surprises to happen, and so when the obvious happens, the forces for change lose big.

Let’s do the math: The last time we voted on the matter, 127 presbyteries voted to retain the standards we have always upheld. Only 46 presbyteries voted to remove the standards. That means that this year, in order to get the 87 presbyteries needed to approve a constitutional amendment, the revisionists need 41 of the 127 opposing presbyteries to change their mind and vote the other way. In other words, nearly a third of these presbyteries need to flip-flop on the issue—and that’s if the moral revisionists manage to hold on to every one of their previous 46 presbyteries who voted with them.

So, the moral revisionists needed 41 of 127 opposing presbyteries to change their minds. That was a 32 percent change rate. But now 9 presbyteries have already voted, and not one of them has changed. That means that only 118 opposing presbyteries remain that might possibly flop over to the moral revisionist side.

Since the revisionists still need 41 presbyteries to switch, they now need 41 out of 118 opposing presbyteries, or a 35 percent change rate. As you can see, the needed change rate just keeps getting steeper every time a presbytery votes according to form against the amendment. Should a presbytery that formerly voted with the moral revisionists now vote against them (as in voting no on Amendment 08-B), the needed change rate would really jump higher.

Or think of it this way: Those who favor ordaining persons sexually active outside the marriage of a man and a woman need to nearly double the number of presbyteries willing to vote with them, from 46 to 87. Every presbytery that doesn’t do so is one more nail in the Amendment 08-B coffin.

It could get to the point before long that nearly every remaining opposing presbytery would need to switch its vote for the moral revisionists to get their amendment approved. That is not likely to happen.

However, having watched my team’s criminally lax “prevent defense” allow a college football rival to win a game today that my team ought to have won, I understand the need for caution. The wholesale revision of Christian sexual morality can and will happen if good people do nothing. Revisionists are working diligently to try to get Amendment 08-B approved. Thus, those of us who want to retain biblical morality simply must show up to work against, speak against, and vote against Amendment 08-B in each of our presbyteries.

We ought to take hope that the odds are stacked in our favor on this vote. We ought not to let that lure us into fatal complacency.


Blogger Presbyman said...


I agree with your analysis, but I am convinced that various revisionist Presbyteries will keep right on moving homosexuals forward in the ordination process (and/or condoning gay marriages), and the court system will effectively do nothing. It doesn't matter how much or how little support the revisionist perspective has in the pews or Presbyteries as a whole: they will do what they want to do and nothing will stop them. Why? Because they can.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

6:31 AM, November 23, 2008  
Blogger Dennis said...

I don't know how to take this. At the last presbytery meeting, we sat around in tables of 6 and shared our thoughts on the amendment. Only 2 of the 6 at my table were definitely against the amendment. I was really surprised. Since I was the last to speak, I said that maybe pedophilia is 'natural'. Maybe being a pedophile is 'who I am'. I understand that pedophiles cannot be cured; that is why they must register and give their addresses. Maybe this is a dumb comparison, but I thought that applying some of the arguments I heard to pedophiles was interesting.

As Americans we are told to 'never give up', 'never surrender', etc. I don't like the advice; if the Confederacy had surrendered in 1863, the savings in lives and property would have been immense. Anyway, those who advance a certain agenda repeatedly probably won't give up, because it isn't the American way.

Dennis Veith
Ferndale, WA

4:38 PM, November 23, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...


Your analogy of pedophilia is apt, but I bet it will be misunderstood. Use it, and here's what you will hear, in the most pained tones: "But homosexuals aren't pedophiles! How DARE you say they are!"

The fact that you HAVEN'T called homosexuals pedophiles--but rather you were making a logical analogy--doesn't matter. Nine times out of ten, you will be accused of smearing homosexual persons by insinuating that they are pedophiles, too. People have the hardest time with analogies.

Note, however, something rather interesting: The very horror at the (mistaken) idea that you might be inferring that someone is a pedophile shows that those feeling that indignation DO have their own set of moral boundaries. Pedophilia must be way outside their boundaries, or they wouldn't be (mistakenly) offended by your logical analogy.

So they draw the line at pedophilia and not at homosexual practice. They have simply chosen a different place to draw the line, BUT ... they do seem very comfortable with drawing a line over which one must not cross in sexual behavior. They like their arbitrary line and yet they dislike your drawing the line at homosexual practice. Apparently they can draw a line of their choice, yet you are bad for drawing a line of God's choice.

They are not being logically or morally consistent. They simply want to approve homosexuality.

They'll give you the excuse that pedophilia can't be mutually loving, or that one of the two in the relationship is a minor. I'd agree, but according to their logic, why should mutuality or one's age be allowed to get in the way of "just two people who want to love each other," which seems to be their arbitrary standard for homosexual practice being okay. Where did the standards of mutuality or maturity come from--apart from the same place from which the two-sex standard came?

God has lovingly set the rules. Those who want to break the rules--and there are many who do, both heterosexual and homosexual--will find excuses to do what they want. But that doesn't change God's benevolent will for our sexual lives. That only demonstrates total depravity. We get SOOOO good at deceiving ourselves with rationalizations!

If pedophilia, polyamory, or incest only had the massive social activism behind them that homophilia does, we would be hearing lame reasons why any of those other perversions of God's good gift of sexuality should also be honored and embraced. Homosexual practice has become the social darling not by God's decree or biblical revelation, but by dogged social activism and misguided sympathy.

Perhaps alcoholism is a more useful analogy to homosexuality: It appears to have some hereditary factor but not be completely hard-wired from birth, and it is not a chosen behavior. Yet, for good reason, alcoholics are lauded when they withstand their urges, not when they wallow in them. That appears to me to be a much more loving and reasonable way to treat a tragedy averted.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

6:03 PM, November 23, 2008  
Blogger John Shuck said...

Good to see you blogging again, Jim. I commented on this post over at my place.

John Shuck
Elizabethton, Tennessee

7:58 PM, November 23, 2008  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...

I know we've expressed our disagreements about the strength of the pedophilia = homosexuality argument before, so I won't belabor things again - I imagine we still find each other mutually unconvincing. Suffice to say, I still think it's a poor analogy rooted in a misapprehension of the homosexual-equality position specifically and homosexuals/homosexuality in general. I just...couldn't help myself, seeing it put forward again.


As you were.

Doug Hagler
Wretched Hive of Scum and Moral Revisionism, CA
(AKA San Anselmo)

12:23 AM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...


You really ought to have restrained yourself.

You must have missed my point altogether. I distinctly did NOT make the argument that "pedophilia = homosexuality." In fact, I made a point of saying that Dennis would probably have people MISTAKENLY claim he was saying something like that--people who don't understand analogy. And then you walked right into it.

THIS is the case: The lame arguments that supposedly make homosexual practice okay could just as profitably be used to make pedophilia supposedly okay or incest supposedly okay.

"They love each other and are committed," we hear, "so who can tell them that they can't do it?" If the argument supposedly works for homo-erotic love, it would by necessity have to be just as good for pedophilic or incestuous love. My argument is that the excuse doesn't hold water for ANY of the alternative relationships--homo-erotic, pedophilic, or incestuous.

Again, I am NOT--definitely NOT--saying that homosexuals are pedophiles. Nor was Dennis.

Now, let me be terribly foolish and venture another analogy, as if you understood analogies. I'm an optimist. Maybe, just maybe, you'll understand this one.

Imagine yourself my waiter at a fine restaurant. You ask me what I want, and I say, "I'm in the mood for a big broiled filet mignon tonight. Ooooh! I just love how hot and succulent and flavorful it is!" So you go off to the kitchen with my order.

A while later you come back with a big, exquisitely broiled ... LOBSTER. You plop it down in front of me with a wide smile and the expectation that I'll be thrilled at the masterpiece.

"Wait a minute!" I say. "I ordered filet mignon."

"I know you did, but this is just what you want," you argue. "The lobster is top grade, it's big, it's broiled, its hot, it's succulent, and is it ever flavorful! Just what you ordered!"

"No! That's not it!" I protest. "I ordered BEEF! I wanted BEEF. I expected a big, broiled beefsteak. I wanted hot beef, succulent beef, flavorful BEEF! This is disgusting--like some gigantic, googly-eyed ocean insect staring back at me from the plate. You missed my order altogether!"

Thinking I merely wanted something big, broiled, hot, succulent, and flavorful, you delivered something completely wrong. It was the BEEF part that was most important to me, the customer.

Do you understand the analogy? (Please note that I am definitely NOT calling homosexual persons lobsters. That would be a rookie assumption.)

God says, in effect, "I dearly love marriage. I value the love, the commitment, the faithfulness, the companionship."

And so some folks go off and bring back to God a sexually involved same-sex couple. "Look!" they say. "Look at the love, the commitment, the faithfulness, and the companionship. Wow! Isn't it something!"

And God says, "This is not what I ordered! I value a MARRIAGE, and this is no marriage. A MARRIAGE by necessity involves one man and one woman. It is the MARRIAGE of one man and one woman that makes the love, the commitment, the faithfulness, the companionship--and, yes, the sex--absolutely appropriate and so very beautiful. If you remove the opposite-sex aspect, it is an abomination! I ordered a MARRIAGE, not THIS! Take it away!"

If you focus on the other factors and leave out the most salient factor--one man and one woman, as God set up marriage to be from the beginning--you miss God's point altogether, like bringing me lobster when it is beefsteak that delights me.

God delights in marriage. But God calls same-sex sexual practices an abomination.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

3:14 AM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Drew Tatusko said...

"I distinctly did NOT make the argument that "pedophilia = homosexuality."

Perhaps I missed something. It was an analogy no? When did analogies stop being comparisons between two like terms? Issue is that one side equates both as sins of similar likeness and the other side does not. This is not to say that one is thus by necessity making an inference of other similarites. However, the comparison stands that pedophilia and same gender attraction are alike perhaps not only in terms of their respective status as "sin", but other similarities beyond the supposed conflict here between nature versus sanctification as well.

It's fine to make the analogy, but it's better if one is honest about what making the analogy actually means here and the degree to which an inference is being made. To say that you are making an analogy and then to turn around and say that you are not actually making an analogy is simply dishonest.

Suggest that if one makes that analogy that they defend it rather than saying "that's not what I really meant". Or, resist the urge to make the analogy at all if that is not what you want to say.

5:23 AM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Drew Tatusko said...

BTW, I am in a rather conservative presbytery and there is a clear segmentation in general between those who are leaning/in favor, those who are apathetic because they are more concerned about membership and how to pay the oil bill for heat this winter, and adamantly opposed. Not enough votes have come in to suggest a trend yet. The sample is statistically too small. Thus the title here is taking liberties with a complete lack of data at best and should thus be ignored.

5:26 AM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

More lectures by Professor Tatsuko.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

10:27 AM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Tracy Johnson said...

I share you pain in watching UW lose the Apple Cup with the game in its hand. 0 Wins for UW!

1:35 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:58 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...


You've saved me a lot of time today by writing so clearly!


2:03 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

Mr. Tatusko has misunderstood what Jim's analogy was comparing. Jim was not making an analogy between homosexuality and pedophilia. Jim was making an analogy between the arguments that say that homosexual sex is approved by God, and the arguments that could be used to say that pedophilic sex, or incestuous sex, could be approved by God. So it is indeed inappropriate to suggest that Jim is implying that homosexuals are pedophiles.

Again--it is the arguments, not the people themselves, that are being compared. If the arguments that say that homosexual sex is approved are valid, then they are also valid for approving incestuous or polyamorous or pedophilic sex. The arguments are comparable. Not the people engaged in those types of sex.

Debbie Berkley
Member, 1st Pres. (Bellevue, WA)
(Oops, Bruce, looks funny that I wrote after you, but I removed it because I hadn't signed it, and then I re-posted it)

2:05 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Larry & Helen Wood said...

Jim and Debbie,

You two are gifted wordsmiths, but even more gifted in spiritual insight. I am grateful for your solid grounded in Scripture and your forceful, honest presentations of the evangelical stance. I only wish the OUTLOOK or some such publication would offer you the opportunity to say in an extended article what you have said in these posts. Though I agree with Presbyman's view that "they will do what they want to do and nothing will stop them," still I pray you will stay strong and faithful. Many of my colleagues have sucked up to the progressive agenda for fear they might not be seen as enlightened.

Again, thank you...keep up the good work.

Larry Wood
Retired PCUSA Clergy
(moving from Greater Atlanta to Boise Presbytery)

4:11 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

So Jim, what DO you have against lobster, huh?

analogically challenged,

6:37 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Dave Moody,
Pastor, Trinity Pres.

6:38 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...


I had an exact vision of what you would be writing. I get these from time to time. Soon Dave Moody will post, forgetting to "sign" his name and location but he will correct this omission with a followup post. Behold, this may have already come to pass.

Also, next week John Shuck will post something shocking.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

9:27 PM, November 24, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

Jim, not being analogically challenged, as Dave is : ) I think your lobster analogy is the best view of what God wants and doesn't want in human sexual relationships I have ever read

Viola Larson
Sacramento, California

12:07 AM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger Neal Humphrey said...


I've been tracking the votes on "B" with a spreadsheet. There may be an alarming statistic emerging. The number of commissioners voting so far this time around has dropped by 21% compared to the vote by the same presbyteries on "A" six years ago.

Each of those commissioner losses could represent either a missing pastor, a church (and commissioner), or 500 Presbyterians.

Neal Humphrey

7:14 AM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger Craig said...

The wild card in all of this is the congregations who have left the PCUSA. If they are in presbyteries that would vote to change B then it shouldn't matter. If not then that could potentially change the outcomes in some of the remaining presbyteries.

I also like the lobster analogy.

Craig Norton
Minnetonka MN

11:40 AM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger johnm said...

It would please me greatly if these dissenting churches, these malcontents, be sent on there way with all deliberate speed, with their property! This dispute over property is unseemly.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

8:10 PM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

Actually, John, y'all are the dissenters; you're the ones who are in the minority even of present Presbyterians, let alone if you include Presbyterians throughout the ages (and thus renounce chronological snobbery). You are the ones dissenting from the established position.

(The Rev.) Rob Harrison
First Presbyterian Church
Winona Lake, IN

9:02 PM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...


I'm sure that King David felt like you when "dissenting" Nathan brought up the awkward thing about Bathsheba.

King Herod certainly felt that way about the tiresome and "dissenting" Jesus guy, troubling his kingdom with talk of morality and living by the rules of God's Kingdom.

Yeah, these "dissenters" sure do make life tough for people who want to remake the church in their own corrupt image and do it unhindered. Wouldn't you love to be free of them, so you could plunder all the assets stored up in the PCUSA by generations of Presbyterians who truly believed--just like those pesky "dissenters" believe now?

Given the history of doctrine and belief, confession and standards of the PCUSA, wouldn't it be much more truthful to call those who want to change everything the "dissenters"--those who are the moral relativists and re-imaginers of all that has been believed and practiced?

Why is it that I hear the "open and welcoming" crowd so often trumpeting mean and dismissive talk such as yours--totally disdaining the Presbyterians who outnumber you 2:1 and who represent what the Presbyterian Church has always believed and practiced?

Should we who seek to retain all that is biblical and right in the face of a tremendous push to remake the church in the image of a fallen culture--should we so coldly dismiss our counterparts such as you with: "It would please us greatly if churches dissenting against Presbyterian ordination standards, these malcontents, be sent on their way with all deliberate speed, with their property! This dispute over immorality is unseemly"?

Or maybe we should do as the snarling commissioner did last summer at GA, when he said to evangelicals and conservatives something to the effect that "This is my idea of 'gracious separation': give us the keys on the way out!"

No. We have more class than that. We have more actual inclusiveness than that. We are--get this--more classically liberal than that.

Please don't use this blog to vent your callow and dismissive thoughts.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

9:18 PM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger Alan Trafford said...

This has nothing to do with the point at hand... but, when I was growing up in England, a gazillion years ago, to be called a 'Dissenter' was actually a positive thing. The non-conformist churches (mainly Congregational or Baptist), were proud to distance themselves from conformity with the Church of England.
I'm beginning to think that dissenting from the barrage of cultural and theological liberalism may not be a bad idea, either.
Alan Trafford
Lake Jackson, TX

9:08 AM, November 26, 2008  
Blogger Ray Bagnuolo said...

Dear Jim,

I am a minister of Word and Sacrament, ordained as an openly gay man in 2005, prior to PUP. Throughout my process, I made it clear that I could not abide by G-6.0106b, as a matter of conscience. I was not a child, at the time. In fact, I was in my mid-fifties. I was called to serve a congregation as a part-time interim. Over three years, we worshipped together, baptized several young children, buried more than a dozen members, and entered the Spirit together in the ways that any pastor, aware of the mystery of God, would do so: humbly and listening.

As I read your blog from time to time, I always read first how you describe yourself. I could say much of what you say about yourself – about me.

When I get to the comments, though, I wonder why folks are expending so much energy in opposition to people like me, not knowing much about who I am, or what I do, or how I live my life. Yet, because I am gay, I am a target. That is something that gives me pause, perhaps it gives pause to some of your readers, as well.

I wonder, too, about the many individuals and caring families that comment here or sit in your church and other pews that are struggling because their son or daughter, a friend, or others they know - good people whom they love - is gay. Is it possible that considering all we know, have read, and written that maybe God is giving such friends and children to us so that those who oppose and discriminate against LGBT people in God's church might change – not the other way around?

There will always be two sides to every bit of proof-texting, it is what books, seminaries, and good sermons are made of. Unfortunately, it is also what primary fund-raising efforts in many instances rely upon. We could easily pick out sections of the Bible that are no longer followed because they are clearly wrong and inappropriate for our day. Then there are some of those we keep…because they serve a purpose, a purpose not grounded in love.

My point in all this is that we have substituted love and honoring the continuing revelation of God's call to love serve one another, with a call to judgment and marginalization of others. If we can step beyond our fear to see that this is what we are doing, maybe, maybe we will find God in one another in ways that will heal us, allowing us to embrace one another rather than to aim at gay people as targets.

When that happens, I think, the Word and Sacrament will have changed the world, once again.

Raymond J. Bagnuolo
Minister of Word and Sacrament
Presbytery of Hudson River, NY

8:32 AM, November 29, 2008  
Blogger Albert Gillin said...

Some of us see the Apple Cup as a source of Divine Retribution over the Evil Empire (yes I am using evil in a rather tongue in cheek way and very loosely)! At least my two boys who were horse for days after a satisfying win in possibly the most miserable, poorly played (by both teams) game in AC history! If you ever need a sermon illustration on "A people without vision will perish" the 2008 AC provides it! Go Cougs!

Having said that Jim as always your analogy is spot on. It is interesting that people often take great offense to well done analogies, evidence of their rhetorical power.

On the original article thank you for your analysis. Two trends I noticed is that the margin of vote have tended to shrink as well as the total number of votes. It would be interesting to know whether that is a result of some of the votes coming at called meetings (that was the case in Central Washington); or if there are that many fewer votes due to membership losses; or if it is a sign of apathy due to already assumed outcomes; or weariness over the issue. My guess is it is a combination of the above factors.

11:44 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...


I want to thank you for the tone of your comments, even though I cannot agree with the content.

The problems in what you write are many, however. First, you have to insist on ignoring the obvious point of dispute: whether homosexual practice is biblically approved or disapproved. If a man having sex with a man or a woman having sex with a woman is either approved or immaterial, then, yes, most of what you say makes sense. But if it is indeed very much a sin, then what you say becomes meaningless.

You, obviously, would not call it a sin. That is your judgment--a judgment in opposition to the Bible (which you just cannot so blithely discard as you did in your comment) and contrary to several thousand years of Judeo-Christian moral belief and practice. I, on the other hand, will throw in my lot with an overwhelming argument from Scripture that identifies same-sex sexual behavior as sin. It's not ours to declare it not sin, when God has clearly and consistently called it sin.

Okay, so given that I am taking my cues from Scripture and not from either popular culture or my loins, what do you suggest I do with something blatantly a sin?

Do I ignore it, hoping God isn't watching and I can get away with such moral sloppiness?

Do I come out in favor of what God calls an abomination, basically throwing God under the bus in order to be considered cool and popular in today's gay-gaga society?

Do I cast good judgment aside and think that the LOVING thing to do is to mindlessly coddle sin and brokenness, rather than do the perilous and rather thankless task of trying to rescue those whose judgment is clouded by their own brokenness, to the point that they think the ONLY way to love them is to agree with them and leave them to their ways?

Do I selfishly fail to build in safeguards, but instead leave dear people to the consequences of their rebellion against God--much the same way I would be negligent to not build a fence around a yard where toddlers are playing, in order to indulge their great desire to run in the street? Wouldn't want to offend or restrict the precious little dears in any way--even those ways that save their lives!

What should I do, given the realistic view that homosexual practice is sin? I've decided to care enough not to indulge an easy lie, not to leave people to the dark consequences of deceptive mass illusions, not to consign homosexual persons to an empty wish that is deadly, both spiritually and even physically.

And so I stand as reasonably and firmly as I can for what is good and right and godly, because that rule--that law--is also benevolent and protective and redemptive.

The assumptions you make that one who believes and acts as I do must not love, must not really know any homosexual persons, is just living off of old stereotypes and dated prejudices, is fearful of people who are different or of change, and so on--well, they're just plain ignorant and deceptive assumptions. You don't know, but you assume motives and press theories that are incorrect and not useful to the debate.

You write, "Because I am gay, I am a target." That may be true when you're around ignorant hooligans who indulge in reprehensible gay bashing; that is not true when you're around thoughtful Presbyterians who seek to do what is right. You are not "a target" for opposition to your ordination because you are gay. The "target" language is a little overblown, but to use it, you are a "target" because you insist on continuing in a sinful behavior. You would be a "target" if you insisted on stealing from parishioners, cussing out the church secretary, or beating up elders. In each case, something a would-be leader is doing is not right; it is sin. And to insist on having a RIGHT to keep on so sinning AND be given responsibility to lead the church seems very odd. You are a "target" because of unconfessed serial sin. One would hope that every person who demands the "right" to continue sinning defiantly with the church's approval would likewise be "targeted" for opposition. Otherwise, why have any gatekeepers whatsoever if everyone gets his or her own special "Free Sinning" card?

The essence is this: Is homosexual practice sin, or is it not? That should be where our debate takes place, not all the stuff you bring up that ignores the essence of the matter.

If homosexual practice is not sin, I would agree with you 100%. But it is sin, and thus I couldn't disagree with you more.

You were ordained by a presbytery notorious for its abandonment of orthodox Christianity. You were in a safe haven for heterodoxy, the best place to practice sin with no one around who cares enough to warn you against it. That's sad.

For every way that you have pastored lovingly and effectively, that is the grace of God, who is able to redeem even what is not right. But for every sin you have passed off as goodness--especially when children are involved--there is that dreadful expectation of a millstone around your neck.

God's Word has final say, not our wish fulfillment. You would dearly LIKE for your sin to be okay. It's not. The sooner any of us understands that about our own self-deception, the sooner we can be forgiven and healed.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

8:54 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger paul buono said...


New poster here. As a new member of my church session I have seen first hand the total and complete lack of church discipline in this matter. As of this writing, we currently have two members who are unrepentant homosexuals, one an active elder, the other a former elder. The entire congregation knows this, and nothing is said. No challenge is raised during session meetings and the matter is never discussed. How do you defeat complete apathy?

Paul Buono
Staunton, Va

8:09 AM, January 16, 2009  
Blogger Jim said...


Welcome to the discussion. The circumstance you describe is not uncommon.

Probably we need a little more clarity, however. A person having homosexual leanings is not sinning, any more than a person having, say, anger-management temptations is not sinning--as long as the predilection doesn't become an act. But if that person is engaged in homosexual acts or the angry one starts hitting people, then the temptation has become an act and thus a sin. Controlled anger and controlled lust can keep one from sinning.

I’m assuming that the two elders to whom you refer are not simply homosexual by nature but also involved in homosexual sexual acts. If so, there is a problem. However, if they are homosexual in orientation but, with God’s help, remaining celibate and honorable, then they are to be applauded and encouraged. Theirs is a terribly difficult lot, and they should be accorded honor and support for doing the right thing, especially given the hand they have been dealt.

Now, about church discipline: It is terrible, wrenching, frustrating, costly work. Practically everybody finds it more convenient to ignore the problem, rather than roll up one’s sleeves and do the hard emotional work of seeking to correct the problem. We loathe being considered unloving or hard-nosed. We don’t relish the ticklish and personal nature of the discipline process. Plus, those who have watched some Permanent Judicial Cases also are aware of how ridiculous and arbitrary some of the rulings have been, making the whole arduous process of discipline a bad joke and absolutely futile. So people hesitate to get involved.

However, love doesn’t let inconvenience or hardship get in the way of at least attempting a rescue. Faith doesn’t let God’s gracious rule be mocked. Leadership doesn’t just stand by while evil happens. So some solid believers take a deep breath and jump into the troubled waters by bringing up what is wrong and seeking to make it right.

That sounds like it may be necessary in your situation, Paul. Perhaps God has made you an elder for just such a time as this! You can find help and counsel at the Presbyterian Coalition web site:

I would encourage you at every step to make love your motivation. What is godly and right is loving, even when it is difficult. God DOES know best, and directing people toward God's will is an entirely loving and caring thing to do. But not if it is done for any motivaton other than love.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

12:12 PM, January 16, 2009  
Blogger WLW said...

Raymond Begnuolo,
Technically I should have prefaced that with the term "Reverend" but I just couldn't do it to a purportedly ordained individual who chose to scruple G-6.0106b because he couldn't abide the rules. Rules are tough, as is the road to salvation.

That aside it was your last sentence that caught my attention when you stated, in part, "....,I think, the Word and Sacrament will have changed the world, once again." I believe that's the way that change is supposed to happen, not the world changing the Word and Sacrament - and that seems to be what you are suggesting and apparently practicing.

Wayne L. Warren
1st Presbyterian Church of Van Wert, OH

11:05 AM, February 11, 2010  

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