Speaking the Truth in Love: An Ongoing Call
Northminster’s Response to the Recent 2011 Amendment to the Constitution of the PC(USA)
Recently, our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), approved a constitutional amendment changing a key paragraph in our Book of Order that details the standards of ordination in our denomination. A majority of the presbyteries, around the country, have voted to replace specific language about standards for those being ordained to leadership (deacons, elders, and pastors) with a new paragraph that allows for interpretive variance, as applied in each local jurisdiction (ie., church, presbytery, synod).
This is the specific paragraph (G-6.0106b) that has been deleted:
“Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”
This paragraph has now been replaced with this new wording:
“Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”
This amendment, in and of itself, changes nothing for those who remain committed to upholding historic, orthodox teaching. And yet, with the specific language change, congregations in the PC (USA) are now free to ordain people in a variety of sexual relationships that have not been historically affirmed. With this change, there is now no stated sexual behavior standard for persons becoming ordained in church leadership.
It is important to understand that each local jurisdiction of church governance, for example, our own Northminster congregation, is empowered to make its own determination as to ordination standards, as described in the new wording above. To be clear: passage of this amendment does not mandate the ordination of elders, deacons and pastors living in sexual relationships which have not been historically supported by the church — although it might erroneously be interpreted or communicated that way by the media or others.
What are the implications for Northminster Church?
In short, this will not change how we do church! While we do not support this constitutional change, we remain committed to the great ends of the church, which includes upholding the historic, time-honored standards of biblical guidance that have been given to us over the hundreds of years of Christian tradition.
As a Confessing Church of the PC (USA), Northminster seeks to be diligent in serving with and among our sisters and brothers in our Presbytery de Cristo and denomination. We have also formed edifying and helpful partnerships with those throughout our denomination who speak up for biblical standards and orthodoxy, including Presbyterians for Renewal, Presbyterian Global Fellowship, among others. We remain committed to being a church that takes a stand, but does so in a loving way — that glorifies God, gives witness to biblical standards and welcomes all with a gracious heart. If you would like to learn more about our Confessing Church stance, you can stop by the office, or check out our website (npctucson.org) to learn more.
We celebrate the privilege of being Presbyterian, and being linked to one another in our connectional, broader church. Moreover, we celebrate that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, and that his Word is our guide and truth for living and sharing the gospel. While we struggle with this change — we would encourage all of us to pray. We would also encourage all of us to ask for wisdom and God’s leading as we strive to be a faithful agent of Christ’s peace and hope, in our own congregation, but also in the broader church and community.
Speaking and living by God’s truth, but also in love, is a tall order! The other day a wise grandmother in our church quickly related to one of us the situation of her daughter and live-in boyfriend. She described this difficult issue, and said quite directly: “I don’t approve of the situation — and my daughter knows it — but I love my daughter and will not lose her over this.”
Let’s seek that wisdom which is from God — and do so, together. We are part of a wonderful church family and tradition that has been instrumental in spreading the mission of Christ to the world. Let us look to our Lord who is faithful and who will lead us ever onward!
Andy Ross, Ken Skodiak, Pete Seiferth & John Cheek