Amendment 10A, What it Means (and What it Doesn’t)

For those interested in the Presbyterian Church (USA), get ready for a barrage of news reports.  I expect by late spring or early summer the more responsible news outlets will write headlines with something to the effect of, “Presbyterian Church approves ordaining gays” while the more incendiary news outlets will print headlines like, “Presbyterians approve ordaining unrepentant homosexuals!”    For those who have not been following it so closely, the Presbyterian Church’s last General Assembly approved an overture which would give ordaining bodies the authority to determine whether candidates are fit for ordination.  This is nothing new.  Amendments have been proposed doing such at every General Assembly since the specific prohibition against “unrepentant homosexuals ” was inserted in the late 1990s. What is new is that this year is that a majority of the presbyteries are voting to approve.  If current voting patterns continue, the change will soon come into effect.

What this means is that ordaining bodies (churches in the case of elders and deacons and presbyteries in the case of lay ministers and minsters of word and sacrament) are now the ones who will determine if a potential candidate is “joyfully submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”  This means governing bodies will no longer be specifically tasked to focus on one aspect of a person’s life (their sexuality) while not being specifically tasked to focus on others (choose one of myriad items our confessions call sin).  In practice, what this will mean is that some churches and presbyteries will likely see some gay candidates for ordination as achieving the standard while many others will still see someone living an active homosexual lifestyle as not meeting the standard.   We won’t be in lockstep uniformity on this issue.

Conservative congregations (and presbyteries) probably won’t see this issue directly come forth before them frequently, if at all.  For progressive congregations and presbyteries, it will open the door to what has been specifically barred.

I have good friends who are both for and against this amendment in the church.  I respect both.  Nevertheless, I am glad the amendment passed.  I was never comfortable with specifically lifting up “the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” as a requirement for ordination when the purpose was to aim it at less than 10% of the population while bypassing the other 90+ percent.  In all my time as a minister, I never have heard of G6.0106b being used to question a heterosexual.  I strongly suspect in the church we have far more heterosexual church officers failing to abide by this standard than homosexuals.    It is just a basic fairness issue.

I hope that with this change, we can move forward together, even if some brothers and sisters (and even some congregations) move to other branches of Christ’s Church.  Again, in effect, I don’t see this changing what most people experience in their local churches.  Nevertheless, I see this as a step forward for Presbyterians.

What do you think?  Until next time,

Tom

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5 thoughts on “Amendment 10A, What it Means (and What it Doesn’t)

  1. By the term “progressive” do you mean liberal as compared to conservative? I am not sure what the term “progressive” means.

    I agree that we Presbyterians have been focusing on all the wrong things for so long that we seem to forget it really is all about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!! Why can’t we just agree to disagree and move on without all the ill will?

    1. @ Chuck. I never use the term liberal in the church. People hear “liberal” and all of a sudden these adjectives come to mind, “big government, taxes, Democrats, atheists, not patriotic, not fiscally minded, etc.” In church circles, “liberal” can also mean, “doesn’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, believes all religions are equally valid, is squishy on any standards, etc.” I just see “liberal” as such a loaded term where “conservative” is a moniker many proudly wave.

      Instead, I take this approach. I see some Christians as focused on grace and upon the plight of the poor and suffering. I call such “progressives.” I see some Christians as focused on maintaining the uniqueness of our faith and upon God’s call to us to be a righteous people. I call such people “conservatives.” The vital thing is that both are needed in the Church. It isn’t an either/or proposition.

      And I completely agree with you that we really need to focus on Jesus Christ being our Lord and Savior and be the people he calls us to be. Hopefully we will move forward from here.

      Thanks for the comments.

  2. This will be taxing the Church of Scotland General Assembly this year after a two year internal debate. While I would find it hard to call – I do agree that the split standard of the expectations of homosexual vs heterosexual behaviour needs to be addressed.

  3. My comments are not 100% qualified for your consideration since I am not a full member of a Presbyterian church, but here’s my $0.02:

    I have heard many good thoughts, seen many good deeds, and been taught things from from a variety of people in my life…spiritually speaking. I am talking about things Jesus valued. God has had a mixed (and sometimes surprising) way of teaching me Jesus’ values through more than one method: through the main places like the Bible, preachers, and his people in the church, to atheists, and people from religions I consider quite different from my own. I have grown in my walk with God by learning from sources I trust and am comfortable with, and even from the most unlikely of places.

    No man or woman is perfect, and we all have sin…some more public than others. Peter and Paul had his issues, along with many of the Apostles, but they went on to lead. It’d be nice (if a bit odd) if we could all have Jesus as our church pastor, but instead we have to deal with imperfect people.

    To get down to the overall issue though, my point would be for congregations to ask themselves what exactly a pastor should do. Is it to be perfect? Is it to help others understand how God loves them? Is it a Bible teacher? Is it to provide as best example of a Christian that exists? I don’t know the answer for everyone.

    For me, it’s someone trustworthy and genuine… someone who is trying their honest best to live as God would have them, and that they have the love that inspires others to grow together as a church towards God’s purpose for His people.

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