Posted by: gmscan | May 26, 2011

New Ordination Standards

The Presbyterian Church USA has voted to abandon the existing standards for ordination for pastors and officers.  It will remove the current language that states:

“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, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to re-pent 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.”

And replace it with this:

“Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation 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.  Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”

This new wording is similar to language that has been proposed and rejected four times in the past 15 years. It was sold as allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors. It was said that failure to approve the new language amounts to discrimination against homosexuals. The argument was accompanied by video advertisements of freshly scrubbed gay families being shunned by church members. See this on the Naming His Grace blog.

This is the kind of propaganda one expects in political campaigns, but is jarring in a religious context. It belittles and demonizes anyone who does not agree with a certain agenda. Conservative Christians are not accustomed to being attacked this way by people who also claim to be following Christ.

Plus, it is off the point. It is a strawman. The issue is not about who is allowed to worship in the church, but who should lead the flock.

Each of us is a sinner. Homosexuality is clearly a sin — In Romans 1:26-27 Paul writes:

“For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

But there are many other sins as well. Paul goes on to say:

“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28-31).

At the same time, Paul was equally clear on warning the rest of us against judging others:

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, everyone one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1-2)

Judgment belongs only to God, not to us, and there is no sin beyond forgiveness, if we repent of it.

So homosexuals are deserving of the very same acceptance we all expect in the church. We can only pray that they are aware of and repentant of their sin. But it is not for us to know that. It is between God and the sinner. I believe that is the view of the overwhelming majority of reformed Christians.

But ordaining an unrepentant sinner is a different matter entirely. We should expect a higher standard of behavior from the shepherd than from the sheep.

Plus, this is not just about homosexuality, but about chastity and fidelity. The new wording removes any standard whatsoever. So a new pastor could be a serial adulterer and that would be okay, too. In fact, the new wording makes all decisions about ordination political ones. As long as a candidate is charming and can effectively lobby the “governing body,” anyone can be ordained.

Many, many members of the church are deeply concerned about this. See the letters to the Layman Online website. The response from the advocates of the change is that the issue is now settled and it is time for unity. But the same people had no such desire for unity in the past when they lost the vote.

There have been even worse responses from the advocates. There is a tone of triumphant contempt for people who tried to be faithful to Scripture and opposed this change. It reminds me mostly of the contempt shown by progressives when they won the 2008 election. Once again, it is progressive politics taking over this church rather than any attempt to discern God’s will.

And this is just one smallish act in an ongoing effort to conform the church to the secular politics of the day. And it sounds a whole lot like the Obama Administration where the rule of law is replaced with the whim of man.



  1. Sex can be addictive, whether it is between a male and female or 2 of the same gender.
    I don’t know if the Bible has anything to say about sex betwee a man and woman when the woman is past child-bearing age.
    But, I think a stroing position can be taken that sex in that situation, even if married, is done more for lust and relief of anxiety, than love for one another.
    There are many ways to express love, even between married people, in addition to, and even exclusive of, sex.
    God is to be our first love, way ahead of number 2.
    Don Levit

  2. Greg, you have said this so well and you are so right on the money! My own denomination is a few years behind yours on this issue, but it’s coming. Fidelity to biblical standards in the face of what can only be labeled political correctness is hard but necessary.

  3. “…henceforth they shall be one flesh.” Many sermons have been preached on oneness of man and wife including physical, mental, spiritual. IMO, excluding it for sole emphasis on procreation amounts to using, not loving; and excludes the barren/impotent from this gift of God to marriage.
    Greg, I’m with you in hating that the world invades the church this way. Have you been able to rally and help your fellow church members respond biblically to this PC attack?

  4. Abby, thank you for your comment. I am trying, but I am still a newcomer to this church. If necessary I will find a church that is more faithful.

    • As always, Greg, best wishes to you in your journey, from another in the same Way!

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