In response to the More Light Presbyterian declaration that the change in PCUSA ordination standards was an historic moment not only in the life of our denomination but also in the worldwide Christian communion, I wrote in Part1 about how this indeed brings sweeping change into the PCUSA. In this post I want to consider how this is an historic moment in relation to the worldwide Christian communion.
The PCUSA has joined 3 other American denominations (the UCC, Episcopal Church, and ELCA) in embracing homosexuality as a lifestyle blessed by God. Rounding upwards generously, this group represents a maximum of 10 million people. Estimates place the worldwide Christian population at roughly 2.1 billion people. There are a few other Western denominations which support the ordination of practicing homosexuals, so let’s add another 10 million to cover liberal, post-Christian Protestant Europe. That means that with our recent vote, the PCUSA has moved from siding in this matter with 99.1% of the institutional church on earth to that representing 0.9%. I’d say that qualifies as a momentous change and historic moment for the PCUSA, but it hardly registers on the scale statistically for the worldwide church. Even if you lump all 2 million Presbyterians in the pro-homosexual ordination category (which is obviously not the case), we PCUSAers account for less than a one tenth of one percent shift of view in the worldwide Church on this matter. Hardly historic.
What is historic, however, is that by our action we have now alienated ourselves from the vast majority of our brothers and sisters around the globe. Already many of our sister Presbyterian and Reformed denominations in other parts of the world had warned us that they could no longer partner with us in mission should we take this step. Some of the same denominations informed us that in making this decision we would break fellowship with them because of our endorsement of homosexual behavior as normative while they remain convinced that it is a sin. Numerous missions agencies and organizations have also indicated that they can no longer partner with us.
The PCUSA liberal wing has long reproached us as a denomination for failing to be inclusive of all who want to be part of the church, meaning in particular the LGBT crowd (small as it is). But now in the process of welcoming them in to “full” fellowship, we have slammed the door shut on much vaster numbers of fellow Christians around the world who feel we have left the communion of the orthodox. In our drive to become inordinately inclusive, we have (wittingly or unwittingly) become highly exclusive. Our leadership seems proud of this, apparently believing we are in the vanguard of a new movement of the Spirit that will someday sweep across the globe and convert the backward, pre-modern, unscientific, biased two-thirds world Christians who are not yet as wise and advanced as we are spiritually. I am appalled by our hubris. Instead of heeding the vast super-majority of global Christians on matters of sexual ethics, we have argued that we know better than 99% of our brothers and sisters. We have thumbed our nose at all the generations of God’s people at least since the giving of the Law to Israel, arguing that we have more light. Over 3,000 years of revelation, history and tradition, none of which offers any shred of support to the moral normalization of homosexual behavior, we have cast to the wind. We live in a sex-drenched culture where homosexuality has now become a cause celebre among our avant-garde classes, yet we become offended when others suggest that perhaps our decision reflects more the winds of a decadent culture more than the wind of the Spirit. We are the blind who claim to see more clearly than anyone else.
One last point. In this historic moment, we have rendered ourselves missionally irrelevant to the largest single group in need of the gospel worldwide. We may reach the liberal elite of the West with an attenuated message that God loves everyone just as they are (hardly a message of salvation), but by clearly standing for homosexuality as a blessing from God we raise in insurmountable barrier to reaching the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today. Should we engage a Muslim in evangelistic dialogue (speaking in wild hypotheticals for us PCUSAers) and he discovers that we are Presbyterian, and asks, “Does your denomination accept homosexuality as OK with God?, and we answer, “Yes,” he will say, “Why should I listen to any message from you? I already know God’s will that homosexuality is immoral. If you are telling me that your Jesus approves of this, then I have nothing to learn from you. Instead, you must listen to me!”
May God bring us back to our senses in this next year. If not, may He come and remove our lampstand before we do too much damage to the cause of the Kingdom.