Historic Moments, Part 2


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.

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17 Responses to Historic Moments, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Putting the Passage of Amendment 10-A for Christians Worldwide in Statistical Perspective

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Mateen: Thank you SO much for sharing this post and your May 14th “part 1” post. Your continued leadership and voice in our denomination and the Christian church globally are vital, and I deeply appreciate the time, thought and effort you put in to sharing these posts. I wrote a post linking to you and (hopefully) amplifying some of what you have written here which will hopefully reach many others interested in these issues as well as the overall mission of the church internationally.

    http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2011/05/15/putting-the-passage-of-amendment-10-a-for-christians-worldwide-in-statistical-perspective/

    I attended church today at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lubbock, Texas, and pastor Baron Eliason also shared his wish that members of our denomination gather together to prayerfully consider our “next steps.”

    Please continue to share your thoughts and ideas here in this blog space, as well as in the other venues where God enables you to speak, teach and write. Your prayerful and inspired leadership is a beacon of hope in these dark times, and I thank God for the mighty ways he continues to use you for His glory.

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Wes,
      Thanks for spreading the word, and for your encouragement regarding my thoughts. As the saying goes, “We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”

      Like

  3. Glen Hallead says:

    Mateen,

    Thanks for your faithfulness. He IS able, there is no doubt. And so, as He did over Jerusalem, so again he weeps… “if only they knew…”

    Keep the faith, raise the banner, shout the victory!

    Like

  4. John Wilks says:

    As a United Methodist pastor who is watching this unfold, knowing that many in my own denomination would have us follow in the PCUSA’s footsteps, I simply want to say that the faithful, orthodox remnant of Presbyterians will be in my prayers as you all discern from God how to best respond.

    I also want to thank you, Mateen, for framing the issue so clearly, Biblically, and powerfully in these two posts. I hope many in my denomination can benefit from your wisdom!

    Grace and Peace be with you!

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Thank you, John, for taking the time to read these posts, for sharing your thoughts and for committing to keeping us in your prayers! May the Lord preserve the UMC!

      By the way, are you aware of the ministry of The IRD? Mark Tooley and others are working hard to keep the masses of the UMC aware of the pressures and encroachments of present-day culture?

      Blessings to you and your ministry.

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  5. John Wilks says:

    Mateen, yes, I read IRD’s material and I’m glad they are around, though sometimes I think they confuse theological conservatism with political conservatism. The two don’t always agree. (Some of us evangelicals are far less hawkish on war and far more open to social safety net programs than the NeoCons Mr. Tooley seems to favor.)

    The Good News movement and the Confessing Movement in the UMC also provide a great deal of info and advocacy for orthodoxy- and a newer blog called Methodist Thinker does a great job too!

    Like

  6. Deborah Milam Berkley says:

    Great framing of the situation in both a worldwide and a chronological context! It’s such hubris on the part of the revisionists to think they know better than the huge majority of people both elsewhere and in other times. Your point about missional relevancy is excellent, too, though it may be lost on the revisionists, who are just as likely to say that Islam is just another equally valid path to God, so it doesn’t matter if Muslims don’t want to hear the Gospel; they already have a good religion.

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  7. Pingback: Around the Web | Denominational Updates from First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen

  8. Carolyn Nystrom says:

    Preach it, Brother!

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Carolyn, it’s so good to hear from you! I hope you’re well and that Immanuel is thriving. Thanks for the latest book from you and Mark a few months ago. I marvel at your literary capacity, and am thankful for your generosity! Please keep us in prayer as we enter the fray afresh in the coming months.

      Like

  9. Arthur says:

    That’s an interesting piece of nonsense you’ve put together. It’s almost as if you really want us to believe that only 0.9% of the world’s Christian population believes in equality for the LGBT community. You might have half a shot at best at being correct if you restrict your analysis only to those who are currently in church leadership positions, but any notion that tries to extend beyond that is simple nonsense. It might be interesting to see you put this into proper perspective by, say, comparing the numbers relating to the LGBT ordination issue to the numbers relating to the Women’s ordination issue.

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Arthur, I’m consoled by the fact that though you think my post nonsensical, at least you found it interesting. Let me offer you some responses to your thoughts. I didn’t say that only .9% of the world’s Christian population believes in equality for the LGBT community. I think that the vast, vast majority of Christians would argue that those in the LGBT community are equally as sinful as the rest of the human race. The doctrine of total depravity is a great equalizer for us all. The question is whether homosexual practice is categorized as sinful or not. Here, I would stand behind these statistics, not quibbling over a few percentage points. I’m wondering whether you have much experience with Christians from cultures other than the West, which are where the large majority of the world’s Christian population resides. Even in Americanized ethnic Christian communities, one finds extremely high percentages of resistance to our denomination’s capitulation to the nonbiblical world view on sexualtiy which infuses our culture. Look at the Korean Presbyterian churches, the Hispanic, the Native American — all of them are largely united in their opposition to the direction our church has now taken. If such ethnic believers, immersed in our permissive culture, can feel so strongly, you can imagine what their compatriots back in their homelands think of this matter. Perhaps you dismiss my perspective as simple nonsense because you have little interaction with Chrsitian communities in other parts of the world — I don’t know this of course, I’m only guessing. But your cavalier response makes me wonder at this. With regard to a comparison of the LGBT ordination issue with that of women’s ordination, I don’t think such an approach would be useful. The worldwide church has never held it to be sinful to practice being a woman; the issue for some traditionally has been the belief that there is a gender order of authority, and thus only men should serve as “priests” representing Jesus Christ, but never has the question been whether women are sinful as such and so incapable of being ordained. On the other hand, there has never been a time that the greater church normalized homosexual behavior — it has always been seen as sin, which if not repented of disqualifies one from ordained service, in the same way that any sin which one refuses to repent of disqualifies that individual from ordained service.

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  10. P. J. Southam says:

    The Disciples of Christ denomination also ordains as ministers homosexuals. This isn’t as widely known as the other three denominations that you mentioned.

    Like

  11. Mateen, when are you going to post again? Miss your thoughts. Larry

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  12. Pingback: ISIS Is to Islam What Same-Sex Marriage Is to Christianity??? | the personal blog of Mateen Elass

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