Scott Anderson’s Objection Based on Conscience

This is Scott Anderson’s “scruple,” or objection based on conscience, to Article G-6.0106b of the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Book of Order, which has long been used to exclude openly gay and lesbian people from being deemed acceptable for ordination. It was due in large part to this document that Scott Anderson became the first openly gay man ordained for ministry by Presbyterian (U.S.A.).

Affirmation of Conscience Regarding G-6.0106b

Scott D. Anderson

With this statement I declare to the Presbytery of John Knox my affirmation of conscience regarding article G-6.0106b of the PC (USA) Book of Order:

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 article has often been read as effectively excluding from consideration for ordained office gay and lesbian Christians in covenanted, lifelong partnerships. I do not believe this categorical exclusion is either biblical or faithful.

It is a serious step for me to affirm conscience in opposition to our church’s ordination standards, and not something I undertake lightly. I am proceeding forward with this step with profound respect for those who affirm the current teaching of our church regarding ordination, and in the firm belief that my theological position and manner of life do not undermine the essential tenets of Reformed faith and polity.

1. We are created for relationship

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (‘ezer) as his partner. (Gen. 2:18)

The opening chapters of Genesis remind us of the goodness of creation. But there is one aspect of the creation that God declares not good: human beings living in isolated loneliness, without a suitable companion. The text is not exclusionary; the possibility of relationship is God’s good and gracious gift to all human beings, the result of divine discontent with the way things are in creation, and God’s work in fashioning a “partner” to make things the way they ought to be as a sign of redemption.

The apostolic witness reminds us that Christians may also freely choose a life of singleness and life­ long celibacy.  I do not possess such a vocation; like most Christians, I am called to a life of partnership as described in Genesis. The Protestant Reformers argued strenuously on the basis of Scripture (e. g. Matt. 19:10-12, I Cor. 7:7-9) that it was unrealistic and unfaithful to impose a universal requirement of celibacy on an entire class of people (the clergy). The Larger Catechism forbids “entangling vows of single life” (7.249).  I believe these arguments apply equally well to lesbian and gay believers, including those who are called to ordained ministry.

2.  Marriage: The image of self-giving love that unites Christ with the Church

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

John Calvin teaches that we need to interpret the biblical commandments “with reference to the purpose of the Lawgiver” (Institutes II.viii.6).  I believe the highest purpose intended by God for the institution of marriage is summarized in Ephesians 5:31-32, which describes how the love and faithfulness characterizing the marital bond is to be a kind of icon or image of the redeeming, self-­ giving love that unites Christ with the church.

I believe life-long covenanted gay and lesbian partnerships can likewise arise from Christ’s redeeming, self-giving love and serve as icons or images of that love to the world.

I believe that the biblical passages cited as prohibiting same-gender sexual expression (Gen. 19:1- 29; Judges 19:1-30, Lev. 18:1-30,20:1-27, I Cor. 6:9-17, I Tim. 1:3-13, Jude 1-25, and Rom. 1:26-27) were given with reference to the types of same-gender sexual activity that were prevalent in the ancient world. Such relationships functioned overwhelmingly as expressions of exploitation and power over inferiors or else were an aspect of sexual idolatry.

These forms of same-gender sexual expression familiar to the biblical writers were thus absolutely incompatible with the kind of sanctified, self-giving love that God intends as the purpose of the marital bond. Because of this, the biblical writers were obviously being faithful in portraying such relationships as disordered and incompatible with Christian discipleship. I do not believe, however, that a faithful reading of Scripture can responsibly treat covenanted, faithful lifelong gay and lesbian partnerships as being the same thing that the biblical writers rightly condemn.

God has blessed me with a faithful and loving partner who has been an integral part of my life for the past 19 years. In our life together we have sought to cultivate the kind of fidelity and love and self-giving that the Bible lifts up as God’s loving intention for married couples.

Obviously our relationship is not identical to a heterosexual marriage in all respects, inasmuch as natural procreation is not an option for us. The Confession of 1967 affirms that marriage is not only for the purpose of procreation and child rearing, but also a “commitment to a mutually shared life” (9:47). In this regard, I would hope the church’s pastoral stance towards us would be the same as it is toward heterosexual couples who are infertile or past the age of childbearing. Like many childless couples, my partner and I can find other ways to participate in the generative work of the Creator.

3. God’s call to gay and lesbian Christians

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34)

I believe that the Holy Spirit is the giver of the deep faith, love and devotion to God exhibited by gay and lesbian believers who seek to live out God’s call in the context of faithful, covenanted, life­ long partnerships.

I believe that in giving these spiritual gifts to gay and lesbian believers, God acts in a manner consistent with the work of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 10, 11 and 15.  The Holy Spirit revealed to the early church God’s acceptance in Christ of an entire group of people-the Gentiles-who had been traditionally excluded from the community of faith. God’s acceptance of this people included a calling to positions of leadership within the church.

4. The unfaithful consequences of categorical exclusion

I believe when the church categorically excludes people such as myself from consideration for ordination, the message it sends to gay and lesbian believers everywhere is that no matter how hard we might work and strive to conform our lives to the shape of the Gospel, we are disqualified on the basis of unchosen aspects of who we are from ever being able to respond to the call of God. This comes dangerously close, I believe, to telling gay and lesbian believers that Jesus Christ has nothing to offer people like me.  As such it is the antithesis of the Gospel message I find proclaimed in the Scriptures, of a Savior who invites all to follow and to put their hope and trust in him.

5. The witness of the Confessions

The testimony of the Book of Confessions on same-gender relations is not entirely clear-cut. The English translation of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism currently in use by the PC (USA) suggests that those guilty of “homosexual perversion” will not be saved (4.087).  As recognized by the 2008 General Assembly of the PC (USA), however, this reference to homosexuality does not appear in the catechism as originally written, nor does it appear in any translation other than the one that appears in the Book of Confessions.  The 2008 General Assembly has rightly called for a study to recommend a more accurate translation of this Catechism.

The 1647 Westminster Larger Catechism lists “sodomy, and all unnatural lusts” among a great many specific sins forbidden by the seventh commandment (4.087), but it is not at all clear that the term is directly transferable to contemporary  discussions of same-gender relationships. In understandings of sodomy common in the 17th century, this sin would include any form of sexual expression that violates “nature’s aim” of procreation, including the use of artificial birth control.

Even if one assumes the direct applicability of these confessional statements to contemporary discussions, however, it is clear that the aim of the confessions as a whole is to echo the biblical witness, which condemns the exploitative and idolatrous same-gender behaviors that were predominant in the ancient world.  I fully support our church’s confessions as they give voice to this biblical teaching. But I do not believe the behaviors referenced by these condemnations are the same thing as the faithful, covenanted, life-long same-gender partnerships that we see in today’s world among gay and lesbian Christians.

6. Summary

I affirm the authority of Scripture and our obligation as Christians to follow its teaching in all aspects of our lives, including our sexuality. I believe that all Christians are called to lives of holiness and faithfulness that glorify God and give concrete expression to our calling as followers of Christ. I affirm the pattern that Scripture sets out for sexual morality.

But I also believe that the categorical prohibition contained in G-6.0106b represents a grievous misapplication of biblical teaching in the case of gay and lesbian believers who are in faithful, covenanted, lifelong partnerships. For the reasons stated above, I believe this misinterpretation of the biblical witness is unfaithful to God’s loving intentions for humankind, and seriously undermines the church’s gospel witness to gay and lesbian persons. I cannot in Christian conscience support it.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Allie

    This is beautiful. I plan to read it many times and pass it along.

  • Joe Lang

    Wow. Just wow, dude.

    Very cogent, very articulate and well presented arguments.

    I myself am agnostic. But I celebrate your clear and well reasoned defense of who a loving God would be and how he would act towards all his children.

    You represent your God most profoundly and well.

  • relevantpreach

    John, thank you for sharing Scott’s scruple. I agree that it is well written.

    I am grieved by this though, as a Christian Presbyterian Pastor, and not because of the homosexuality issue that others are jumping on. I am grieved that Scott worked in so many different leadership positions to bring about his agenda in order to again seek ordination.

    Let me explain: I am in close relationship with Reformed Evangelical Churches in both Cameroon and Ethiopia Africa. In both cases, during visits there, I have been in discussion with the church leadership. In both areas, I have run into the same problem in church leadership.

    In a church in Jimma, Ethiopia, I asked who the strongest spiritual leader was in the church, and a man named Zode was named. I asked if he was currently serving as an elder. They explained that he could not serve as an elder because he had more than one wife. He was married to three different women, which is culturally acceptable there, and all three marriages took place prior to his conversion to the Christian faith. Now that he was Christian, it is clear in Scripture that a leader in the church is husband to only one wife – so he is disqualified from leadership. If he divorces two of the wives to comply with the leadership mandate, he is committing the sin of adultery (since the divorce would not be due to unfaithfulness by the women). So he would again be disqualified from leadership. Unlike Scott, he is not seeking to bring his point of view on acceptable relationships before the church, but living as one saved by Grace. When this agenda driven ordination is communicated to our brothers and sisters in Africa, they will have to deal with this in a very different context. See, Zode could follow in the steps of Scott and seek to reform the church by getting placed on committees or task forces, due to his knowledge and the respect others have for him. Zode could work to make changes so it became possible for Christian brothers and sisters who had polygamous marriages could be considered for ordination. But unlike Scott, he sees that it would cause pain and division in the church. Unlike Scott, he is choosing not to seek acceptance by man, but to grow in his acceptance by God. In doing so, Zode is actually promoting peace and unity in the church.

    I know that concept is foreign to the American Church these days, and social issues are the buzz words or issues of the times. But if the real point of Scott’s own task force was to promote peace, purity, and unity within the Presbyterian church USA, I would say that they have failed on two fronts. The Presbyterian Church is more divided than ever, and there is no trust between the theological poles.

    So I am grieved to see the denomination split, to see that many think that this social justice issue will help reverse the death spiral that the Presbyterian Church USA has been in for over 50 years, and to think that there are brothers and sisters in Africa whom we could learn from, but we will discount their beliefs and examples because they are seen as less “educated” than the wise Americans. You know, the ones with the dying churches, the internal strife and division, and the ones who can’t trust one another…the wise and educated Christian Presbyterians. I hope that in the midst of celebrating that many will stop and grieve the division multiplying within a once great denomination. I wish Scott all the best in his leadership. I pray for him often and pray for his congregation. But I also see the division, unhealth, and pain coming down the pike for the denomination, and can’t help but weep.

    • Christy

      Relevantpreach, your response is very interesting to me, particularly as a former Presbyterian (which, admittedly, was a middle point on my journey from Christian Fundamentalism to the UCC). I’m wondering, though, if you see any relevance in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “We Shall Overcome” speech and his writings on justice to the topic at hand. While your grief over the divide within your denomination is understandable certainly given your position within it, what I see in your response to Scott Anderson’s scruple is an implication that the unity of the denomination is of more import than the cause of justice and human equality. Respectfully, I have difficulty seeing that God cares as much about the survival of the Presbyterian denomination as God does about human justice and equality, especially given all that God has to say in scripture about Justice. It seems you have framed your statement here in such a way that sums up the issue at hand within the church as not one of human injustice based on an immutable characteristic but as one of a choice of marriage partner. I am wondering if you would be willing to expand your thoughts on that?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Christy: Man, you’re patient.

        • Christy

          I just told him that tone of voice is what gets you canned on the main article and that ego is what we have to check at the door of compassion. No good blowing it if I can’t practice what I preach.

        • relevantpreach

          John, I am sorry to see this post. It again clarifies for me that you only want people commenting on your blog who will fall in step with what you are sharing. It also seems that you are right in your own mind, and therefore all other opinions are wrong. If I am wrong in this, then I apologize. But, since you call those who disagree “the crazies” and since you feel that your supporters are more patient than you would be makes me come to my assumption.

          With that knowledge, I am sure you will not want to read the rest of this post. Because you might want to check your accuracy with your story about Scott Anderson. The 2006 GA of the PC(USA) was not the first to allow for scruples as you describe in your article. The scruple has been allowed in the Presbyterian Church since it has been here in America. It has been used prior to this case. The 2006 PUP report sought to clarify something that they felt needed to be clarified…which by the way was not their charter as a task force when they were appointed. How do I know this, because I did my homework years ago and I scrupled the Westminster confession during my ordination examination – for in the Westminster Confession it does not allow for the ordination of women. I scrupled it and the committee which examined me did not see my scruple as a wide enough departure from orthodox belief to disqualify me from ordination. I am glad for that. But, to mislead your readership with information that makes Scott Anderson seem like he was part of a group which broke ground historically is not historically accurate. Please share accurate information in the future with your stories.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Mr. Anderson read the story before I published it, and said I’d gotten everything just right. If it’s okay with you, I’ll go ahead and believe him on that.

          • relevantpreach

            As a career writer and journalist, shouldn’t you research it for yourself? Your source of truth, Mr. Anderson, also said that he was in compliance with standards for ordination within the PC(USA) during his first stint as pastor in the denomination. But he was not quite being upfront and honest. And before everyone jumps back on my case, this is a comment on his honesty and integrity, not sexuality.

            And if you did not see it, you should go watch his interview from today on CNN. It was great for him as a pastor to clarify that there was no longer a right and a wrong view with regards to interpretation of Scripture. All of the early church leaders rolled over in their grave. Again, when ethically a leader can’t claim integrity, there is a problem. When that leader is in the church, there is a bigger problem.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Yes, we get it. You think the sky is falling. Concern noted.

          • relevantpreach

            No, I don’t think the sky is falling. Rather, I know that humanity is fallen. And I celebrate the victory and transformation that comes in Christ.

          • Christy

            So, you are a woman?

      • relevantpreach

        Christy,

        Thank you for your comment. I grew up UCC and that is the denomination in which my father was a pastor. I chose the Presbyterian Church because of the solid reformed theology and the view of Scripture within it. I am glad to hear that that is where you have found your spiritual home. My dad would be excited.

        In response to your reply, let me explain – I am much MORE concerned about justice and much less concerned about denominational unity. In fact, what you will find in the PCUSA right now is that the progressive leadership is calling for unity for the sake of unity, while the conservative leadership is calling for purity and pointing back to Scripture. I am not interested in unity for unity’s sake, nor am I interested in the purity of a denomination. What I am interested in is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

        Now, there are two different things going on in your response, one has to do with overall justice and equality, and the other has to do with a denominational issue of leadership. With regard to the latter, I get worked up when someone places anything as equal to Scripture – ie. human reason, human teaching, human tradition, etc. Placing those things as equal to Scripture makes you not Presbyterian. With regard to the former, I am a proponent of justice and equality. In fact, I just made my whole church study Richard Stearns book about the Hole in our Gospel in America. I am also involved in a pastors group in which I am the only non-african american, as we work together to bring about equality in our schools, communities, and churches.

        I believe that all humans are of equal value – whether white, black, brown, hispanic, rich, poor, male, female, or LGBT – and that value is set by the price God paid for them, that being the life of Jesus.

        Where you and I will probably disagree is with regard to leadership. I feel Scripture defines leadership not as a right, but as a privilege…and not one to be approached lightly. I am tired of seeing church leaders falter due to lack of accountability in their personal lives and then damage the church. I am tired of people being ordained into leadership because people think that they are a “good person” and later find out that they were not and they damage the church. I am tired of heterosexual men and women who allow the church to become their mistress and then they act that out in an adulterous relationship with another, and damage the church. I am tired of social justice issues promoting people into leadership who should not be there by Biblical standards and then having the church hurt. I am tired of the church in America’s ego, which discredits the voice of the global church as being less educated, and thus damages the church.

        In many ways, the issue of ordination is as much for me a justice issue, which continues to do harm to the church universal.

        • Christy

          Thank you for your reply. In response to your statement: “I get worked up when someone places anything as equal to Scripture” I have to say 1) I do not hold to Sola Scriptura. My personal relationship with God has been such that I cannot ignore the reality of thin places nor how God has grabbed my attention there. In my ongoing search for what is real and true, I have found that I am not alone, now, nor throughout history. Such that, for me, 2) To ignore God, as revealed in the Creation, is to ignore the balance of Scripture. And, as I’m sure you are familiar, the UCC tradition believes strongly, as evidenced by their tag line, that “God is still speaking” and we should not “put a period where God has put a comma.” I have to agree that 3) Truth does exist outside of Scripture that Scripture alone does not reveal. And that 4) There is wisdom to be found in the words of men and women who lived by scripture and who were deeply connected to God that can be taken to heart as revealed truth when measured against Scripture and the life of Jesus. 5) We can agree to disagree about the fallibility of Scripture, but the fallibility of humanity is undeniable, including in their certainty when using words and interpretations of words to define the Divine.

          One of the reasons we left the Presbyterian church was that it was strong on academia, but woefully light on Spirit.

          I agree with you in terms of the importance of guidelines for ordination. Seeing as the denomination of my youth required nothing more of a man than he have a self-proclaimed calling by God and and a well-read version of the KJV, I know too well and too intimately the abuses of ill-prepared leaders. However, I also understand the discrimination inherent in ordination as the same denomination still interprets scripture to deny my gender from attending seminary or preaching the word or teaching a mixed gender adult Sunday School class or having an egalitarian relationship with my husband and role within the home and society because of how they read Paul. Divine Gifts and Talents are not limited inherently by who a person is based on characteristics like gender, race, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. God blesses people. Period.

          I agree that ego is the basis for most of the Church’s problems….and by extension most of the world’s problems. Ego is another way of interpreting and understanding Sin. When we surrender to God’s grace, and deny the self follow Christ’s example of selflessness and the Greatest Commandment of putting God and others first, we will have made much progress toward “Thy will be done” and living out the Good News in our transformed lives.

          Lastly, I do not see where in this reply you have addressed the other issue I raised: the one concerning framing the argument in terms of the immutability of homosexuality verses a comparison to Polygamy in Africa as merely a choice of marriage partners. I’m still curious about that.

          Thank you for your time and attention. And blessings on your ministry and your personal journey. ~ C

          • relevantpreach

            Christy, I am sorry that I seem to have missed that last question you asked. I apologize. Let me explain.

            I am not sure that you read my original response correctly. What I raised as the issue was an ethical situation, not a moral one. Ethically, Scott stepped out of ordained leadership because of a lifestyle which was not in accord with the current standards which the church had agreed with, and then the leadership of the denomination (which set such standard) placed him in other places of leadership which dealt with the exact standard for which he stepped down. The message that sends to the global church is that you might be be ordained because of the lifestyle you are living, but we will place you in a position of authority that standard itself. The same would be true for the ordination in Africa. The cultural norm was polygamy. But, it would be unethical for a church to ask a man to divorce one of his wives in order to be ordained. It would also be unethical to place that same man in leadership knowing he was living a lifestyle which is in opposition to the churches standards. This has nothing to do with the moral aspect of ordination, and everything to do with the ethical implications for the church. (There is a much deeper issue that I have with someone lying with regard to ordination and examination and then being asked to call them colleague – but that is a whole different discussion).

          • Christy

            So, jots and tittles? Separate from your personal dislike of him and procedural issues, where do you stand on the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy? Do you perceive this as a church polity issue then? What about other denominations? Do you affirm their process? And, if by the same logic, women were never allowed to hold a position of authority in the church because by the same rules we were considered ineligible for ordination we should be held as ineligible for any leadership position, were we to wait for the good-heartedness of our male brethren to speak up on our behalf in order to achieve recognition and parity for ordination?

          • relevantpreach

            Speaking as a PC(USA) pastor, I do not have a problem with openly gay clergy and neither did the denomination prior to this change in polity. I do not support the ordination of practicing homosexuals, of unchaste singles, or of unfaithful heterosexuals. Those are the things that changed in the polity recently – all having to do with sexual practice.

            What other denominations do does not concern me, as I have not taken vows to uphold those essentials within their denomination. I have committed my life to Christ and to serve His church through the delivery system of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and since it was founded upon the basis of sola scripture (though I know you do not agree with), I hold fast to that.

            The next point to me is a tired point of contention with in the PC(USA). This issue of women in leadership is an inconsistent teaching throughout Scripture. In some cases, it is clear that women should not be in leadership. In other cases, they are placed in leadership. Since it is an inconsistent teaching within Scripture, and not an essential tenet, churches and believers differ on what to practice with regards to women in leadership. At no point in scripture is there an inconsistent teaching on sexual practice, therefore, it does not lend itself to discussion as a possibility of change. From Genesis to Revelation, and even throughout the Apocryphal writings, this is non-wavering.

            I have people in my church who continue to tell me that a woman should not be in the pulpit and I ask them to deal with Paul’s appointing of leadership in Ephesus throughout the book of Acts.

          • relevantpreach

            People are not going to believe this post – We agree on almost everything! :)

            In your point 1. What is confusing to me though is how you see Personal Revelation can be separated from Special Revelation theologically – and then again in 2. General Revelation apart from Special Revelation. The only one you are missing is Progressive Revelation being separated from Special Revelation. Maybe you could help me see how they can be separated.

            I too believe that God is still speaking, but you have to have something to test the spirits against to ensure that your discernment is not misled – for the heart will mislead. That plumbline, if not scripture, becomes personal opinion. There is a problem there.

            I too believe that Truth does exist outside of Scripture that Scripture alone does not reveal. But not that has to do with salvation or the calling we have received to live as faithful disciples.

            Be careful with your 4th point, or you might sound Presbyterian and Confessional again :) I would agree with that statement as well.

            You say, “Divine Gifts and Talents are not limited inherently by who a person is based on characteristics like gender, race, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. God blesses people. Period.” Spiritual gifts are afforded to all who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and are to be used for the good of the Body of Christ. We are in agreement…and that idea is straight out of Scripture.

            Thanks for your continued patience and sharing. I pray for our time together on this blog, and not that you or I would change the other, but I pray simply for my sister in Christ.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

            rp: “Maybe you could help me see how they can be separated.”

            Well, that will be difficult because I haven’t been to seminary (though I would love to go) so I have no idea what the difference is as I have never heard of these distinctions before. That’s a depth of theological study that I have not yet reached.

            But thank you for continuing the conversation. And since we’re being so amicable……what are your thoughts on Christian mysticism….and any desire to reveal your gender?

          • relevantpreach

            Christy,

            Just saw your post. I will talk briefly tonight, and then comment more tomorrow. But first, revelation is not a Seminary teaching. In fact, I can’t remember one of my professors ever mentioning it.

            As for Christian Mysticism – I love to discuss this, and will tomorrow. One of my favorite professors (of Church History of all subjects) was a big proponent of mysticism. i learned a ton from her.

            As for gender, I again missed that request until tonight. I apologize. I am male.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

            From where did these terms Re: types of revelations come then?

          • relevantpreach

            Sorry…that was a long day :)

            The terms I mention above have come through historical theological discussions. I came across these ideas as I read different theologians. Let me give a quick explanation of them, and then you can feel free to fire away…questions or responses, that is, please don’t shoot me.

            First – Revelation = God revealing God’s self to us (humans).

            General Revelation is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament – that God revealed God’s self through nature, history, and humanity. Romans shares this very clearly when it explains how God’s invisible qualities are seen in Creation, therefore humanity is left without excuse. We see God revealed as we look back through history, and in relationships with others.

            Special Revelation is that God revealed God’s self most clearly in the person and work of Jesus Christ specifically seen in Scripture. This is what led the Reformers to claim Sola Scriptura (again, which I know where you stand). This was a specific and special revelation that God used to share the reconciliation of humanity story, and the promise of full reconciliation for the world (physical earthly reconciliation not universalism as some teach).

            Progressive Revelation is the concept of God’s revelation beginning during one time, but continuing on to full revelation at a later time – the prophets sharing a glimpse of God, which came to full understanding in the person of Jesus Christ as an example.

            Personal Revelation is the easiest to explain – it is God revealing God’s self to you personally.

            The Church shares all four throughout history, and shows that the Church, to bear full witness to God’s revelation, must keep all four in balance. For to place one as higher, decreases the importance of or lessens the revelation of God in the others.

            Over the last two thousand, we have seen many attempts to discount that balance, and even to try to discount these ideas of revelation – and in doing so have tried to discount the existence of God. Some, just to name a few, are Reason alone, Experience alone, most recently (though it began in the first century ) syncretism – or starting with the person and work of Jesus, and then adding other things, like druid family values, or new age prayer, or unitarianistic beliefs – Or even the postmodern idea that you take a little religion, mix it with reason and personal feelings, and you have your own personal belief system, which promotes personal revelation to the highest point, and then demotes the others that don’t jive with feeling or personal reason.

            As for Christian Mysticism – that began really with the disciples. They talk about what many called mystical experiences with God, or even mystical union with God. John’s Gospel is full of examples of this, but my favorite is in John 14, explaining how Jesus (and God) will come to the believers who follow His commands and make their home in them. This is a mystical union personified!

            Though the reformation downplayed mysticism, everyone knows that Luther was a monk and practiced spirituality which many considered mysticism. Even Calvin – who you know I am a fan of – practiced devotio moderna. My Church history professor was a self proclaimed mystic and Beguine, and lived a strong Christian life that lived out Christian mysticism as practiced prior to the 13th century when it changed a great deal. St. Francis of Assisi is one of my favorite Christian leaders throughout history – and a Christian Mystic – who through a vision, knew God was calling him to leave the worldly life and start preaching on the streets.

            Now, I am not a big proponent of Eastern Mysticism, nor much Jewish Mysticism, but I do not discount it all as a whole and throw it out as not a tool for spiritual growth.

            Hope that this helps, and would love to hear your take on the Mysticism thing, since you have identified yourself as being influenced by it. Thanks again for the conversation.

    • Christy

      It bears pointing out that President Lincoln wept too for the division within the country over slavery, but it did not stop him from doing that which supported the cause of Justice over what would have been more convenient and less bloody. M. Scott Peck wrote insightfully and eloquently in the Road Less Traveled about what happens when we try to avoid pain by refusing to directly address those things in our lives which might be unpleasant. The same holds true for the Church as it does for nations and our daily lives.

      Martin Luther King Jr. was right: “The arc of the the moral universe is long, but it bends toward Justice” and Carlysle was right “No lie can live forever” and William Cullen Bryant was right, “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again.” And the Bible is right, We shall surely reap what we sow….. And where we sow and tolerate injustice, injustice lives. And those who love God and what God loves will not tolerate injustice any longer.

      “Let us go out this morning, with that determination. I have not lost faith; I’m not in despair because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. I can still sing “We Shall Overcome”, because Carlysle was right. No lie can live forever. We shall overcome because William C. Bryant was right, truth crushed to the earth, will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right. Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold

      sways the future. We shall overcome because the Bible is right, you shall reap what you sow. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to go out to transform the jangling discord of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lay down together. And every man will sit under his own pine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, because the word of the

      Lord has spoken. ” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 16, 1967 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in Atlanta, GA.

    • Mindy

      You may grieve, but isn’t it possible that at least some of that grief is based in the loss of power and therefore control that comes from the diminished size of the your church? The power to spread YOUR version of Biblical translations, as was so eloquently parsed out by Peet elsewhere in these comments?

      Personally, I see the division as a chance for growth, much like the dividing of a plant that can longer grow and thrive in a pot that has become too small.

      • Mindy

        Correction: Peet’s brilliant commentary on Biblical validity is on the newer post about Scott Anderson. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/10/03/meet-scott-anderson-presbyterian-usas-first-openly-gay-ordained-minister/comment-page-1/#comment-95895

      • relevantpreach

        Mindy, I grieve because the church in America is dying, and has forsaken its first love. But that is not what causes grief in response to Scott Anderson’s scruple. I could care less which denomination grows, as long as the Good News of Jesus Christ is shared and transformed lives are the fruit. I am not interested in power, but am very interested in the Great Ends of the Church – the proclamation of the gospel for all of mankind, the shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God, the maintenance of divine worship, the preservation of the truth, the promotion of social righteousness, and the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world. When one of those is placed above the rest, there grows a church out of balance. When a church is sharing the gospel in word AND deed, is worshipping passionately, is teaching people what is in Scripture and how it affects their life – and then challenging them to apply it only after testing what the preacher said against scripture, is welcoming and caring for all children of God, only then will the world see the kingdom of God exhibited. Too many churches are out of balance and thus in decline.

        You say, “to spread YOUR version of Biblical translation” Every time I teach, I begin by asking God to allow my words to fall away, and God’s word to remain. I challenge my congregation not to accept something because I said it, but to go to scripture themselves and see what it says concerning what we discussed in worship or Bible Study before applying it. I do not think my way is the best. I think that the early church leaders and the reformation leaders were right – that Scripture interprets Scripture. If you are not reformed, you might not have the same view. I do not write off someones translation of Scripture unless it is opinion based, or has been proven false prior. For example, Robin Scroggs, whom I mentioned in my first post – his wife is a member of my church. Robin argued a historical, contextual, understanding of the original language with regards to some of the texts surrounding the homosexuality passages in the old and new testament. The problem was that earlier writings than his (ancient hebraic and greek texts) show the translation of words he promotes to be not historically accurate. Since some are not even Christian writings, and all are closer to the original text than Scroggs writing, his work would not be considered acceptable in my book, though many progressive theologians still quote him today. They show a lack of textual knowledge in doing so. So I am not interested in power, in promoting myself or my ego. I am interested in presenting the Gospel, and calling those to account who are not.

  • http://thesewingexperiment.wordpress.com/ Sensible Seamstress

    Incredible. I actually cried. Totally beautiful.

    And just think how wonderful if this type of brilliance applied to the ordination of women in other denominations, so that all humans could serve God as they see fit, whether gay or straight, male or female, black, white, or purple, vegan or meat-eating… you get my drift. Why there should be any type of exclusion is beyond me.

    • Christy

      Amen.

  • Lorynda

    John thank you for sharing Scott’s story. Clearly, as he so eloquently expressed, it is not God pushing his children away, it is the people in the church. It saddens my heart so.

    @relevantpreach…love your examples…Thank you.

  • ShatteredAussie

    I love LGBT as much as anyone else. But I have read this article and many like a few times over and still cannot understand how someone can honestly come to the conclusion that Homosexuality is not sin.

    Im not a hatter… I have commit a great many sins, and continue to most days like everyone else, but I do not try to pretend they are not sin.

    I don’t try to explain away particular prices of scripture. Jesus was not afraid of challenging accepted ideas, yet he did not challenge this one!

    I need to study more, but I am sure that I will never try to change scriptures meaning or intent to explain away my sin.

    I am a sinner, so is Scott. Let’s just be grateful that Jesus grace and forgiveness covers our sins, and rather than explain it away, thank God for his grace.

    • David Turner

      May I ask you to do your own research on the Clobber Passages checking out carefully the original Hebrew and Greek? What is in the originals is NOT what is in the translations. eg. Gen 19:4-5f “All the men…where are the men…?” Both words for “men” there are Heb enowsh which has been translated as “people” in dozens of places. eg Ex 10:7 “Let the people go” – same word. Sodom is mentioned 47 times in scripture. If you can find one that says it was destroyed because of homosexuality would you let me know please? Ex 16:49-50 lists the sins of Sodom and homosexuality isn’t even mentioned. It also gives a Biblical definition of what it means to be a Sodomite. Many heterosexuals are Sodomites according to that definition. Who are the ones who are supposed to be twisting scripture? There are many other examples of this in scripture.

      I was born gay as proven in electronic shock therapy arranged by the Baptist Church. In the Baptist church, gays practicing or NOT are forbidden to lead, teach, exercise any ministry or do any act of Christian service. I am an ordained Baptist minister, so this was very difficult for me. I resigned. Last year gays were told they are “F..g.ts & p..ft.rs who are not welcome to even attend church” I have now left permanently. I am still married to my wife after 40 years and I am not sexually active in order to keep those marriage vows.

      So I am thrilled for Scott and can only imagine how proud Ian must feel to. The Lord sure didn’t have a problem with his being gay. He hasn’t with me either.

      From another Aussie.

      • David Turner

        Sorry, I meant Ez 16:49-50 on the 4th line.

        • David Turner

          I meant the 6th line (It’s getting late)

  • Bob

    Mygenes,co.nz shows one gay from parental neglect.

    • Jeff Preuss

      Um, okay, which explains those of us from a loving, two-straight-parent, positive and non-abusive home how, exactly?

    • anakinmcfly

      And yet there are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people who endure parental neglect and still end up straight, and similarly lots of gay people who have amazing, loving, caring families and still end up gay.

  • Bob

    Mygenes.co.nz


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