This Report of the Affirmations and Denials on the biblical fundamentals for sexual ethics, especially focusing on the question of homosexuality and identity, was adopted by Missouri Presbytery at its June 2, 2020 Called Meeting. The moderator had charged the Committee to produce a work that is biblical, theological, and pastoral.
[Editor’s note: In a footnote of the Affirmations and Denials, the Committee stated, “This report was adopted by Missouri Presbytery on June 2, 2020, but this report was completed before the release of the report by the PCA’s Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality, on May 28, 2020. This document therefore has no literary link to that report. This committee believes its report is consistent with the PCA Ad Interim Committee’s “Twelve Statements” on human sexuality and we commend them.”]
In October 2019, Missouri Presbytery appointed a committee to establish a relatively short series of affirmations and denials that state the biblical fundamentals for sexual ethics, especially focusing on the question of homosexuality and identity. The moderator charged us to produce a work that is biblical, theological, and pastoral.
Human sexuality is a biblical issue since Scripture addresses it. It is theological because it demands careful reflection on Scripture. It is pastoral because the topic is controversial, in society and in the church, even among many who call themselves evangelicals. As Western culture has ever-changing views of marriage and sexuality, church members and church visitors fall under its influence. All need to hear the biblical message. While we have written affirmations and denials, we believe pastoral care begins with compassionate listening. A small percentage of the population is primarily or exclusively drawn sexually or erotically to the same sex. Sexual experimentation and seductions cause additional problems. For most, homoerotic feelings begin as an unwelcome discovery of differentness. Young people often feel horrified or ashamed. They fear discovery; many consider suicide. We must be compassionate toward our neighbors and brothers and sisters who experience strong same-sex attraction. Sadly, too often, the church has added shame and opprobrium, so that people feel silenced and marginalized. For many a “gay identity” emphasis is a way to cope with the loss of friends, family, and Christian community. We must foster compassion personally and ecclesiastically. It is for these reasons that we have found ourselves thankful for the insight of the late John Stott, who reminds us to never lose sight of the fact that there lies within the homosexual experience “a deep loneliness, the natural human hunger for mutual love, a search for identity, and a longing for completeness” (Missouri Presbytery’s Report of the Ad Hoc Committee to Investigate Memorial Church and Revoice, p. 74). We must foster compassion and empathy in ourselves and the church.
This document, which was adopted with a very strong majority by Missouri Presbytery at a called meeting on June 2, 2020, draws on many sources: Scripture, the Westminster Standards, and Missouri Presbytery’s studies on sexuality and homosexuality from 1994, 2017, and 2019. While this report does not attempt to condense those studies, it seeks continuity with them. We tried to prepare a clear, concise biblical theology of sexuality and homosexuality. We present this document as a set of core convictions. A set of affirmations and denials is a blunt instrument and pastors must use them with care as they communicate biblical teaching on homosexuality.
Note on our language: After long reflection, the committee chose to use the terms “same-sex attraction” and “same-sex attracted” for the experience of sexual, erotic, or romantic desire or longing for persons of the same sex. When we use the term, we do not mean to refer to practices, behavior, or allegiances. We use it to describe the experience of sexual, erotic, or romantic desire or longing for persons of the same sex. (We do not mean to declare that the term “same-sex attraction” is “the correct term”; we simply judged that “same-sex attraction” was less likely to be misunderstood). Degrees of attraction can be variable. Same-sex attracted persons may find the same sex somewhat or very appealing. They may or may not also experience sexual, romantic, or erotic attraction to the opposite sex and may or may not enter into a complete, biblical marriage.
This committee does not advocate the use of “gay Christian” as a self-description in ordinary speech. Yet we recognize that any term one uses—gay, same-sex attracted, homosexual, homophile, queer, and others—is problematic in certain cases for certain people. Another committee may wish to use other terms. Wishing to heed Paul’s admonition to neither condemn nor despise one another over debatable matters (Rom. 14:1–12), we believe Christian liberty grants believers a degree of latitude as they describe themselves. Most words are flexible, with several meanings and nuances that vary from one place and time to another. Christians should have a certain freedom of expression for the sake of communication. For example, a pastor may not prefer to use the word “abuse” publicly because it plays into powerlessness/victimization narratives, but may yet use the term in conversation.
We offer these Affirmations and Denials as a guide for elders in Missouri Presbytery as they seek to care faithfully for congregants who are same-sex attracted. We do not, however, recommend that elders begin by disseminating this document directly to those seeking to live faithfully before the Lord as they contend with unwanted sexual desires. Rather, pastoral care requires that we first listen in a gentle manner, since each person’s story is unique, and then respond with discernment and love. We do hope these Affirmations and Denials will help elders offer guidance that is biblically faithful. While we do not wish to remove liberty of conscience on disputable matters, we believe these statements capture essential orthodox teachings regarding a biblical sex ethic and the particularity of homosexual experience in the lives of professed believers. We pray that this document will help elders discern wisely when considering endorsing parachurch ministries that address homosexuality and gay identity. It is our sincere hope that these Affirmations and Denials 8 promote clarity for Missouri Presbytery and help to promote the peace, purity, and mission of the church.
 This report was adopted by Missouri Presbytery on June 2, 2020, but this report was completed before the release of the report by the PCA’s Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality, on May 28, 2020. This document therefore has no literary link to that report. This committee believes its report is consistent with the PCA Ad Interim Committee’s “Twelve Statements” on human sexuality and we commend them.