Savannah River Presbytery Overtures 47th PCA GA to Affirm the PCA’s Commitment to the Sanctity of Biblical Sexual Relationships

The Overture from Savannah River Presbytery requests the 47th Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly to affirm the PCA’s commitment to the sanctity of biblical sexual relationships.

Savannah River Presbytery approved an overture at its April 16, 2019 Stated Meeting, asking the 47th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to “Affirm the PCA’s Commitment to the Sanctity of Biblical Sexual Relationships.” The overture asks the General Assembly that in light of the current discussion in the Church on the nature of what constitutes sexual ethics that it reaffirm the sanctity of biblical sexual relationships.

The overture points to questions arising from the Revoice Conference, held at Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri on July 26-28, 2018, which had as a part of its stated purpose: “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex attracted and other LGBT+ Christians.”

And further, the overture contends that in the present discussion there is an apparent lack of clarity in the PCA regarding the nature of biblical sexual ethics. The overture highlights some of issues:

Some within the Presbyterian Church in America are claiming that same-sex attraction is not necessarily a sin but can be a disposition given to some: “that such a disposition of sinful desires are God given for the acceptance of all believers and the Church, and for the promotion of the Glory of God;” or “that individuals with sinful homosexual feelings of same-sex attraction have no control over these feelings and/or attractions; that though they may be unwanted, they are helpless to avoid and are in no need of repentance;” or who answer affirmatively: “Can a person claim to be born with same-sex attraction in the same manner as the man born blind?” or are in agreement with: “I believe my same-sex attractions are broken, but I do not believe they are sinful. It is not sinful for me to be attracted to another man;” or asserting that same-sex attraction and orientation are permissible under the Gospel as long as the person remains celibate; even though these assertions are contrary to what Jesus said that any and all lust in the heart is a sin: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

In asking the PCA General Assembly to reaffirm its “commitment to the sanctity of biblical sexual relationships,” the overture refers to similar affirmations taken by past General Assemblies, specifically the fifth, the twenty-first, and the twenty-fourth.

An overture is a means by which a Presbytery can bring a matter to the GA for consideration. This overture will be considered by the 47th PCA General Assembly at its meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 24-27, 2019.

 

An Overture
Affirming The PCA’s Commitment To
The Sanctity Of Biblical Sexual Relationships

Whereas, the Scripture is infallible and inerrant, the only rule of faith and practice, and the only touchstone of truth; and

Whereas, the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America “is subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments;” and

Whereas, every officer (teaching elders, ruling elders, and deacons) in the Presbyterian Church in America vows that they “believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice;” and

Whereas, all church courts in the Presbyterian Church in America have the power “to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality,” “to require obedience to the laws of Christ,” and “to cut off the contumacious and impenitent from the congregation of believers” (BCO 11-2); and

Whereas, every PCA Presbytery has power “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity and peace of the Church” (BCO 13-9f); and

Whereas, the Revoice Conference, held at Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri on July 26-28, 2018, was for the purpose of “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex attracted and other LGBT+ Christians;” and

Whereas, some within the Presbyterian Church in America are claiming that same-sex attraction is not necessarily a sin but can be a disposition given to some: “that such a disposition of sinful desires are God given for the acceptance of all believers and the Church, and for the promotion of the Glory of God;” or “that individuals with sinful homosexual feelings of same-sex attraction have no control over these feelings and/or attractions; that though they may be unwanted, they are helpless to avoid and are in no need of repentance;” or who answer affirmatively: “Can a person claim to be born with same-sex attraction in the same manner as the man born blind?” or are in agreement with: “I believe my same-sex attractions are broken, but I do not believe they are sinful. It is not sinful for me to be attracted to another man;” or asserting that same-sex attraction and orientation are permissible under the Gospel as long as the person remains celibate; even though these assertions are contrary to what Jesus said that any and all lust in the heart is a sin: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28); and

Whereas, the Scripture teaches that same-sex attraction is an evidence that God has given over such people to “the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them” and “to degrading passions” in which “women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural” and “the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another” because they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” and “did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer” (Romans 1:24-28); and

Whereas, homosexuality is a sin from which God delivered some of the Corinthian Christians (“such were some of you…): “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11); and continues to deliver believers from this and other sins; and

Whereas, same-sex attraction is lust in the very same manner that heterosexual attraction is lust, and both are violations of the seventh commandment as the Larger Catechism teaches:

Question 138: What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

Question 139: What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

Therefore, be it resolved, that in light of the fact that this current issue is once again confronting the PCA, the 47th General Assembly take the following actions:

That the 47th General Assembly reaffirm the action of the 5th General Assembly:

Whereas God’s Word teaches in the Old Testament that homosexuality is a sin, labeling it an “abomination” in such passages as Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and clearly viewing it as sin in the story of Sodom in Genesis 19:1-11; and

Whereas the New Testament reaffirms the sinfulness of this “unnatural” practice in such passages as Romans 1:26, 27 and Jude 7, even stating in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Fifth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America affirm the Biblical position for our denomination which states that:

    1. The act of homosexuality is a sin according to God’s Word;
    2. Churches should actively seek to lead the homosexual person to confession and repentance that he might find justification and sanctification in Jesus Christ, according to I Corinthians 6:11; and
    3. In light of the Biblical view of its sinfulness, a practicing homosexual continuing in this sin would not be a fit candidate for ordination or membership in the Presbyterian Church in America. (http://pcahistory.org/ga/5th_pcaga_1977.pdf p. 68).

Further, that the 47th General Assembly reaffirm the declaration of the 21st PCA General Assembly:

Therefore, the 21st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America makes the following declaration: The Bible, which is our infallible rule of faith and practice, commands us to express redemptive love and compassion to all persons. It further commands us to condemn sexual behavior which deviates from God’s revealed standard as sinful and destructive. The Bible calls all who engage in these behaviors to repentance by turning to God and proving their repentance by their deeds. The chaplains of the Presbyterian Church in America are committed to providing a compassionate, redemptive, and caring ministry to military service members, their families, and other groups among whom they are called to minister regardless of sexual behavior or the diseases with which their constituents may be afflicted. Therefore, Presbyterian Church in America chaplains endorsed by the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel will continue to preach and minister in light of the whole counsel of God on these matters. (http://pcahistory.org/ga/21st_pcaga_1993.pdf pp. 94-95)

And further, that the 47th General Assembly reaffirm the principles regarding the biblical teachings on homosexuality contained in the “A Declaration of Conscience Addressed to the President of the United States of America” adopted by the 21st PCA General Assembly (http://pcahistory.org/ga/21st_pcaga_1993.pdf, pp. 129-132). The letter said in part:

Mr. President, in this Declaration the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America humbly declares its conscience concerning the moral legitimacy of homosexuality. God has spoken without equivocation through His Word declaring homosexuality to be a perversion of His created order, His moral law, and the foundations of society….

In particular, we feel compelled of conscience to speak because of the slanderous way in which truth has been portrayed, as if opposition to homosexual practice is merely a matter of prejudice against a minority. Please be informed that to act on this basis is to misjudge the issue entirely. This is a question of moral principle, striking at the very root of God’s authority, man’s created nature, and the structure and preservation of human society. We do not act out of a hateful prejudice which rejects the rights of minority peoples and seeks to exclude them from our communities. On the contrary, we affirm and rejoice in the God-created differences among the peoples of the world and we condemn prejudice as contrary to the heart of the gospel by which we live: that Jesus Christ is by His grace making of various peoples one community of love and fellowship. As His disciples we are called to judge, not by appearances, but to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). The God we serve has made it plain that with Him there is no partiality, and that in this we must be like Him (Romans 2:11, James 2:1-9). As citizens we support the recognition and protection of the civil rights of all peoples.

And yet in perfect consistency with this commitment we stand resolutely opposed to homosexual practice as incompatible with the temporal good of our nation and the eternal good of its people. As a part of the Church of Jesus Christ, the Presbyterian Church in America has a primary concern for the spiritual well-being of women and men created in the image of God. Responsibility to such a calling will thrust us into irreconcilable conflict with any government policy ostensibly approving a way of life under its sphere of responsibility which is contrary to the eternal good of its citizens. Further, such approval would be a grievous violation of the government’s own God-ordained calling (Romans 13:1-4)….

Together a man and a woman, united outwardly in the institution of marriage, united inwardly in love and affection, and united physically in sexual relations, are the means of transmitting and nurturing life, and that life, growing and flourishing in families, is the necessary foundation of all society. Homosexuality is a violation of these creation ordinances: it is a perversion of human nature, the gift of sexuality and the social order….

Here nature itself, the land personified, is portrayed as revolted by homosexuality as a perversion of God’s purposes. Lest this be thought of as an outmoded and unenlightened perspective, the New Testament affirms this same truth with even greater clarity when it excludes, not merely from the land of Israel, but from the eternal Kingdom of God, those who pursue homosexual practice….

Please note: in condemning homosexual practice we claim no self-righteousness. The Bible we cite also teaches that all particular sins flow from one rebellious disposition of heart, a disposition of heart that belongs to all (Ephesians 2:1- 3). If we have been preserved from this perversion, it is only by God’s mercy. And that mercy in Jesus Christ is so broad and free that may extend even to those caught up in homosexual practice, freeing them from its bondage. In the same passage we cited above the Apostle reminds the Corinthian believers, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”….

To conclude, while condemning homosexual practice, we affirm our duty to love and do good to all, even those who are pursuing this perversion. But for us such love includes the responsibility to speak the truth in love. The truth is that our nation will suffer grievously if accommodated to this perversion. More profoundly, however, the truth is that those given over to homosexual practice will face the judgment of God. We understand the gospel to teach that there is no hope for such persons until they see this truth, embrace it, and turn away from their perversion through the power of Jesus Christ. Thus love requires that we bear witness to their hopeless condition in order that they might find hope. Love forbids our silence in the face of the eternal consequences of believing a lie.

And further, that the 47th General Assembly reaffirm the action of the 24th General Assembly:

“We affirm the Bible’s teaching that promotion of homosexual conduct and relationships by any society, including action by the governments to sanction and legitimize homosexual relationships by the legalization of homosexual marriages, is an abominable sin calling for God’s judgment upon any such society (Lev. 18:22 and Rom. 1:18-32). We also reaffirm our belief in the transforming power of God’s grace and our commitment to ‘speaking the truth in love’ to those in the homosexual community.” (http://pcahistory.org/ga/24th_pcaga_1996.pdf, p. 315)

And further resolve, to remind all PCA officers and churches:

  1. That all persons are born sinners justly deserving God’s wrath and condemnation, and that outside of Christ all sinners are enslaved to corruption which distorts their hearts and their understanding of God’s created order.
  2. That homosexuality is a sin according to God’s Word, both in thought, attraction, and behavior.
  3. That churches should actively seek to lead all sinners, including those enslaved in homosexuality, to repentance of their sin and to embrace Jesus Christ by faith as he is offered in the gospel, so they may find justification, sanctification, and their identity in Jesus Christ alone.
  4. That long as those enslaved in homosexuality continue in this practice of sin, they are not be considered candidates for church membership or ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America.