Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Presbyterian Position is Already a Viable Centrist Position - Almost

The upshot of the argument that I have been making over the past week is nearly identical to what the Presbyterian Church (USA) already teaches and promotes.

The church says that homosexuals are welcome in all offices of the church, and should be protected in civil society.

The church teaches that in God's plan for human beings the gift of sex is only properly expressed in marriage (of a man and a woman). Celibacy is a good though difficult discipline. We all have impulses to sex outside of marriage, including homosexual acts, but they are not part of God's plan for us. We should try to control them, and ask for help to do so. We should repent of our lapses. This applies to everyone, regardless of act or orientation.

The one point not yet clarified is whether it is better to try to curb those impulses within a committed relationship, or whether that is already too much of a structure of temptation. The church has already accepted this kind of unmarried but committed relationship as a good-enough starting point for opposite-sex couples. The issue now is whether it will do so for same-sex couples.

SO,

IF conservatives in the church were willing to accept the idea that two people of the same sex in a committed relationship is not ideal, but good enough;

AND

IF liberals in the church were willing to accept that idea that homosexual acts are something to repent of,

THEN

The church could have both its people and its standards, and achieve peace, unity, and as much purity as this fallen world allows. On this issue, anyway.

10 comments:

John Shuck said...

"IF liberals in the church were willing to accept that idea that homosexual acts are something to repent of,..."

I am a liberal. I live in the church already with people who believe that and worse (in my view). If "accept" means accept those who have those beliefs in the church, I already do.

If "accept" means that I have to believe that in order to be in the church, then of course, no.

Remember, this is not two equal sides just deciding on a plan. We are already in a situation in which from my view, homosexual people are discriminated against. For me, any step forward is a step forward.

I'd just be happy if the church allowed freedom of conscience trusting ordaining bodies to ordain those they see fit and trusting clergy and ordaining bodies to provide compassionate pastoral care (which could include same-sex blessings regardless of what they are called) as they need to do so.

If that is what you mean, Gruntled, count me in.

Chairm said...

To Gruntled:

If I read you correctly, you propose that the Church teach, and act on the teaching, that a same-sex relationship is not sinful if it is NOT sexual and if the participants openly repent of, and privately resist, same-sex sexual behavior.

The purpose of accepting the open and committed same-sex relationship would be to foster nonsexual friendship and, thus, to also encourage support of such friendship within the embrace of fellow churchgoers. This is in aide of serving the human dignity of the individuals who might choose such relationships.

That is to say, the purpose is to discourage the gay relationship (i.e. the relationship that would be presumptively sexually active and unreprentant), whether it be openly gay-affirming or privately (and thus unobservably) gay-affirming.

If I have that much correct in your intentions, perhaps the following is entailed:

This, presumably, would have the pastoral effect of encouraging such relationships to avail themselves of secular provisions such as designated beneficiaries; and this pastoral encouragement would in effect lend endorsement to civil measures that would make access to designated beneficiaries more convenient -- but on the basis of commitment nonsexual caretaking rather than on the basis of a homosexual-only bias.

In other words, by "civil union" you would not mean civil union Vermont-style (i.e. treating same-sex relationship as a marital relationship in ALL but name) and would not be "gay marriage".

The church would not treat the relationship as sexualized but as meritorous for other reasons. It would not be concession to "gay identity".

Have I misread you intentions?

Chairm said...

I guess a shorter question would be: are you proposing that the committed, but repentant, same-sex relationship be encouraged as the home for sex (i.e. homosexual sexual behavior) outside of marriage?

Is that the accomodation that exists for the man-woman nonmarital relationship? Because if that is the model, then, the temptation for transgression would be too great, in the typical case, I think. I mean, nonmarital births tend to occur in such man-woman relationships and I doubt that the man-man or woman-woman analog would be any more chaste.

There would be another major problem with such an accomodation. It would encourage currently unattached individuals to form such relationships. This surely happens with the man-woman combination, probably to the extent that it undermines the teachings on marriage. Is the trade-off reasonable, in the man-woman circumstance?

Do you think it would be better or worse or about the same in the same-sex circumstance?

The other major problem that comes to mind is that this would appear to be a political, rather than an authentic theological or pastoral, response to the claim of sincere folks like John Shuck who accuse the Church of unjust discrimination.

Appearance might be deceiving, however, it is a problem if "blessings" are to be part of the substance of the accomodation.

Mark said...

IF conservatives in the church were willing to accept the idea that two people of the same sex in a committed relationship is not ideal, but good enough;

I can't speak for conservatives, but I don't see any sign of this happening.

IF liberals in the church were willing to accept that idea that homosexual acts are something to repent of,

I can't speak for all liberals, but I don't see any sign of this happening.

I do speak for myself, and I will not accept that homosexual acts are something to repent of. Your previous posts show that you case for a "centrist" position is based entirely on the right-wing's definition of what Scripture says. This is not a centrist argument.

While your conclusion may be a middle way, the building blocks that you use to create are not centrist at all.

Stuart Gordon said...

Gruntled:

This has been a very helpful discussion, one for which I commend you. Mark's comment and one by Alan point out one of the really difficult aspects of the discussion: "left, right, and center" are helpful terminology in many ways, but clearly limited at times.

Alan asks, I think appropriately, if there is a middle position on whether homosexual practice is or isn't sin. Mark's comment is akin to it. I'm not one for dualistic thinking, but I find myself drawn to that exegetical, theological question first. To those who have strong convictions about this subject, it seems that the discussion breaks down at this very point. The center does not seem to hold.

Maybe this is just a temporary setback. I have found more, genuine discussion and understanding in this series than in most other places. Maybe we can make a breakthrough, with more patience.

Alan's position is clearly different from John's. I have sometimes wondered if we have not misunderstood where the lines of division are drawn.

Alan said...

Sorry, I still don't see a single Biblical justification for these arrangements whatever they're called. And those others who comment here believe that I refuse the authority of Scripture, I actually believe such a justification is, in fact, crucial.

José Solano said...

Politically I am a liberal democrat but as a Christian I am an absolute monarchist and Jesus Christ is my King of kings. My King allows for no compromises whatsoever with sin. All compromise with sin is itself sinful. My King will make no effort to be politically correct. He demands unconditional surrender and obedience. He negotiates with no one. He is the perfect Personification of love. The Church of Christ can teach nothing less.

A "committed" homosexual relationship is worse than an uncommitted one. The Church cannot advise anyone to be committed to sin and as Chairm has implied, we should not lead people into situations that will tempt them to sin and hope that they will remain chaste. It is irresponsible.

Now I understand that Gruntled is trying to bring peace and some degree of harmony and tolerance into a very divisive social problem but it cannot be done by any compromise with sin or diminution of Christian teaching. I fully agree with what he says in regard to the sinfulness of homosexual relationships and the solid biblical foundation for this teaching. My difference is only related to the proposed methodology for correcting the problem.

The Presbyterian Church USA should take careful heed of what the Catholic and Orthodox churches teach on this subject. Compromise with sin will only undermine respect for PCUSA as just another wish-wash denomination, light years away from its Calvin and John Knox roots. Its compromises have already caused its membership to fall enormously in the last decade. And this is good. As has happened throughout history, when heresies creep into the church those led by the Holy Spirit depart and reassemble as Christ centered Christians elsewhere.

"The one point not yet clarified is whether it is better to try to curb those impulses within a committed relationship, or whether that is already too much of a structure of temptation." I hope my comments help clarify this question. No "committed" or "uncommitted" homosexual relationship anyplace. We want nothing less than salvation for them.

John Shuck said...

No compromise writes Jose:

"No "committed" or "uncommitted" homosexual relationship anyplace. We want nothing less than salvation for them."

Well, there you have it.

I think Jose demonstrates that the only answer to this will be a political one. It will be a loooong struggle. His "salvation" in my view is nothing less than oppression.

José Solano said...

1. "I think Jose demonstrates that the only answer to this will be a political one. It will be a loooong struggle." 2. "His "salvation" in my view is nothing less than oppression." (John Shuck)

I think your first statement may be correct as in the Church of Christ there can be no compromise with sin. I am happy to know that in this respect, as a Mennonite, I stand with the great Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as in the finest tradition of the great Protestant churches and all the great Catholic and Protestant theologians. Indeed, I stand on the written Word of God.

In your second statement you convict yourself as a heretic as it is not "His 'salvation'" as you say. I am merely the messenger who delivers the message: No compromise with sin for Christ's sake. The wish-wash approach gently cuddles the sinner into hell. The Church of Christ cannot advocate a mañana repentance. Repentance must always be preached for right now. There must be no dependence on "cheap grace."

"For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them." Eph. 4:31 Amen.

José Solano said...

I'm sorry but that biblical citation I gave above should be Ephesians 5:5-7.

The peace of Christ be with you.