Regarding PCA General Assembly 2021 - Précis and Postscript

As the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) gathered for its 48th General Assembly, I earnestly prayed. Now honorably retired, I did not attend or vote, but carefully reviewed the Report on Human Sexuality and related Overtures coming from area Presbyteries. I followed discussions in denominational and para-church media. Since not all accurately represented others' viewpoints, I signed an Open Letter, "Looking Forward - Together."

I am indebted to wise fellow elders who identified the focal issues as identity (what — or who — defines who I am) concupiscence (both corrupt desires and corrupt actions are sinful) and sanctification (growing in personal holiness, dying to sin, renewal in Christ-likeness). I wrote a personal Précis, or a summary of issues, that are linked to Bible doctrines of the Christian Life:

  1. PAST. Personally and collectively, I was (we all were) born with disordered desires that corrupt all of my (and our) acts and deeds. Original sin corrupts, disorders, and misdirects all of our desires. MY QUESTIONS: Are the disordered (heterosexual) desires in my flesh any less sinful than the (homosexual) desires in my brothers? Does faith in Christ justify us from all our sins? If we don’t put to death (or “mortify”) all misdirected desires, does that disqualify any from leadership, or only those with misdirected homosexual desires?

  1. PRESENT. I must die daily to my remaining (internal) sinful desires and (the external) cultural temptations to self-define or self-indulge myself. MY QUESTIONS: Do I lean into my sanctification, daily denying myself to follow, live in, and live for Christ — to fruitfully honor, serve, and please God? Is the power of the Gospel progressively expelling all of my idolatrous desires? Am I growing, erratically but assuredly, in unselfish love for God and my neighbors?

  1. FUTURE. Our sin struggles will differ from our fellow Christians, in both specifics and how we describe them — contextually, culturally, ministerially, personally, and sexually. But our shared hope is in the resurrection and glorification of the body, in union with Christ, the complete deliverance from our sinful flesh. MY QUESTIONS: Do I (we) find our ultimate identity and destiny only in God’s Story? Is God's Gospel my (and our) only hope in life and in death?

These deeply pastoral and theological issues require us to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) so that the beauty of Christ, full of grace and truth, will be reflected in our PCA church. The General Assembly adopted the Study on Human Sexuality. I find it to be a truth-in-love statement. But the affirmative answers to the related Overtures deeply disappointed me, in both content and tone. As these must now be approved by 2/3 of Presbyteries and the next General Assembly, I ask these questions:

  1. WHO DO WE SERVE? Church moral statements can define what is "right" for "insiders," but can deprive others a welcoming and safe church environment there they can share their sin struggles and receive support for growth in grace.

  2. TRUTH and LOVE? As noted by Rev. Sammy Rhodes: "There is a way of choosing fear over love that looks like choosing truth over compromise."

  3. ARE ALL SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE? Rev. Tim Keller notes that Westminster Larger Catechism (139): "puts 'all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts ... affections' in a single list all violating the 7th command. No gradations. To argue some sinful sexual desires are disqualifying for office but others are not, you can’t use the confession."

In Christ's church, everyone must be allowed to confess their sin struggles, honestly and sincerely, without fear of rejection or slander. We share in a common source of personal Identity and Growth in God's Story. We must believe the Gospel for ourselves and become Good News for others. Our identities are not in our unique broken stories, but in God's Gospel.