John Buchanan and I will be forever linked in PC (USA) history: he served as Moderator when the "fidelity and chastity" amendment was approved by the General Assembly and ratified by a majority of presbyteries as G-6.0106b; I served as Moderator when the General Assembly approved Amendment 10-A, a replacement for G-6.0106b, which has now been approved by a majority of presbyteries.
John, who is the editor of The Christian Century in addition to serving as pastor of Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago, wrote about the adoption of 10-A in the June 14 issue. Two sentences resonate with me:
"Presbyterians have a great evangelical opportunity to show a fractured world that it is possible for people to disagree with one another and yet remain in fellowship." He went on to say that "unity in diversity" is not "a mere slogan or an idealistic pipe dream but a real gift of the Christian life."
We have debated, discussed, and voted on ordination standards for the last quarter century. During all that time, there was no unanimity about the ordination of gays and lesbians who are in committed relationships, yet, for the most part, we remained together. Today there is still no unanimity about the ordination issue. And I hope we can still remain together.
I want to be sure that everyone understands what Amendment 10-A does, and does not, do. Amendment 10-A allows, but does not require, an ordaining body to determine that a candidate who is in a committed same-sex relationship is eligible for ordination -- assuming that the candidate desires to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ "in all aspects of life." That, to me, sets the bar pretty high.
I believe that there are central Gospel messages that we all affirm: our God is a sovereign God who has acted in history and continues to act today. Jesus is Lord.
I believe that there are central polity beliefs that, as Presbyterians, we all affirm: the importance of our connectional polity; the importance of a system in which ruling and teaching elders share in spiritual leadership and governance.
I also believe that throughout our entire Reformed history, indeed throughout all of Christian history, Christians, and Presbyterians, have argued about issues -- sometimes to the point of fracture. Attempting to live out the Gospel in a particular place at a particular time means that there will be issues on which we disagree. I believe such disagreements are an inevitable part of trying to follow Jesus faithfully.
I for one am enriched, and my faith is enriched, by engaging with those who think differently than I do. I do not want to be in a faith community that is composed entirely of people who are just like me and who think just like me.
So here's the challenge: can we show a fractured world that we can disagree with one another yet remain in fellowship?