A letter on the PCUSA’s stance on homosexuality
A dear friend (Dr. Jeff Winter) and one of my pastor’s (many years back) recently wrote into the Layman.org about one of his observations at this last Summer’s General Assembly. With his permission, I am posting it here.
During my 26 years of ordained ministry within the PCUSA I have spent a lot of time hanging out at General Assemblies. You can call me committed to this denomination or just crazy. When I was a teenager I logged in many hours wandering around circus side show attractions. I loved when Ringling Brothers came to town. I have discovered that a General Assembly and a circus side show have a lot in common. They both can be outrageous.
At this year’s General Assembly in San Jose I listened intently to the 90-second speeches that were delivered by passionate Presbyterians before the committee that was addressing ordination standards. If you have never been to a GA let me explain that before a committee begins its work, there is time set aside for people to share their feelings — pro and con — about the overture the committee is considering. In this case the debate focused on the ordination standards set forth in our constitution.
I was particularly dumbfounded as I listened to the speech by a young man who traveled across the country to make his opinion known. He stated that he was a student at Union Seminary in Richmond. I was startled when he explained a late night conversation he had with his homosexual partner about Jesus Christ. He related how he was lying in bed next to his partner and asked him what he thought about the person and work of our Savior? I facetiously thought to myself, “Wow, here is another way to share the Gospel … one homosexual man sharing with another homosexual man about the Good News.”
As a denomination we have been very concerned about the loss of membership. Standing before the committee was a young man who was contextualizing for everyone another way to do evangelism. When he finished his speech that advocated the elimination of “fidelity and chastity” from our ordination standards he walked to the back of the room where he was hugged by Michael Adee, director of More Light Presbyterians, and other pro-gay and lesbian Presbyterians. I stood near this young man and said to myself, “I can’t believe what I just heard.” I was flabbergasted by his words.
The next person who stood up to speak was from Midland, Texas. His speech was so different from what everyone just heard. I was so touched by his presentation that I asked him for a copy of what he said. Here is his presentation.
“I am speaking against changing ‘fidelity and chastity’ in the Book of Order. Being here takes me back to 1996. I was battling the homosexual desires that had been a part of my life since my youth. I was married, but miserable. I was desperate for something that would give me license. I was desperate to have my ears tickled with doctrine that fit my feelings and desires. I found it in gay theology, and armed with that, I left my wife and began my life as an openly gay man. But soon I became weary of a theology that was based on ME. It fell flat, and I felt none of the liberation and grace that I thought was coming. I soon discovered that Jesus was not a white-robed wimp, walking around talking softly and stroking a lamb. He was a powerful, risen Savior who offered me more than good feelings and sentimental, saccharine love. He offered me abundant life. My marriage has been restored. I have three kids. I love the life that gay theology tempted me to leave. I was led astray by false teaching, and rescued by the perfect teacher. I thank God for pastors, elders, church elders and a Book of Order that are willing to stand for truth, and to stand with me as I surrendered all of my life to God. Please do not limit hope for those struggling with unwanted same sex attraction by changing ‘fidelity and chastity.'”
I am so glad Mr. Goeke had the courage to share these words. Such a presentation is so rare at a General Assembly especially at this year’s gathering in San Jose where homosexuality was proclaimed as a wonderful gift from God. We live in very difficult times. As I look at our denomination’s struggle with homosexuality I pray that we can move beyond the circus side-show attraction we now present to a watching world. May we declare to others a Gospel that transforms the lives of all people, even those who have same-sex attraction.
Rev. Jeff Winter, pastor
Faith Community Church of Martha’s Vineyard
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