Church Polarizations Over Homosexual Unions

“Any effort to achieve peace and unity at the expense of purity cannot succeed.”
( [email protected] ) Feb 27, 2004 09:44 AM EST

The issue on homosexuality has in recent months ripped apart not only the nation, but also the church at its seams, as liberals pit “equal rights” against conservatives’ natural law as expressed by the bible.

Since last November, Episcopalians have been locked in a controversy that has been shaking the world: the holy and sanctified bishopric position was opened to an openly homosexual man who lived with his partner for 13 years. Ten of 38 Anglican provinces around the world thereafter rejected the American branch of the communion (the Episcopal Church USA), and several dioceses within the ECUSA held back annual funding to the national church in rebellion.

Last week, a United Methodist pastor in San Francisco faced complaints for celebrating same-sex union services. Her actions followed the city’s provocative and illegal issuance of “marriage” licenses to homosexual couples. While the pastor said she performed the “marriage rites” as an “opportunity to extend pastoral care to all parishioners,” others disagreed.

The Rev. Jim Garrison of Sonora, California, president of the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship brought out the United Methodist Book of Discipline that forbids such celebrations. While the book acknowledges homosexuals are persons of sacred worth, it rightfully condemns the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching.

"These actions threaten the unity of our whole connection," Garrison said of the weddings. "The General Conference is the only group that can make rules for the whole church, and individual pastors are not free to revise those rules. It's a question of accountability. If we can't enforce our rules, there will be a call for stronger rules."

Similarly, within the Presbyterian Church, pastors of individual congregations have blessed same-sex unions, wreaking havoc within the denomination as a whole. In addition, several conservative Presbyterians complained that the current moderator to the denomination remained silent while fully acknowledging such “blessings.”

In lieu of such potentially dissentient arguments, the Presbyterian Church USA’s Theological Task Force on the Peach, Unity and Purity of the Church, released its first formal vote since its inception three years ago. Their conclusion was very vague and simple to say the least: “Jesus Christ Himself is the church’s peace, unity and purity.”

The Feb 20 vote encouraged presbyteries to promote “unity and openness” in lieu of such polarized views on the issue, hearing out the arguments of liberals who claim that the love of God covers what they call “smaller issues and differences.”

“We must create intentional gatherings of Presbyterians of varied theological views to covenant together” to discuss these matters, “utilizing resources being developed by the task force,” the report stated. On that basis, the TTF concluded “the Church must draw the strength it needs for peacemaking from beyond itself, from the one who invites us to a common witness and worship.”

Nonetheless, hearing out the voice of the conservatives, the TTF justly emphasized the need for purity in acceptance. A unity without purity is meaningless, the TTF said.

“Peace, unity and purity are tied together, with no one elevated above the other two.” In fact, the report says — hearkening back to Ephesians 4:1-2: “Any effort to achieve peace and unity at the expense of purity cannot succeed.”

Continuity with Presbyterian tradition: “Although polity alone cannot confer the peace, unity and purity the church is seeking … any proposals … must be the outgrowth of Presbyterian ways of ordering church life and giving it direction.”