Those who believe changing the ordination standards is what Jesus would have them to do are not going to change their minds anytime soon.
I am also equally convinced that those who believe that maintaining the ordination standards is exactly what Jesus would want us to do are not going to change their minds anytime soon.
The question for the life of the church is not who is Jesus speaking to because people on both sides of this issue are absolutely convinced that Jesus is speaking to them. We can both cite our scripture passages and our theological convictions about our own perspectives.
Does that mean that there is no absolute truth when it comes to Biblical standards for human sexuality?
Of course not. I believe that Jesus and the Bible is crystal clear about one man and one woman, about chastity in singleness, and about fidelity in marriage. But the problem is that there are many who don't see what's so crystal clear to me.
The only way everyone involved will be convinced which side Jesus is on is when Jesus himself declares it when he returns. Until then, we're going to have people on the entire spectrum on this issue. And what's more, the way we relate with one another in how we disagree over this matter bears witness to Jesus to an ever growing non-Christian world.
I used to believe that since I was on Jesus' side and therefore those who disagreed with me about Biblical sexuality were on the wrong side, they just needed to be convinced that they were on the wrong side.
And those who believe that changing the ordination standards and their understanding of Biblical sexuality is what Jesus would have them to do, are also convinced that they are right and that folks like me just need to be shown how wrong we are.
And the church has pretty much debated in this fashion for the past three plus decades. Look where that's gotten us.
The question isn't who's right - because we (regardless of which view one holds) are not going to be convinced our convictions are wrong on this issue. We will all go to our graves absolutely convinced we are right.
The question is how are we to be a church together when people on opposite ends of the spectrum are convinced Jesus is speaking to them? Or to put it more bluntly, can people who believe opposite things about Biblical interpretation stay within the same church family?
I believe that's the question we need to be exploring. We need to start asking and exploring answers to questions such as:
- What do we understand about our connectionalism?
- What do we understand about ecclesiology?
- What does it mean to belong to a certain denomination when there are churches outside our particular denomination who are much closer to us when it comes to our essential beliefs?
- What does it mean to be Presbyterian? Is it our polity (how we do church) that make us Presbyterian? or is it our theology (our essential beliefs) that make us Presbyterian? Or is it a combination of both? And if so, what does that look like?
- What does it mean to belong to a particular denomination in what many are calling a post-denominational world?
- Would there still be a PC(USA) if there was no property clause?
There are so many more questions like this that needs both asking and exploring.
I have very little energy to continue the sexuality debates as we have been engaged in them for the past three plus decades. I see no end to them.
However, I am passionate about discerning what the future/imminent church might look like. And I am convinced that we will not get there through our current way of debating over the sexuality issues. I am optimistically hopeful that the future church lies in answering questions like the ones above.