Tuesday, August 14, 2007

PCUSA Moderator Goes Awry in Her Claims of a "Deeply Pernicious Heresy"

Below is a selection of the response by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D, Associate Professor of New Testament at my Seminary (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) posted on Aug. 10, 2007 to Moderator Joan Gray on her recent letter.

When Rev. Joan Gray was elected Moderator of the PCUSA at the last General Assembly I, as a voting delegate, felt that, though we could done better (had one of the other candidates been elected), we also could have done far worse (had either of two other "Covenant Network" candidates been chosen). She is certainly a much better moderator than a couple of recent ones. However, recent remarks by Joan Gray should be filed under the "we could have done better" category—unless, of course, she has the courage and humility to acknowledge publicly her error.

Moderator Rev. Joan Gray has declared that anyone who believes that impenitent, homosexually active persons should not be granted church membership is guilty of "a deeply pernicious heresy" (so the title given to an Aug. 4, 2007 editorial in www.presbyweb.com found here). These are very strong words, which I take to heart since I hold the view to which she is referring. She even goes so far as to cite the apostle Paul in support of her position, claiming that such a view is "a form of works righteousness" that "leads us back into the bondage Paul rails against in Galatians."

As a scholar of Paul who has worked heavily on sexuality issues for a decade, and is nearly finished a 100+ page annotated translation of Galatians for future publication, I must say that her announcement about Paul in particular and Scripture in general is 'news to me.' If there is "a deeply pernicious heresy" here, it is the position that no repetitive, unrepentant behavior of any sort, no matter how extreme the departure from Jesus' teaching, can have any relevance for membership status in the church, much less for inheritance in God's kingdom....

See here for the rest:



Dad said...

Thanks I'll go read. Of course she will contend that he doesn't know what he is talking about since he has forgotten more than she knows he "must have forgotten her interpatation"

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

OK, I've gotta comment on this because even conservatives have been spewing great cataracts of nonsense concerning her statement.

Church membership is not open to anyone who just says "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior." I could teach a parrot to say that. Almost all the liberals would say that. There must be what we in the PCA call a "creditable profession of faith." If we have any doubts about a person, we as the session may choose to admit them to membership but bar them from the Lord's Table until things are clearer. We've got a 16 year old boy in our congregation who is in just that situation. He went to Young Life camp and "went forward" but he can't really articulate what happened or why he thinks he's saved. We admitted him to membership as a member of a covenant family, but we barred him from the Lord's Supper until we're more comfortable with where he's at.

If you change the sin from homosexuality to something less politically charged, say, unrepentant adultery, or white collar theft, or meditating to a statue of Buddha, or any of the other 10 Commandments, would you admit that person to membership? I should hope not. They are welcome (indeed encouraged) to attend regularly. But membership? No way. Not until there has been clear evidence of repentance. We've got to think carefully, Brothers. Question the lines we've been fed by the decaying church. Test all things against the scriptures.