Monday, March 9, 2009

Presbytery Speech

Our presbytery, the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina, voted this past Saturday on the proposed amendments to our Book of Order. One of those amendments, 08-B, was an attempt to remove what is known as the "fidelity and chastity" clause from our current BOO. This clause states that ordained persons are "to live in fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or in chastity in singleness." Our presbytery voted to retain this clause and against the new language, which is intentionally vague 205/110. This is the opposite vote of our neighbors to the north and west, but I applaud our presbytery's actions. Several speakers on both sides of the issue spoke. Below is a copy of my speech.

"This amendment (08-B) is not simply a gay ordination issue. It is as much, if not more, a standard for heterosexuals. Too many of us have been in churches that have literally been torn apart by ministers and elders who have had affairs both with members of their congregations or people outside of their congregations. Churches have been deeply damaged by unmarried clergy and ordained persons who are known to be philanderers in their communities. To remove the fidelity and chastity clause is to trivialize the pain of these congregations and to excuse the reckless sexual behavior of our church officers, particularly when that behavior does not fall under the sexual misconduct policy because that behavior does not involve other church members. What recourse would we have to address the minister living with his girlfriend outside of wedlock? I have multiple sets of parents in my congregation that are grieving the choices of their college age children to live with boyfriends/girlfriends outside of marriage. If it’s okay for pastors, surely it’s okay for our kids too. Our divorce rate is barely different from society at large. No wonder our profession gets little respect these days. As ordained persons, we are called to a higher standard of living than the world around us. We are called to live by biblical standards, and although we all fall short of these, we cannot excuse such behavior as an acceptable way of life, rather we are called to repentance and restoration. The Church by its very nature is countercultural. To say that Jesus is Lord, is to surrender our rights, except the right to become a child of God, and with that one right to inherit all the immeasurable privileges given in Christ Jesus. As Paul said, “May it never be” that we use our freedom in Christ as license to sin."