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May 1, 2008: Why We Can't Agree To Disagree

Moderator Candidate Bruce Reyes-Chow asks a question that is on the minds of many Presbyterians, "Can't we agree to disagree about homosexuality?" The answer is, no.

That's not meant to be snide or snippy. Rather it is an observation after more than a decade of involvement -- certainly not as long as some, but just as certainly longer than many who are now getting involved. It is an observation based one simple reality: it matters too much.

The reason why the answer is no is because there are mutually exclusive competing values at work. Bear with my using a broad brush for a moment:

Conservative/orthodox/evangelical folks value purity; Liberal/progressive/glbt folks value community. The first will choose clarity over community, drawing a circle beyond which they cannot faithfully stretch to be inclusive. The latter will choose community over purity, and are much more willing to embrace paradox and tension.

Local option -- or "agreeing to disagree" -- means yielding up a core value for the more conservative part of the church. It would be to abandon the call to Biblical faithfulness, it would be a challenge to the understanding of the sovereignty of God, it would be to make humans more important than the eternal Word. Conservatives would rather walk away (property issue notwithstanding) than to agree to approve or tolerate behavior the Bible calls sin.

On the other hand -- "agreeing to agree"; that is, to yield to the historic, traditional understanding that homosexual behavior is contrary to God's plan for humans -- means yielding up a core value for the more progressive part of the church. It would be to abandon the understanding of the "goodness" of God's creation, to ignore the grace Jesus extended to all people, and would exclude people who desire to sing God's praises. At the same time, progressives cannot agree to let conservatives walk away because it would require them to accept schism -- which is antithetical to their core value of community.

Now, again, that's a broad brush and there are plenty of ways to pick those characterizations apart. The point is that there are competing core values at stake, which is why the energy is so hot around the GA PJC decisions and the overtures coming in regarding ordination and Authoritative Interpretations.

I have spent very little space on this site analyzing and advocating on the sexuality/ordination/marriage issues --I do not plan to do much more in the way of analysis of the business coming. Why? Two reasons.

One, I could bore you with the procedural niceties of what might happen; but my site statistics tell me that most people read my posts for less than 30 seconds. An in-depth walk through a myriad of possibilities would take a much longer note. It's not worth it.

Two, anything more substantive will add more heat than light to the subject. Do you really need my take on these issues? Is my perspective hidden?

The debates will be much the same as every other previous year, with the calls to Biblical fidelity and the "person-ing" of the issue by those who are excluded. You could almost script them out ahead of time. But, in the end, it will all come down to a vote. And, the vote will be "yes" or "no." And, as along as the vote is "yes" or "no," someone will prevail, someone will not.

We can "agree we disagree," but too much is at stake to leave it at that.