The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) at her 2007 General Assembly (GA) adopted guidelines on how to offer "pastoral care" to homosexuals within her ranks. The guidelines were adopted after ineffectual opposition from the conservatives. A motion to send the report to presbyteries for their consideration was defeated by 168 votes to 163. This report will now be published by the PCI's General Assembly.
A Significant Number of Homosexuals
In 2006, the GA adopted a motion requesting the Social Issues Panel of "The Board of Social Witness" to "prepare guidelines to help the Church develop more sensitive pastoral care" to homosexuals. This request was made "recognising homophobic attitudes within Church and society." The PCI’s concern over "homophobic attitudes" is particularly acute because of the number of homosexuals in her membership.
Former PCI moderator, Rev. Ken Newell believes that about 3% of the PCI denomination are homosexual. Why does he assume this? Because government research estimates that 3% of the UK population are homosexual! Therefore, Newell reasons, there are probably "around 9,000 whose sexual orientation is homosexual" in the PCI, whose nominal membership is about 300,000 souls. (However, the 2007 GA reported the PCI's membership at 262,000.) Are Irish Presbyterians aware of the large number of homosexuals in their church? According to Rev. Newell, there are homosexual Presbyterian ministers! He states that of the 9,000 or so sodomites in the PCI "some will be ministers, elders, committee members, Bible class and Sunday school teachers." Rev. Newell states that homosexuals are "involved" in every ministry of the PCI and in every other area of Irish Presbyterian church life. Missionaries too? These homosexuals, claims the former moderator, are people of faith, people who love the church, part of "[our] faith family," and therefore they need to be "cherished" (Newsletter, 9 June, 2006). Do you hear that, Presbyterian church member? You are supposed to "cherish" homosexuals as members of your spiritual family and church!
What a damning indictment of the PCI and its preaching and discipline! Surely if a church preaches against a sin and disciplines those who practice that sin, then the incidence of that sin will be dramatically lower than that of the world. Clearly, Rev. Newell, an older minister and former moderator and member of various PCI boards over the last few decades, does not think that this is the case. Either he does not believe that "the gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation" empowering believers to break with their sins (Rom. 1:16) or he is admitting that whatever it is that comes from PCI pulpits it is not the powerful gospel of Christ. Either way the Presbyterian Church in Ireland stands condemned. The obvious explanation of the deplorable incidence of homosexuals in the PCI is that already this sin is not being faithfully preached against and those practising it are not disciplined.
Pandering to the Feelings of Sinners While Sidelining Scripture
The 2007 report takes the wrong approach and therefore reaches the wrong conclusions. The panel does not exegete Holy Scripture and allow that to determine their approach because that was not their "remit" (1.3; subsequent paragraphing from the report). Instead, the panel’s remit was to make "direct contact with homosexual people," to listen to their stories, and then to seek to address how the church can provide them with "pastoral care," making them feel more welcome and comfortable in the PCI. Thus the feelings of homosexuals—not so much God’s Word—determine the PCI’s attitude to homosexuality. But how can a person be "pastored" without using the Bible? Pastoral care without Scripture is not the calling of the church of Jesus Christ; such is mere social work or psychology. Christ’s sheep are to be pastored with His rod and staff, not with sociology and psychology (Ps. 23:4). Moreover, impenitent homosexuals are not Christ's sheep (I Cor. 6:9-11), and a denomination which seeks to treat them as sheep is not acting as Christ's church.
The report relates "Bob’s story" (2.3), a young man who claims that, when he "discovered" that he was attracted to other men, his church was not supportive. Bob "needed someone to listen to [him] without judgment," though he professes to be a "Christian who loves God and His Word but [he is] also gay" (2.3).
A homosexual may think that he needs to be heard without judgment (from God's Word), but he is mistaken. A homosexual needs to hear God's truth and repent. He needs to cease making excuses ("I didn’t choose it to be so. It just was;" 2.3) and submit to Christ’s word. He needs to be shown that God demands that he repent and believe the gospel. Believing the gospel, he must ask God to give him grace to turn from the "vile affections" of sodomy (Rom. 1:26), trusting that God can indeed deliver him from this sin. The apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:9-11 that some of the members of the church in that licentious city had been homosexuals, but now they were "washed," "sanctified" and "justified" from such sins. The grace of God grants repentance to the homosexual (Acts 11:18), causing the homosexual to break with his sin. The Westminster Confession defines repentance thus:
An evangelical grace [by which] a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments … it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it (15:1-3).
This is what is required of the homosexual who would be a member of the Christian church. Repent and bring forth fruit worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8)! Show yourself to be repentant by acknowledging the filthiness and odiousness of your sins. Hate and grieve for your sins. See them as God sees them and turn from them. Live, by God’s grace, a new and holy life! However, no such call is given by the PCI report.
Instead, the report, after listing examples of what it sees as "homophobia" (a "lack of understanding, compassion and grace" to those who reveal their homosexuality;" 2.8) in the church, states, "there is a need to call such attitudes sinful and for there to be repentance on our part as a Church" (2.9; italics mine). So, the PCI, by a majority vote adopting this report, has confessed that it must repent of its "homophobia" (2.9; 11.1). Christians in the PCI, do you hear this? Your church's highest assembly issues to you and your congregation the (politically correct) command to repent of any and all instances of "homophobia," as defined in the 2007 report! Is the PCI also going to call the estimated 9,000 homosexuals in the denomination to repentance? The report does not issue this (biblical) command. From reading the PCI report, one may well conclude that calling homosexuals to repent of their sin is "homophobic!"
The report offers "understanding" and "compassion" to the homosexual, but that just means acceptance and tolerance of his sin. The report does not present the gospel to the homosexual. By God’s grace, he can be changed. The "vile affections" (Rom. 1:26) of homosexuality can be overcome. By the regenerating, cleansing, sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit! And in no other way!
A Christian may not be enslaved to lust ("Sin shall not have dominion over you;" Rom. 6:14). Those who are in Christ "have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). They do not "fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). They do not use their liberty as an "occasion to the flesh" (Gal. 5:13). They hate the sins which come from the old nature; they put off the old man with his "deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22); and they "mortify" their sinful members (Col. 3:5; Rom. 8:13). By the cross of Christ!
Believers do not define themselves by their sins. A "gay Christian" is as oxymoronic as a "Christian adulterer," an "idolatrous Christian" or a "Christian thief" (cf. I Cor. 6:9-11). If a person wants to define himself as a Christian who struggles with his lusts and desires, then he is in good company. All Christians struggle with sinful desires, motives and lusts (Rom. 7:15ff.; Gal. 5:17). Some Christians are inclined to anger, others to pride, others to sexual lust, others to greed, etc., but they do not define themselves by these sins, nor do they indulge them. Although the struggle with sin is life-long, God promises the believer victory over these sins. By the power of His grace! Where is the power of God’s grace in this report? How can there be such power in this report. This power comes only through the Holy Spirit who works exclusively through the Word of God. The report barely mentions Scripture. Therefore it is inevitable that the result is a Christianity "having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof;" from such, the apostle continues, we must "turn away" (II Tim. 3:5).
That Most Grievous Sin: Homophobia!
The framers of this report are terrified that they might be labelled "homophobic"—there is apparently no worse sin than this. This is a favourite scare tactic of the homosexual lobby. One definition of "homophobia" is "an irrational fear and prejudice towards homosexual people and the issue of homosexuality" (3.1). The panel prefer Andrew Goddard’s definition: "the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex" (3.2). According to this definition "homophobia" is an attitude or behaviour towards homosexuals which "denies [their] humanity" (3.2). Such a definition, which the report describes as "more helpful" is woolly at best and absurd at worst. What does "denying the humanity" of a person mean? Jack the Ripper, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and the Roman Emperor Nero were all monsters of iniquity, yet my saying that does not make them less human. They showed themselves to be fallen human beings by their sins. And because they are human, God holds them (unlike animals) accountable for their sins and punishes them in hell (Rev. 21:8). All men are totally depraved, so depraved that they have completely lost the image of God, which can only be restored by regeneration (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), yet not one whit less human because of it.1 Fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals are guilty of gross transgressions of the seventh commandment, yet they are all human.
There is a sinful hatred of one's homosexual neighbour. All Christians are called to love their neighbours. No true Christian believes that it is acceptable to beat up a homosexual or revile him in the street or destroy his property. Such behaviour must obviously be condemned. But that is not what the homosexual lobby means by "homophobia." "Homophobia," in practice, is any statement which expresses disagreement with, or disapproval of, the sin of homosexuality. Increasingly, anyone who dares say, "Homosexuality is immoral," is immediately labelled a "homophobe." To say that homosexuality is sinful is to be accused of hatred and intolerance. Yet, the Bible does not define love as unquestioning acceptance of all sin, lest one hurt the feelings of one's neighbour. The Most High commands, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him" (Lev. 19:17). According to Almighty God (but not the PCI report), to fail to rebuke the neighbour for his sin is hatred. To allow the neighbour to go on in his sin is not to seek his salvation. To tell the homosexual that God loves him and he can carry on in his sin without fear of judgment (although that is what he wants to hear and that is what the politically-correct world insists that he must hear) is to hate him and to allow him to perish everlastingly (Eze. 33:8).
The report theorizes that "the factors involved in why a person has same-sex attractions may be too complex to entangle," opining that "choice" is not involved. We are all fallen, the report continues, and "the fall has affected our sexuality" (3.4). Nevertheless, we are "morally responsible" for how we deal with our sexual urges (3.5). We are also morally responsible for our inward depravity and our lusts. Romans 5:19 teaches that "by one man’s disobedience many were made [i.e., constituted] sinners" and that through Adam’s transgression "judgment came upon all men unto condemnation" (Rom. 5:18). This is simply the biblical and Reformed doctrine of original sin. If Jesus teaches that heterosexual lusts are themselves sin—adultery in the heart (Matt. 5:28)—how much more are the "vile affections" of the homosexual sin (Rom. 1:26)? The report lies when it says that homosexual "sexual temptation and desire is not sin" (7.3; italics mine). TheWestminster Larger Catechism lists some of the many transgressions against the seventh commandment: "adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes and affections …" (Q. & A. 139). In denying that homosexual desire is evil, the PCI teaches a thoroughly Pelagian and Roman Catholic doctrine of sin and reveals that it understands neither the seventh nor the tenth commandment nor its own confessional standards (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 139).
The report cautions against an overly condemning attitude concerning homosexuality: "When we condemn homosexual practices in isolation or single it out as somehow worse than other sexual practices outside of heterosexual marriage, then we demonstrate homophobic attitudes" (3.5). This effectively makes it impossible for any minister to condemn homosexuality as sin for fear of being labelled homophobic. The fear of man (Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:28) increasingly muzzles Presbyterian ministers and so the pulpit falls silent regarding this sin. What about the fear of Almighty God and pleasing Him! "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty ... Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa. 2:10, 22).
The apostle proclaims, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). A few verses later, he declares that same gospel's condemnation of the "vile affections" of lesbianism and sodomy (Rom. 1:26-27). Thus all those who refuse to preach the Bible's robust denunciations of homosexuality thereby proclaim that they are ashamed of the gospel of Christ and therefore of Christ Himself. Because sodomy is a moral and ethical issue, someone ought to be ashamed. If sodomy is not really that bad, then Christians ought to be ashamed of God's Word which calls it an "abomination" (Lev. 18:22; 20:13); but if sodomy is what the Most High says it is, then homosexuals ought to be ashamed. The PCI, in muting the sharp biblical condemnations of sodomy, in allowing homosexuals as church members and in not disciplining them, reveals that it is ashamed of the gospel of Christ and therefore is not an apostolic church. Instead of bringing God's unadulterated Word to them, condemning their sins and (by God's grace) leading some of them to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ (I Cor. 6:9-11), the PCI seeks to avoid "making them feel bad"—which is necessarily involved in repentance; II Cor. 7:11!—and seeks to make them "comfortable" in the church!
True churches must continue to preach the seventh commandment and in so doing condemn fornication (Rom. 1:29; I Cor. 6:18; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; I Thess. 4:3), adultery (Heb. 13:4), unbiblical divorce (Matt. 5:32), remarriage while the original spouse lives (Rom. 7:3; I Cor. 7:39; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18), homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; Jude 7), bestiality (Lev. 20:15-16), and any other transgression of the seventh commandment which the ungodly world can invent. This may well "hurt the feelings" of the ungodly. We ought to pray that such faithful preaching will be used by God to convert sinners and to break their hearts so that they repent of their sins (Acts 2:37). This is the apostolic way followed in true apostolic churches. A church which follows a different method, dictated by political correctness, is neither faithful to Jesus Christ nor apostolic.
The report states that there needs to be "recognition within the church that the desires for love (in all its aspects [which would include the sexual aspect, MMcG]), intimacy, companionship, etc., that move heterosexual couples towards marriage are the same desires that motivate those with same sex attractions" (5.3). We recognise no such thing! It is interesting that the Bible never describes homosexual relationships in terms of "love." How dare the Presbyterian Church in Ireland dignify this unnatural lust with the honourable name of "love!" The Bible always describes the feelings of homosexuality as "lust" or even "vile affections" or "going after strange flesh" (Rom. 1:26-27; Jude 7); never love. The Holy Spirit inspired these strong words in a society where sodomy was practiced and approved. The ancient Greek and Roman societies in which the apostles laboured revelled in sodomy. Yet, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, condemned it. Societal approval may cause the PCI, chameleon-like, to be "conformed to the world" (Rom. 12:1-2) but God’s Word stands forever (I Peter 1:25). Homosexuality is sin and can never be anything other than sin, all Presbyterian theological revisionism notwithstanding.
The report continues that "when a church states that it cannot agree with practising same-sex relationships" this is seen as "rejection" of the person (5.4). Churches may not be intimidated by this. God rejects homosexuals. He also rejects fornicators, adulterers, idolaters, thieves, murderers and all impenitent sinners. None of these may be members of His church. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. The PCI does not want to be seen as rejecting anyone so we will see her already muted and compromised disagreement with homosexual practices become less and less frequent. This is the clear, downward direction of the PCI.
"Condemnation from the pulpit closes the door on compassionate care outside the pulpit," claims the report (5.6). How ludicrous! Jesus condemned adultery in His public ministry and yet harlots and sinners flocked to him, that is, repentantharlots and sinners (Matt. 21:31-32; John 8:11; etc.). The apostle Paul preached repeatedly against sexual sin, including homosexuality—"of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21)—and there were repentant homosexuals in the church at Corinth and doubtless elsewhere (I Cor. 6:9-11). The argument is absurd. If there is sharp preaching against adultery, does that mean that adulterers are afraid to approach the elders to confess their sins? Of course not! In a well-ordered, biblical church, where discipline is rightly administered, the people know that Jesus (who rules through the office bearers) receives repentant sinners. Those only need fear the preaching and the elders who live impenitently in sin.
Avoiding "Unhelpful" (Biblical) Language
How do we create an atmosphere in the church which is comfortable for the homosexual? To find oneself asking this question is almost surreal. The church is not supposed to be comfortable for any impenitent sinner. Yet the report has an idyllic vision of "safe spaces" where people can discuss their sexuality with the pastor without fear of judgment (10.10)! As if the holy Lord in heaven does not behold nor try the children of men (Ps. 11:4)!
The report’s answer to the problem of uncomfortable homosexual members is to avoid "unhelpful" language (7.1). Unhelpful language is defined by the report as derogatory language which tends to "victimise or diminish" (3.2).
The first phrase which must go is "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Given the popularity of theistic evolution in the PCI, I’d be surprised if there are many Presbyterian ministers left who believe that Adam and Eve were real, historical people, whose literal actions had literal consequences for all their posterity (Gen. 3). But how is an argument from Genesis "unhelpful?" God did create Adam and Eve. Are we not to preach that? In His defence of marriage as a life-long bond between one man and one woman, Jesus Christ Himself states, "He which made them at the beginning made themmale and female" (Matt. 19:4). Is the Son of God using inflammatory and homophobic language here, effectively closing the door to any meaningful pastoral care of the homosexual (He did not say "male and male" or "female and female") or the unbiblically divorced or remarried person?
It is also unhelpful, according to the report, to say that God "loves the sinner and hates the sin"! Concerning His elect in Jesus Christ, God loves the sinner and hates the sin, but God hates both the reprobate sinner and his sins (Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Rom. 9:13). Has it now come to this? Do Presbyterians now hate neither the sinner nor the sin? Do Irish Presbyterians hate any sin? Except homophobia, of course! The issue here is that we are called to hate all sin, as God does (Rom. 12:9). However, homosexuals refuse to call their "lifestyle" sinful. They demand to be accepted in the church just the way they are. Hence the report wrestles with difficult questions such as "How could I ever welcome a same sex partner into the home?" or "What if they want to share the same bedroom?" (2.5). How can these be questions for any Presbyterian? Never mind difficult questions!
Homosexuals are campaigning like no other group to have those who call their lifestyle sinful made liable to prosecution as those guilty of "hate crimes." Homosexuals, like the original sodomites, do not like their actions to be judged and refuse to repent. Remember their retort to Lot: "This one fellow came in to sojourn and he will needs be a judge. Now we will deal worse with thee, than with them" (Gen. 19:9).
This brings us to the third "unhelpful" term: "sodomy." Sodomy is that sin which is practiced by sodomites. Such sinners (like adulterers, fornicators, etc.) are not members of the kingdom of God, either in the Old (Deut. 23:17) or New Testament (I Cor. 6:9-10). In Israel’s history, when the rulers of the people were disobedient "there were sodomites" in the land (I Kings 14:24; 15:12), but when the more faithful kings ruled they removed the sodomites from the land (I Kings 22:46; II Kings 23:7). In the OT, sodomites, as well as other gross transgressors (adulterers, incestuous persons, idolaters, etc.), were to be "removed" by execution. In the NT, the Christian church cuts off such rotten members by excommunication and expulsion from the fellowship with the hope that, the flesh being destroyed, "the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Cor. 5:5).
One of the tactics of the homosexual lobby, aided and abetted by the effeminate, departing churches, is to claim that the sin which brought down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah (the sin of "sodomy" therefore) was not homosexuality. Genesis 13:13 teaches that the "men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly." The sin of the men of Sodom (no women are mentioned) was sexual. They demanded that Lot bring "the men" out that they might "know them" (Gen. 19:5), that is sleep with them. Lot called this "do[ing] wickedly" (Gen. 19:7). The sin of Sodom was also an iniquity in which the sodomites boasted ("They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not;" Isa. 3:9). Modern sodomites parade their iniquitous life-style in so-called "Gay Pride" marches. Although the report mentions "the promotion of alternative sexualities" which lead to "confusion" among some young people (9.3), there is no condemnation or even mild criticism of such marches. Homosexual propagandists within apostate Christendom often appeal to Ezekiel to try to re-write the history of Genesis 19. They contend that the sin of Sodom was solely "pride, iniquity, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness" (Eze. 16:49), and therefore, not homosexuality. But they ignore the context, nor do they compare Scripture with Scripture. "And they were haughty," continues the inspired prophet of Jehovah, "and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good" (Eze. 16:50). "Abomination" is a word used to describe sodomy (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). The apostles also identified the sin of Sodom as "filthy conversation [i.e., conduct]" (II Peter 2:7) and "going after strange flesh" and "giving themselves over to fornication" (Jude 7). Whatever the framers of this report may believe the sin of Sodom was (and they do not say), one thing is certain, there will be few sermons on Genesis 19 and God’s destruction of Sodom in the PCI.
Although the Holy Spirit uses the word "unnatural" ("against nature" or "leaving the natural use") in Romans 1:26-27, the report deems it "unhelpful" in preaching or counselling. Thus the Third Person of the Trinity has less wisdom than the General Assembly of the PCI! What a shame that holy and inspired Scripture can not be rewritten by the highest court of Irish Presbyterianism! Oh foolish Holy Spirit, who inspired words which "victimise" and "diminish" homosexuals! This blasphemy follows logically and necessarily from the report adopted by the 2007 PCI General Assembly.
All of these words and phrases concerning homosexuality, like "sodomy" and "unnatural," "lock the door to effective pastoral care before it is even open," complains the report (7.1). How arrogant of the framers of this report to think that they know better than the Triune God! God saves His elect, some of whom before their conversion walked in the sins of homosexuality, exactly through the application of these and other biblical words to their hearts (Heb. 4:12). He also uses these words to warn His church about these sins, lest they be tempted to commit them also. Therefore, writes Jude, the sodomites who are "suffering eternal fire" in hell are "set forth for an example," as a warning to all impenitent homosexuals and to those who are tempted to commit this sin (Jude 7; II Peter 2:6). More "unhelpful" words, betraying the shockingly ineffective pastoral care of Peter and Jude! If only the inspired penmen of Holy Scripture had learned a "balanced" theology at Union Theological College and digested the report of the PCI's 2007 General Assembly! The report urges "balanced proclamation" (7.3). Don’t condemn homosexuality too much (i.e., in the language and with the force that God does in His Word). In practice this means, don’t condemn this sin at all.
A Radical Change or a Predictable Development?
The Social Issues and Resources Panel insisted that it was not their remit to change the position of the GA (1.3). The position of the GA, prior to the 2007 report, is contained in "The Church and the Homosexual," which was prepared by the National and International Problems Committee (Assembly Reports [Belfast: 1979], pp. 181-195).
Already in 1979, the PCI was weakening the biblical position, yet even that was too strong for the PCI in 2007. Some of the 1979 statements against homosexuality which the present Social Issues and Resources Panel (2007) must have found "unhelpful" are these:
Heterosexual relations are still the only "natural" sexual relations (cf. Rom. 1:27, 29) (para. 18, p. 184).
It is surely incontestable that Old Testament references to homosexual practices strongly condemn them as a sin against God and a degradation of society (para. 20, p. 185).
Twice Paul refers to heterosexual relations as being "natural," and evil men and women "changing" or "leaving the natural use" into that which is against nature. This would leave little room for the contention by many homosexuals that their orientation is as "natural" and God-given as that of heterosexuals (para. 22, p. 185).
In the New Testament, the Old Testament view that homosexual acts are sinful in the sight of God is fully endorsed and reinforced (para. 23, p. 186).
But there were cracks even in the 1979 report; the warning signs were there. The 2007 report is a further step in the wrong direction.
In the first place, most of the stronger statements in the 1979 report are carefully qualified: the condemnation of homosexuality in the OT would "seem to be inescapable" (para. 20, p. 185; italics mine). In the light of the NT passages cited (Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; I Tim. 1:10), "it would be difficult to argue that a practising homosexual may engage in and claim God’s blessing on a homosexual relationship" (para. 23, p. 186; italics mine).
In addition, the framers of the 1979 report welcomed signs of an openness to enter into dialogue with homosexuals: "There can be little doubt that many self-confessed homosexuals would welcome dialogue … and there are signs, much to be welcomed, that more and more members of the Church are prepared to seek enlightenment" (para. 26, p. 186). One is amazed! How can the church enter into dialogue with and "seek enlightenment" from homosexuals, when God's Word has clearly spoken on the issue? "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).
The 1979 report also betrays a false view of "pastoral care." We must "be careful about condemning it [i.e., homosexuality]" (para. 59, p. 192). But does not the Triune God condemn it? Perhaps the Almighty ought to have been more "careful"? The 1979 PCI report continues, "we must ask ourselves … what we may have done as regards membership—with all the discipline that goes with that—on the part of those whose sexual orientation is towards those of their own sex" (para. 60, p. 192). Is this really a question? Note that in 1979 the PCI was questioning God's prohibition against homosexuals as members in Christ's church (I Cor. 6:9-11)!
The 1979 report also insisted that a "fine story" could be told of lives lived by homosexuals in the service of church and state ("including the ordained ministry"). This, in the words of the 1979 report, is "beyond dispute" (cf. para. 65, p. 193). Yet how can an impenitent homosexual serve the church, when he is not even a living member of the body of Christ at all (I Cor. 6:9-11)? And how can unbelievers (homosexual or heterosexual) be indisputably fine servants of Jesus Christ when "they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8)? If even the "ploughing of the wicked is sin" (Prov. 21:4), what about the "abomination" (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) of a sodomite "serving" in the holy ministry of the Word and sacraments! Were there no delegates to the 1979 GA who understood the biblical and confessional truth of total depravity (e.g., Rom. 3:9-20; WCF 6, 16) that "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7)? Such are the unscriptural and contradictory proclamations of the PCI on sodomy, even in 1979!
In addition, reference is made to a few congregations in some countries who "accept self-professed homosexuals, living in settled homosexual relationships, and do not question the sincerity of their Christian faith." Instead of sharply criticizing such churches for their wicked practices, the 1979 report simply urged understanding and a willingness to listen from those who may disagree (cf. para. 68, p. 193). Presbyterians ought instead to listen to Proverbs 19:27: "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge." But this Word of God was not heeded. Instead, the false counsel of the 1979 report caused the PCI to err in "dialoguing" with the homosexuals, and now, after hearkening to the sodomites, the 2007 GA is further causing Irish Presbyterians to err with its false report. So much for God's Word in the PCI.
Already the 1979 report urged "a more tolerant and understanding acceptance of the homosexual" (para. 70, p. 194). These aspirations are being realized in the 2007 report.
Tolerating Evil in the Name of Love
The 2007 report describes the struggles a homosexual person may have before he "comes out" about his sexuality. First reactions, cautions the report, have "the potential to crush or bring hope" (8.1). The person at this point needs unconditional love and acceptance, just the way he is. "At this point they do not even need to hear what the Bible says about homosexuality" (8:2). How foolish! Sinners always need to hear what God’s Word says about their sin. They also need to be told about the gospel and the sovereign grace of God which delivers sinners from the condemnation, shame, guilt and pollution of sin. The grace of God which brings salvation teaches us that, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:12). The grace of God does not teach us that God accepts us just the way we are and that we can go on in our lusts (whether they are lusts after money or after power or after people of the other sex or after people of the same sex, etc.); it teaches us repentance. Any other teaching is sheer antinomianism, "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness" (Jude 4) by telling homosexuals that they may continue as members of the church as homosexuals. According to this PCI report, pastors should not force people into counselling or suggest that people with same-sex attractions are spiritually sick or perverted (8.2). But, according to God's Word, homosexuals (and all other impenitent sinners) must be told that they are transgressors who need the grace of God to turn from their sinful desires and practices. The homosexual who is being pastored should not be rejected by the church, according to this report (9.4). Therefore we see that church discipline is out of the question. Yet Christ commanded church discipline of impenitent church members (Matt. 18:15-18) and He cuts off churches who tolerate wickedness in their members (Rev. 2:14, 20). Whom are Irish Presbyterians going to obey? The GA or Jesus Christ? This report means that you can not obey both.
The PCI cannot bring itself to exercise biblical church discipline. Such would be "unloving." This is indicated in the report as well. The PCI says that their position is that "sexual practice is only for heterosexual marriage" (10). Well and good. But then the PCI speaks out of the other side of its mouth:
Our aim ought to be to help ALL unmarried people to cope with sexual pressures. We realise this raises issues regarding celibacy. While this is an area of debate in relation to "the hope of marriage," essentially ongoing sexual pressures need to be controlled (10; italics mine).
Pathetic! This means that the PCI won’t even discipline fornicators. How is celibacy before marriage an "area of debate"? How dare they raise questions about that which the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has forever settled! Is the PCI going to enforce celibacy on its homosexual members when it does not seem to be able to do so with its heterosexual members? One wonders how that would fit with politically correct views of "equality." How many other sins are tolerated in the name of this false view of Christian "love"? Yet faithful church discipline, after true preaching and proper administration of the two sacraments, is the third mark of a true church! Unfaithful church discipline, permitting homosexuals to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and muzzling the preaching of God's Word against sodomy indicate that the PCI manifests the three marks of the false church (Belgic Confession 29).
The PCI report simply caves in to the pressures of the ungodly world. "Churches must continue to live with those who act and behave in ways seen as inconsistent with God’s Word" (9.4). Notice the words "act and behave." Those who commit homosexual sins (not just those who have such desires) are to be tolerated as members of the PCI. This is a "principle" of all pastoral care and "especially in this matter [of homosexuality]" (9.4; italics mine). Notice also the weak way in which these sins are described: "in ways seen as inconsistent with God’s Word" (9.4; italics mine). Why the hesitancy? Those who act in ways inconsistent with God’s word (i.e., those who walk in the ways of wickedness, whether adultery, theft or homosexuality, etc.) are to be disciplined, and, if they remain impenitent, excluded from the church and kingdom of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 5:13). In this way the church acts in love and prays for the repentance of the sinning member (I Cor. 5:5). If, after repeated admonitions, the sinner refuses to repent, he is to be considered "an heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:17). With such a person the church may not have any fellowship. She takes this action in the hope that the sinning member will return in the way of repentance (I Cor. 5:11). Failure to do this leads to the corruption of the whole body (I Cor. 5:6) and Christ's removal of the candlestick (Rev. 2-3). Do the framers of the report fear Christ more than being called "homophobic"? Clearly not!
Creating the Right Atmosphere For Iniquity to Abound!
The PCI, according to the 2007 report, needs to "create an environment of love, understanding, acceptance, patience, forgiveness, openness and grace" (10) for impenitent homosexuals. Remember there is not a word in the report calling homosexuals to repent. However, just because our society is becoming more "inclusive" does not mean that everybody is welcome to be a member of the church. The church may not accept such wicked people as members. The church must urge them to repentance and administer discipline if the call is unheeded. The report makes all kinds of suggestions on how the church can be understanding and accepting: the use of small groups and youth groups, exploring the possibility of support groups, and providing books and tapes. What kind of books and tapes? Material by authors and preachers who teach the pure biblical truth about sodomy (which is forbidden by the report) or the material of those who are "double minded" regarding homosexuality (James 1:8) like the PCI itself? Answer: the latter! How will small groups, youth groups or support groups explore this subject if all condemnatory language from Scripture is to be avoided? Report 10.9 is particularly alarming, for it states that one must "acknowledge a person’s right to a private life." What does this mean? Does this mean the homosexual's right to sleep with other men in private? Or that church officers will not ask questions about these things? We are not told. We can only imagine. And shudder.
The report calls for repentance. But it calls on the Presbyterian church to repent for its attitude against homosexual members (11) and it pleads (rather pathetically) with the homosexual for some understanding on his part: "It is not easy for those who wish to be genuinely caring yet maintain Biblical integrity without giving the impression that in so doing they are rejecting the person" (11.2). "It is not easy," either, to "halt between two opinions" (I Kings 18:21) and talk out of both sides of one's mouth! How difficult to try to appear orthodox enough to fool those who follow Jesus Christ but inclusive enough to please the ungodly world. No such difficulty exists for those who believe the Bible and unashamedly confess it. Persecution will follow, but a clear conscience remains (II Tim. 3:12; I Tim. 1:19).
Proclaiming condemnation of sodomy "does not win hearts and minds" (11:3), says the report. But we protest! A sharp condemnation of sin—by the grace of God—won over the Corinthians, some of whom lived in homosexuality before they repented and believed the gospel (I Cor. 6:11). The report claims that condemnation does not show "the pastoral care of Jesus Christ" (11:3) but it offers no proof from Scripture. The fact is that when Christ dealt with people, unlike the report, He pointed out their sins, demanded repentance and called them to a new and godly life (e.g., John 4:16-18; 8:11). Thus the PCI is teaching "another Jesus" and therefore "another gospel" and "another spirit" (II Cor. 11:4), by approving a foolish report which corrupts the church, taking her away from "the simplicity which is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3). The men who wrote the report do not have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16), but are slavishly in bondage to the fear of our increasingly politically correct world. This is the spirit of true apostolic Christianity: "if yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). Where does this put the ministers and elders of the General Assembly? Where is the zeal of the OT prophets in the PCI? "But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin" (Micah 3:8)! Oh, but this would be "unhelpful" and "diminish" and "victimise" homosexuals! It is significant that the Epistle of Jude which exhorts all Christians "earnestly [to] contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3), refers a few verses later to sodomy (Jude 7)! In failing to contend earnestly against homosexuality, the PCI shows that is losing (if it has not already lost) "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
We have seen from a brief analysis of this report how grievously the PCI has departed from God’s Word on this matter (and many other areas could also be detailed). But, then, ought we be surprised? As early as 1873, the PCI had women missionaries. By 1908, Irish Presbyterians allowed women into the order of "deaconesses." By 1926, the PCI permitted women to be elders in the church. All these are clear acts of rebellion against Jesus Christ, the head of His church (I Tim. 2:12). This was followed, logically, in 1976 with the decision to ordain women to the ministry. The PCI has long departed from a sound confession of the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture; higher critical (i.e., unbelieving) views of Scripture are taught in Union Theological College. The Westminster Confession is merely a venerable antique in the PCI and a tool to fool the unwary into thinking that the PCI is an orthodox Christian and Reformed church. The majority of the office bearers in the denomination do not believe what their creed teaches, if they even know what it contains. Arminianism is preached from the pulpits. Those few ministers who claim to preach the biblical and confessional truth of God's sovereign and particular grace, teach it quietly and inconsistently, while they cling tenaciously to the errors of the free offer of the gospel and common grace, proclaiming the God loves everybody and wants to save everybody, including the reprobate (read the following: Ps. 5:4-6; 11:5-7; 69:21-28; 73:18; 92:6-7; 115:3; Isa. 6:9-11; Rom. 9:13).
The PCI's previous departure regarding the seventh commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery") needs especially to be exposed in this connection. Fornication is permitted amongst its membership, as we saw acknowledged above. Unbiblical divorce for reasons other than fornication has been going on for decades (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Adulterous remarriage for both "innocent" and "guilty" parties while one's spouse is living is rampant (Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:16; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). The PCI capitulation regarding sodomy is simply the next logical step away from the chaste Christian life required by God in the seventh commandment—as it was for the Church of England and other apostate churches. On the great judgment day, the Most High will thunder just as loudly (if not more so) against the wickedness of the PCI in despising His commandments (cf. Ps. 50:16-18) as He did at Mount Sinai.
Every member of the PCI needs to know that it is now the official policy of the PCI to tolerate sodomy, both in its "vile affections" and wicked practices. The official position is that the church must "live with" those who "act and behave" as homosexuals (9.4). Sodomy will be, and is already being, tolerated. "Homophobia" will not. If members complain against a minister who preaches a forthright, biblical sermon on sodomy (from, say, Romans 1:26-27 or Jude 7, etc.) or against elders who seek to discipline a homosexual member, that minister or session will not have a leg to stand on in the ecclesiastical courts. This report effectively ties their hands and leaves them wide open to the appeal and overthrow of their work. Those who would dare to discipline impenitent homosexuals could themselves become liable to church discipline!
Nor is this the end of the matter. There are many people in the PCI who do not think this report goes far enough. Rev. Ken Newell (Newsletter, 9 June, 2006) and Rev. Bobby Liddle (Newsletter, 6 June, 2007) make this point very clearly. Rev. Newell, welcoming this report, enthused, "We hope that this sends a very strong message to the gay members of our Church and community that the General Assembly, Presbyteries, Kirk Sessions and Congregations [of the PCI] apologise for any hurt caused them in the past" (Belfast Telegraph, 7 June, 2007; italics mine). Note again the free admission of undisciplined homosexuals in the PCI. Moreover, here a former PCI moderator, on behalf of the PCI in all her bodies and members, makes a blanket apology to PCI homosexuals for "any hurt" caused them, which must include (in the terms of the 2007 GA report) any biblical instruction ever given in the PCI's history that homosexuality is "unnatural" (Rom. 1:26-27) and that those who live in this "vile affection" are not citizens in the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9-10) but are headed for eternal destruction (Jude 7).
Is this the "very strong message" that any God-fearing Presbyterian "in the pew" wants sent out? But where are the groans and sighs amongst the believing remnant in the PCI and where are the protests? Thousands of PCI members ought to be waking up to the terrifying and awful apostasy of their denomination. Where are the people leaving the PCI, shaking the dust off their feet? God's truth is fallen to the street in the PCI (Isa. 59:14) to be trampled under foot by the General Assembly which represents the entire PCI membership, but few seem even to care! Yet the second commandment tells us that "the LORD ... [is] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate [Him]" (Ex. 20:5)! Are not Irish Presbyterians troubled about the salvation and edification of themselves and their children and grandchildren and fellow church members, as their church descends the deep, dark path of apostasy? Certainly the Holy Spirit is grieved (Eph. 4:30) and quenched (I Thess. 5:19) in the PCI, as it tolerates sodomy. Thus God's grace and blessing is being withdrawn from its preaching and sacraments. But the problem is that most PCI members have gotten used to departure from God's Word; they don't try the church spirits (I John 4:1) by the light of Scripture; they have little or no zeal for the glory of Jesus Christ. Like those in the apostate Northern Kingdom of Israel just before she was destroyed, the great and eternal issues of God's Word are "counted as a strange thing" (Hos. 8:12) by most Irish Presbyterians. Then, as now, those who warn members of a departing church are denounced as a crazy scare-mongers. Sadly, for some people in the PCI, like Lot in Sodom (Gen. 19), it would take angels to come down from heaven to drag them out! Their denomination can descend so low as to make peace with sodomy and seek to include impenitent homosexuals in the body of Jesus Christ, but they still remain in the PCI. Those who stay in apostatising churches will probably lose their children (Hos. 4:6).
What further PCI departures on this subject can we expect to see in future years? Sodomy is a particularly grave sin even in the world; to homosexuality some unbelievers are "given up" in God's just wrath (Rom. 1:26). In the church, it is an especially gross instance of departure from the truth, being tolerated only when the church is already a long way down the path of apostasy (Judg. 19:22-23; Isa. 1:10). Openness towards and acceptance of sodomy will grow in the PCI, as God’s judgment against her for wickedly rejecting His Word. The homosexuals in the PCI will become bolder and more brazen (cf. Isa. 3:9). The Church of England was at this stage some years ago. Now they have openly homosexual ministers and ministers in homosexual civil partnerships. Think of the furore in recent times over Gene Robinson, the homosexual Anglican bishop in New Hampshire, USA. It remains to be seen how far and how quickly the PCI goes down this road. Already, as Rev. Bobby Liddle has said, there are some in the PCI who do not think it has gone far enough. And he should know, for Rev. Liddle is the spokesman for the committee which wrote the report! The pro-homosexual lobby in the PCI is like the horseleech which is never satisfied, crying "Give, give" (Prov. 30:15)! If homosexuals are really full church members, they will argue, why can they not be allowed to be more open about their sexuality? Every office and role in the PCI should be available to those who widely declare their homosexuality in the PCI. After all, they will say, you've allowed us in these offices and roles when we've kept quiet about our sexual proclivities! Now let us be honest and nail our colours to the mast. Remember, we're all equal! This is how it has gone with the Church of England and other modernist churches. This is how the PCI has already apostatised regarding women in office (first women missionaries, then deaconesses, then women elders, and then women ministers). How long will it be before the PCI has a woman moderator? How long will it be before the PCI has ministers who openly declare their sodomy?
Member of the PCI, you can not sit on your hands and do nothing while the church of which you are a memberdescends into deeper apostasy. It will not do merely to say, "Oh, but I do not believe the false things that the PCI is saying about sodomy." The only option you have is to secede. The so-called evangelicals claim that they have been attempting to reform the PCI for years, but the church has not been turned around; it has gotten worse. The evangelicals of former generations would be utterly disgusted and appalled at the PCI's capitulation even on so gross a sin as sodomy. The fact is that the modernists and the conservatives in the PCI are friends. Witness the kind words conservative Dr. Harry Uprichard had for the false ecumenist Rev. Ken Newell when he succeeded Rev. Newell as moderator in 2005—as if they were both faithful servants of Jesus Christ! Ahabs and Jehoshaphats live in harmony (II Chron. 19:2). Where in the PCI are the Micaiahs who boldly stand against the 400 false prophets (I Kings 22)? Leave the PCI, for "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3). The PCI courts, machinery and legislation are in the expert hands of ungodly men; how could protests possibly be successful? Few church members in the PCI even understand their office as prophets and their right of church protest. Even fewer even care. And such protests would be swiftly shot down anyway.2 Follow Jesus Christ as a member of a faithful church which manifests clearly the three marks of a true church.3
Trust not in lying words that your congregation is better than the others and your minister is sound. You and he arecorporately responsible and are under God's judgment for all the wicked departures of your church from Jesus Christ (Josh. 7; Dan. 9), especially if you do not raise a word in ecclesiastical protest against it. You, by your weekly offerings, financially support the corrupt boards who penned this report. You support the liberal PCI seminary in Belfast. You pay the salaries of apostate clergy, ecumenists, feminists and liberals. You do! In so doing, you "help the ungodly" (II Chron. 19:2). For the sake of your own soul and the spiritual welfare of your children, obey the voice from heaven which says, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).
As the PCI lurches towards Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels' words ring out in their urgency:
Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city … Escape for thy life; look not behind thee ... escape … lest thou be consumed (Gen. 19:15, 17).4
2A sermon which deals with these issues: "The Moral Foundations of the Church."
3See also the pamphlet, "The Marks of the True Church."
4An earlier edition of this article referred to a piece in the Belfast Telegraph quoting Presbyterian Church in Ireland moderator (2007-2008), Rev. John Finlay, as declaring that homosexuals can be members of the PCI: "Technically there's no reason why a homosexual cannot belong to the church ... There would be no reason for not having them as a member [sic]" (5 June, 2007). In a letter to Rev. Stewart (6 August, 2007), Rev. Finlay claims that he was misrepresented by the Belfast Telegraph and that he was referring to Christians who "were struggling with the temptation towards homosexual behaviour" and not (unrepentant) homosexuals. Rev. Finlay also states in this letter, "Homosexuality is sinful, condemned in Scripture and contrary to God's purposes for mankind ... I believe that a practising homosexual could not be a church member in good standing and spiritual discipline should be exercised by those in church authority." The problem is, as we have seen, that, though this is Rev. Finlay's personal opinion, this is not the PCI's official position which is stated in the 2007 General Assembly Report. Nor is Rev. Finlay's view about what "should" be done regarding homosexual church members PCI practice, for what about the discipline of the estimated 9,000 homosexuals in the PCI? Indeed, as this paper on "The Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Sodomy" makes clear, biblical preaching against and discipline of homosexuals in the PCI is now hamstrung by the 2007 report—much to the delight of false ecumenist Rev. Ken Newell, one of Rev. Finlay's predecessors as PCI moderator, and many in the PCI, and the homosexual lobby.
Listen to a special lecture: Homosexuality: What Does the Bible Teach?
Rev. Martyn McGeown
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010.Website: www.limerickreformed.com/
AddressApt.10, Blk.D, Ballycummin Village
State or ProvinceCo.Limerick
Telephone(011) 35361 635582