The Lord Has Rejected You as Leader – P.C.U.S.A. Leadership

Title: The Lord Has Rejected You as Leader – P.C.U.S.A. Leadership

Text: 1 Samuel 15

Time: May 14th, 2011

By now I’m sure many of you have heard the terrible, awful news that the Presbyterians, the members of the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, the PCUSA or Presbyterian Church United States America, just last week voted to ordain practicing homosexual clergy. Here’s a report on what happened:

Presbyterians clear way for gay clergy

NEW YORK – After decades of debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Tuesday struck down a barrier to ordaining gays, ratifying a proposal that removes the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, in the latest mainline Protestant move toward accepting gay relationships.

The change was endorsed last year by the Presbyterian national assembly, but required approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies.

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., cast the deciding 87th vote Tuesday night. Sixty-two presbyteries have voted against the measure and balloting will continue, but the majority needed for ratification was secured in Minnesota.

“It’s a thrilling day,” said Sylvia Thorson-Smith, an elder at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz., whose family advocates for gays and lesbians in the church. She invited 40 people to her house for a party after the vote was announced. “I can’t help but think of those who have worked and suffered and endured and hoped for this. Some have not lived to see it.” Differences over the Bible and homosexuality have split Protestant groups nationally and worldwide for years. Within the Presbyterian Church, about 100 of the 11,000 congregations had already broken away ahead of the vote, but a group of large theologically conservative congregations, which calls itself Fellowship, has decided to remain in the denomination for now.  Top Presbyterian executives issued a statement to the church acknowledging that “some will rejoice while others will weep,” at the decision.  “However, as Presbyterians, we believe that the only way we will find God’s will for the church is by seeking it together — worshipping, praying, thinking and serving alongside one another,” the executives wrote.  The measure approved Tuesday eliminates language in the church constitution requiring that clergy live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The new provision instead requires ministers to “submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”

Each regional body will decide who it should ordain, and some districts are expected to continue to reject gay and lesbian candidates.  Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas will send a letter to its nearly 5,000 members reaffirming the congregation’s commitment to traditional marriage and celibacy for unmarried clergy. The church has formed a task force to study the impact of the new policy.

“While this change is deeply troubling, it does not change (Highland Park church),” the Highland Park senior pastor and elders wrote in the letter. “We have the freedom and the responsibility to continue upholding biblical standards for church officers.”

The 2.1 million-member denomination, based in Louisville, Ky., is the latest mainline Protestant group to move toward accepting same-gender relationships.  In 2003, The Episcopal Church caused an uproar in the global Anglican fellowship by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran group in the country, liberalized its policy toward gay clergy two years ago. The United Church of Christ started ordaining openly gay clergy in 1972, and more recently endorsed same-sex marriage.

The nation’s largest mainline group, the United Methodist Church, which has just under 8 million U.S. members, retains its celibacy mandate for unmarried clergy.  In the Presbyterian Church, regional bodies had rejected similar amendments in three previous votes on ordaining gays since 1998. In this latest round of balloting, 19 presbyteries switched their vote in favor of ordaining openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry.

Among the reasons cited by activists on all sides of the issue: the change in broader American society toward accepting same-sex relationships, weariness of the debate, and the departure of some conservative churches from presbyteries, which changed the balance of votes in some regions.  The new policy will take effect on July 10, after all presbyteries complete their voting.

The much smaller Presbyterian Church in America, a separate denomination, bars ordination for women and openly gay clergy candidates.” (AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer – Tue May 10, 9:55 pm ET Associated Press writer Tara Bannow in Minneapolis contributed to this report.)

Let me explain why this recent decision parallels the ancient fate of the first king of Israel, Saul. By pursuing this heretical and apostate course, PCUSA pastors, elders and denominational leaders forfeit their own leadership calling in the eyes of God Almighty. The denomination of churches they lead should begin to rapidly decline in numbers and influence because of this action. Let’s look at how the actions of Saul led God to remove him as leader of Israel and how the leaders of the PCUSA will follow a similar course. 1 Samuel 15 (read).

First, There is the clear command of God that was disobeyed. 1 Samuel 15:17-19, “Samuel said, ‘Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, “Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.” Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?’” The command of God was clear; Saul just didn’t obey it. So too the command of God is clear in the Bible against all forms of sexual immorality, including homosexuality, but the leaders in the PCUSA simply refuse to listen to God’s commands, they simply choose to disobey the Word of God. But what makes the recent decision doubly wrong is that it not only opens the way for actively gay ordination in PCUSA churches – which was the real intent of the debate anyway – it also as a consequence of the debate opens the door for sexual immorality for any married or single clergy person. In other words, in trying to accommodate sin, the leaders of the denomination opened the door up for even more sin. Not only is gay sex ok for Presbyterian pastors, now fornication by all single members of the clergy and adultery for married pastors is ok too. There is nothing ambiguous about the Bible’s commands against sexual immorality, whether heterosexual sins, such as fornication and adultery, or homosexual sins. But like the ancient king Saul, the Presbyterian leaders have a rationale or excuse. Listen first to King Saul’s excuse when confronted by the prophet Samuel. According to Saul, he did obey the Word of God because he defeated the Amalekites as he was told. And generally speaking, yes, he did obey the general command of God, but it was in the details that he definitely disobeyed. Yet he tried to rationalize and cover over his sin by emphasizing the part of the command he followed. So too the PCUSA leaders are quick to talk about how loving and affirming the church is to everyone regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances. They talk about how merciful and encouraging they are to folks of every walk of life, and how these are the motives behind opening up the church to gay clergy. Yet they fail to face up to the fact that in order to get to the place of being “open and affirming” of all people, they have to violate direct commands of God with respect to what is and what isn’t moral behavior. Like Saul, they try to rationalize their sinful disobedience by changing the topic and pointing out the good they are doing besides. But sin is still sin, it was in ancient times and it is today. Saul was wrong back then, and the leaders of the PCUSA are wrong today. The fact is in both cases God’s holy commands were violated regardless of whatever else good was accomplished. Shame on the leaders of the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination!

Second, true Christian leaders shouldn’t tolerate such sinful disobedience from these Presbyterians. 1 Samuel 15:22, “And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voices of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.’”  Saul thought that because he had performed the sacrifice ritual that it made it all right to disobey the clear command of God, but Samuel reminded him that to obey is better than sacrifice. So too, the Presbyterian leaders who are responsible for passing this terrible policy of gay clergy ordination think they are acting correctly because of the progressive end results they see coming about because of the change. But like Saul, they are confused. We can always rationalize sin if we work at it hard enough. We can always come up with excuses to get out of obeying a clear command of God if we are clever enough and persistent enough and have a strong enough will to do so. At least we can convince many people of the righteousness of our actions. We can even convince ourselves of the righteousness of our actions. But that’s not the issue – whether we can convince ourselves and others about something. The real question is, what does God Almighty think? There can be no doubt that many or most of the progressive Presbyterian leaders who are responsible for the passing of this new policy of openness to gay clergy members in Presbyterian churches think of themselves as part of a righteous cause. In the wider American culture, the gay rights movement thinks of itself as participating in a righteous cause; they are full of self-righteousness. They use words like “justice” and “right” as clubs to oppose anyone who questions their direction. And now these same attitudes fill the Presbyterian church leadership in respect to the issue of gay rights. But one’s self-perception doesn’t guarantee an accurate evaluation of reality. And in the case of the gay rights movement in general, and its expression in the PCUSA denomination, the movement’s self-perception and self-description shouldn’t be taken seriously. Sure, these leaders see themselves in a righteous cause, but it’s a delusion. The Bible is clear that what they are promoting is sin. That’s the final authority, especially in the church. They would know this if they weren’t so intoxicated by their own sense of self-importance and their own personal needs of being “out in front of the issue” in the cultural wars raging in America. Other Christian leaders shouldn’t tolerate their blatant disrespect for God and God’s Word. Like Samuel, all Christian leaders with any ounce of prophetic backbone should rebuke these Presbyterians sharply and denounce them in the strongest terms. They are leading their people astray. They are false prophets. They are wolves in sheep clothing. They are doing the Devil’s work, while appearing to be angels of light.

Third, God has rejected these Presbyterian leaders from their positions of spiritual influence. 1 Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is no less a sin than divination and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” If we translate this into modern language applied to the corrupt leaders of the PCUSA it means that God Almighty rejects these false church leaders; their days are numbered. Just as Saul’s removal was a process that didn’t take place all at once, so too these heretical Presbyterian leaders will be removed and replaced through a process that may take a while, but if the biblical pattern holds, it will take place. Why? Because they have rejected the authority of God and God’s Word. They have committed the sin of Saul. They have put other concerns above obedience to God. They have utterly failed at the mission God has called them to carry out. The Great Commission of the Christian church as given by Christ himself is to make disciples of all people. How can the church make disciples, which involves bringing  people to recognize, confess and repent of their sins — and finally embrace the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ, how can this process work if leaders deny sin? That’s what PCUSA leaders are doing in respect to homosexuality. How can homosexuals repent of their sin of gay sex if they are told by Presbyterian leaders that their sexual activity is no sin and in no way in need of repentance? How can the church call people to repent in Jesus’ name if the church is denying sin? In this situation, the only thing the Presbyterian church is calling people to do is to feel good about themselves and others, Without the commands of God that define what is right and wrong, without the standards of holiness, without the biblical definition of sin, there can be no confession or repentance. Without these, there can be no good news of forgiveness. Forgiveness of what? If we don’t recognize the biblical definition of sin, if we don’t teach that gay sex, for example, is sin, there’s no need to seek forgiveness through Christ for sin. For sowing seeds of doubt and confusion in the Body of Christ, particularly in the Presbyterian church but also in the church in general around the nation and around the world, the PCUSA leaders are guilty of a great sin. Just as Saul was guilty of sin so many years ago, the Presbyterian leaders are guilty of sin today in their utter failure to show even a minimal amount of moral leadership. It’s a wonder how these failed leaders ever got their positions of leadership in church to begin with. In their moment of decision, in their important moment, they chose wrong, terribly wrong. They will pay by being removed from the scene. Whether that means the PCUSA as a whole will eventually die and cease to be a functioning group, or whether these particular leaders will be replaced and more faithful leaders take their place and bring the church back to biblical faithfulness is unknown.

The above news report in trying to explain what led to the change in requirements of Presbyterian clergy from celibacy for single leaders to acceptance of sexual activity among singles and gay clergy, one of the reasons cited was the change in the attitude towards same sex marriage and openness to changing sexual standards in the society in general. What a ridiculous and irresponsible reason for changing church standards! What a complete and utter breakdown in the church’s prophetic calling. The Christian church is supposed to take its orders from God through God’s Word, not society’s changing attitude. How could the Presbyterian church point to the changing social attitudes towards gay relationships as justification for changing its own internal policy for clergy? By doing so we see where the authority in the Presbyterian church really lies – in the will of the people, in the consent of the popular opinion. This is a perfect example of unfaithfulness to Christ. When a church is willing to take its marching order from the fickle and changing opinions of men and women instead of God, then that church is on its way out as far as God is concerned. It’s just like we read in the passage where Samuel informs Saul that he has been rejected by God for leadership because he is unwilling to obey the Word of God. The message of other Christian leaders towards the Presbyterian leaders, as well as leaders in the corrupt Episcopal church and Lutheran church and Churches of Christ (UCC) is this – God has rejected you as leaders of his true church. You will either be removed and the churches you lead reformed by better leaders, or your churches will die and disintegrate and be replaced with faithful churches of other types. God will have his way, just as he had his way with unfaithful Saul in ancient times. The corrupt Presbyterian leadership may be able to get away with heretical decisions and apostasy today, but it will not always be so. God may not intervene swiftly on earth today, but that doesn’t mean he won’t intervene eventually. For Presbyterian leaders and all corrupt Christian church denominational leaders, such as in the Episcopal church and in the Evangelical Lutheran church and others, the message from God is the same one delivered by the prophet Samuel thousands of years ago – your days are numbered. You have failed in your leadership calling. You have led people astray with your sinful disobedience. Repent! You have forfeited your office in disgrace. God will raise up better leaders than you.

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