To talk, or not to talk

Received a letter from a local RCA church consistory (leadership board) today expressing "deep concern over the proposed 'continued dialogue' within the denomination over the next three years regarding the issue of homosexuality,... finding it very disturbing that the RCA seems to be unable to 'once and for all' take a firm stand on the issue," and "call[ing] for an end to further dialogue."

Hm. I'm 95% there. I'm disturbed, holding the same position as the authors, having the same concern that the desire for dialogue really DOES reveal an inability to take a stand with the Scriptures against worldly trends of tolerance for sin (in some quarters of the RCA, not all).

But to cut off dialogue? That's what the RCA did with this issue for the last 7 years or so and look where it got us - divided and isolated camps in one pressure cooker waiting to blow.

I recently called for us to take a quick, decisive stand on this issue, just like this letter does, but I don't see a need to end dialogue. Perhaps taking a stand does that tacitly, and we need to accept that kind of fallout in order to live out the truth we've been stating for 20 years. But we shouldn't shut dialogue down, explicitly. Just make the decision graciously and deal with those who remain graciously and according to the decision taken. Those who leave will have condemned themselves.

Part of the difference of opinion here is in what the church should be. Should we reflect:
a. Jesus' parable of the weeds growing with the wheat until harvest, not trying to pull up the weeds until it's time?
b. Paul's call to remove the leaven from among us in 1 Corinthians 5?

I believe it is the latter, because the former is a discussion between God and His angels, the latter option is Paul the Apostle with a direct command for the church (John does the same to other churches in Rev 2-3, so it's not a church-specific thing, either).

If this is the case, then those who slander people trying to be faithful with labels like "witch-hunt" had better be ready to apply that label to Paul and John as well.
"I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel... [who] misleads My servants into sexual immorality" (Rev 2:20). As the corporate Body of Christ living together, tolerance of sin and people promoting sin is wicked. Never mind that in Rev 2 God then says He will deal with the problem; He first rebukes the CHURCH for not having dealt with it already.


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  2. I find myself torn with regard to the idea of dialogue. I am really not enthusiastic about it at a denominational level, partly because it has the feel of "lets pacify the issue and avoid taking a stand." But a bigger reason for my discomfort lies in the wider milieu of RCA leadership. I don't trust that the dialogue will avoid scripting, forming and rhetoric.

    This is where the tear comes in. While I am not enthusiastic about dialogue at the denominational level, I am hopeful and mildly excited about personal (grass-roots) dialogue. In fact, I have had the opportunity to talk with a couple of people of differing perspective from my own, and have found it a great joy, personally challenging, and quite compelling. I value that opportunity.

    I guess what I am saying--if I can be very blunt--is that talking together can be quite fruitful, if the powers-that-be can keep their grabby hands from muddling the pot (and I lack almost all hope that they can do so).

    EDITED for spelling.

  3. O.K. I'm right there with you about not tolerating sin or people promoting sin. Now, which sins shall we not tolerate? As I read the Scriptures, our Lord doesn't really leave room for degrees of sin. Since every last one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,we must logically vacate the offices . . . none of us is eligible for ministry. And by what scriptural definition do we find homosexuality a sin? Leviticus 18? By that standard, again we have all sinned, because we Reformed folks do not build separate bath houses behind our parsonages for women to use during their periods, to avoid having our pastors lead worship while unclean. By some of the best exigetical understandings of their day, those who opposed slavery in God's name in the 19th century were heretics, because the Bible clearly showed it was instituted by God. And how many of our Consistories actually grow concerned when their pastors go without a sabbath?

    For those of you who are about to reply that some of these situations are obviously products of their time and do not apply now, or that we must obviously accomodate life in a fallen world to the best of our ability from time to time, let me remind you that our Lord had a word for selectiove Biblical literalism: hypocrisy. And, while Jesus welcomed in all sorts of sinners, he drew the line at hypocritical religious leaders who used Scriptures to exclude others from the community.

  4. From the outside, looking in.

    I think the above comments illustrate why dialogue will ultimately be futile. The goal of each side is capitulation, and to me this issue is the outgrowth of a hermeneutical war within the RCA: either an evangelical hermeneutic or a historico-critical hermeneutic.

    I hope that no-one within the boudaries of any Reformed hermeneutic would argue that homosexuality is a sin solely based on Leviticus 18. We understand by now, surely, that the ceremonial law was abrogated in Christ.

    To me, the clearest Biblical proscription of homosexual inclination and subsequent behavior is ROmans 1:26-27. It is pretty clear there. How can one possibly refute that passage? Paul tells us that a homosexual inclination (like many inclinations with which people are born of equal or less serious nature) is a product of the fall. It is a twisting of God's good creation. As such, like gluttony, and even heterosexual desire among single folk, is to be resisted, and can be overcome with God's grace.

    IT seems the only way to deny that is to say what Lou Lotz said in the Church Herald, and that is to pit God the Word against the Word of God.

    But, if we take that road, and doubt the authority of the Scriptures, then where do we come to know this God the Word? Can the Lord Jesus possibly be known apart from the Scriptures?

    The historico-critical hermeneutic of the RCA left is why I, and many like me, have left the RCA for more faithful environs, still weeping for our fine Christian brothers and sisters (and, in my case, parents and relatives) who remain within her.