By Rev. Andy Cornell
Did you see the screaming headline? “Major Canadian Church Abandons the Gospel to appease LGBTQ lobby.” And with it, a photo of people marching in the Toronto Pride Parade holding signs saying “Presbyterian pride God’s love includes everyone.” What followed was a holy tirade of condemnation of a once-biblical denomination which has, apparently, fully accepted same-sex marriage.
Yes, they’re talking about the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC).
No, you didn’t miss anything.
The object of the unfortunate rant in LifeSite News (the online news by Campaign Life Coalition) was the February letter from General Assembly moderator Peter Bush seeking repentance for our sins of homophobia and hypocrisy against individuals and communities who identify as same-sex attracted and transgendered. It was written at the direction of 2017 General Assembly to fulfill a promise made by the church in 1994 to publicly admit the church’s admonition of hate on the one hand while turning a blind eye to the unChristlike way many in our fold have treated the LGB communities over the years. They have been ignored, cast out, ridiculed, marginalized, bullied, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually harmed. We have condemned the sin without listening to their struggles and pain. The result is a legacy of hurt, violence, and mental and physical illness. This is not what Christ called us to do. Moderator Peter Bush wrote a thoughtful, loving, and pastoral letter that was long overdue.
But nowhere does the moderator’s letter affirm the LGB lifestyle. Nowhere did it declare that the PCC has changed its official, traditional stance on marriage – because we haven’t. And nowhere did it signal that any such change is coming.
The opinion writer gave in to the temptation to read what she wanted to read and believe what she wanted to believe. Never mind the facts getting in the way of a good story; she took a Christlike, pastoral gesture and turned it into something manifestly ugly.
Among her comments: “Compromising Christian beliefs and the core tenets of the Bible in order to appease LGBTQ leadership, will do nothing but undermine the authority of the church and the Word.” What? Basic research would have revealed that nothing of the sort happened. In fact, it’s the opposite.
If we are to call LGB people to a lifestyle of biblical purity, then the least we can do – the very least – is to acknowledge their natural desires, accept them as a burden and tell them that we do not condemn them. We need to love them more.
And how about this comment: “There is not a single reference in the letter to the many passages in the Bible that forbid homosexuality.” Well, that wasn’t the purpose.
Some in the PCC have criticized the moderator for not stating clearly in the letter that – notwithstanding our repentance – our traditional definition of marriage has not changed. That’s unfair. The whole purpose of a pastoral letter is to be generous in love, accepting one’s human condition without judgment. It’s always the first step in evangelical witness: getting to know the person, listening to their stories, making a connection. Not judging.
Finally, this: “The letter itself reads like an extreme act of verbal self-flagellation and deprecation.” Wow. If only she knew.
Rev. Christine O’Reilly, the moderator’s chaplain, says this: “Peter remains solidly orthodox theologically; his love for the Lord, for Scripture and for the church is deep, strong, and true.”
The irony of LifeSite is that, in general, it follows a conservative, evangelical biblical orthodoxy. Just like Renewal. But it’s the tactics that differ. I don’t see much love in this misinformed, poorly researched, unprofessional rant.
One positive thing: the headline calling us a “major Canadian church”. So encouraging that we are still seen as a player!
Those who read Peter’s letter in context found gracious words: “We will reach out, rejoice together in fellowship, and seek holiness as we worship, pray, sing, eat, and listen together for God’s Word speaking to the whole church.” Holiness, which I understand to be biblical purity, is far removed from the lifestyles chosen by those who choose to act on same-sex attraction. If only the critics saw that – and not what they wanted to see.
As we continue to pray for General Assembly 2018 to do the right thing and re-affirm the godly definition of marriage, may we go forth with this letter of repentance and proclaim our love for those who are same-sex attracted. And rather than condemn, let us simply show them Christ and point the way in love.
The moderator’s letter can be read here.