The Committee on Church Order, which included Presbytery of Carlisle commissioner Scott Penner, responded to a whole list of overtures concerning ordination standards by approving this statement. If approved by the whole General Assembly it is recommended that this statement be shared and considered by each Presbytery, but this is not a constitutional issue. This is not a change in the Book of Order. I believe this is a helpful action. I perceive this statement to have the tone of a pastoral letter, not a legislative decree. I hope this statement, if approved, may support and encourage our conversation around this difficult question of our ordination standards:
“• Jesus taught that our highest ethical obligation is to ‘… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself’ (Lk. 10:27); and this is how ‘everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn. 13:35);
“• having experienced Christ’s gracious love for us while we are yet sinners, we are called to ‘welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom. 15:7);
“• we affirm the solemn commitments expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination, installation, and commissioning, including that we intend to fulfill our ministries ‘in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and … continually guided by our confessions’; that that we will be friends among our colleagues in ministry; that we ‘seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love [our] neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world’ (Book of Order, W-4.4003);
“• ‘… we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation’ (The Book of Confessions, Second Helvetic Confession, 5.010);
“• the larger Catechism lifts up the duty of holding ‘… a charitable esteem of our neighbors,’ and forbids the sin of ‘… misconstruing intentions, words, and actions’ (The Book of Confessions, 7.254–.255).”
The 220th General Assembly (2012) acknowledges that faithful Presbyterians earnestly seeking to follow Jesus Christ hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed, same-gender relationships.
Therefore, while holding persons in ordered ministry to high standards of covenant fidelity in the exercise of their sexuality, as in all aspects of life, we decline to take an action that would have the effect of imposing on the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one interpretation of Scripture in this matter. We commit ourselves to continue respectful dialogue with those who hold differing convictions, to welcome one another for God’s glory, and not to vilify those whose convictions we believe to be in error. We call on all Presbyterians to join us in this commitment.