Re: A response to Burgy

From: Jim Armstrong (
Date: Mon Jun 02 2003 - 12:23:25 EDT

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    Churches form up around a shared set of beliefs and practices, so in
    that sense, they can set any standards they choose.

    But, just for the sake of discussion (these questions obviously trouble

    If a person is welcome to attend, but not to become a member until they
    clean up their particular sin in a way and extent not demanded of other
    folks with their particular sins, are they really welcome? For instance,
    are gays likely to really feel welcome in the churches of a particular
    denomination who are avowedly "seeker-friendly" but who have also made
    some very public and official gay-hostile declarations?

    And isn't there a pretty explicit judgement in expressing that
    particular straighten-up-and-fly-right-first distinction, not generally
    applied with respect to many other sins? Or is it our experience that
    when we repented, we were suddenly no longer troubled by sins that
    previously beset us? Is there any one of us who has not realized later
    in life that something that we previously thought was OK was in fact not
    OK any more? That's the maturation process, and I think the work of the
    Paraclete (e.g., "God alone convicts.").

    If a church says a person may or may not become a member depending upon
    which flavor of sin they practice, isn't that creating a de facto sin
    hierarchy (some sins are better than others)? Sin heirarchy is obviously
    not an unknown concept, but not universally held among evangelical
    churches - at least in theory.

    I recall visiting a dear man in his late 50's who was tenderhearted and
    clearly was under conviction, but unable to bring himself to accept
    God's forgiveness. He said that he had worked all his life in the auto
    industry and he had a real struggle with language, and though he had
    wanted to for a long time, he just could not walk the aisle in that
    condition. We had the privilege of sharing with him God wanted him (us)
    in that condition (that was and is my belief). A couple of days later,
    he walked the aisle with unrestrained tears of joy and relief. His
    "affliction" became better with time.

    I recall a friend of mine describing a visit to a popular non-denom
    church which found him sitting in front of a couple of biker sorts,
    leathers and studs and all. The problem was that their language was
    colorful and profane and my friend (who has a bit of a temper) was about
    to turn around and suggest that they tone it down. But he didn't,
    abruptly changing his mind because it occurred to him that they were in
    the right place, and though sitting in front of them was not
    pleasurable, he experienced enough grace to handle it. Moreover, he
    concluded that the conviction business was God's and he was quite
    capable. He settled for rejoicing that they had found their way into the
    service, and he was there to share the moment is some small way. What
    might their reaction have been if my friend had followed his initial

    On another occasion, I was teaching a class at church wherein one of the
    women attendees - a divorcee - announced that God had told her that it
    was OK for her now to be living unmarried with a long-time man friend.
    Now she knew what scripture teaches, but she was by nature a bit
    rebellious and one to challenge people with her statements. I suppose we
    could have "churched" for for her chosen life circumstance, particularly
    because she had the temerity to lay it all out for us to look at and
    respond to. The problem was, we all knew her and loved her, we didn't
    really have to remind her of that which she already knew, and our sense
    was that conviction and change would come in time through the Holy
    Spirit, and the alternative was to alienate her from us and in all
    probablity from church life entirely.

    Particularly in the last case it might seem that I've missed a point
    here about repentance of sin. But again, is there any one of us who has
    not realized later in life that something that we previously thought was
    OK was in fact not OK any more?

    The latter two interactions certainly could have been handled in more
    confrontational and "righteous" ways, but my sense was that the paths
    chosen were more redemptive and less alienating. Others may reasonably
    (and apparently) see it differently.

    I recognize that this is no easy matter, but in any case, we should at
    the very least make every effort be consistent in the way we approach
    the matter of sins.

    I have no issue with a higher standard for leadership where we have
    higher expectations for them as role models.

    Jim Armstrong

    Debbie Mann wrote:

    >I cannot make the Bible say that homosexuality is not sinful. However, I
    >will not attend a church that does not welcome sinners. We all sin and come
    >short of the glory of God. In our own church, they would not be allowed to
    >become members while actively living in sin. However, they would most
    >certainly be welcome. God alone convicts. Faith cometh by hearing the word
    >of God. The most damning passage on homosexuality, in my opinion, in the
    >Bible is the one in Roman and it nails everyone for something and ends with
    >Romans 2:1 and the commandment to not judge. The church SHOULD set up
    >standards for members and certainly for officials. These standards should be
    >based on the Bible. However, the church should shun no one, NO ONE, who is
    >there in all sincerity - except where there is an issue of safety to the
    >Visit the prisoners for in doing so you have done it unto me.
    >I'm sorry I don't have time to look up all my references. I'm fairly sure
    >you recognize them all anyway. Jesus sat at dinner with the sinners. I
    >imagine you know that not only was this against Jewish tradition but sharing
    >salt was a broader commitment throughout the region than anything we would
    >associate with eating a meal. And what was Jesus' reply when criticized? Who
    >needs a physician?
    >Faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
    >-----Original Message-----
    >From: []On
    >Behalf Of Walter Hicks
    >Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2003 7:13 AM
    >Subject: A response to Burgy
    >Burgy has asked that we
    >consider his web pages in the
    >area of gay and lesbian
    >relationships. I have
    >attempted to do so below.
    >In this sermon, rev. Harold
    >Porter criticizes the General
    >assembly of the Presbyterian
    >Church as follows:
    >This document lists passages
    >from both the Old and New
    >Testaments that describe same
    >sex behaviour as sinful,
    >concluding that “the New
    >Testament declares all
    >homosexual practice
    >incompatible with Christian
    >faith and life.” And,
    >finally, seeking to offer
    >definitive guidance, later
    >hardening into ecclesiastical
    >law, the Assembly said
    >unequivocally “unrepentant
    >homosexual practice does not
    >accord with the requirements
    >for ordination.”
    >While Porter than criticizes
    >this position with lofty
    >phases, I cannot see any
    >Biblical refutation of the
    >above statement within the
    >document. I am certain than
    >those who support the gay,
    >etc. lifestyle would like to
    >have the Bible not say the
    >things that it does, but the
    >words are there and do not
    >In this discussion, Burgy
    >presents his position as
    >generally favouring the view
    >that loving gay and lesbian
    >lifestyles (the actions, not
    >the inclination) are not
    >sinful. His primary reference
    >is a book by the Catholic
    >Theologian Daniel Helminiak.
    >As in the above, this author
    >is taking a stand in
    >opposition to his own church.
    >I notice that he has a
    >foreword by Spong. (That says
    >a lot.)
    >Knowing nothing about
    >Helminiak, I did a web search
    >about him. I’ll just note here
    >that Alamo Square Press
    >published his book. A Goggle
    >search indicates that this is
    >an organization that
    >dominantly publishes gay and
    >lesbian literature. It is not
    >a Christian publishing house.
    >Also from Googol, there is an
    >article by the ACLU on
    >At one point Helminiak
    >concludes: “I don't know the
    >Agnostic gospels, there's a
    >similar story in the Gospel of
    >Mark the young man runs away
    >and they get the sheet from
    >him, so he runs off naked.
    >Some scholars suggest that the
    >man was woken from sleep and
    >came out wearing a sheet which
    >they slept in in those days.
    >What was really going on,
    >again, we don't have the
    >evidence. I would not want to
    >suggest that Jesus was or was
    >not homosexual. We simply
    >don't know.”
    >That stuck me as inconsistent
    >with his contention that
    >opposition to homosexuality
    >was a Jewish thing. Jesus
    >would not have been accepted
    >if he were homosexual in
    >actions. I suggest that do
    >know that he was not.
    >In this section, Burgy
    >presents the following chart
    >from a book by Joretta Jordan.
    >The suggestion is that this is
    >way we should analyse the
    >to counsel
    >Change behaviour.
    >Both HO and HA are immoral
    >2 Diseased....Not
    >Partners have no moral blame
    >Abstinence is recommended
    >HO and HA are morally neutral
    >"Don't ask, don't tell" policy
    >Do not attempt to influence
    >HO and HA are morally neutral
    >HO being natural, HA is OK
    >Affirm and celebrate the
    >I have a real problem with
    >this in that it does not
    >include what most evangelicals
    >would describe as their
    >position. Namely, that is that
    >a homosexual inclination is
    >not evil in itself but that
    >yielding to that inclination
    >is sin. That is not to say it
    >is the worst of sins but just
    >that it is sin. Similarly,
    >heterosexual sex outside of
    >marriage is considered to be
    >sin also.
    >4.) Liberals and Conservatives
    >Burgy, God bless him, is one
    >of my favourite Liberals.
    >However, the conclusions are
    >those drawn by a classic
    >Liberal and typify what exists
    >here in my State
    >(Kennedyland). In the school
    >systems, sex education is
    >taught. It used to be
    >conventional heterosexual
    >relationships but that is
    >changing. Now the gay and
    >lesbian techniques are
    >penetrating (excuse the word)
    >the teachings as well. Young
    >people are given telephone
    >numbers that they may call to
    >get information without their
    >parents knowing. All this is
    >good clean work in the minds
    >of a liberal but is a reason
    >to adopt home teaching, going
    >to a private Christian school,
    >or a moving to another State
    >(in the minds of some
    >I still have a lot of trouble
    >with the notion of canned
    >philosophies. A liberal or a
    >conservative will rarely
    >consider the data objectively.
    >Instead, a notion consistent
    >with that canned philosophy is
    >arrived at and the search for
    >corroborating data is
    >constantly expanded. I would
    >suggest that this is not a
    >good way to arrive at the
    >truth in any matter. It is
    >especially bad for scientists
    >who are supposed to objective
    >pursuers of the truth.
    >In this situation being
    >considered, the Bible clearly
    >labels homosexuality as sinful
    >and really has to be twisted
    >to say the contrary. To argue
    >that a gay couple is
    >acceptable within the
    >Christian Church simply sets
    >aside the Bible as being
    >outdated in this respect. Why
    >not just argue thusly and
    >avoid the slight of hand? At
    >least then there can be a
    >sincere debate that might
    >eliminate the artificiality of
    >canned philosophies.
    >Walt Hicks
    >In any consistent theory,
    >there must
    >exist true but not provable
    >(Godel's Theorem)
    >You can only find the truth
    >with logic
    >If you have already found the
    >without it. (G.K. Chesterton)

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