May 11, 2011
The following letter was sent to the members of First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen, NJ in response to the passage of Amendment 10-A.
Dear Members of First Presbyterian Church,
By now you may have heard on the news that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has approved a change to our constitution that allows the ordination of practicing homosexuals to the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon in our denomination. I’m sad to say that this is true.
This change in language also removes barriers to the ordination of men and women who are living together in a sexual relationship outside the covenant of marriage. In addition, there is a subtle, but critical, change from a standard of “obedience to Scripture” to being “guided by Scripture.” In other words, every church and presbytery will be able to set their own moral and theological standards for ordination of pastors, elders, and deacons.
What has happened is that the following requirements are being removed from our Book of Order:
Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
The above words will be replaced with this:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”
What are the implications for First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen?
- It is important for you to know that no church is required to ordain anyone who is openly and unrepentantly involved in ongoing sexual sin.
- It is equally important for you to know that at First Presbyterian Church, we will continue to uphold the standard for human sexuality that God has revealed in the Bible (that sexual intercourse is a gift from God to be shared only between a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage), while continuing to extend God’s love and grace to all people, regardless of what kinds of sin they (like we) may struggle with in life.
- Nevertheless, this fundamental shift in doctrine and practice will necessitate some changes in the way that our congregation relates to the denomination.
How will we as a church respond?
Your session has spent many hours discussing and praying about this dramatic move away from Biblical standards by the PC(USA), and preparing for our church’s response. As an immediate action, the session has called the following two special meetings to share how we believe God is calling us to respond.
This Sunday, May 15, we are inviting all members who have been ordained as elders and deacons (whether actively serving in one of these roles or not) to join us at 5:00 pm in the sanctuary to discuss our church’s response to this distressing news.
In two weeks, on Sunday, May 22, again at 5:00 pm, the session has called an informational meeting for the entire congregation to explain in much greater detail what has happened, what it means for First Presbyterian Church, and how we believe God is calling us to respond. You will have an opportunity to speak and ask questions if you desire.
I hope that you will be able to attend one of these meetings. If you can’t make it, we will be posting a special website at http://updates.dunellenpres.org, where you will find resources on this topic. We plan for the website to go live on Monday, May 23. If you do not have access to a computer and would like to learn more, I can make these resources available to you. Our session members and I would also be glad to speak with you.
At a time like this, it is easy for rumors to fly, for exaggerations to develop, and for divisions to form, even over unconfirmed rumors. Please, if you hear something that does not sound reasonable or true, come to one of us before repeating it to others. Scripture tells us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), and that’s what we need to strive to do.
Please pray for me, Pastor Silvio, and all of our church’s leaders as we seek God’s path for our congregation at this difficult time.
Grace and Peace,