The last time these two women walked down the aisle together, they said, “I do.”
This past Sunday, the lives of the Rev. Kaci Clark-Porter and the Rev. Holly Clark-Porter intertwined in perhaps an even more extraordinarily spiritual way, as the couple walked down the aisle at Wilmington, Delaware’s First and Central Presbyterian Church to become ordained Christian ministers.
The ordination came just days after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announced a change in its constitution that embraced a more inclusive definition of marriage, defining it as being between “two people” instead of between a man and a woman. With this change, PC(USA) becomes the largest Protestant group to offer a nationwide welcome for LGBTQ couples.
Kaci and Holly Clark-Porter may well be the first same-sex couple to be jointly ordained into the denomination.
I’m sure this will turn things around for the PC(USA), whose numbers are declining so fast that at this rate, there won’t be a PC(USA) around in another two decades.
This story brings to mind a small controversy brewing around the Q Conference, an Evangelical gathering happening next week in Boston (Your Non-Evangelical Working Boy will be there to talk about the Benedict Option). Some conservative Evangelicals are objecting publicly because the organizers invited Matthew Vines and David Gushee, two Evangelicals who support LGBT marriage, etc., to address the group. These protesters say that Q should not give those dissenters from Biblical orthodoxy a platform.
Fr. Lawrence Farley wants to know at what point both sides in the LGBT issue in the church just stop talking to each other? That is, when do they recognize that their differences are not only irreconcilable, but cannot be accommodated without deeply damaging the theological integrity of the church? Excerpt:
For there comes a time in some exchanges when further debate and dialogue are useless, for neither side in the debate share enough common presuppositions for them to reach an agreement. Sometimes, even after true debate and with all the good will in the world, the two sides share incompatible first principles, and so can never reach consensus no matter how long they talk. When that happened in (say) the first century with St. Paul and his Judaizing opponents, there was nothing for it but to agree to disagree. And since the debate was not over trifles but over something basic, this involved the Church drawing a canonical line in the sand and declaring the other side outside the Church.
This happened again in the fourth century. The debate over the nature of Christ—was He God Almighty in the flesh or not—raged on and on. Eventually it became apparent that continued debate with Arius and his supporters would not result in consensus, since they were following a different set of first principles. As this involved something basic to Christian discipleship there was nothing for it but to take canonical action and to anathematize Arianism. Note: this did not involve hating Arians or refusing them service when they walked into your Constantinopolitan barber shop. It just meant that the person confessing Arianism was no longer a part of the Church.
It seems that we may be rapidly reaching this now over the issue of homosexuality. The issue is not marginal, but basic to salvation and to what a life of Christian obedience to God looks like. Let us hope that the possibility of true dialogue is not really dead and that it is not quite time to throw in the towel. Our task is to remain faithful to our inherited apostolic Tradition, and to argue for it as irenically and persuasively as we can. But if it at length becomes apparent that there is no possibility of convincing the other side with reasoned argument, the Church has little choice if it would remain faithful to its timeless Tradition. The time will have come to draw our canonical line in the sand over this and declare that those who insist on contradicting the Tradition are outside the Church. Obviously we will continue to love them, as we love everyone else who is outside the Church. But the line in the sand must be drawn.
I can easily imagine progressives saying the same thing, from their point of view. They may well conclude that the issue of justice for LGBT Christians is so fundamental to what it means to be a Christian that those who hew to tradition cannot be considered part of the church, or must in some other way be disfellowshipped. If homosexuality is in every way equal to race, which is axiomatic on the pro-gay side, then how can progressive churches maintain normal relations with churches that are guilty of the equivalent of baptizing white supremacy?
What do you think? I believe that Fr. Farley is correct, but his conclusion does raise the question of why homosexuality is the deal-breaker in our time. That is, why would the Presbyterian Church of America, the conservative denomination that broke away from the liberalizing PC(USA), still be considered part of the church when it differs from, say, the Orthodox and the Catholics in other fundamental ways? I mean, I agree with Fr. Farley that LGBT is a foundational issue, because the only way it can be affirmed within the church is to throw out basic Christian sexual morality, which is to say, to get rid of the Biblical view of who man is, and what his purpose is. That’s not nothing. As we have seen, churches that are willing to do that are willing to jettison most anything else from tradition that conflicts with their progressive cultural and political views. We are incarnate beings; the body matters. If you can sever the anchor in Christian sexual ethics, you are adrift.
Anyway, forget who’s right and who’s wrong, and consider that these differences are very important, and irreconcilable. That being the case, at what point is dialogue pointless, because nobody’s mind is being changed, and the church is not big enough for two radically different points of view on the LGBT issue? Are we there yet? How will we know?