So our General Synod this past June deposed Norm Kansfield from office for performing a gay marriage, then days later decided to decide what its policy on homosexuality will be in 2008. Norm had married his daughter to another woman. Norm's daughter has been on the ordination track in the RCA, under care of one of its classes (plural of classis, another word for presbytery) for several months, with nothing but encouragement to continue.
Meanwhile, another minister in the RCA says he has performed several gay marriages, but hasn't been confronted about it, highlighting an inconsistency in the RCA's policy, or enforcement thereof. He has speculated that he hasn't been confronted either because his church is so big, or because the weddings were not licensed by the state, as Kansfield's was, in Massachusetts. (Source: Times Union of Albany, Saturday, June 18, 2005, A1, story by Danielle Furfaro)
Neither of those reasons cut the mustard.
1. Are we waiting for the state to tell the church what is right now? How is it a bigger deal for a minister to perform a gay marriage when the state signs on, versus when they don't?
2. Are we determining who we discipline based on how big they are, because we have to survive, after all? What good is survival if you tolerate sin? You're spiritually dead, then, anyway. God worked with 300 of Gideon's men, 7,000 of Elijah's Israel, less than 100,000 of Nehemiah's returning exiles. Why the grab to retain numbers at the expense of Biblical truth?
So what's the scoop? Is this a don't ask don't tell policy? 'Cause if it is, we've got people telling, even if we don't want to know.
And another thing: was this discipline against Norm for the crime of going against church policy, or for going against the Bible? Turns out it is the former. We can't get consensus, it seems, on what the Bible says about this issue, so the only way we could get a guilty sentence from the Synod was to charge Norm with flouting the church's position. But wait, I thought we didn't have one yet; what's that about 2008?
The RCA has position papers going back to the '70s that oppose both what Norm and others did, and what his daughter is attempting to do. We need to live out our beliefs, or change them and let me go elsewhere. But this inconsistency is worse than doing nothing. Sure, some people are trying to be gracious, but it's coming across as hypocrisy and inconsistency instead. For the sake of a clear voice and consistency, we need to clarify what the RCA stands for, even if it means losing some people.
I wonder when Bible-believing RCA members are going to get over their timidity - "Maybe we went too far in what we did to Norm" - and start realizing the problem is much bigger than we first thought - that we need to start recovering a Biblical lifestyle at the denominational level somewhere, sometime, and that to be squeamish and pass on this one because it's such a hot potato only makes it harder to fight the next battle that will inevitably come.
When will we realize the RCA's problems are bigger than we care to admit - that the issue of homosexuality is just a symptom of a faulty way of reading the Bible as the changeable words of men about God, instead of as God's eternally true words about Himself and us? This faulty view of the Bible has far-reaching consequences. As one pastor told me recently, why are we straining out the gnat of homosexuality and swallowing the camel of universalism present in the RCA tent?