The Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Sodomy
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) at her 2007
General Assembly (GA) adopted guidelines on how to offer "pastoral care"
to homosexuals within her ranks. The guidelines were adopted after
ineffectual opposition from the conservatives. A motion to send the
report to presbyteries for their consideration was defeated by 168 votes
to 163. This report will now be published by the PCI's General Assembly.
A Significant Number of Homosexuals
In 2006, the GA adopted a motion requesting the
Social Issues Panel of "The Board of Social Witness" to "prepare
guidelines to help the Church develop more sensitive pastoral care" to
homosexuals. This request was made "recognising homophobic attitudes
within Church and society." The PCI’s concern over "homophobic
attitudes" is particularly acute because of the number of homosexuals in
Former PCI moderator, Rev. Ken Newell believes that
about 3% of the PCI denomination are homosexual. Why does he assume
this? Because government research estimates that 3% of the UK population
are homosexual! Therefore, Newell reasons, there are probably "around
9,000 whose sexual orientation is homosexual" in the PCI, whose nominal
membership is about 300,000 souls. (However, the 2007 GA reported the
PCI's membership at 262,000.) Are Irish Presbyterians aware of the large
number of homosexuals in their church? According to Rev. Newell, there
are homosexual Presbyterian ministers! He states that of the 9,000 or so
sodomites in the PCI "some will be ministers, elders, committee members,
Bible class and Sunday school teachers." Rev. Newell states that
homosexuals are "involved" in every ministry of the PCI and in every
other area of Irish Presbyterian church life. Missionaries too? These
homosexuals, claims the former moderator, are people of faith, people
who love the church, part of "[our] faith family," and therefore they
need to be "cherished" (Newsletter, 9 June, 2006). Do you hear
that, Presbyterian church member? You are supposed to "cherish"
homosexuals as members of your spiritual family and church!
What a damning indictment of the PCI and its
preaching and discipline! Surely if a church preaches against a sin and
disciplines those who practice that sin, then the incidence of that sin
will be dramatically lower than that of the world. Clearly, Rev. Newell,
an older minister and former moderator and member of various PCI boards
over the last few decades, does not think that this is the case. Either
he does not believe that "the gospel of Christ ... is the power of God
unto salvation" empowering believers to break with their sins (Rom.
1:16) or he is admitting that whatever it is that comes from PCI pulpits
it is not the powerful gospel of Christ. Either way the Presbyterian
Church in Ireland stands condemned. The obvious explanation of the
deplorable incidence of homosexuals in the PCI is that already this sin
is not being faithfully preached against and those practising it
are not disciplined.
Pandering to the Feelings of Sinners While
The 2007 report takes the wrong approach and
therefore reaches the wrong conclusions. The panel does not exegete Holy
Scripture and allow that to determine their approach because that was
not their "remit" (1.3; subsequent paragraphing from the report).
Instead, the panel’s remit was to make "direct contact with homosexual
people," to listen to their stories, and then to seek to address how the
church can provide them with "pastoral care," making them feel more
welcome and comfortable in the PCI. Thus the feelings of homosexuals—not
so much God’s Word—determine the PCI’s attitude to homosexuality. But
how can a person be "pastored" without using the Bible? Pastoral care
without Scripture is not the calling of the church of Jesus Christ; such
is mere social work or psychology. Christ’s sheep are to be pastored
with His rod and staff, not with sociology and psychology (Ps. 23:4).
Moreover, impenitent homosexuals are not Christ's sheep (I Cor. 6:9-11),
and a denomination which seeks to treat them as sheep is not acting as
The report relates "Bob’s story" (2.3), a young man
who claims that, when he "discovered" that he was attracted to other
men, his church was not supportive. Bob "needed someone to listen to
[him] without judgment," though he professes to be a "Christian who
loves God and His Word but [he is] also gay" (2.3).
A homosexual may think that he needs to be
heard without judgment (from God's Word), but he is mistaken. A
homosexual needs to hear God's truth and repent. He needs to cease
making excuses ("I didn’t choose it to be so. It just was;" 2.3) and
submit to Christ’s word. He needs to be shown that God demands that he
repent and believe the gospel. Believing the gospel, he must ask God to
give him grace to turn from the "vile affections" of sodomy (Rom. 1:26),
trusting that God can indeed deliver him from this sin. The apostle Paul
writes in I Corinthians 6:9-11 that some of the members of the church in
that licentious city had been homosexuals, but now they were
"washed," "sanctified" and "justified" from such sins. The grace of God
grants repentance to the homosexual (Acts 11:18), causing the homosexual
to break with his sin. The Westminster Confession defines
An evangelical grace [by which] a sinner, out of
the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the
filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy
nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of His
mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates
his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing
and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His
commandments … it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may
expect pardon without it (15:1-3).
This is what is required of the homosexual who
would be a member of the Christian church. Repent and bring forth fruit
worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8)! Show yourself to be repentant by
acknowledging the filthiness and odiousness of your sins. Hate and
grieve for your sins. See them as God sees them and turn from them.
Live, by God’s grace, a new and holy life! However, no such call is
given by the PCI report.
Instead, the report, after listing examples of what
it sees as "homophobia" (a "lack of understanding, compassion and grace"
to those who reveal their homosexuality;" 2.8) in the church, states,
"there is a need to call such attitudes sinful and for there to
be repentance on our part as a Church" (2.9; italics mine). So,
the PCI, by a majority vote adopting this report, has confessed that it
must repent of its "homophobia" (2.9; 11.1). Christians in the
PCI, do you hear this? Your church's highest assembly issues to you and
your congregation the (politically correct) command to repent of any and
all instances of "homophobia," as defined in the 2007 report! Is the PCI
also going to call the estimated 9,000 homosexuals in the denomination
to repentance? The report does not issue this (biblical) command. From
reading the PCI report, one may well conclude that calling homosexuals
to repent of their sin is "homophobic!"
The report offers "understanding" and "compassion" to
the homosexual, but that just means acceptance and tolerance of his sin.
The report does not present the gospel to the homosexual. By God’s
grace, he can be changed. The "vile affections" (Rom. 1:26) of
homosexuality can be overcome. By the regenerating, cleansing,
sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit! And in no other way!
A Christian may not be enslaved to lust ("Sin shall
not have dominion over you;" Rom. 6:14). Those who are in Christ "have
crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). They do
not "fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). They do not use their
liberty as an "occasion to the flesh" (Gal. 5:13). They hate the sins
which come from the old nature; they put off the old man with his
"deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22); and they "mortify" their sinful members
(Col. 3:5; Rom. 8:13). By the cross of Christ!
Believers do not define themselves by their sins. A
"gay Christian" is as oxymoronic as a "Christian adulterer," an
"idolatrous Christian" or a "Christian thief" (cf. I Cor. 6:9-11). If a
person wants to define himself as a Christian who struggles with his
lusts and desires, then he is in good company. All Christians struggle
with sinful desires, motives and lusts (Rom. 7:15ff.; Gal. 5:17). Some
Christians are inclined to anger, others to pride, others to sexual
lust, others to greed, etc., but they do not define themselves by these
sins, nor do they indulge them. Although the struggle with sin is
life-long, God promises the believer victory over these sins. By the
power of His grace! Where is the power of God’s grace in this report?
there be such power in this report. This power comes only through the
Holy Spirit who works exclusively through the Word of God. The report
barely mentions Scripture. Therefore it is inevitable that the result is
a Christianity "having a form of godliness but denying the power
thereof;" from such, the apostle continues, we must "turn away" (II Tim.
That Most Grievous Sin: Homophobia!
The framers of this report are terrified that they
might be labelled "homophobic"—there is apparently no worse sin than
this. This is a favourite scare tactic of the homosexual lobby. One
definition of "homophobia" is "an irrational fear and prejudice towards
homosexual people and the issue of homosexuality" (3.1). The panel
prefer Andrew Goddard’s definition: "the victimisation or diminishment
of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of
the same sex" (3.2). According to this definition "homophobia" is an
attitude or behaviour towards homosexuals which "denies [their]
humanity" (3.2). Such a definition, which the report describes as "more
helpful" is woolly at best and absurd at worst. What does "denying the
humanity" of a person mean? Jack the Ripper, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin
and the Roman Emperor Nero were all monsters of iniquity, yet my saying
that does not make them less human. They showed themselves to be fallen
human beings by their sins. And because they are human, God holds them
(unlike animals) accountable for their sins and punishes them in hell
(Rev. 21:8). All men are totally depraved, so depraved that they have
completely lost the image of God, which can only be restored by
regeneration (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), yet not one whit less human because
of it.1 Fornicators, adulterers and
homosexuals are guilty of gross transgressions of the seventh
commandment, yet they are all human.
There is a sinful hatred of one's homosexual
neighbour. All Christians are called to love their neighbours. No true
Christian believes that it is acceptable to beat up a homosexual or
revile him in the street or destroy his property. Such behaviour must
obviously be condemned. But that is not what the homosexual lobby means
by "homophobia." "Homophobia," in practice, is any statement which
expresses disagreement with, or disapproval of, the sin of
homosexuality. Increasingly, anyone who dares say, "Homosexuality is
immoral," is immediately labelled a "homophobe." To say that
homosexuality is sinful is to be accused of hatred and intolerance. Yet,
the Bible does not define love as unquestioning acceptance of all sin,
lest one hurt the feelings of one's neighbour. The Most High commands,
"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise
rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him" (Lev. 19:17).
According to Almighty God (but not the PCI report), to fail to rebuke
the neighbour for his sin is hatred. To allow the neighbour to go on
in his sin is not to seek his salvation. To tell the homosexual that God
loves him and he can carry on in his sin without fear of judgment
(although that is what he wants to hear and that is what the
politically-correct world insists that he must hear) is to hate
him and to allow him to perish everlastingly (Eze. 33:8).
The report theorizes that "the factors involved in
why a person has same-sex attractions may be too complex to entangle,"
opining that "choice" is not involved. We are all fallen, the report
continues, and "the fall has affected our sexuality" (3.4).
Nevertheless, we are "morally responsible" for how we deal with our
sexual urges (3.5). We are also morally responsible for our
inward depravity and our lusts. Romans 5:19 teaches that "by one man’s
disobedience many were made [i.e., constituted] sinners" and that
through Adam’s transgression "judgment came upon all men unto
condemnation" (Rom. 5:18). This is simply the biblical and Reformed
doctrine of original sin. If Jesus teaches that heterosexual lusts are
themselves sin—adultery in the heart (Matt. 5:28)—how much more are the
"vile affections" of the homosexual sin (Rom. 1:26)? The report lies
when it says that homosexual "sexual temptation and
desire is not sin" (7.3; italics mine). The Westminster
Larger Catechism lists some of the many transgressions against the
seventh commandment: "adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy,
and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes
and affections …" (Q. & A. 139). In denying that homosexual desire
is evil, the PCI teaches a thoroughly Pelagian and Roman Catholic
doctrine of sin and reveals that it understands neither the seventh nor
the tenth commandment nor its own confessional standards (Westminster
Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 139).
The report cautions against an overly condemning
attitude concerning homosexuality: "When we condemn homosexual practices
in isolation or single it out as somehow worse than other sexual
practices outside of heterosexual marriage, then we demonstrate
homophobic attitudes" (3.5). This effectively makes it impossible for
any minister to condemn homosexuality as sin for fear of being labelled
homophobic. The fear of man (Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:28) increasingly
muzzles Presbyterian ministers and so the pulpit falls silent regarding
this sin. What about the fear of Almighty God and pleasing Him! "Enter
into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for
the glory of his majesty ... Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his
nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa. 2:10, 22).
The apostle proclaims, "I am not ashamed of the
gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone
that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). A few verses later, he declares that same
gospel's condemnation of the "vile affections" of lesbianism and sodomy
(Rom. 1:26-27). Thus all those who refuse to preach the Bible's robust
denunciations of homosexuality thereby proclaim that they are ashamed of
the gospel of Christ and therefore of Christ Himself. Because sodomy is
a moral and ethical issue, someone ought to be ashamed. If sodomy is not
really that bad, then Christians ought to be ashamed of God's Word which
calls it an "abomination" (Lev. 18:22; 20:13); but if sodomy is what the
Most High says it is, then homosexuals ought to be ashamed. The PCI, in
muting the sharp biblical condemnations of sodomy, in allowing
homosexuals as church members and in not disciplining them, reveals that
it is ashamed of the gospel of Christ and therefore is not an apostolic
church. Instead of bringing God's unadulterated Word to them, condemning
their sins and (by God's grace) leading some of them to repentance and
salvation in Jesus Christ (I Cor. 6:9-11), the PCI seeks to avoid
"making them feel bad"—which is necessarily involved in repentance; II
Cor. 7:11!—and seeks to make them "comfortable" in the church!
True churches must continue to preach the seventh
commandment and in so doing condemn fornication (Rom. 1:29; I Cor. 6:18;
Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; I Thess. 4:3), adultery (Heb. 13:4), unbiblical
divorce (Matt. 5:32), remarriage while the original spouse lives (Rom.
7:3; I Cor. 7:39; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18), homosexuality (Rom.
1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; Jude 7), bestiality (Lev. 20:15-16), and any
other transgression of the seventh commandment which the ungodly world
can invent. This may well "hurt the feelings" of the ungodly. We ought
to pray that such faithful preaching will be used by God to convert
sinners and to break their hearts so that they repent of their sins
(Acts 2:37). This is the apostolic way followed in true apostolic
churches. A church which follows a different method, dictated by
political correctness, is neither faithful to Jesus Christ nor
The report states that there needs to be "recognition
within the church that the desires for love (in all its aspects [which
would include the sexual aspect, MMcG]), intimacy, companionship, etc.,
that move heterosexual couples towards marriage are the same desires
that motivate those with same sex attractions" (5.3). We recognise no
such thing! It is interesting that the Bible never describes
homosexual relationships in terms of "love." How dare the Presbyterian
Church in Ireland dignify this unnatural lust with the honourable name
of "love!" The Bible always describes the feelings of homosexuality as
"lust" or even "vile affections" or "going after strange flesh" (Rom.
1:26-27; Jude 7); never love. The Holy Spirit inspired these strong
words in a society where sodomy was practiced and approved. The ancient
Greek and Roman societies in which the apostles laboured revelled in
sodomy. Yet, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, condemned
it. Societal approval may cause the PCI, chameleon-like, to be
"conformed to the world" (Rom. 12:1-2) but God’s Word stands forever (I
Peter 1:25). Homosexuality is sin and can never be anything other than
sin, all Presbyterian theological revisionism notwithstanding.
The report continues that "when a church states that
it cannot agree with practising same-sex relationships" this is seen as
"rejection" of the person (5.4). Churches may not be intimidated by
this. God rejects homosexuals. He also rejects fornicators, adulterers,
idolaters, thieves, murderers and all impenitent sinners. None of these
may be members of His church. This is the clear teaching of Scripture.
The PCI does not want to be seen as rejecting anyone so we will
see her already muted and compromised disagreement with homosexual
practices become less and less frequent. This is the clear, downward
direction of the PCI.
"Condemnation from the pulpit closes the door on
compassionate care outside the pulpit," claims the report (5.6). How
ludicrous! Jesus condemned adultery in His public ministry and yet
harlots and sinners flocked to him, that is, repentant harlots
and sinners (Matt. 21:31-32; John 8:11; etc.). The apostle Paul preached
repeatedly against sexual sin, including homosexuality—"of the which
I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that
they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal.
5:21)—and there were repentant homosexuals in the church at Corinth and
doubtless elsewhere (I Cor. 6:9-11). The argument is absurd. If there is
sharp preaching against adultery, does that mean that adulterers are
afraid to approach the elders to confess their sins? Of course not! In a
well-ordered, biblical church, where discipline is rightly administered,
the people know that Jesus (who rules through the office-bearers)
receives repentant sinners. Those only need fear the preaching and the
elders who live impenitently in sin.
Avoiding "Unhelpful" (Biblical) Language
How do we create an atmosphere in the church which is
comfortable for the homosexual? To find oneself asking this question is
almost surreal. The church is not supposed to be comfortable for
any impenitent sinner. Yet the report has an idyllic vision of "safe
spaces" where people can discuss their sexuality with the pastor without
fear of judgment (10.10)! As if the holy Lord in heaven
does not behold nor try the children of men (Ps. 11:4)!
The report’s answer to the problem of uncomfortable
homosexual members is to avoid "unhelpful" language (7.1). Unhelpful
language is defined by the report as derogatory language which tends to
"victimise or diminish" (3.2).
The first phrase which must go is "Adam and Eve, not
Adam and Steve." Given the popularity of theistic evolution in the PCI,
I’d be surprised if there are many Presbyterian ministers left who
believe that Adam and Eve were real, historical people, whose literal
actions had literal consequences for all their posterity (Gen. 3). But
how is an argument from Genesis "unhelpful?" God did
create Adam and Eve. Are we not to preach that? In His defence of
marriage as a life-long bond between one man and one woman, Jesus Christ
Himself states, "He which made them at the beginning made them male
and female" (Matt. 19:4). Is the Son of God using inflammatory and
homophobic language here, effectively closing the door to any meaningful
pastoral care of the homosexual (He did not say "male and male" or
"female and female") or the unbiblically divorced or remarried person?
It is also unhelpful, according to the report, to say
that God "loves the sinner and hates the sin"! Concerning His elect in
Jesus Christ, God loves the sinner and hates the sin, but God hates
both the reprobate sinner
and his sins (Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Rom. 9:13). Has it now come to this?
Do Presbyterians now hate neither the sinner nor the sin? Do Irish
Presbyterians hate any sin? Except homophobia, of course! The
issue here is that we are called to hate all sin, as God does (Rom.
12:9). However, homosexuals refuse to call their "lifestyle" sinful.
They demand to be accepted in the church just the way they are.
Hence the report wrestles with difficult questions such as "How could I
ever welcome a same sex partner into the home?" or "What if they want to
share the same bedroom?" (2.5). How can these be questions
for any Presbyterian? Never mind difficult questions!
Homosexuals are campaigning like no other group to
have those who call their lifestyle sinful made liable to prosecution as
those guilty of "hate crimes." Homosexuals, like the original sodomites,
do not like their actions to be judged and refuse to repent. Remember
their retort to Lot: "This one fellow came in to sojourn and he will
needs be a judge. Now we will deal worse with thee, than with them"
This brings us to the third "unhelpful" term:
"sodomy." Sodomy is that sin which is practiced by sodomites. Such
sinners (like adulterers, fornicators, etc.) are not members of
the kingdom of God, either in the Old (Deut. 23:17) or New Testament (I
Cor. 6:9-10). In Israel’s history, when the rulers of the people were
disobedient "there were sodomites" in the land (I Kings 14:24; 15:12),
but when the more faithful kings ruled they removed the sodomites from
the land (I Kings 22:46; II Kings 23:7). In the OT, sodomites, as well
as other gross transgressors (adulterers, incestuous persons, idolaters,
etc.), were to be "removed" by execution. In the NT, the Christian
church cuts off such rotten members by excommunication and expulsion
from the fellowship with the hope that, the flesh being destroyed, "the
spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Cor. 5:5).
One of the tactics of the homosexual lobby, aided and
abetted by the effeminate, departing churches, is to claim that the sin
which brought down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah (the sin of
"sodomy" therefore) was not homosexuality. Genesis 13:13 teaches that
the "men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly."
The sin of the men of Sodom (no women are mentioned) was sexual. They
demanded that Lot bring "the men" out that they might "know them" (Gen.
19:5), that is sleep with them. Lot called this "do[ing] wickedly" (Gen.
19:7). The sin of Sodom was also an iniquity in which the sodomites
boasted ("They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not;" Isa. 3:9).
Modern sodomites parade their iniquitous life-style in so-called "Gay
Pride" marches. Although the report mentions "the promotion of
alternative sexualities" which lead to "confusion" among some young
people (9.3), there is no condemnation or even mild criticism of such
marches. Homosexual propagandists within apostate Christendom often
appeal to Ezekiel to try to re-write the history of Genesis 19. They
contend that the sin of Sodom was solely "pride, iniquity, fullness of
bread and abundance of idleness" (Eze. 16:49), and therefore, not
homosexuality. But they ignore the context, nor do they compare
Scripture with Scripture. "And they were haughty," continues the
inspired prophet of Jehovah, "and committed abomination before
me: therefore I took them away as I saw good" (Eze. 16:50).
"Abomination" is a word used to describe sodomy (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). The
apostles also identified the sin of Sodom as "filthy conversation [i.e.,
conduct]" (II Peter 2:7) and "going after strange flesh" and "giving
themselves over to fornication" (Jude 7). Whatever the framers of this
report may believe the sin of Sodom was (and they do not say), one thing
is certain, there will be few sermons on Genesis 19 and God’s
destruction of Sodom in the PCI.
Although the Holy Spirit uses the word "unnatural"
("against nature" or "leaving the natural use") in Romans 1:26-27, the
report deems it "unhelpful" in preaching or counselling. Thus the Third
Person of the Trinity has less wisdom than the General Assembly of the
PCI! What a shame that holy and inspired Scripture can not be rewritten
by the highest court of Irish Presbyterianism! Oh foolish Holy Spirit,
who inspired words which "victimise" and "diminish" homosexuals! This
blasphemy follows logically and necessarily from the report adopted by
the 2007 PCI General Assembly.
All of these words and phrases concerning
homosexuality, like "sodomy" and "unnatural," "lock the door to
effective pastoral care before it is even open," complains the report
(7.1). How arrogant of the framers of this report to think that they
know better than the Triune God! God saves His elect, some of whom
before their conversion walked in the sins of homosexuality, exactly
through the application of these and other biblical words to their
hearts (Heb. 4:12). He also uses these words to warn His church about
these sins, lest they be tempted to commit them also. Therefore, writes
Jude, the sodomites who are "suffering eternal fire" in hell are "set
forth for an example," as a warning to all impenitent homosexuals and to
those who are tempted to commit this sin (Jude 7; II Peter 2:6). More
"unhelpful" words, betraying the shockingly ineffective pastoral care of
Peter and Jude! If only the inspired penmen of Holy Scripture had
learned a "balanced" theology at Union Theological College and digested
the report of the PCI's 2007 General Assembly! The report urges
"balanced proclamation" (7.3). Don’t condemn homosexuality too much
(i.e., in the language and with the force that God does in His Word). In
practice this means, don’t condemn this sin at all.
A Radical Change or a Predictable Development?
The Social Issues and Resources Panel insisted that
it was not their remit to change the position of the GA (1.3).
The position of the GA, prior to the 2007 report, is contained in "The
Church and the Homosexual," which was prepared by the National and
International Problems Committee (Assembly Reports [Belfast:
1979], pp. 181-195).
Already in 1979, the PCI was weakening the biblical
position, yet even that was too strong for the PCI in 2007. Some of the
1979 statements against homosexuality which the present Social Issues
and Resources Panel (2007) must have found "unhelpful" are these:
Heterosexual relations are still the only "natural" sexual relations
(cf. Rom. 1:27, 29) (para. 18, p. 184).
It is surely incontestable that Old Testament references to homosexual
practices strongly condemn them as a sin against God and a degradation
of society (para. 20, p. 185).
Twice Paul refers to heterosexual relations as being "natural," and evil
men and women "changing" or "leaving the natural use" into that which is
against nature. This would leave little room for the contention by many
homosexuals that their orientation is as "natural" and God-given as that
of heterosexuals (para. 22, p. 185).
In the New Testament, the Old Testament view that homosexual acts are
sinful in the sight of God is fully endorsed and reinforced (para. 23,
But there were cracks even in the 1979 report; the
warning signs were there. The 2007 report is a further step in the wrong
In the first place, most of the stronger statements
in the 1979 report are carefully qualified: the condemnation of
homosexuality in the OT would "seem to be inescapable" (para. 20,
p. 185; italics mine). In the light of the NT passages cited (Rom.
1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; I Tim. 1:10), "it would be difficult
to argue that a practising homosexual may engage in and claim God’s
blessing on a homosexual relationship" (para. 23, p. 186; italics mine).
In addition, the framers of the 1979 report welcomed
signs of an openness to enter into dialogue with homosexuals: "There can
be little doubt that many self-confessed homosexuals would welcome
dialogue … and there are signs, much to be welcomed, that more and more
members of the Church are prepared to seek enlightenment" (para. 26, p.
186). One is amazed! How can the church enter into dialogue with and "seek
enlightenment" from homosexuals, when God's Word has clearly spoken
on the issue? "To the law and to the testimony: if they
speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light
in them" (Isa. 8:20).
The 1979 report also betrays a false view of
"pastoral care." We must "be careful about condemning it [i.e.,
homosexuality]" (para. 59, p. 192). But does not the Triune God condemn
it? Perhaps the Almighty ought to have been more "careful"? The 1979 PCI
report continues, "we must ask ourselves … what we may have done as
regards membership—with all the discipline that goes with that—on the
part of those whose sexual orientation is towards those of their own
sex" (para. 60, p. 192). Is this really a question? Note that in 1979
the PCI was questioning
God's prohibition against homosexuals as members in Christ's church (I
The 1979 report also insisted that a "fine story"
could be told of lives lived by homosexuals in the service of church and
state ("including the ordained ministry"). This, in the words of the
1979 report, is "beyond dispute" (cf. para. 65, p. 193). Yet how can an
impenitent homosexual serve the church, when he is not even a living
member of the body of Christ at all (I Cor. 6:9-11)? And how can
unbelievers (homosexual or heterosexual) be indisputably fine servants
of Jesus Christ when "they that are in the flesh cannot
please God" (Rom. 8:8)? If even the "ploughing of the wicked is
sin" (Prov. 21:4), what about the "abomination" (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) of a
sodomite "serving" in the holy ministry of the Word and sacraments! Were
there no delegates to the 1979 GA who understood the biblical and
confessional truth of total depravity (e.g., Rom. 3:9-20; WCF 6,
16) that "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it
is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom.
8:7)? Such are the unscriptural and contradictory proclamations of the
PCI on sodomy, even in 1979!
In addition, reference is made to a few congregations
in some countries who "accept self-professed homosexuals, living in
settled homosexual relationships, and do not question the sincerity of
their Christian faith." Instead of sharply criticizing such churches for
their wicked practices, the 1979 report simply urged understanding and a
willingness to listen from those who may disagree (cf. para. 68, p.
193). Presbyterians ought instead to listen to Proverbs 19:27: "Cease,
my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of
knowledge." But this Word of God was not heeded. Instead, the false
counsel of the 1979 report caused the PCI to err in "dialoguing" with
the homosexuals, and now, after hearkening to the sodomites, the 2007 GA
is further causing Irish Presbyterians to err with its false report. So
much for God's Word in the PCI.
Already the 1979 report urged "a more tolerant and
understanding acceptance of the homosexual" (para. 70, p. 194). These
aspirations are being realized in the 2007 report.
Tolerating Evil in the Name of Love
The 2007 report describes the struggles a homosexual
person may have before he "comes out" about his sexuality. First
reactions, cautions the report, have "the potential to crush or bring
hope" (8.1). The person at this point needs unconditional love and
acceptance, just the way he is. "At this point they do not even need to
hear what the Bible says about homosexuality" (8:2). How foolish!
Sinners always need to hear what God’s Word says about their sin.
They also need to be told about the gospel and the sovereign grace of
God which delivers sinners from the condemnation, shame, guilt and
pollution of sin. The grace of God which brings salvation teaches us
that, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live
soberly, righteously and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:12). The
grace of God does not teach us that God accepts us just the way we are
and that we can go on in our lusts (whether they are lusts after money
or after power or after people of the other sex or after people of the
same sex, etc.); it teaches us repentance. Any other teaching is
sheer antinomianism, "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness"
(Jude 4) by telling homosexuals that they may continue as members of the
church as homosexuals. According to this PCI report, pastors
should not force people into counselling or suggest that people with
same-sex attractions are spiritually sick or perverted (8.2). But,
according to God's Word, homosexuals (and all other impenitent sinners)
must be told that they are transgressors who need the grace of God to
turn from their sinful desires and practices. The homosexual who is
being pastored should not be rejected by the church, according to
this report (9.4). Therefore we see that church discipline is out of the
question. Yet Christ commanded church discipline of impenitent church
members (Matt. 18:15-18) and He cuts off churches who tolerate
wickedness in their members (Rev. 2:14, 20). Whom are Irish
Presbyterians going to obey? The GA or Jesus Christ? This report means
that you can not obey both.
The PCI cannot bring itself to exercise biblical
church discipline. Such would be "unloving." This is indicated in the
report as well. The PCI says that their position is that "sexual
practice is only for heterosexual marriage" (10). Well and good. But
then the PCI speaks out of the other side of its mouth:
Our aim ought to be to help ALL unmarried people
to cope with sexual pressures. We realise this raises issues
regarding celibacy. While this is an area of debate in
relation to "the hope of marriage," essentially ongoing sexual
pressures need to be controlled (10; italics mine).
Pathetic! This means that the PCI won’t even
discipline fornicators. How is celibacy before marriage an "area of
debate"? How dare they raise questions about that which the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has forever settled! Is the PCI going to
enforce celibacy on its homosexual members when it does not seem to be
able to do so with its heterosexual members? One wonders how that would
fit with politically correct views of "equality." How many other sins
are tolerated in the name of this false view of Christian "love"? Yet
faithful church discipline, after true preaching and proper
administration of the two sacraments, is the third mark of a true
church! Unfaithful church discipline, permitting homosexuals to the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper and muzzling the preaching of God's Word
against sodomy indicate that the PCI manifests the three marks of the
church (Belgic Confession 29).
The PCI report simply caves in to the pressures of
the ungodly world. "Churches must continue to live with those who act
and behave in ways seen as inconsistent with God’s Word" (9.4). Notice
the words "act and behave." Those who commit homosexual sins (not just
those who have such desires) are to be tolerated as members of the PCI.
This is a "principle" of all pastoral care and "especially
in this matter [of homosexuality]" (9.4; italics mine). Notice also the
weak way in which these sins are described: "in ways seen
as inconsistent with God’s Word" (9.4; italics mine). Why the hesitancy?
Those who act in ways inconsistent with God’s word (i.e., those who walk
in the ways of wickedness, whether adultery, theft or homosexuality,
etc.) are to be disciplined, and, if they remain impenitent, excluded
from the church and kingdom of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 5:13). In this way
the church acts in love and prays for the repentance of the sinning
member (I Cor. 5:5). If, after repeated admonitions, the sinner refuses
to repent, he is to be considered "an heathen man and a publican" (Matt.
18:17). With such a person the church may not have any fellowship. She
takes this action in the hope that the sinning member will return in the
way of repentance (I Cor. 5:11). Failure to do this leads to the
corruption of the whole body (I Cor. 5:6) and Christ's removal of the
candlestick (Rev. 2-3). Do the framers of the report fear Christ more
than being called "homophobic"? Clearly not!
Creating the Right Atmosphere For Iniquity to
The PCI, according to the 2007 report, needs to
"create an environment of love, understanding, acceptance, patience,
forgiveness, openness and grace" (10) for impenitent homosexuals.
Remember there is not a word in the report calling homosexuals to
repent. However, just because our society is becoming more "inclusive"
does not mean that everybody is welcome to be a member of the church.
The church may not accept such wicked people as members. The
church must urge them to repentance and administer discipline if the
call is unheeded. The report makes all kinds of suggestions on how the
church can be understanding and accepting: the use of small groups and
youth groups, exploring the possibility of support groups, and providing
books and tapes. What kind of books and tapes? Material by authors and
preachers who teach the pure biblical truth about sodomy (which is
forbidden by the report) or the material of those who are "double
minded" regarding homosexuality (James 1:8) like the PCI itself? Answer:
the latter! How will small groups, youth groups or support groups
explore this subject if all condemnatory language from Scripture is to
be avoided? Report 10.9 is particularly alarming, for it states that one
must "acknowledge a person’s right to a private life." What does this
mean? Does this mean the homosexual's right to sleep with other men in
private? Or that church officers will not ask questions about these
things? We are not told. We can only imagine. And shudder.
The report calls for repentance. But it calls on the
to repent for its attitude against homosexual members (11) and it pleads
(rather pathetically) with the homosexual for some understanding on his
part: "It is not easy for those who wish to be genuinely caring yet
maintain Biblical integrity without giving the impression that in so
doing they are rejecting the person" (11.2). "It is not easy," either,
to "halt between two opinions" (I Kings 18:21) and talk out of both
sides of one's mouth! How difficult to try to appear orthodox enough to
fool those who follow Jesus Christ but inclusive enough to please the
ungodly world. No such difficulty exists for those who believe the Bible
and unashamedly confess it. Persecution will follow, but a clear
conscience remains (II Tim. 3:12; I Tim. 1:19).
Proclaiming condemnation of sodomy "does not win
hearts and minds" (11:3), says the report. But we protest! A sharp
condemnation of sin—by the grace of God—won over the Corinthians, some
of whom lived in homosexuality before they repented and believed the
gospel (I Cor. 6:11). The report claims that condemnation does not show
"the pastoral care of Jesus Christ" (11:3) but it offers no proof from
Scripture. The fact is that when Christ dealt with people, unlike the
report, He pointed out their sins, demanded repentance and called them
to a new and godly life (e.g., John 4:16-18; 8:11). Thus the PCI is
teaching "another Jesus" and therefore "another gospel" and "another
spirit" (II Cor. 11:4), by approving a foolish report which corrupts the
church, taking her away from "the simplicity which is in Christ" (II
Cor. 11:3). The men who wrote the report do not have the mind of Christ
(I Cor. 2:16), but are slavishly in bondage to the fear of our
increasingly politically correct world. This is the spirit of true
apostolic Christianity: "if yet pleased men, I should not be the servant
of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). Where does this put the ministers and elders of
the General Assembly? Where is the zeal of the OT prophets in the PCI? "But
truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and
of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his
sin" (Micah 3:8)! Oh, but this would be "unhelpful" and "diminish" and
"victimise" homosexuals! It is significant that the Epistle of Jude
which exhorts all Christians "earnestly [to] contend for the faith which
was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3), refers a few verses
later to sodomy (Jude 7)! In failing to contend earnestly against
homosexuality, the PCI shows that is losing (if it has not already lost)
"the faith which was once delivered unto the saints"
We have seen from a brief analysis of this report how
grievously the PCI has departed from God’s Word on this matter (and many
other areas could also be detailed). But, then, ought we be surprised?
As early as 1873, the PCI had women missionaries. By 1908, Irish
Presbyterians allowed women into the order of "deaconesses." By 1926,
the PCI permitted women to be elders in the church. All these are clear
acts of rebellion against Jesus Christ, the head of His church (I Tim.
2:12). This was followed, logically, in 1976 with the decision to ordain
women to the ministry. The PCI has long departed from a sound confession
of the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture; higher critical
(i.e., unbelieving) views of Scripture are taught in Union Theological
College. The Westminster Confession is merely a venerable antique
in the PCI and a tool to fool the unwary into thinking that the PCI is
an orthodox Christian and Reformed church. The majority of the
office-bearers in the denomination do not believe what their creed
teaches, if they even know what it contains. Arminianism is preached
from the pulpits. Those few ministers who claim to preach the biblical
and confessional truth of God's sovereign and particular grace, teach it
quietly and inconsistently, while they cling tenaciously to the errors
of the free offer of the gospel and common grace, proclaiming the God
loves everybody and wants to save everybody, including the reprobate
(read the following: Ps. 5:4-6; 11:5-7; 69:21-28; 73:18; 92:6-7; 115:3;
Isa. 6:9-11; Rom. 9:13).
The PCI's previous departure regarding the seventh
commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery") needs especially to be
exposed in this connection. Fornication is permitted amongst its
membership, as we saw acknowledged above. Unbiblical divorce for reasons
other than fornication has been going on for decades (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).
Adulterous remarriage for both "innocent" and "guilty" parties
while one's spouse is living is rampant (Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:16; Rom.
7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). The PCI capitulation regarding sodomy is simply the
next logical step away from the chaste Christian life required by God in
the seventh commandment—as it was for the Church of England and other
apostate churches. On the great judgment day, the Most High will thunder
just as loudly (if not more so) against the wickedness of the PCI in
despising His commandments (cf. Ps. 50:16-18) as He did at Mount Sinai.
Every member of the PCI needs to know that it is now
the official policy of the PCI to tolerate sodomy, both in its
"vile affections" and wicked practices. The official position is that
the church must "live with" those who "act and behave" as homosexuals
(9.4). Sodomy will be, and is already being, tolerated. "Homophobia"
will not. If members complain against a minister who preaches a
forthright, biblical sermon on sodomy (from, say, Romans 1:26-27 or Jude
7, etc.) or against elders who seek to discipline a homosexual member,
that minister or session will not have a leg to stand on in the
ecclesiastical courts. This report effectively ties their hands and
leaves them wide open to the appeal and overthrow of their work. Those
who would dare to discipline impenitent homosexuals could themselves
become liable to church discipline!
Nor is this the end of the matter. There are many
people in the PCI who do not think this report goes far enough. Rev. Ken
Newell (News Letter, 9 June, 2006) and Rev. Bobby Liddle (News
Letter, 6 June, 2007) make this point very clearly. Rev. Newell,
welcoming this report, enthused, "We hope that this sends a very strong
message to the gay members of our Church and community that the
General Assembly, Presbyteries, Kirk Sessions and Congregations [of the
PCI] apologise for any hurt caused them in the past" (Belfast
Telegraph, 7 June, 2007; italics mine). Note again the free
admission of undisciplined homosexuals in the PCI. Moreover, here a
former PCI moderator, on behalf of the PCI in all her bodies and
members, makes a blanket apology to PCI homosexuals for "any hurt"
caused them, which must include (in the terms of the 2007 GA report) any
biblical instruction ever given in the PCI's history that homosexuality
is "unnatural" (Rom. 1:26-27) and that those who live in this "vile
affection" are not citizens in the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9-10) but
are headed for eternal destruction (Jude 7).
Is this the "very strong message" that any
God-fearing Presbyterian "in the pew" wants sent out? But where are the
groans and sighs amongst the believing remnant in the PCI and where
are the protests? Thousands of PCI members ought to be waking up to
the terrifying and awful apostasy of their denomination. Where are the
people leaving the PCI, shaking the dust off their feet? God's truth is
fallen to the street in the PCI (Isa. 59:14) to be trampled under foot
by the General Assembly which represents the entire PCI membership, but
few seem even to care! Yet the second commandment tells us that "the
LORD ... [is] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon
the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
[Him]" (Ex. 20:5)! Are not Irish Presbyterians troubled about the
salvation and edification of themselves and their children and
grandchildren and fellow church members, as their church descends the
deep, dark path of apostasy? Certainly the Holy Spirit is grieved (Eph.
4:30) and quenched (I Thess. 5:19) in the PCI, as it tolerates sodomy.
Thus God's grace and blessing is being withdrawn from its preaching and
sacraments. But the problem is that most PCI members have gotten used to
departure from God's Word; they don't try the church spirits (I John
4:1) by the light of Scripture; they have little or no zeal for the
glory of Jesus Christ. Like those in the apostate Northern Kingdom of
Israel just before she was destroyed, the great and eternal issues of
God's Word are "counted as a strange thing" (Hos. 8:12) by most Irish
Presbyterians. Then, as now, those who warn members of a departing
church are denounced as a crazy scare-mongers. Sadly, for
some people in the PCI, like Lot in Sodom (Gen. 19), it would take
angels to come down from heaven to drag them out! Their denomination can
descend so low as to make peace with sodomy and seek to include
impenitent homosexuals in the body of Jesus Christ, but they still
remain in the PCI. Those who stay in apostatising churches will probably
lose their children (Hos. 4:6).
What further PCI departures on this subject can we
expect to see in future years? Sodomy is a particularly grave sin even
in the world; to homosexuality some unbelievers are "given up" in God's
just wrath (Rom. 1:26). In the church, it is an especially gross
instance of departure from the truth, being tolerated only when the
church is already a long way down the path of apostasy (Judg. 19:22-23;
Isa. 1:10). Openness towards and acceptance of sodomy will grow in the
PCI, as God’s judgment against her for wickedly rejecting His Word. The
homosexuals in the PCI will become bolder and more brazen (cf. Isa.
3:9). The Church of England was at this stage some years ago. Now they
have openly homosexual ministers and ministers in homosexual civil
partnerships. Think of the furore in recent times over Gene Robinson,
the homosexual Anglican bishop in New Hampshire, USA. It remains to be
seen how far and how quickly the PCI goes down this road. Already, as
Rev. Bobby Liddle has said, there are some in the PCI who do not think
it has gone far enough. And he should know, for Rev. Liddle is the
spokesman for the committee which wrote the report! The pro-homosexual
lobby in the PCI is like the horseleech which is never satisfied, crying
"Give, give" (Prov. 30:15)! If homosexuals are really full church
members, they will argue, why can they not be allowed to be more open
about their sexuality? Every office and role in the PCI should be
available to those who widely declare their homosexuality in the PCI.
After all, they will say, you've allowed us in these offices and roles
when we've kept quiet about our sexual proclivities! Now let us be
honest and nail our colours to the mast. Remember, we're all equal! This
is how it has gone with the Church of England and other modernist
churches. This is how the PCI has already apostatised regarding women in
office (first women missionaries, then deaconesses, then women elders,
and then women ministers). How long will it be before the PCI has a
woman moderator? How long will it be before the PCI has ministers who
openly declare their sodomy?
Member of the PCI, you can not sit on your hands and
do nothing while the church of which you are a member descends
into deeper apostasy. It will not do merely to say, "Oh, but I do not
believe the false things that the PCI is saying about sodomy." The only
option you have is to secede. The so-called evangelicals claim that they
have been attempting to reform the PCI for years, but the church has not
been turned around; it has gotten worse. The evangelicals of former
generations would be utterly disgusted and appalled at the PCI's
capitulation even on so gross a sin as sodomy. The fact is that the
modernists and the conservatives in the PCI are friends. Witness the
kind words conservative Dr. Harry Uprichard had for the false ecumenist
Rev. Ken Newell when he succeeded Rev. Newell as moderator in 2005—as if
they were both faithful servants of Jesus Christ! Ahabs and Jehoshaphats
live in harmony (II Chron. 19:2). Where in the PCI are the Micaiahs who
boldly stand against the 400 false prophets (I Kings 22)? Leave the PCI,
for "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps.
11:3). The PCI courts, machinery and legislation are in the expert hands
of ungodly men; how could protests possibly be successful? Few church
members in the PCI even understand their office as prophets and their
right of church protest. Even fewer even care. And such protests would
be swiftly shot down anyway.2 Follow Jesus
Christ as a member of a faithful church which manifests clearly the
three marks of a true church.3
Trust not in lying words that your congregation is
better than the others and your minister is sound. You and he are
corporately responsible and are under God's judgment for all
the wicked departures of your church from Jesus Christ (Josh. 7; Dan.
9), especially if you do not raise a word in ecclesiastical protest
against it. You, by your weekly offerings, financially support the
corrupt boards who penned this report. You support the liberal PCI
seminary in Belfast. You pay the salaries of apostate clergy,
ecumenists, feminists and liberals. You do! In so doing, you
"help the ungodly" (II Chron. 19:2). For the sake of your own soul and
the spiritual welfare of your children, obey the voice from heaven which
says, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her
sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).
As the PCI lurches towards Sodom and Gomorrah, the
angels' words ring out in their urgency:
Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters,
which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city …
Escape for thy life; look not behind thee ... escape … lest thou be
consumed (Gen. 19:15, 17).4
Listen to a
Homosexuality: What Does the Bible Teach?
4An earlier edition of this article referred to a piece in the
Belfast Telegraph quoting Presbyterian Church in Ireland moderator
(2007-2008), Rev. John Finlay, as declaring that homosexuals can be
members of the PCI: "Technically there's no reason why a homosexual
cannot belong to the church ... There would be no reason for not having
them as a member [sic]" (5 June, 2007). In a letter to Rev. Stewart (6
August, 2007), Rev. Finlay claims that he was misrepresented by the
Belfast Telegraph and that he was referring to Christians who
"were struggling with the temptation towards homosexual behaviour" and
not (unrepentant) homosexuals. Rev. Finlay also states in this letter,
"Homosexuality is sinful, condemned in Scripture and contrary to God's
purposes for mankind ... I believe that a practising homosexual could
not be a church member in good standing and spiritual discipline should
be exercised by those in church authority." The problem is, as we have
seen, that, though this is Rev. Finlay's personal opinion, this is not
the PCI's official position which is stated in the 2007 General Assembly
Report. Nor is Rev. Finlay's view about what "should" be done regarding
homosexual church members PCI practice, for what about the
discipline of the estimated 9,000 homosexuals in the PCI? Indeed, as
this paper on "The Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Sodomy" makes
clear, biblical preaching against and discipline of homosexuals in the
PCI is now hamstrung by the 2007 report—much to the delight of false
ecumenist Rev. Ken Newell, one of Rev. Finlay's predecessors as PCI
moderator, and many in the PCI, and the homosexual lobby.