"I Don’t Consider Homosexuality to be a Sin"—PCI
The 2007 General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian
Church in Ireland (PCI) officially adopted guidelines on how to pastor
homosexual members. This report called the church to "repent of its
homophobia" and was a grievous departure from the biblical position that
homosexuality, both in its practices and in its lusts, is sin (cf. "The
Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Sodomy").
One would imagine that, in a supposedly evangelical
church, there would be howls of protest from members, sessions and
presbyteries concerning last year’s decision and that the GA would now
be inundated with demands for the decision to be overturned, the report
thrown out, and the biblical position on sodomy reaffirmed. Sadly, and
shamefully, there were none. In fact, Bobby Liddle, convener of the
Social Issues and Resources Panel which drafted the wretched document,
reported to the 2008 General Assembly,
The Business Committee is considering the
implementation of the recommendations of the "Guidelines on the
Pastoral Care of Homosexuals." This is being considered alongside
broader Board services. It is hoped these will tie in with the
potential development of the Denegarth facility. The 1979 Report is
to be published on the Board web-site and the Guidelines distributed
to all Ministers (Assembly Reports [Belfast: 2008], p. 171).
The only conclusion that can be reached is that the
Boards and Committees of the PCI continue to trample the truth of Jesus
Christ underfoot while the evangelicals are powerless to stop them.
Only a Whimper
However, the subject of homosexuality was not
altogether ignored at the General Assembly. A whimper of protest—not
directly referring to the 2007 report—was heard, although it was quickly
squelched by the PCI’s ecclesiastical machinery. The Judicial Commission
reported the following to the 2008 General Assembly,
The Judicial Commission met once since the Annual
Report was written. In considering a reference from a Presbytery
asking for advice and determination by the Commission on a letter
which the Presbytery had received from three ministers, the
Commission was joined in its deliberations by the Rev Dr S. N.
Williams, Professor of Systematic Theology. The letter reported that
during the course of an interview on Radio Ulster’s Talkback
programme, a minister under the care of the Presbytery, in response
to a question, had stated: "I don’t consider homosexuality to be a
sin." In the view of the three ministers, this is a serious
departure from Scripture and therefore questions the sincerity of
the individual’s ordination vows. They respectfully asked the
Presbytery to "look into these things, which we believe are matters
involving church discipline."
So, here we have it. A grossly unbiblical report was
adopted in 2007. No protests were received concerning it, and the
liberals are happy to report that its implementation is progressing
unchallenged. Instead of hundreds of ministers and members writing to
their presbyteries, we read that only three ministers complained
to only one presbytery concerning the public comments of only
one minister. While we acknowledge that at least this was
attempted, it is another case of too little too late.
This anonymous minister is not the first to make
outrageous statements on the radio. Read "Four
Church Leaders on N. Ireland's
for details of another such case, which was not protested by any member,
minister, or presbytery in the PCI.
The Whimper Squelched
The Judicial Commission reported on how they
proceeded with this serious issue:
The Commission did not examine the accuracy of
the alleged statement or the circumstances in which it was made, but
rather considered whether if the statement was made, the Presbytery
should exercise discipline over the minister.
Thus a minister states on the radio (a public, not a
private, sin, so the provisions of Matthew 18:15-17 do not apply) that
he believes that homosexuality is not a sin. This is clearly contrary to
Holy Scripture which teaches that homosexuality is a sin. The
three ministers are therefore right to "question the sincerity of the
individual’s ordination vows." What does this august body, including the
supposedly evangelical Professor of Systematic Theology, Stephen
Williams, do? They do not examine the statement (surely, something easy
to do, since Radio Ulster’s Talkback maintains an archive); they do not
consider the circumstances in which it was made (again, an examination
of the context of the interview would have been simple enough); but they
consider if there is any way in which the statement can be justified. In
other words, they really are not interested in discipline. Nor do they
ask the minister in question what he
meant by the statement. They simply look at the statement to see if it
could possibly be construed as within the framework of their
(unfaithful) position paper on sodomy.
Church Order of Dordt gives the historical Reformed procedure for
dealing with such a case:
When ministers of the divine Word, elders, or
deacons, have committed any public, gross sin, which is a disgrace
to the church, or worthy of punishment by the authorities, the
elders and deacons shall immediately by preceding sentence of the
consistory thereof and of the nearest church, be suspended or
expelled from their office, but the ministers shall only be
suspended. Whether these shall be entirely deposed from office,
shall be subject to the judgment of the classis, with the advice of
the delegates of the synod mentioned in Article 11 (Article 79).
To state publicly that one does not consider
homosexuality to be a sin is a "public, gross sin that is a disgrace to
the Church." Therefore the minister in question ought to have been
immediately suspended and his whole doctrine of Scripture and ethics
examined by the Presbytery. Can a man who states such a thing really
believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture or has he been
deceived by higher critical, liberal, and unbelieving views of Scripture
(say of Genesis 1-11, which he learned at Union Theological College,
perhaps)? If a man does not believe homosexuality is sin, does he
believe that adultery and fornication are sin? And can such a man really
believe the Reformed confessions? It is necessary to examine the
minister in these areas for the welfare of the church, the welfare of
the minister himself (to bring him to repentance), and for the glory of
God. None of this was even attempted in the case brought before the 2008
GA of the PCI.
The Judicial Commission deliberated and came to the
following conclusion: the (alleged) statement of the minister is not
heretical! The reason:
The  Report throughout makes a clear
distinction between "homosexual orientation," otherwise
"homosexuality," and "homosexual practices." Homosexual practices
are clearly condemned … However, the biblical attitude to homosexual
orientation is recognised in the Report as a consequence of fallen
human nature. In its conclusion the Report states – "It is vital to
draw the distinction between a homosexual orientation and homosexual
practice. Temptation is not sin, whether for the homosexual or the
heterosexual." In the light of the clear and repeated distinction
drawn in the Report between homosexual orientation and homosexual
relationships, the Judicial Commission determined that the statement
"homosexuality is not a sin," without further qualification, is not
inconsistent with the Church’s position as stated in the 1979
Report. The Commission therefore instructed that the Presbytery
should not consider Church discipline as a consequence of the
reported comment. It further recommends that the Doctrine Committee
may wish to re-visit the 1979 Report in the light of more recent
theological thinking. A resolution to this effect is appended.
The Commission assumed that the minister in question
was only denying that homosexual orientation is a sin. Therefore, church
discipline is inappropriate. But, what if the minister had meant that
the sexual activities of homosexuals are not sin? He may have
meant that! They did not bother to examine what he meant! This is
gross dereliction of duty.
Even if the Commission is right in its assumption
about what the minister meant, the conclusion of the Commission is
unbiblical, anti-Christian and heretical. The Commission decided,
following the PCI’s 1979 report, "The Church and the Homosexual" (Assembly
Reports [Belfast: 1979], pp 181-195), that homosexual orientation,
desires and lusts are not sinful, only the act is sinful.
But what saith the Scriptures? "the carnal mind is
enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7)!
The PCI's creed, the Westminster Confession of
Faith, also declares that man's fallen and corrupt nature is
From this original corruption, whereby we are
utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and
wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions
... Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of
the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own
nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the
wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death,
with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal (6:4, 6).
This is just one of many articles in the PCI's
confessional standards which they reject (cf. "Is
the Presbyterian Church in Ireland a Faithful Church?").
Jesus Christ declared in His Sermon on the Mount,
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old
time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That
whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed
adultery with her already in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28).
Here Jesus is refuting the false teaching of the
Pharisees, that sin is only in the act, not in the inclination or the
desire. Therefore, according to leading theologians among the sect of
the Pharisees, Christ’s inveterate enemies, if one abstains from
actually killing a man (with a sword, poison or whatever), one has kept
the sixth commandment (Matt. 5:21). Similarly, if one abstains from
actually sleeping with another man’s wife, one has kept the seventh
commandment (Matt. 5:27). Not so, declares Jesus Christ. Sin is also the
desire to do something unlawful; the lust itself is sin.
So serious are these lusts that they bring the one
who engages in them in danger of hell fire. Jesus spells this out in
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out,
and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy
members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast
into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast
it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members
should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell
So the man who lusts after another woman ought to
take radical steps in order to stop himself sinning with his eyes. Note,
he sins with his eyes. His eye offends him, that is, causes him
If the lusts of a man after a woman are sin (as
Christ clearly teaches), surely, the lusts of a man after
or the lusts of a woman after another woman are sin!
Christ consistently in His teaching locates the
guilt, pollution and shame of sin in the heart. In another controversy
with the Pharisees, Christ declares,
That which cometh out of the man, that defileth
the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil
thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness,
wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride,
foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the
man (Mark 7:20-22).
Given that the PCI consider desiring one of the same
gender to be not sinful and therefore lawful, on what possible basis
could they condemn the desire for revenge or the desire to steal? And if
the PCI doctrine of sin is correct, that only the act is evil, but the
desire to do the act is not evil, absurdities follow. Pornography is
therefore not sinful for the one viewing it, because, as the learned
theologians of the PCI argue, desire is not sin. Covetousness,
that is desiring the possessions of another person, whether his car, his
wife, or, if one is a homosexual, his body, is not sin. Only theft
itself is sin, but greed is not sin. Then the tenth commandment, "Thou
shalt not covet …" (Ex. 20:17) no longer has any force.
The doctrine of sin taught by the PCI here is the
Roman Catholic, Pelagian and Pharisaical doctrine that concupiscence is
not sin. Only the act is sin.
Jesus declares, "But I say unto you, That
whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her [or to lust after a
man] hath committed adultery with her [or sodomy with him] already
in his heart."
But the Judicial Commission of the PCI say unto
us, "It is vital to draw the distinction between a homosexual
orientation and homosexual practice." Homosexual desires are not
Here are the two contradictory positions:
The Lord Jesus Christ: "I say unto you
that a man lusting after a woman (and therefore also a man lusting
after a man!) sins."
The PCI: "But we say unto you that a man
lusting after a man does not sin."
Who is Lord? Jesus Christ or the PCI, the
twenty-first century equivalent of the Pharisees and Pelagians who deny
that sin is a matter of the heart and its desires? With whom are you
going to stand? With Christ and His faithful church in OT and NT days or
with the liberal and modernist PCI and those apostate churches of the
last few decades who oppose Him by their unbiblical teaching on
Christians in the PCI, whom will you believe and
follow? Christ or the theologians of the PCI (including the Clerk of the
GA, Dr. Watts, and the Professor of Systematic Theology, Dr. Williams)?
God-breathed Scripture (II Tim. 3:16) teaches nothing
favourable about the sexual lusts of homosexuals (cf. audio lecture: "Homosexuality:
What Does the Bible Teach?"). It calls them "vile affections"
(or "shameful lusts;" Rom. 1:26). The actions of homosexuals the Holy
Spirit describes as "against nature" (v. 26) and "that which is
unseemly" (v. 27; the Greek is stronger: it means "indecent behaviour").
The Creator of heaven and earth calls sodomy an "abomination" (Lev
18:22; 20:13), yet recently a PCI minister (Rev. Lindsey Conway)
declared Almighty God's language "unhelpful," adding, "No Christian
should use those terms [including "abomination;" MMcG] to describe
anyone's act in the sense that looking at the individuals and the hurt
that that will cause. The Church—and the teaching of Christ—is to be in
no way misused in that context" (News Letter, 10 June, 2008). So,
this PCI spokesman, the director of the PCI's Social Service, believes
that the words of God in holy Scripture are "unhelpful." What blasphemy!
What the PCI really means is, not that the words of Scripture should not
be "misused," but that the words of Scripture should not be used.
After all, the PCI's 2007 report advised ministers to avoid using other
supposedly unhelpful, yet biblical, words ("sodomy," "unnatural," etc).
Yet again the PCI follows the spirit of the world and not the Spirit of
Jesus Christ. Faithful churches follow the apostle Paul's biblical
example: "Which things also we speak, not in the words
which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;
comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Cor. 2:13). He then
adds, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of
the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him" (v. 14)!
The Bible warns all—not merely homosexuals—that
"fleshly lusts war against the soul" (I Peter 4:3) and that it is the
characteristic of wicked men that they "fulfil" the lusts of the flesh
and of the mind (Eph. 2:3). The gospel of the grace of God teaches us
"to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12). Only the cross of
Christ is the power to forgive sinners (homosexuals, adulterers, and
even the self-righteous) in the way of repentance and faith and to
strengthen them in their fight against the lusts of the flesh to which
all men are naturally enslaved (Titus 3:3).
Instead of proclaiming the true grace of God, the PCI
offers "understanding" and "tolerance," and in so doing turns the grace
of God—which teaches us to deny our lusts and to crucify them
(Gal. 5:16)—into lasciviousness (Jude 4). This is neither glorifying to
God nor loving to the sinner, no matter what the politically-correct
"inclusive" society of our day might claim.
Since one of the marks of a true church is proper
church discipline, the PCI displays itself by this decision—and her
previous decisions—to be a false church. The Judicial Commission stands
condemned as, at best, theologically inept or, at worst, in wicked
rebellion against Scripture, being crippled by the fear of
Nor ought it to go unnoticed that the Judicial
Commission proposed "that the General Assembly ask the Doctrine
Committee to re-examine the issues of 'The Church and the Homosexual
Report' (1979) in the light of recent theological research." This shows
their bias. There is nothing to re-examine: Scripture is clear. "Recent
theological research" is a euphemism for liberal departure from the
faithful, biblical teaching of the church of all ages that sodomy is
vile depravity. Here is a clear indication that for many the 2007 report
on sodomy "does not go far enough," as Bobby Liddle indicated last year.
That "on being put to the House, the resolution was declared lost" ought
not to lull evangelicals into a false sense of security. You can be sure
about it: the homosexual-sympathizers will be back for further
Conservatives and evangelicals who see their beloved
denomination descending further into apostasy may well wonder what they
can do. There are three possible responses that people will make.
(1) Indifference and False Hope
The first is indifference and false hope. Some
believe, contrary to historic Presbyterian church polity, that, as long
as their local congregation does not participate in the evils of the
broader assemblies, they can soothe their own consciences that all is
well. This was the position of the present writer for many years. The
calling of Christ is to separate from false doctrine and evil practices.
When this involves leaving a church where one is comfortable, where
one’s family has attended for generations, and where one has many
friends, this is difficult, even heart-rending. But we still must obey!
It is very painful to come to the conclusion that one’s church, where
one was baptized, taught and nourished for years (one’s spiritual
mother, therefore), has become, spiritually, a whore.
(2) Stay and Fight
The second is the "stay and fight" approach. The
present writer identified with this camp also. A desire to fight for
reformation is admirable but, since the PCI is so far gone, this is
naive. There is precious little fighting spirit in the PCI. The
conservatives who tell concerned members that they can fight to bring
the PCI back to its confessional roots need to do more than simply talk
about fighting. They need to fight! The only "fighting" which came to
light after a most dreadful report of 2007 was a letter from three
ministers. That is it! Barely a whimper! If there was a true fighting
spirit in the PCI, the 2008 General Assembly would have been inundated
with complaints and protests from PCI members. God has not taught the
hands of the PCI conservatives to fight (Ps. 144:1). There is not—and
has not been—a full, frontal assault on the modernists’ bastions by
conservatives within the PCI. Instead the conservatives appeal to
broad-churchism and, by their false ecumenism, show themselves to be
friends of those who hate the Lord (II Chron. 19:2). Former conservative
Moderator, Dr. Harry Uprichard is a case in point (cf. "Dr.
Harry Uprichard and the PCI").
The third approach is the biblical—and the most
difficult—response. The faithful believer in Jesus Christ, for the sake
of the glory of his Lord and Saviour, whose truth is trampled underfoot
in apostate denominations; for the sake of his own spiritual life, which
is weakened by a constant diet of watered down or heretical preaching;
and for the sake of his children and grandchildren (who are largely
unable to discern between truth and lies in the pulpit, Sunday school or
elsewhere), must depart from the church which has lost the marks of the
true church. If this means moving house to find a true church, so be it.
This will involve hardship. Calvin understood this and urged people to
move for the sake of the truth (cf. "Come
Out From Among Them: Calvin's Anti-Nicodemite Writings").
The Reformed Confessions demand this (Belgic
Confession 28). Family and friends may be offended and the
believer who takes this step may even incur (social, financial) losses,
but the blessings of membership in a true church where the preaching is
the pure gospel of the Word of God, where the two sacraments are
administered faithfully, and where good order is kept through faithful
office-bearers who exercise the keys of church discipline, are