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"I Don’t Consider Homosexuality to be a Sin"—PCI Minister

Martyn McGeown


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 'Sunday Sequence,'" 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.

The 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 [1979] 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.


PCI Pelagianism

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 itself sin:

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 graphic terms:

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 (Matt. 5:29-30).

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 to sin.

If the lusts of a man after a woman are sin (as Christ clearly teaches), surely, the lusts of a man after another man 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 sin.

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 homosexuality?

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 politically-correct men.

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 concessions!



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").

(3) Secede

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 incalculable.