Presbyterian vote to eliminate standards of chastity and fidelity faces critics
Rev. Charles Burge / Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
Rev. Charles Burge / Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow

.- Reaction continues to the decisions of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), which took place between June 21 and June 28. The assembly nullified proscriptions against sexual behavior outside of marriage and called for a vote to delete the church’s constitutional standard requiring fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness. It also initiated a process that could remove mention of the Bible’s prohibition against homosexuality form the Heidelberg Catechism.

The moves are seen by some as an attempt to clear a path for the eventual ordination of practicing homosexuals to the church offices of deacon, elder, or minister.

Further, the assembly authorized the creation of a $2 million legal fund to litigate against churches which seek to transfer to other Reformed denominations while retaining their property.

Amendments to the Heidelberg Catechism and the constitution are not final, but become effective if approved by the 173 regional governing bodies, called presbyteries, of the Presbyterian Church USA.

The Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Lay Committee decried the decision as a “frontal assault on Biblical Christianity,” saying in a July 8 statement that the General Assembly “disregarded historic Reformed standards, undermined its Constitution and failed to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ with its actions.”

“The PCUSA has jettisoned the solid rock of Biblical authority and morals and is now floundering in the sea of cultural relativity. In desperation, it lays claim to the property of congregations that love the Word of God more than denominational loyalty,” the Presbyterian Lay Committee said.

Jim Berkley, Director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy's Presbyterian Action Committee, lamented the decisions, saying in a statement:

"With a handful of rushed votes this morning, this General Assembly has turned its back on God's gracious plan for our lives. It has abandoned scriptural morality. It has caused us to deviate from the belief and practice of the church throughout history and around the world to this day.”

The General Assembly elected as its General Moderator the 39-year-old Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor of Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco. As General Moderator, he will represent the denomination and preside over General Assembly business. Rev. Reyes-Chow made known his support for the ordination of homosexuals as ministers, though he has not publicly stated his position on same-sex marriage.

The only public opponent to homosexual ordination and marriage in the moderator's election was the Rev. Bill Teng, a pastor from Heritage Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Writing in a release prior to the assembly, Rev. Teng voiced his concerns over churches leaving the Presbyterian Church USA: "there needs to be someone who could stand up and remind our church what its primary calling is, and that is to go back to the basics, to put our emphasis on mission and evangelism."

Rev. Teng received 35 percent of the vote on the second ballot, while Rev. Reyes-Chow received 55 percent.

According to the Philadelphia Bulletin, PCUSA lost 46,544 members between 2005 and 2006.

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