Sound Teaching

Malawian Presbyterianism: Are We Standing or Falling like PCUSA?

My fellow Presbyterians in Malawi,

Last Thursday, (June 19, 2014), the Presbyterian Church of United States of America (PCUSA) passed a resolution to allow gays or lesbians to marry in church. Now, this has shocked some but I am not really shocked. Why? Because this is just one of the fruits of steps that were taken many years ago beginning from 1920s.

PCUSA through the Auburn Affirmation in 1920s rejected that the Bible is without error (inerrancy of Scripture), the virgin birth of Jesus and his deity, that Christ died on behalf of sinners (substitutionary atonement), bodily resurrection of Christ and authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Jesus’ miracles were said to be myths. The Auburn Confession also declared that Presbyterians in PCUSA must:

• “safeguard liberty of thought and teaching of its ministers”;
• prohibit the restricting of church teaching to rigid interpretations of Scripture and doctrine; and
• refuse to rank ecclesiastical authority or the authority of the Bible above that of the individual Spirit-led conscience. (In other words, man can decide what or what not to believe in the Bible). (http://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdfhttp://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdf).

This declaration led to many things like increased focus on social justice to the extent that salvation, in some cases, is viewed as a mere liberation from poverty and social injustice. This focus on social justice and human rights also led to less emphasis in following the Bible when it comes to the ordination of who is to be a deacon, an elder or a pastor in the church as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

From 1990s to date, PCUSA among other things has accepted that gays or lesbians can be members of the church, pastors and elders or deacons and a few days ago it has accepted that gays or lesbians can officially marry in church. Marriage is now no longer between a man and a woman but between “two people.”

Now, we might look at PCUSA and think, “That’s America, it will never happen to the Presbyterianism in Malawi. But “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). The Presbyterian Church in Malawi partners with PCUSA in a number of areas. A good number of PCUSA congregations also have exchange visits with Presbyterian congregations in Malawi.

I wonder and fear if PCUSA will not influence our Presbyterian church or if it has not already influenced it somehow  knowing that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). These are my concerns and fears. I believe that all of us including our leaders should ponder on these things lest some years from now, we will also find ourselves in the same place where PCUSA is now.

Thanks for reading. May the Good Lord bless you as you reflect on this post and search the Scriptures to ascertain if these things are so (Acts 17:11).

 

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Christianity and theology

The Church Should Embrace Gays?

Recently, some people including some Christians have urged the Church in Malawi to embrace and tolerate gays. Even some church leaders have also added their voice to this call.  Of course, in most cases this call has remained hazy to me in the sense that these people have not come out very clear on what they really mean by ‘the Church should embrace and tolerate gays’. Do they mean that the Church should extend the love of Christ to gays or that the Church should condone homosexuality and lesbianism under its roof?

If by ‘embracing gays’ they mean the former, then I don’t have any problem with that. Actually, that’s what the Church is there for namely to love the sinner and lead them to Christ the Savior who alone is able save from sin. Christ already made this clear. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” he calls in Matthew 11:28. Christ also says “I have come to seek and save the lost.” So, if by saying that church should embrace gays they mean leading them to Christ the Savior then this is already the core objective of the Church.

However, if by ‘embracing and tolerating gays’ they mean that the Church should welcome gays as they are and let them continue to practice homosexuality and lesbianism in Church, then I have a big problem with that. In fact, it is not really about me having a big problem with it, but Scripture has a big problem with it. Throughout Scripture, we find that the Church ought to be a haven where a sinner can run to for salvation but not a roof under which sin flourishes. Some examples in scripture come to mind right now.

First, in John 8:1-11, we read a story of a woman caught in adultery. Some scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus the woman and asked Christ to affirm the punishment of death by stoning. However, Jesus wisely protected the woman and later told her to go and sin no more. This is what Scripture says: “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (10, 11).

Jesus did not only tell the woman to go but also ordered her to sin no more. I believe that this is what the Church should do.  The Church should not condemn gays just like Christ never condemned the woman caught in adultery; however, the Church should not just stop there. It should go further and help gays, thorough the saving power of Christ, to go and sin no more. The gays should also be willing to forsake their sin by the grace of Christ. If they, deliberately, refuse to go and sin no more, then they should not be in Church.

If one, willfully, refuses to allow Christ help them forsake their sin, then they should not be allowed in Church because to borrow the words of St. Augustine, “If Christ is not the Lord of all, He is not the Lord at all.”  You cannot say that Jesus is your Lord yet you, intentionally, refuse to obey him in some areas of your life.

Secondly, the word of God in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 warns the church of tolerating someone who says they are Christian but they openly and willfully live in sexual immorality. The Scripture goes further to tell us not to allow such people to come and fellowship in church. The word of God in this passage is very clear and it needs no further commentary.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of the brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – Underlining added)

Thirdly, the word of God does not leave Christians in the dark in regard to how we should treat those who are living in sin like gays. It clearly tells us:

“But you beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh,” (Jude 20-23).

God tells us to continue building ourselves in our faith by his grace and mercy. He then tells us that we should have mercy on those who live in sin, in this case, gays. And while showing them mercy, we should hate their sin and not tolerate it.

Homosexuality or lesbianism just like any other sin breaks the heart of God.  God sent his beloved Son, Jesus Christ to the world to keep all the commandments of God on our behalf, pay the penalty of our sin on our behalf  and completely defeat and destroy sin so that when we believe in him we should no longer live under the slavery of sin.

Therefore, if the Church allows sin to flourish under its roof yet the head of the Church, Jesus Christ came to destroy sin then the work of Christ is rendered useless. In the process, the Church loses its saltines and light.  In the end, the Church is no longer a beacon of hope for those in darkness and are heavy laden with sin but just any other club where one can go and come back week after week while remaining enslaved to sin. That’s a pathetic ‘church’ which I pray that I should never belong to.

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