In an article questioning whether now is the time to consider replacing G-6.0106b, Barbara G. Wheeler wrote:
I still think that G-6.0106b must be removed. It is a blot on the Constitution. It was tortuously worded to create the appearance of fairness — the same standard for gay and straight officers — as cover for its discriminatory intent, the exclusion of gays and lesbians. It promotes misuse of the church’s great confessions of faith as catalogs of sins. By specifying only one kind of behavior that “demonstrates the Christian gospel in the church and the world” (G-6.0106a), it elevates the sexual dimensions of the Christian life over those that receive equal or greater emphasis in Scripture.
Most seriously, G-6.0106b assumes and anchors certain teachings of the church, not only about sexual identity and behavior but also about God, creation, redemption, and other central themes of the faith —teachings that are, I deeply believe, distortions of the gospel. This is not the place to offer a detailed account of this claim, but this much must be said: my views about acceptance and ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are grounded not in secular principles of equality or even in theological principles of justice for all, but in the Reformed doctrine of God. I cannot believe that the God who is “most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Larger Catechism, C-7.117) would make virtually identical needs (for love and companionship), impulses (to seal a covenant with another person with sexual love), aspirations (to work out the call to discipleship and social responsibility in a family setting), and capacities (for faithfulness to a partner and commitment to children) a means of grace for one group of persons and the route to condemnation for another. God’s ways are mysterious and we cannot, as the confessions also remind us, understand all of them, but the God we know in Jesus Christ is not capricious or cruel.
The offense of intentionally disciminating against LGBT becomes even more egregious when it is considered that the church’s stand on homosexuality, based on the Confessions, comes from words added in 1962 to the English Translation of the Heidelberg Catechism. The answer to question 87 includes, “‘Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.'” The italicized words were added, when no such sentiment occurs in the orginal text. The original wording of G-6.0106b was subsequently added to the Book of Order in 1997.
Looking back on Barbara’s argument that the addition of G-6.0106b was a poorly veiled attempt to discriminate against LGBT, one would have to only consider the history of actions taken under this provision. While disciplinary processes against LGBT candidates and ordinands have been widely documented, I have yet to see a case citing this clause that involved a hererosexual person being unchaste in singleness or engaging in adultery as a married person. These situations are generally dealth with by moving, requiring counseling or seeking “consensus” as to a punishment, but do they result in disciplinary action under G-6.0106b? The lack of cases would suggest the answer is a resounding, “No.”
Does not the history of disciplinary use of this clause give some indication of its discriminatory use against LGBT, if not its original discriminatory intent? Is it permitted within the theological tenets of the PC(USA) to use deception and dissimulation, as well as intentionally misworded translations of the Confessions, to arbitrarily exclude an entire class of people from ordained ministry? Considering the outcry against amending G-6.0106b, the answers to all these questions would seem to be a resounding, “Yes.” The outcry is also indicative. Virtually all discussion revolves around how this affects the denomination’s “ability” to protect its holiness from the sin of ordaining LGBT. No mention occurs of protecting the church from the sexual behavior of heterosexuals – that occurs in discussions about insurance coverage and mitigating civil exposure.
Admittedly, we all like to feel certain about our theological beliefs. Certainty, however, is the opposite of faith and, in the past, has been proven to be erroneous and shamefully repressive of people who are not in the dominant position. Presbyterians have, in the past, been certain of the deep theological convictions that slavery, denying votes to blacks and then allocating voting rights to blacks at 3/5 that of whites, denying voting rights to women, denying leadership positions to people of color and women, and denying the validity of mixed race marriages were all valid. In each and every situation, at least for the majority of Presbyterians, certainty has given way to doubt, which left room for the Holy Spirit to be heard.
Conviction and repentance occurred, but not before generations of people suffered the pain and misery of being second-class citizens and church members. Do we really think that a certainty of belief that excludes will stand the test of time, and is it really necessary that another entire class of people continue to suffer the prolonged abuse and pain that comes from marginalization from the very institution that is based on the life, death and resurrection of the One that embraced the marginalized?
Like any other human organization, the church can corporately sin. Which approach would be the sin? Would it be a sin to exclude those worthy of inclusion in God’s sight? Or, would it be a sin to include those not worthy of inclusion in God’s sight? Between these two poles are the majority, I believe, of Presbyterians who are unsure. May God bless your uncertainty – your vote will be based on faith, not human knowledge or arrogance. But, vote you must. Which vote would be most easily forgivable if it is wrong?
That is the choice – a choice made in uncertainty. To do nothing is to make a choice to continue rejection and exclusion. There is no easy way out of this one. To leave it up to time, to postpone the vote, will condemn some to spiritual and emotional pain and suffering for that time. Now is the time to imitate Christ. What will that look like? May God give us the strength of our faith.