PCA 23 & 37 Vote (1st of 3): Bad Men, Not Bad Words.

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

My denomination is discussing rules regarding the ordination of men who are gay and celibate. About this you may have no interest, and you have ended up in the oddest corner. If you have interest, step here to get started.

I’m in the pass-it-fiddle-with-it-in-the-future camp. It’s the Book of Church Order, we do that. I don't see problems with the language, but I recognize that use and observation could discover need for improvement. That is why the BCO is amendable, and why it receives amendments most years. The purported dangers advanced by some are not mandated by the actual language of these amendments. They could well occur even without these amendments. Some remind us that there are elders who wouldn’t ordain a graduate of San Salvatore Academy, because in the opinion of those knuckleheads SSA is an acronym for unordainable-- and the same fretful voices pass on that the knuckleheads claim that is the meaning of these amendments. The advocacy of those simplistic absolutists will not advance a whit by asserting that their previous opinion is actually now codified in the BCO. People disagree about the construal of BCO (did you know that?), and they vote accordingly (did you know that?): these amendments don’t change who or how many construe SSA this way or that way.

The fear of mental trauma and suicide, the pressure of always being suspect, the inclination to conceal, the volatility of situations and public opinion-- these are all in arm’s reach of every Mr. Johnson (speaking anatomically not ecclesiastically). It cannot be said that these powers are not at work in the quiet, pedestrian social back and forth of men in general and sexual sin in general. Those who elect to not marry do forego the opportunity for great resources and the possible approbation of a spouse (like the canary no one can contradict). The claim that these men are a special class with the dynamics of sexual temptation, sin and consequence-- that argument can’t dance with the stipulation that homosexuality is mutatis mutandi like other categories of sin.

There aren’t many sins or griefs in the world that are whipped up to a gallop by BCO ink, and even then it requires idiots deliberating with Bibles and smarts. The BCO ink is not the issue. The hand-wringing scenarios suggested would not be determined by the particular wording of these amendments. There isn't a line that reads: "now set auto-pilot for Tartarus." All the woe and consternation could only be fulfilled by presbyteries-- large groups of men with open Bibles and smarts, groups of men who deliberate together commonly when hard calls come up. Our church order is not a jot and tittle creature, rather it sets frameworks in which elders deciding together have great discretion and latitude. The doom-cry and the hand-wringing against 23 & 37 is not in fact a criticism of what the amendments will do. It is a criticism of what presbyteries will do with the amendments. The warnings speak a profound distrust of the men talking with Bibles and smarts in the PCA, at least the men in our near future. I am told that's not our way. .


Benjamin T. Inman serves as a Teaching Elder at

Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Fuquay-Varina, NC.