As presbyteries deliberate upon proposed amendments, let us bear in mind the gravity of these changes, as they will profoundly impact the lives of individuals within our denomination, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+ and their families.
Within our midst, an anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian minister has courageously shared their personal journey. Their story serves illustrates the experience of a person of faith who has answered God’s call and also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. We are reminded that our Confession of Faith explains the nature of humanity as sinful, but it also emphasizes the power of God’s grace in our salvation. It is not our place to judge the eternal destinies of our fellow believers. Instead, we are called upon us to be a community that embraces all who seek God’s love and grace (CoF, 6,16).
In a spirit of love, compassion, and our commitment to following Christ’s example, let us remember that God calls who God wills, and all of our our lives have callings on them, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that all members of our church family are given the opportunity to answer God’s call.
May the love of Christ unite us as we navigate this important decision, and may we continue to be a church that reflects His boundless love and grace to all.
Our Lives Have Callings on Them
anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian minister
As a child born into the Cumberland Presbyterian church, a member of a family who loves the Lord and a person who obeyed God’s call to serve in the ministry, my life has been unreservedly impacted by the church for the entirety of my existence in flesh.
As an infant, I was dedicated to the Lord to be raised in the church and my church family took great pride in being the community that raised me. At 7 years old, my father led me to know Christ. By the time I was 13 years old, I realized that I was a part of the LGBTQ community. Since then, unfortunately, I have lived a life of highly maintained secrets and very selective truths.
I have been particularly selective when sharing details of my life with my friends and family. I must always consider the chain of connections from the person with whom I’m sharing back to my family or friends and decide if being 100% open is worth the risk. The risk I am speaking of is that of potentially losing the love and support of my family and friends–a crippling fear of rejection by the very ones who have raised me.
These fears are rooted in the reality that my family and many of my friends are devoutly a part of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It is the church in which I was reared and of which I am still a part. The church where I have served faithfully. The church that provided me a path to finding my purpose and to answering the calling I believe has been placed on my life. This is the same church that teaches “whosoever will may come”. It is the church that I should feel safe being a part of.
As much as it pains me to say it, though, I do not feel safe being completely open and honest about who I am. The church is often not the safe place that God desires it to be. The reality is that the Christian community of today picks and chooses the ethical bounds by which it will abide in accordance with the word of God based on mortal preference rather than divine intent. We see these preferences at work when women no longer feel morally constrained to follow Paul’s directives to leave their hair uncut, or to keep their heads covered in church, or to always remain quiet in church. In the past, we’ve seen them at work when the Bible was used to justify the cruel institution of slavery, or to deny women the right to vote.
John Shore, author of Ashes to Ashville wrote, “While the Bible is nearly silent on homosexuality, a great deal of its content is devoted to how a Christian should behave. All throughout it, the Bible insists on fairness, equity, love, and the rejection of legalism over compassion. If heterosexual Christians are obligated to look to the Bible to determine the sinfulness of homosexual acts, how much greater is their obligation to look to the Bible to determine the sinfulness of their behavior toward gay persons, especially in light of the gay community’s call to them for justice?”
The bible speaks very infrequently about homosexuality, if at all. In fact, out of 31,173 verses in the bible, only six or seven mention anything that could possible be related to homosexuality. This could be due to the fact that there is no Greek or Hebrew word that translates to the modern understanding of homosexuality. When Paul wrote about “homosexual” acts being detestable, he was speaking of acts between two heterosexual individuals, often older men and young boys or enslaved young men. The detestable acts comprise abuse of power, sodomy, and non-consensual sex–the same acts that we as modern-day Christians label as detestable, regardless of the gender of individuals involved.
Our Confession of Faith states that “The moral law is fulfilled in the gospel. Therefore, the behavior of Christians in human relations should reflect the pattern of God’s behavior toward them, in which love and justice are intertwined” (1.21). “Because of their God-given nature, persons are responsible for their choices and actions toward God, each other, and the world” (2.02). “In willfully sinning all people become guilty before God and are under divine wrath and judgment, unless saved by God’s grace through Jesus Christ. The alienation of persons from God affects the rest of creation, so that the whole creation stands in need of God’s redemption” (2.05-2.06).
Our very own Confession of Faith is written to warn the church that humankind are sinful beings. We are under the moral law of the gospel, and God’s grace is the only way to be saved from divine wrath and judgment. We are reminded that the alienation of people from God will affect the entirety of creation. Thus, it is not the church’s place to judge the eternal destination of someone in the LGBTQ community.
But that is exactly what will happen if the church excludes the LGBTQ community from answering God’s call–from serving the Lord in association with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
To be a Christian is to live like Christ. Christ loves sinners. This means Christ loves you. And Christ loves me.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church can have an impact on the world by demonstrating its love for those the rest of the Christian community detests–by showing the love of Christ to those the world labels as “unlovable”–by allowing souls like mine, who love the church and are a part of the LGBTQ community, the opportunity to serve the Lord when the Lord calls. Our lives have callings on them. Allow us to work hand-in-hand in obedience to the Lord.
- An Open Letter from 13 Former Moderators
- Recommendation to Reject the Proposed Amendments (Ed Adair)
- Japan Presbytery’s Response to the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution
- Reasons to Deny Proposed Amendments from Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians
- Testimonies of Diverse Cumberland Presbyterians