As Christians, congregations and denominations wrestle with the matter of same-sex marriage it is very important to keep a biblical understanding of church unity in mind. In the context of members of the Reformed Church in America dealing with this issue, the Rev. Dr. A. Rand Peabody has written a paper in which he makes an appeal for members of the RCA to remain in unity.
In conjunction with that paper and the response to it, please submit your thoughts on the pros and cons, what you agree with and what you disagree with. These comments will contribute to the further development of the material on those webpages. (For cross-reference, that paper can be found here.) The question in front of us at this time is, with respect to same-sex marriage, is Christian unity of paramount importance or is unity somehow dependent on whether or not same-sex marriage is morally good?
Thank you very much for your consideration of and contribution to this discussion!
4 thoughts on “Is Unity The Primary Concern?”
I would be interested in hearing some thoughts regarding Second Corinthians 5:18, etc. where we’re given the ministry of reconciliation. The world in which I live out my faith is a cynical, church-less generation. The world is watching us. If those to whom God gave the ministry of reconciliation can’t be reconciled among their very selves our witness becomes one of self-righteous hypocrites. Unity is far more important matter than simply finding a way to stay together.
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Perhaps that, too, can be discussed.
The following is a response to Dr. Peabody’s paper by Dr. Stephen P. Struikmans. It is posted with permission.
I certainly do appreciate Dr. Peabody’s paper asking the question regarding the importance of unity in Christ’s Body. That’s a valid and compelling factor and must be dealt with for this is what Christ prayed for!
As I wrestled with the issues he raised, it forced me to raise some questions in response:
1). If unity rests on the oneness in the Godhead between the Son and the Father, then I have to ask, what did that unity have to accomplish in order to allow that unity to include us? Did not Christ come into the world to deal with man’s sin and rebellion? As Christians, does Christ not also call us to live holy and moral lives that reflect His presence and Lordship.
2). What is the underlying thrust of Dr. Peabody’s paper? Is he saying that those of us who hold to a view of Scripture that God reveals Himself as a holy God and that He created marriage to be a sacred relationship between one man and one woman, are creating disunity in the church? Doesn’t that question also need to be answered by those who are advocating same- sex marriage? The unity between the Son and the Father must include the joy they share in how they dealt with sin, evil and immorality! Who or what view is bringing disunity in the church?
3). As I continue to wrestle with this issue, I too ask the question: what is the Spirit saying to our church? That drew me to the Book of Revelation. In chapter one we see Jesus in all His splendor, majesty and glory. What is He doing? He is walking among the candlesticks as He evaluates His church! So I ask myself, “What would Jesus say to the Reformed Church in America?” “Whoever has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says…” I look at each of the seven churches and I ask myself: are we a church that is doctrinally sound, but lovingly sterile?
Are we a persecuted church because we are faithful to the Gospel? Perhaps we are a church who is adhering to the teachings of Balaam and Jezebel by compromising the authority of Scripture to allow immoral lifestyles? Are we a lukewarm church that He is ready to spew out of His mouth?
In each Church Christ commends and condemns.
This tells me that the Lord of the church is concerned not only for unity, but a unity that demonstrates both His truths and His grace. Yes, we are a church that calls itself Reformed and continues to reform….but according to the Word of God, not because of the pressures of a secular society. It bothers me to think that we think we can manipulate the clear teaching of God’s Word to justify an immoral lifestyle!
I realize that leaders in our church are seeking to bring a solution to an issue that continues to divide our church. As I reflect on Scripture over the years of my studies, I have concluded the early church also had to deal with conflicts and threats to disunity. How did they handle them? Four factors have come to my attention and need to be considered:
1) Does the conflict have to do with an essential doctrine of the Christian Faith? (Galatians 1:6-9; I Timothy 6:3; II Timothy 4:3-5)
2). Does it have to do with conflicting priorities or opinions between church leaders? (Acts 15:36-39)
3). Does it have to do with differences of opinions in dealing with nonmoral life choices in living “that all Christians ought to follow”. (Romans 14:1; 15:5-6)
4). Is this conflict due to a moral issue that Scripture has clearly dealt with over the ages? (I Corinthians 5:1,7; 4:5,9)
As I have examined this same sex marriage issue in light of this grid, to me, it clearly falls in this fourth category.
Yes, I want to give this matter of Christian unity its proper due, but how can light and darkness dwell together? We will all stand before the Lord of the church one day and He will reveal to us His will in the meantime as we look through a glass darkly, we must abide by His Word and His Spirit.
The following is a response by Rev. Wendell Karsen and is posted with permission.
The primary principle in Scripture is TRUTH. Unity is also a high value, but it must be unity around the TRUTH. People can, of course, unite around falsehood or error, but that kind of unity is condemned in Scripture. Those who advocate false teaching are to be expelled from the fellowship since they are causing division, dissension and spreading heresy that disrupts unity.
Scripture also teaches that Christians are not to major in the minors, but that there is to be tolerance of different points of view on NON ESSENTIALS – like eating food offered to idols, holding certain days to be more sacred than other days, different tastes in music (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs) and similar types of issues in our day. The key question is then, are the gay lifestyle, same sex marriage, transgender practice, and the like, minor or major issues?
Scripture deems any form of sexual immorality as a MAJOR concern that needs to be severely dealt with by the church lest it infect and destroy the body and cause disunity. In addition, both the Old and New Testaments specifically and unequivocally identify homosexual practice as an “abominable” lifestyle in the eyes of God that should not be tolerated at any price, including by a concern for unity.
Uniting by allowing gross immoral practice to continue under our “inclusive” tent would hinder rather than help our witness to the world. On the other hand, that witness would be enhanced by a “compassion without compromise” approach to those who struggle with homosexual or transgender issues.
From the number of times immorality is mentioned in the New Testament, it is obvious that the early churches struggled with how they were to deal with this kind of destructive behavior. In every case, there is no call for tolerance of immorality for the sake of unity, but for the eradication of that behavior as being devastatingly dangerous for the church.