Monday, August 27, 2007

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Just Doesn't Work In Church

Dr. Albert Mohler answers the latest question for the Washington Post/Newsweek column “On Faith.” He’s very much on target again—especially with his conclusion: "Don't ask, don't tell" just doesn't work in church.

My comments are interjected in green throughout Dr. Mohler’s article.


Institutionalized Hypocrisy

Churches and denominations that invite or allow their standards to be openly violated institutionalize hypocrisy. This usually indicates that the church lacks both the courage to change the standards and the conviction to enforce them.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] has voted to encourage its bishops not to take punitive action against ministers who violate the denomination's ban on active homosexuals in the ministry. Last year, the Presbyterian Church USA [PCUSA] took a similar action, allowing local jurisdictions (presbyteries) to ordain candidates for ministry who violate a similar policy. Both cases represent tragic failures of leadership. Both churches failed to maintain their own standards and lacked the courage or consensus to change them.

All this is further evidence of why the liberal denominations are in such a decline in terms of membership and influence. These churches are divided between liberals who push constantly for doctrinal changes and conservatives who are determined to keep standards they believe to be mandated by the Bible. The conservatives are losing.

The liberals are pushing for the full normalization of homosexuality. This runs right into conflict with biblical prohibitions and clashes with the standards of these churches. Liberals in these two denominations dominate the landscape in the seminaries and church bureaucracies, but they have not yet been able to muster adequate support to change the policies. Conservatives are losing a battle akin to theological trench warfare. The big battles are lost an inch at a time.

Bishops, presbyteries, and congregations are charged to maintain the doctrines and standards of the church. When a bishop or presbytery or congregation fails in this task the whole church suffers. When this failure is made a matter of policy, the entire church embraces hypocrisy. When bishops are encouraged to allow doctrines and standards to be violated, they are encouraged to violate the integrity of their office. The same holds true for presbyteries or congregations, depending on the form of church government.

[This seems to sum up the present state of things so well. No doubt this is a timeless truth concerning the prophets and leaders that God chooses. Dr. Mohler’s analysis squares well with the analysis set forth by Vote Life, Canada! in its Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of Canada.]

This process does not start with issues of sexuality, of course. Long before these churches faced controversies over sexuality, they had already allowed the doctrinal foundations of their churches to be eroded and compromised.

[We are often tempted to think of the issue of abortion as an outgrowth of the sexual revolution of the sixties, or even as a natural outcome of increased sexual perversion within society. Many pro-lifers link abortion directly to the practice of contraception which seemed to overtake Western society from the 1930’s onwards.

Dr. Mohler is pointing the finger at a point in time much earlier than these events. He’s also pointing at a problem that started first IN THE CHURCH, not in society, due to severe compromises in doctrine. This is a healthy perspective because it puts the blame for the current confusion over sexuality squarely at its origin and takes into account the Church’s role as salt and light in the world.]

In other words, a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on doctrine preceded a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on matters of sexuality.

The only means of recovery is repentance and an affirmation of biblical authority. "Don't ask, don't tell" just doesn't work in church.

[I really appreciate Mohler’s focus on repentance as “the only means of recovery.” The history of Christianity bears this out, as does the biblical account of man’s many apostasies. Yet few Christian leaders seriously propose that the solution to our crisis is good old fashioned repentance. I have also found in my own experience that many pastors who do emphasize repentance are sure only of the need for it but are unsure exactly what it is that the Christian needs to repent of.

The individual Christian needs much help in order to arrive at a true stage of repentance. Efforts and events such as this one go a long way in aiding Christians in their journey to genuine and productive repentance.]


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