Every Sunday the congregation at Northside Presbyterian Church prays for all those who gather in the name of Jesus Christ throughout the Cleveland community regardless of denomination or worship style. We write this letter in hopes that we too might receive the prayers of believers who read this newspaper.
As you may have heard, the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), of which our church is a member, reached a majority vote this year of some significance. It has been decided to change the existing criteria for ordained leadership in the denomination.
The item that was replaced calls ordained leaders to maintain fidelity in marriage between husband and wife or chastity in singleness; the new wording calls ordained leaders to “submit joyfully” to Jesus Christ. Most of the members of our congregation are deeply saddened, not at the introduction of the new clauses, but at the rejection of the former one.
After much discussion among the elders and members of the congregation at Northside, we believe the vote to reject the existing clauses on ordination is a decision to avoid any standards of sexual conduct by ordained leaders in the denomination, whether heterosexual or homosexual, married or single or divorced. Leadership within the church is not a right; but rather a rite.
We deem it a high honor to serve the living God and His people, and the task should be undertaken with all due humility, prayer and reverence. We recognize that the vote to reject the existing clause also dismisses the authority of Scripture which consistently names same-sex acts as sinful, along with opposite-sex acts outside of marriage.
We welcome all people, including LGBT, to become part of a transformative and healing journey made possible by Christ’s redeeming work in our lives. Given our attempt to live lives shaped by the Scriptures, we do not want to exclude others from the healing of Jesus Christ by glib affirmations that their lives are already healthy, in the name of tolerance and acceptance. Because many of us have friends, family or co-workers who practice or identify themselves with a gay lifestyle, our position on this issue has not been hastily made. It represents our humble submission to the teaching of Scriptures.
We ask that readers of this letter who share a common faith with us would pray for the congregation at Northside Presbyterian Church as we voted on July 10 to dissolve our relationship with the PCUSA. This vote places Northside Presbyterian in contention against a major denomination. It is our hope that, through God’s grace, we would continue to be the Body of Christ, even while leaving a particular church affiliation.
— Rev. Heidi C. Johnson
(and Elders of the Northside