The phrase "Third Way" is so seductive. It suggests that the
tension between the locked in polarities of evangelical and liberal, or
Protestant and Roman Catholic can be overcome by a third option. "If
only there were more discussion, prayer, trust, give and take, leading
of the Spirit, our antagonisms could come to an end."
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been debating homosexuality, and the
cry has gone up for a "third way" compromise between the proponents
of same-sex marriage and gay ordination, and opposition to this from the
awkward evangelicals. The evangelicals had no hostility about being involved
in today's issues, meeting with those with whom they disagreed and looking
at the Bible's teaching. The disagreement arose when the possibility was
muted of the answer to this disagreement lying in "their" way,
or in "our" way, or in a "third" way. No. The answer
lies in Christ's way alone, affirmed the evangelicals.
Five of them and five others were appointed by presbytery to meet for
20 hours of Bible study, worship and meals last September and a second
meeting is planned in March. The meeting ended without agreement and the
focus of the disagreement was the authority of Scripture. The evangelicals
defended the Reformed doctrine that the Bible was inspired by God and
authoritative for life and faith. The other five insisted on limited inspiration
and said that the Bible's teaching about homosexual conduct was in error.
The denomination said to the ten committee members that the future for
their denomination lay in seeking a third way: "We envision a third
way which can come only from an openness to the Spirit. We will rely on
God's grace and refuse to leave the table until a way is discovered. We
believe seeking a third way is critical and is already present among us."
The evangelical Christians did not agree: "We have not, and we will
not, engage in any search for an alternative to Scripture's clear and
plain teaching, for we believe that 'Insofar as Christ's will for the
Church is set forth in Scripture, it is to be obeyed.' Christ's way is
about seeking his will by studying his Word and agreeing to obey it in
his Church." Terry Schlossberg was one of the five evangelicals who
made that uncompromising statement.
When the Korean Presbyterian Church in America heard of this tension they
sent an open letter imploring their church not to seek for a third way,
Out of deep concern and heart-aching love for this denomination, thirty-seven
thousand Korean-American Presbyterians are pleading with you to support
the proposed Amendment of same-sex union ban ... Scripture defines the
marriage God instituted in terms of heterosexual monogamy. Scripture envisages
no other kind of marriage or sexual intercourse, for God provided no alternative.
Any sexual behaviour outside of this definition, whether heterosexual
or homosexual, is displeasing to God. Thus, there is no doubt that modern
loving homosexual partnerships are incompatible with God's created order
... It is not pastoral to bless behavior that is contrary to God's revealed
Aside from all these theological disputes, the blessing of same-sex union,
whether it is considered to be a marriage or not, will have an exacerbating
impact on the declining membership of our denomination. The Korean-American
constituency, which has experienced 50 percent increase in membership
and 90 percent increase in per capita during the last ten years, will
see a devastating blow in its membership growth because Koreans, particularly
young people, are conservative and evangelical in their faith and will
turn away from our denomination. In a word, the blessing for same sex
union would bring our demise as a church of Jesus Christ. While we have
been involved in a dispute over sexuality and ordination standards for
the past two decades, we have almost lose our identity and mission as
a church of Christ...
The blessing of same sex union is not a blessing but a curse on our homosexual
brothers and sisters in our church. It is an unjust act to take away the
opportunity of being healed and transformed by the love and truth of Jesus
Christ. Our merciful God calls us to turn away from our brokenness to
his wholeness and holiness through faith in Jesus Christ who came to heal
the sick and to forgive our sins. To say this is not to minimize the pastoral
responsibility of ministering to those caught in the moral confusion of
our time. This responsibility requires great care, love and sensitivity
... We will continue to pray with compassion by holding out the hope we
have in Jesus Christ for a new life empowered by his Spirit...
This plea from Korean Christians would find some agreement in the heart
of Anglican evangelical leader John Stott. In the 13 June 1995 edition
of the magazine "Third Way" Roy McCloughry interviewed him at
length, and said, "No Christian can give unqualified allegiance to
any institution. What for you would be the signals that it was time to
leave the Church of England?"
John Stott replied, "If you want me to stick my neck out, I think
I would say that if the church were officially to approve of homosexual
partnerships as a legitimate alternative to heterosexual marriage that
I would find it exceeding difficult to stay. I might want to stay on and
fight for a few more years, but if they persisted I would have to leave."
There is no third way.