The Recent SJC Decision and Side B2 Homosexuality
The recent Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) Decision on the appeal of the action of Missouri Presbytery of the PCA is now public. I have not seen any public reaction to it yet, but then too, I don’t surf the internet nor do I belong to any chat rooms. After reading the Decision, I have come to three conclusions which may be of value to some and of no value to others.
First, a few years ago, when the whole Side A and Side B controversy associated with the Gay Community became a public matter, I see now that I was way behind the curve in understanding my brethren’s views. I thought the definitions were fairly simple. Side A homosexuals did not hold back their sexual passions and consequently entered into physical homosexual relationships. Side B homosexuals (generally biblical Christians) stated that they practiced celibacy and refrained from sexual relations with those of the same sex.
The way I understood it, the goal of conservatives in the PCA was to oppose the PCA from becoming a Side B denomination. In my mind this meant that any man who had homosexual desires (and made it public) would not be above reproach and therefore was ineligible to hold office in the PCA, although he would be welcomed as a member in any PCA Church. I do believe the Bible clearly teaches this. I still hold this view.
According to the new views, Side B, as I now understand it, is not really Side B as I used to understand it. Side B has been divided into two parts, which I call Side B1 and Side B2. Both Side B1 and Side B2 practice celibacy. Both fight against homosexual temptation. Side B1 describes those men with homosexual desires who have concluded that it is a permanent condition. They were born this way and they do not expect God to intervene and take away this desire. They need to be accepted in the church as they are, and encouraged to flourish in their identity. They should not be prevented from holding office in the PCA. Conservative PCA elders will not tolerate this view.
Side B2 is a description of those who believe that change is possible, although it is unlikely. They constantly struggle with homosexual desires every day, but they are in a continual process of mortifying this sin. However, this sin is, at root, no different than illegitimate heterosexual desire or any other sin, be it gossip, slander, financial disorder, or whatever. It may be a little more heinous than most other sins but not much. Their identity in Christ is greater than their identity as a same-sex-attracted (SSA) person. Most conservative PCA elders (besides me and a few others) will accept this view as describing a man who is eligible to hold office in the PCA.
Side B2 reflects the PCA Study Committee on Human Sexuality. It also reflects the proposed amendments to the PCA Book of Church Order adopted at the last General Assembly, and now before the Presbyteries for a vote.
Secondly, the SJC is an appeals court, and thus I was surprised at the procedure of the SJC in allowing Greg Johnson to answer questions previously not in the original approved Record of the Case. I don’t doubt the legality of this action per the SJC Manual, but it did change the traditional nature of a court of appeals. Their justification of this action was noted in the Decision as follows. “The SJC rescinded the Officers’ previous OMSJC 11.1.e ruling that the Record in Case 2020-12 is ‘complete and sufficiently documented,’ thereby suspending the Officers’ [January 2021] ruling that the Case is ‘judicially in order.’ The SJC agreed to send a letter to Presbytery’s Respondent, adopting the procedure outlined therein for responses to questions and supplemental [addendum] briefs, per the authority of OMSJC 7.4.b and 7.4.e.(3).” Thus, Greg Johnson, late in the game, was given the opportunity to answer questions proposed by the SJC after the decision of Missouri Presbytery had been rendered. Years ago, when I was an appellee on a particular SJC Case, this would have been considered a retrial of the Case.
In other words, the SJC changed the original Record of the Case (ROC) and allowed Mr. Johnson to be a witness before the Appeals Court this year (2021) via answering questions submitted to him by the SJC. In my experience with Appeals Courts, this is highly unusual. The Appeals Court should only deal with the Record of the Case from the original action of Missouri Presbytery (from several years ago). Nothing should be added to the ROC unless there is new evidence of something that was recently discovered about events that happened during or prior to the original court decision itself. The actions of Missouri Presbytery that occurred years ago should be in question, not the answers that Mr. Johnson gave this year.
I don’t doubt the integrity of Mr. Johnson at all, but the answers he gave to the SJC were almost a perfect representation of the Side B2 position. I don’t think the answers could have been written any better to reflect the Side B2 position, even by a person on the PCA Study Committee on Human Sexuality. Anyone who supports the Side B2 position, in my opinion, should be happy with the SJC Decision. They should consider it as a victory.
Thirdly, whether the proposed BCO amendments pass or not is now irrelevant. The BCO must currently be interpreted in light of the SJC Decision. I believe this is called legal precedence. The SJC is the Supreme Court of the PCA. This decision has more authority than the BCO or any decisions of a Presbytery or a General Assembly. In any future cases it will be used as the rule book, as the authoritative interpretation of Scripture on the matter. Homosexuals can now hold office in the PCA. Sadly, The PCA is now officially a Side B2 denomination.
Larry E. Ball, CPA
Retired PCA Minister