Dale M. Coulter
In a previous blog post, I argued that resolutions are not the best way to engage contemporary issues. I noted that resolutions use highly-charged rhetoric to make a point.
The resolution concerning human identity and sexuality on the agenda follows this format. It uses the language of the culture wars in America to address the issues surrounding human sexuality.
As an international denomination with a global membership, the Church of God should always seek to show the universality of biblical principles to guide the leadership of each country on how to apply those principles. This is in keeping with the Church of God’s commitment to the church as a global body. In the Minutes, we state “That the Church of God, in accordance with the Biblical pattern, is an international church. It is international in scope, operation, and ministry, working for a common ministry and purpose in various nations and cultures of the world.”
This is yet another reason why resolutions are not helpful in addressing contemporary issues. They target a specific context, which lately has been the culture wars in America. There is a better way.
As I noted, the Doctrine and Polity committee is the proper place for the application and affirmation of the biblical principles governing the Church of God. Instead of a resolution, there should be a theological statement that clearly articulates these principles and seeks to apply them to contemporary issues. There is no need to or benefit from using the language of the culture wars of any particular country. Church of God leaders need statements that provide broad biblical principles. Those leaders can then address the political and social challenges of their nation.
Most resolutions are divided into a preamble (the “whereas” statements) and the resolution itself (the “be it resolved” statements). The resolution itself always calls for some course of action while the preamble gives the purpose for the call to action.
The course of action in the resolution on human identity and sexuality is threefold: 1) to affirm God’s design for human sexuality; 2) to affirm the compassionate treatment of all persons who struggle; 3) to agree to abide by the Declaration of Faith and the doctrinal and practical commitments.
I have no problem with these affirmations. As an ordained bishop in the Church of God, I already must affirm them. In addition, at the 1996 General Assembly, the Church of God reaffirmed its commitment to all of its doctrinal and practical commitments. This resolution is in the Minutes and on the Church of God website. This is the problem. How many resolutions must be made to reaffirm the same commitments? The affirmations in the resolution are redundant. It’s like saying, “We resolve to do and to believe what we’ve always resolved to do and to believe.”
What we need is a longer statement that simply sets forth the biblical principles and applies them to specific issues. There is no need to issue a non-binding resolution calling for all members of the Church of God to maintain their commitment to the doctrinal and practical teachings of the denomination.
The Executive Committee of the Church of God has, in fact, already done this through numerous statements. Over the past several years, the office of the General Overseer has issued statements on a number of issues that call the denomination to maintain fidelity to scripture and Church of God teachings. There is no need for a resolution that does the same thing.
What I would urge the General Council to do is to allow the structures of the denomination to deal with these contemporary issues. The Doctrine and Polity committee can and should issue a general statement. In fact, this committee has already issued statements on same-sex relations and same-sex marriage.
The office of the General Overseer has issued statements directly related to contemporary issues such as the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. These are the structures by which the denomination can and should address contemporary issues.
To reject the resolution on human identity and sexuality is not to reject the biblical principles it seeks to articulate. Instead, it is to reject using resolutions as the way to articulate those principles. It is to reject the charged language of the culture wars in America as the best framework within which to situate truths that transcend culture.
Over the course of this week, I will set forth a basic framework for a statement that addresses the contemporary issues of human sexuality. I do so merely to give an example of what a statement might look like as opposed to a resolution. The better way is a longer theological statement setting forth the biblical principles that the Church of God already affirms in its doctrinal and practical commitments.