Reformed City Church in San Francisco approves of gay couples

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |

SAN FRANCISCO (Christian Examiner) – A move by leaders of City Church in San Francisco to welcome same-sex married couples as members was a "bad day by the Bay," Jeff Iorg, of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in a blog on the seminary's website March 16.

The congregation's elders March 13 told members in a letter they will "no longer discriminate based on sexual orientation and demand lifelong celibacy as a precondition for joining."

Iorg called the decision "particularly troubling, even insidious."

"This church has been a strong evangelical congregation in San Francisco, looked to by many as a model for convictional ministry in a challenging setting," he noted.

Two of the eight members of the board of elders resigned, according to the letter, which is signed by the church's pastor, Fred Harrell, Sr.

"The justification for their action was particularly troubling, even insidious."

The 18-year-old church, with about 1,000 attenders, is one of the largest churches of the Reformed Church in America denomination. It will continue to discuss the pastoral process with LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ, Harrell said.

His letter cites Romans 14 and describes how the elders examined a book by Ken Wilson, "A Letter to My Congregation," calling it "rare in that it shows great empathy and maturity to model unity and patience with those who are in different places on this conversation, all the while dealing honestly with Scripture."

Claims that City Church is "taking the Bible seriously" are undermined by what Iorg says is a "new hermeneutic to support their experience-driven conclusions that several thousand years of biblical interpretation has been wrong."

"The decision by City Church is not really about sexuality; it's about biblical authority," he wrote. "The crux of the matter is this: does the Bible define morality or does our experience define morality? The answer to that question has far more significant implications than affirming any form of sexual behavior. The gospel itself is at stake. If the Bible is wrong on defining sinful behavior, then why should we assume it's correct when it also prescribes the solution?"

Iorg said even as Golden Gate moves its primary campus to Southern California, it is also building a new campus in the Bay area "to support the churches here who continue to submit to biblical authority and honor the historic understanding of the Christian faith (and its Jewish heritage)."

GracePointe Church, a Nashville-area congregation in January announced it will support gay marriage by offering non-heterosexual "brothers and sisters" full membership privileges. In a sermon posted on the church's website, the pastor said gay congregants will be able to participate in child dedication, leadership opportunities, and marriage.

Immediately after announcing its change, attendance and membership declined at GracePointe, with Religion News reporting March 3 that the congregation has lost one-third of its weekly attendance, offerings have declined by 50 percent, and half of the 12-member board has left.