Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday to express disappointment in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination to which he belongs, for its recent decisions to bless same-sex marriages in states where it is legal, and to divest from three American companies whose products are sold to Israel.
After noting that he is "a follower of Jesus and lifelong member" of the PCUSA denomination, he criticized the PCUSA General Assembly's recent decisions.
The decision to bless same-sex marriages "runs counter to the counsel of Scripture," he said.
Wolf, who is retiring from Congress after this term, is best known for his advocacy against global religious persecution. In denouncing the Israel divestment decision, he contrasted the decision with its "inaction on the persecuted church in the region."
You can read his full remarks and watch of video of the speech below:
I rise today as a follower of Jesus and lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church USA who was deeply grieved by what transpired at last week's gathering of the PCUSA's General Assembly. I feel increasingly alienated from this rich faith tradition, which includes John Witherspoon, the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence, and submit for the Record a statement of protest by the Presbyterian Lay Committee Board of Directors which expresses a similar sentiment.
I will begin with marriage. After several years of internal discussion and debate the assembly voted overwhelmingly to take a position which runs counter to the counsel of Scripture, which defines marriage as divinely inspired joining of one man and one woman.
It has long been clear that our culture is in the throes of a seismic shift on this issue. While the current marriage debate has centered around the notion of same-sex unions, in reality there has been a decades' long assault on marriage, such that what was once almost universally recognized as a God-ordained and created institution, the fundamental building block of any society and the nexus of procreation and child-rearing, has now been called into question both in the larger culture and increasingly in the legal framework which governs this land.
But perhaps most troubling is that increasingly this is happening within the church itself, which has historically served a bulwark against the cultural whims of the day.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, "Haven't you read…that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together let man not separate."
This passage, and others like it, remind me of Reverend Billy Graham's comment in the lead-up to the 2012 North Carolina ballot initiative regarding marriage, when he remarked, "The Bible is clear – God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman."
In addition to marriage, I was also troubled by the PCUSA's action on Israel. I submit for the Record a Wall Street Journal piece which ran yesterday regarding the PCUSA's vote to divest the denomination's stock from three American companies that do business with Israel in the West Bank citing their "involvement in the occupation and the violation of human rights in the region."
The PCUSA's deeply misguided decision comes against a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and even here in the United States. I submit for the Record a June 20 Washington Post piece highlighting the problem which noted that "Jewish leaders here are now warning of a recent and fundamental shift tied to a spurt of homegrown anti-Semitism."
The denomination's action on Israel stands in stark contrast to its inaction on the persecuted church in the region. The PCUSA expressly declined to sign a recently issued "Pledge of Solidarity and Call to Action" which more than 200 religious leaders from across the country signed on to.
These representatives of the American church came together across ecumenical lines to pledge to do more to help beleaguered minority faith communities, foremost among them the ancient Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. The PCUSA privately expressed concerns that this action would be perceived as an "anti-Muslim" statement.
The Pledge itself was carefully crafted with input from faith leaders here in the United States and throughout the region and conveyed that the time had come for the church in the West to "pray and speak with greater urgency about this human rights crisis." With the PCUSA's decision not to associate itself with this urgent call to action, I find myself once again out of step with my denomination in profound ways.
I believe that many of the giants of this tradition: among them Rev. Peter Marshall of New York Ave., Presbyterian Church, where President Lincoln worshipped, and a former Senate Chaplain; Rev. Dick Halverson, senior pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church and also a Senate Chaplain; Rev. Louis Evans, pastor for 18 years of National Presbyterian Church; and Rev. James Boice, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, would find it difficult to recognize the PCUSA church today.