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An absurd—and inevitable—requirement

The PCUSA prepares to impose LGBTQ affirmation across the denomination


A sign at Central Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Austin, Texas Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay

An absurd—and inevitable—requirement
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Ten years ago, before the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalized so-called gay marriage in all 50 states by judicial fiat, proponents of “gay rights” were making an essentially libertarian case for redefining marriage and normalizing homosexuality. They would ask, “How would my gay marriage hurt you?” Or, “Why is what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home any of your business?”

Many were convinced by this live-and-let-live approach, and it worked toward the normalization of LGBTQ ideology. But back in 2013, writer Rod Dreher could see this progressive tactic was a ruse, and it was only a matter of time before the activists would come for the dissenters. He gave this approach a name: the Law of Merited Impossibility, which he sums up this way: “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.” In other words, it’s never going to happen, and I’ll be glad when it does.

While countless examples could be mustered that illustrate just how prescient Dreher’s observation would turn out to be, another entry for the Merited Impossibility file broke last month when the Institute on Religion and Democracy reported that the Presbyterian Church (USA) will consider an overture this summer at their denominational meeting that would require ordination candidates to affirm LGBTQ orthodoxy.

If passed, this overture would amend the PCUSA’s Book of Order in two places. The first proposed change would be to the “Unity in Diversity” section (quoted below with proposed change in brackets), effectively imposing a SOGI (Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity) Law on the PCUSA’s worship, governance, and membership:

In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, God unites persons through baptism, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sex, [gender identity, sexual orientation,] disability, geography, or theological conviction. There is therefore no place in the life of the Church for discrimination against any person.

The second proposed change would amend the “Gifts and Qualifications” section of the Book of Order, which guides the PCUSA’s ordination council on the examination of candidates. This change would require candidates to commit to upholding the amended “Unity in Diversity” section, which would force them to affirm LGBT orthodoxy.

If this proposal passes, it looks like conservatives would be the only ones who wouldn’t be tolerated in the PCUSA—all in the name of toleration, of course. 

Astute readers will perceive the logical contradiction embedded in this proposal: “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” would be added right alongside “theological conviction” as matters that should not separate members of the PCUSA, all punctuated by the declaration that there is “no place in the life of the Church for discrimination against any person.” Any person? What about theological conservatives? What about those who believe and submit to God’s inerrant revelation in Scripture? Or those who recognize God’s complementary design in Nature? If this proposal passes, it looks like conservatives would be the only ones who wouldn’t be tolerated in the PCUSA—all in the name of toleration, of course.

Only one year after Dreher coined the Law of Merited Impossibilty, in 2014, the PCUSA voted to redefine marriage as between “two people” and allow its ministers to officiate so-called gay marriages. This was four years after they had already permitted the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers. Ten years on, they are now considering changing “permit” and “allow” to “affirm” and “require.” That slope is pretty slippery.

The difference between orthodoxy according to the Word of God and the LGBT affirmation already associated with the PCUSA couldn’t be more stark. As Paul wrote to Timothy, those who embrace sexual immorality and homosexuality are acting “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10)—the very doctrine Jesus had entrusted to Paul, and that Paul had committed to pass down to Timothy to keep and hand on to faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).

The New Testament consistently charges the church to reject false teaching and to guard the good deposit and contend for the faith (2 Timothy 1:14; Jude 3). But now the PCUSA is considering how to require the embrace of false teaching, even as it has already muddied the good deposit and soiled the faith.

Dreher’s Law of Merited Impossibility is correlated to another law from Richard John Neuhaus, which states, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” The PCUSA may not be interested in respecting the laws of Nature, but it sure seems bent on proving the inviolability of these two laws.


Colin J. Smothers

Colin J. Smothers serves as executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and executive editor of CBMW’s Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology. He also serves as director of the Kenwood Institute and is an adjunct professor at Boyce College. He is the author of several essays and books, most recently co-authoring an eight-week curriculum, Male & Female He Created Them (Christian Focus, 2023). Colin and his wife Elise live in Louisville, Ky. with their six children.


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