Moderator Designate’s Opinion Poll of Presbyterians

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The next Moderator of our Presbyterian Church, Rev Andrew Norton, who will take office at October’s General Assembly, is holding an online poll of those who attend Presbyterian churches about Sexuality and Leadership in the church.  He says that, “Many people, inside and outside the Church, are tired, wounded and disillusioned by the continual conflict over the issue.”  To hear the heartbeat of the Church he is using the poll “to gauge support for different options....and explore some ways forward.”  Five Options are presented to be ranked in order of preference, by August 31st.

Presbyterian AFFIRM, the evangelical network of the Presbyterian Church, which I co-lead with Rev Dr Stuart Lange, has written a response to the M-D’s Letter and Poll, summarised below.

Hardcopies of the full letter and poll, plus AFFIRM’s response, are available at our St Alban’s Office. 

You can see the online poll at:

AFFIRM questions “Opinion Poll” on several grounds:

The Process

  • An unscientific, non-random poll with no proper controls cannot provide accurate information or a basis for sound discernment.
  • Results are distorted when people are forced to rank options they don’t agree with.


No new way forward is required as the decisions of General Assemblies, and a national vote by Presbyterian members in 1997, strongly rejected the possibility of practicing homosexuals in church leadership.

Assumptions and assertions in the covering letter

  • We don’t agree that the Church’s teaching and the majority view in every General Assembly, is one of the two “poles” driving the debate.
  • The letter doesn’t say that all alternative options have been consistently rejected by previous General Assemblies.
  • Many Presbyterians also feel “violated” by these debates because the PCANZ is not living by its own declared biblical standards.
  • There is no middle position between upholding biblical standards and compromising them.

AFFIRM’s view of the five options in the “Opinion Poll”

“Set clear standards”

This is the only option we support.  It alone has biblical integrity and majority support of General Assembly decisions in 1985, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2010 & 2012.

“Do not debate further”

We are weary of repeated attempts to overturn the 2006 Ruling on Sexual Morality and Church Leadership.  People have a right to bring such proposals but Assembly debates should be brief.

“Rescind our church's current position”

Why?  This option has been strongly rejected by every recent Assembly.

“Allow for local policy”

This would mean rescinding our current standards and letting each church make its own policy, compromising those churches with the opposite view.  ‘Presbyterian’ is a national church with national standards.  Assembly has always rejected this approach.  It could lead to a significant split in the PCANZ.

“Seek a national way forward”

  • We now have a clear national standard that is faithful to the Scriptures.
  • Genuine “social justice” always reflects biblical ethics.
  • Two Special Committees which reported in 1995 and 1999, plus over 20 years of debate, have led to the current national ruling.