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article imageGay Clergy on Plate for Presbyterians

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 2, 2009 in World
Presbyterians have examined the issues and some of them have decided that having gay clergy is acceptable. They join many Episcopalians and members of the United Church of Christ on this issue.
On the other hand, given the divisions that are continuing to disrupt some congregations on this matter, it is likely the Presbyterians will be getting some flak from members.
On January 27, 2009 a news release from the Presbyterians announced that six Presbyteries had voted yes on a constitutional amendment towards allowing gay and lesbian ordination after 30 years of debating it. The Presbyterians that voted affirmative towards allowing it included Des Moines, Northern Kansas, Newton, New Jersey, Baltimore, Albany and New Castle. The votes were taken on January 17 of this year.
On January 27, five more presbyteries voted, including: Utica (NY), Carlisle (PA), Palisades (NJ), Donegal (PA), and San Fernando (CA) and, on January 31, four more will cast their ballots: Southern Kansas, Western North Carolina, Huntingdon (PA), and Cayuga-Syracuse (NY). Results of these votes will soon be announced.
Past practice required gay and lesbian couples to be celibate but did not require the same of married ministers. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church passed an amendment in June of 2008 eliminating that ban on gay candidates. The legislation won’t take effect until the final vote of the presbyteries. Over half of them will vote by the end of February.
In the past, partnered gay and lesbian clergy were required to be celibate, while their straight married counterparts were not. At its General Assembly, the church's highest legislative body, in June 2008, an amendment was passed that would eliminate the current ban on partnered gay candidates for the clergy. The amendment requires the majority of the 173 local presbyteries (regional clusters of churches) to pass the legislation before it takes effect. While the final deadline for voting is June 2009, almost half of the denomination will vote by the end of February.
This move on the part of the Presbyterians is likely to create great discord. During the 2008 discussions one of them said one newspaper reported that opponents at the Presbyterian General Conference denounced the vote and mentioned that the church might lose 2.5 million members because it isn’t following scripture.
The United Church of Christ became the first major denomination in the United States to accept gays marriage. It also accepts gays in the clergy.
The Episcopalian Church has had a great deal of publicity about the ordination of gays and acceptance of gay marriage. The church is the United States branch of the Anglican Communion which has a total of 77 million members, constituting the third-largest denomination in the Christian community. Conservatives within the church are a minority in the U.S. Episcopal church but a majority among the worldwide Anglicans. The church is divided now among liberal and conservative members.
Minority conservatives became particularly concerned when the Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay priest by the name of Gene Robinson, who is now bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson spoke at the Obama inauguration, and gays complained when his initial message wasn’t televised.
Given the experience of both the United Church of Christ and the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians are likely to experience dissent and division over the issue of gays in the clergy and gay marriage. The rest of the Christian community is said to be watching these groups to determine the course of action they might take with regard to the status of gays and lesbians in the church.
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