Prominent pro-homosexual groups are applauding a decision by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that opens the door for churches in that denomination to ordain individuals who identify as lesbian, "gay," bisexual, or transgender.
PC(USA) has struck down a requirement that unmarried clergy remain celibate, removing a key barrier for homosexuals who want to be ordained. Ordination standards under the new policy remove the constitutional requirement that all ministers, elders, and deacons live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness" -- and replace it with "joyful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life."
Delegates to the PC(USA)'s general assembly endorsed the new policy last year, but the change still required ratification from the majority of its 173 regional districts, known as "presbyteries." The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in Minneapolis provided the deciding vote Tuesday night.
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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force describes the move as a "gift" that reflects the PC(USA)'s "sacred persistence, its faithful pursuit of justice, and its joyful celebration of the gifts God has given to [LGBT] persons called to ministry."
More Light Presbyterians, a pro-LGBT group within the denomination, hails the move, saying passage of amendment 10-A restores the denomination's "longstanding...emphasis upon faith and character" regarding ordination.
"Now, faithful and qualified lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Presbyterians can openly serve the church with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love," notes a spokesperson for More Light Presbyterians.
The change will allow presbyteries to decide who should be ordained. But according toThe Associated Press, some of those regional bodies are expected to continue to reject candidates who are openly homosexual. About 100 of the 11,000 PC(USA) churches have already broken away in anticipation of the vote, but other conservative congregations have decided to remain in the 2.1 million-member denomination for now.
The new policy takes effect July 10.