Presbyterians still conflicted about gay clergy
Presbyterians continue to be divided about the issues of the ordination of gay people in committed relationships, and about redefining marriage to include same-sex couples–but the gap in the vote count is closing.
At the recently held 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA at Minneapolis, 53 percent of Presbyterian leaders voted in favor of ordaining clergy who are in committed same-sex relationships. On the issue of marriage, 51 percent voted on retaining its current definition as being between “a man and a woman,” rather than redefining it to being between “two people,” the Courier Press said.
The decision in the General Assembly regarding approval of ordaining clergy who are in committed same-sex relationships is just the first step. It will still require majority approval by the church’s 173 presbyteries, the Courier Press said.
Rev. Dennis Davenport of Eastminster congregation expressed doubt that the proposal would be approved by the presbyteries, saying, “The commissioners to the general assembly tend to vote more liberally than the general members,” the Courier Press said.
Davenport said commissioners have the benefit of more research and information when voting, unlike the presbyteries, the Courier Press said. Two years before, a similar motion was rejected by 91 presbyteries, the AP said.
During the 2010 General Assembly a motion was passed to reconsider the marriage vote but only 40 percent had approved, falling short of the two-thirds majority vote required. This means that the issue of redefining marriage to include gay people will have to wait another two years for the next general assembly to take place, the AP said.
The Presbyterian Church, ranked No. 10 among the largest churches in the U.S., has between 2.1 million – 2.8 million members. The gay issues have sparked heated debate and caused division in the church for years, the AP said.
Other major Christian denominations that permit ordination of gay clergy engaged in committed same-sex relationships are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the U.S. Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ, the AP said.
Two major U.S. denominations that support same-sex marriage are the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the AP said.