Presbyterians to officially allow gay clergy

July 8, 2011

(RNS) Presbyterians who support gay rights are prepping sanctuaries this
Sunday (July 10) to celebrate the passage of a new church policy that
allows gay pastors to serve openly for the first time in the
denomination's history.

As the new policy for the Presbyterian Church (USA) becomes official
that day, several left-leaning churches "will mark the moment with
prayer and rejoicing" in their Sunday services, according to a press
release from More Light Presbyterians, which advocates for gay rights in
the church.

"The Presbyterian Church enters a new era of equality on Sunday,"
said Michael Adee, the group's executive director. "It is a historic
moment. It returns us to ordination standards that focus on faith and
character rather than one's marital status or sexual orientation."

The new policy removes language from the denomination's constitution
that had barred homosexuals from serving as church ministers, elders and
deacons. It allows each presbytery - or regional governing body - to
decide what sexual standards to place on ordination.

The resolution, which had failed in different forms in recent years,
needed approval from both the PC(USA) General Assembly as well as from
presbyteries; 97 of the denomination's 173 presbyteries voted to approve
the new policy.

But despite Sunday's celebrations, gay ordination remains a
contentious issue for many within the church.

"In passing (the policy), the denomination removed all sexual
behavior standards from its constitution," said the Rev. Parker T.
Williamson, editor emeritus of the conservative publication The Layman,
which actively opposed the change. "Scripture is very clear that there
are standards relating to our sexual behavior ... but this denomination
has decided it doesn't have any standards."