Lull before another Presbyterian storm?
It's been rather quiet
on the Presbyterian battlefront since May 10, when the Twin Cities presbytery
in Minnesota became the 87th to vote to lift the ban on LGBT
ministers, elders and deacons. That was the decisive vote, and by July 10 the
historic change was official.
The high court for the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) early this month cleared the way for a
re-ordination ceremony for Scott Anderson, who is executive director of the
Wisconsin Council of Churches (and held a similar post in California). Anderson
set aside his ordination in 1990 when a congregation revealed that he was a
partnered gay man.
However, no flood of
gay and lesbian ministers is forthcoming because of the multi-year process
before ordination. "I believe [pastoral ordinations] will happen a few at a
time for this first year," said Michael Adee, spokesperson for the pro-LGBT More Light Presbyterians,
in an e-mail.
What are likely to be
more numerous in the near future--according to Jerry Van Marter, coordinator of
the Presbyterian News Service--are ordinations of gay and lesbian Presbyterians
as elders and deacons. That process occurs within a congregation--"a matter of
a few months or even less," Van Marter said in a telephone interview.
Meanwhile, a countersurge by conservative churches and clergy is in the offing. The
Fellowship of Presbyterians, formed last winter and led initially by several
big-church pastors whose manifesto termed the PCUSA "deathly ill," expects over
1,900 attendees at its gathering later this month (which will also take place
in Minneapolis-St. Paul).
Van Marter observed
that "the overall landscape of the PCUSA in the wake of Amendment 10-A [the new
ordination standards replacing the 'chastity and fidelity' requirements] may be
somewhat clearer after this major gathering of Presbyterians."
When the Century reported in March on the Presbyterian Fellowship's plans
to explore alternative havens, it was unclear whether the group would support a
schism or somehow form a church-within-a-church. Writing this week on the
Fellowship's website, administrative consultant Paul Detterman says that there is "increasing interest in
the creation of a 'new Reformed body'" distinct from any existing denomination.