Wonderful news out of Minneapolis, where the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)* held their 219th General Assembly. After about 15 years of trying, the church’s legislative body has lifted the ban on noncelibate gay clergy by a vote of 373 to 323. The old ordination standard was:
Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
*Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the mainline Presbyterian church in the USA. Not to be confused with the Presbyterian Church in America, which is a conservative anti-gay splinter group.The proposed new language, which will be considered over the next year, is this:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
Much nicer. Theresa Denton, moderator of the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, who apparently was responding to accusations that the ordination standards have been lowered, had this to say about the proposed new standards:
“The standards that the governing bodies will be held to is to evaluate the totality of a candidate’s life, to interview them and see what their gifts are, what their talents are, what their whole life is about rather than one aspect of their life and … all of this to be done under the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” she contended. “I think that is an incredibly high standard.”
Sadly, the Assembly wouldn’t even allow a discussion about performing same-sex marriages to come to the floor for debate.
Instead, the assembly voted to accept a special study on civil unions and marriage, preempting the gay marriage proposal.
So Presbyterian equality advocates have their next years’ work laid out for them: educate their local churches that getting married in church is every bit as meaningful for gay & lesbian Presbyterians as it is for heterosexuals.