Big happy news! Ten years of effort have finally paid off. The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted today to remove the barriers to the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) clergy and lay leaders put in place in 1997! Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards explains below what this development means for the people of the denomination. Rev. Edwards is one of the nearly 10,000 (out of 17,000 votes) Presbyterian ministers and elders that have voted “Yes” to allow for more inclusive ordination. As co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, a “network of people seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA)”, Rev. Edwards has been instrumental in helping to get this amendment passed.
What Today’s Vote Means for the Church
By Rev. Janet Edwards
Cross-posted from TimeToEmbrace.com
“‘Behold,’ says the Lord, ‘I am doing a new thing, can you not see it?'”
Today, Tuesday, May 10, marks the day now written in the Book of Life when it has become a certainty that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will allow ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender faithful Christians as elders, deacons and ministers in the church communities that wish for these candidates to become ordained.
With Twin Cities Presbytery passing Amendment 10A, the needed majority of our presbyteries (87 of the 173) from across the country have ratified the General Assembly recommendation to remove the barriers in the church rules to ordination.
Wow. This is a step that has been decades in the making. As a long-time advocate for full inclusion in my church, the movement of the Holy Spirit in presbyteries across the country fills me with awe, gratitude, and humility.
In order to help those who may just be coming across this news, I thought it wise to break down what this means for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and how we can move forward together.
What this vote means for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Policies
On June 29, 2011, the revised requirements for ordination from Amendment 10A will go into effect. This amendment restores historic language to the constitutional standards for ordination. Emphasis is on Scripture, the confessions of the church and the vows every candidate must take as they are ordained. And, it rightly places the responsibility for determining fitness for office on each presbytery for ministers or congregation for elders and deacons.
No community is forced to ordain a candidate. But those communities that recognize the gifts, faith, and call of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender candidate are no longer barred from ordaining that candidate.
The section of the Book of Order – which is part of our church constitution – that deals with ordination will be revised to say:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) 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 (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
What this vote means for the people of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
For decades, I have seen that the ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ordination has divided and hurt the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). I have seen countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender faithful leave the church for other denominations, starving us of their gifts that we so need.
Today, I am filled with awe that the Holy Spirit has helped us see a way forward that will make the church stronger and more unified. With this vote, we allow communities that recognize the gifts of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender candidates to place them in positions of leadership. We also leave room for those who feel differently to do so and continue the conversation.
As Presbyterians, a cornerstone of our church life is that each community should decide. This vote allows just that.
Where the conversation will continue
This vote happened as a result of thousands of conversations over decades. And we have thousands of conversations to go.
We are all one in the Body of Christ. Through the many years leading to this moment, I have felt myself to be on the ‘losing’ side many times. I expect that there may be those who feel that way today. I am humbled by the shift of power among us if we see this only with the eyes of the world. But through the eyes of Christ and through our shared faith in Jesus Christ, we can envision together a better, stronger, and more unified Church and truly live as One.
Reverend Janet Edwards